Friday 7 November.
We ended up the day being well and truly conned. Moira had booked a hotel on 'booking.com' in Aulla. The website said it was 1 km from the centre and gave the location on a map. Moira put an electronic pin in her Google map for its location. When we got to Aulla our actual location showed up on the map and we followed it towards the pin. When we got near it didn't look right, ahead there was nothing, we were leaving the town. There was a bar close by and Moira enquired there about where the hotel was, one of the waitresses who spoke English said it was about 6 km away, we didn't believe her and they checked on the Internet with no conclusion and eventually resorted to phoning the hotel. The result was they said someone would come and collect us. We had a beer and waited, after about 20 minutes a man arrived in a car and we piled in with our rucksacks. It did turn out to be at least 6 km away. Up in the hills in the village of Collina not Via Collina in Aulla, and it wasn't a hotel but a B&B in a house. Moira said the guy intimated that he would drive us back in the morning, her Italian must be improving. I think even with the language difficulty they realised that I wasn't at all happy, as I made it obvious. When we got into our room which was all right, a double bed and en suite, we checked where we were on Google maps. It was in the middle of nowhere, up in the hills to the north of Aulla and we wanted to head south of the town tomorrow.
The weather had been ideal today for walking, the rain had gone, thank goodness. It was cloudy but there didn't seem to be any chance of rain and the sky was brightening all the time. And the forecast was even better over the next few days. Our clothes and shoes were all dry when we left and it felt good not having getting them all wet as we ventured out. It was short live, at least for our feet; on the first section where we went off-road we came to a stream to cross, with the recent rains it was no longer a stream but a small river. I reckoned that we would have more to come or at least wet grass to walk through and our feet wouldn't be dry for long. So I waded straight in with my shoes and socks on, Moira wanted to change into her sandals but in the end followed my example. It was just as well as there was wet grass to go through, as well as muddy and wet paths and more streams to ford. With our feet wet now we didn't bother with anything to come. This was something we learnt when walking in New Zealand, the Kiwis say that your feet are going to get wet anyway so just wade through the first bit of water you come to.
The route followed the SS62 all the way to Aulla but we weren't actually on it very much but crossed from one side to the other a few times. After crossing the river and going through the narrow streets of Pontremilo there was a pavement beside the busy road for about a kilometre then it was off-road and that first stream to cross. The trail was very well waymarked and there was no difficulty finding our way. After crossing the SS62 again it was a quiet tarred lane to Ponticello. This consisted of a supermarket where we bought milk, a few houses and an old church. There were picnic tables outside the church and we had a break there for tea. The scenery was magnificent today with the air now so clear. The mountains lined both sides of the valley and in front we could see a range of very high ones with a series of jagged peaks.
We could see the next town of Filattiera just a little way down the road. The church was high above it on a hill and we were sure that was where the VF would take us. Sure enough, up a steep twisting road to go round the outside of the church, only to go down again. But there was another church on a hill after that and up we went again but this one was off-road and it was a leaf strewn track to get there. From then on it was an undulating route through forests with some very wet sections and streams to ford. As soon as we came to a tarred road, usually near a farm, we would think we could have some easy walking but the route only crossed them and then into the forest again. Surprisingly we made good time on the difficult underfoot conditions and were covering about 4km/hr.
So far the waymarks were excellent, every little junction or bend had an arrow pointing us in the right direction and as we came into the town of Filetto there were the red and white bands on every second lamppost. Then we reached a t-junction and there was nothing. To the left there was an archway leading to the narrow streets of the town which I fancied as the way but Moira asked a local and she pointed to the right. We took her advise and went in that direction though not with much confidence. After 5 minutes walking all we saw was one sticker on a pole with the VF monk symbol, we decided to stop and consult Cicerone. According to it we were on the route and after another 5 minutes walking entered the town of Villafranca where we originally wanted to stop for the night, but no accommodation. At a crossroads there was still no indication of the route and out came the iPad again to check with Cicerone. From then on I carried the iPad and it led us to the railway station, under the line then over a river to the junction for Lusuoli. There was a VF sign at last but it was for the cycle route, that was good enough and it took us along a very quiet minor road going steadily uphill to the village. There was an archway at the entrance and on the other side a convenient bench for lunch. We had what was left of the pizza from last night, I was surprised at how nice it was cold.
We now had 8 km to go to our destination of Aulla. It kept to the minor road following the cycle route. The height we had gained going up to Lusuoli was soon lost as we dropped steeply to follow by the side of the motorway to Barbarasco. I was beginning to feel the effects of the long hard day on my back and feet, it meant having occasional rests when a seat or bench appeared, even church steps came in handy. Next we crossed the motorway and a long bridge over the river Magra to Terrarossa where we picked up the Via Nazionale Cisa, the SS62 again, into Aulla. We also picked up the VF signs for the walking route and this took us to a cycle way that ran parallel with the main road. Moira then had her iPad out to lead us to what we assumed was our hotel only to reach the dead end described above.
On the way into Aulla we had stopped at a supermarket and bought cold meat and salad for dinner. After our shower, which was lovely and hot, we were lying on the bed relaxing when there was a knock on the door. It was the man with a bottle of red wine, maybe as a sort of apology. We had it with our salad, it was a better quality than our usual plonk. After dinner I washed up and found that we had the use if the kitchen and could have had a cooked meal if we had only known and bought something instead for a nice curry earlier. I put on the last of the podcasts I had on the iPad but never heard the end of it, I fell asleep.