Thursday 6 November.
We were up before 6 am this morning and had a cup of coffee and some of the stuff that we had been given in place of our breakfast. We were packed up and ready to go at our earliest yet, 6:45 am. Everything was dry, having got a good heat in the radiators, I even had our shoes stuffed down the side of one. It was just getting light as we made our way through town. We picked up the waymarks just after the Tourist Office and they took us past the Seminary where we went yesterday. Further along the route went onto a track that, the book said, led to the SS62. We were under the impression it was just a short off-road section to meet up with this main road that by-passed Berceto but it went on and on. It was another very steep climb on rough stony ground and the water running down it in a steady stream. When we left the rain had stopped and the sky was looking a bit brighter, I thought a walk to the pass on the road would keep our feet dry for a change. I was mistaken and it wasn't long before our shoes and socks were sodden.
The track came on to tar again at the small village of Il Tugo, Cicerone gave it as 2.5 km from Berceto, so it had been quite a trek uphill on the rough ground. But we had made good time and although it was slow going it took just 45 minutes. Once through the village the VF direction was off-road again but we stuck to the SS62 which we had now joined. When we left this road yesterday to go into Berceto it was at the 65 km mark, now we were at the 61 km point.
It was a steady climb from the start and with the rain being off it was a nice and clear, the hills were dark against the early morning sky and the trees beautiful in their autumn colours; yellows, brown and gold. We were surprised when we reached the Ostello de Cisa, the hostel where we had hoped to stay but was closed and now only 2 km from the pass. We were making excellent time, when we had our photo session at the notice board for Passo della Cisa, 1012m it was just 9 am. I had expected that it would have been nearer 10 am before we would get there.
We continued on the road down the other side and I then decided to check the notes of the route I had made last night. We were on the wrong road, I had assumed the we continued on the SS62 but it was the SP64 we were supposed to pick up. We returned to the pass and found a path that took us down a steep slope, thick with fallen leaves, to a minor road beside some farm houses. The farmer who was in his yard waved and indicated the way to go on the road. It was a narrow road and there was virtually no traffic. It made its way downhill in twists and hairpins into the valley far below where a viaduct carrying the majority of the traffic was heading for a tunnel though the mountain. Unfortunately the rain had started again and it continued for the rest of the day, sometimes very heavy. The road in places became a stream as the waters from the hillside ran across it. There was water everywhere, waterfalls in varying sizes came down gullies and cracks in the mountains. Streams made their way down to join the Fiume Magra which was a racing torrent as it increased in size as it made its way towards Pontemilo. With the rain now pouring down the mountains and hills were shrouded in mist and visibility wasn't good for photographs,it was also awkward taking the camera in and out in the wet conditions being well covered up under my jacket and trousers to keep dry.
The route went through a few villages. The first one, Vallingosa, had its name plate on the side of road but we didn't see even a house. The next two on either sides of the road as it made its way through the valley were Gravagna San Rocco and Gravagna Montale, they had plenty of houses but we continued steadily downhill. The road then followed above the Fiume Magra as it made its way to Molinelle where we stopped at a bar for a coffee. It was warm inside and we were able to get out of our wet jackets and relax. The service wasn't very good, you would think that bars in villages that depend mainly on local trade would welcome the odd passing customer, but they don't seem to be interested creating a good name for themselves. For example, when we arrived the woman should have said ' Ah! Pilgrims welcome. The weather is terrible and you are soaking wet, sit down and take off your wet clothes. I'll get you a big hot drink and maybe you would like something to eat, let me get the menu'. That is the way to create business whereas we grudgingly got a cup of coffee and we ate our own biscuits that I got out of my rucksack.
When we got going again the road tended to climb and was still above and beside the river. Cicerone said it was 4.5 km. to where we rejoined the SS62. Either the estimate of the distance was wrong or we were walking very fast, we reached the junction in just over half an hour. It was now 4 km into Pontremilo and a steady downhill. We could see the tower of the church in the middle of the town ahead of us. It had turned out to be a fairly easy walk and we cover the distance a lot quicker than I expected.
When we reached Pontremilo it was a problem finding the way into the town which was on the other side of the river and the railway. The VF sign pointed along the SS62 which was through a tunnel which was noisy with the traffic thundering through. There was a pavement but at the other end it disappeared and we had to dodge the traffic to get over to the other side where we spotted the way into the town. Once we reached the centre I asked a man about a hotel and he directed us to the Hotel Napoleon which I remembered from out list as being expensive, but we were wet, tired and feeling miserable so we decide to got for it. Then on the way there we noticed a sign pointing to the Al Chiosi B&B, it was a job finding it and when we did it was closed and boarded up. It was back to the expensive hotel. We asked a couple for further directions, the man pointed one way but the woman over-ruled him and pointed the other. We followed her direction and found it in the Piazza Italia. It was €80 for the room, a bit expensive but we were soon in and had our wet gear off. The place was warm enough with a couple of radiators but they weren't very hot, not enough to get our socks etc dry for the morning. I put on water to boil for coffee and had a shower. The water eventually got hot then turned cold, and we were paying €80 for it. At least there was decent WiFi.
After we had the cup of coffee and a biscuit, that was all we had left to eat so Moira went out to find a shop. She got some rolls, cheese and fruit, so we had something more substantial for lunch when she got back. I managed to post two days of my blog, the Internet was first class and then was able to listen to the BBC radio. Later the central heating improved, the radiators got hot and our gear was beginning to dry.
We were going to eat out tonight but when we reached he pizzeria we decided to just have a carry out pizza and eat it in our room. We just got one pizza as it was huge, we only managed to eat three quarters of it and kept the rest for tomorrow's lunch. We had asked the woman in reception to phone a B&B in Villafranca for tomorrow. It was only about 18 km away a reasonable walk but unfortunately it was closed. Moira then had to book, through 'booking.com.' a hotel in Aulla which is a longer distance, 30 km, so it will be an earlier start again in the morning. After that we spent the evening listening to the radio until it was time for bed.