Sunday 9 November.
We had breakfast in the bar before setting off. It wasn't up to much, pre-prepared toast from a packet, coffee and some biscuits. We got coffee with milk, mainly milk, to start then when offered another cup got the thick black half full thimble. I poured mine into what was left of my milky first cup and it came out not bad. I thought the Italians were renowned for their coffee, what we have sampled so far has been rubbish.
It was easy going with only lunch and our rain jackets in one rucksack, so we were able to stride out. We made our way to the town centre and pedestrian precinct and there picked up the waymarks. There were a couple of lovely churches with tall square towers and a piazza with beautiful buildings as we made our way along and through the arch at the other end.
After that the VF had to find us a hill to climb and it did, up a winding cobbled street to the ruins of a castle, Fortezza Castracani, above us on the top of the hill. The cobbled street went over and down the other side again. We got excellent views from this height of the coastal plain stretching to the sea. Once down again the route made its way through a series of small communities and villages on minor roads and lanes. With all the twists and turns it was difficult to orientate ourselves with hills appearing one minute in front of us then a long stretch of flat countryside. The waymarks were very good until we reached Colombiera, the pointer at a corner seemed to indicate two ways. The one we took had old and faded red and white bands, we should have stopped and returned to the junction but instead asked a cyclist. He told us to carry straight on, the waymarks disappeared completely and we got lost. We were supposed to be heading for the town of Luni and everyone we met we asked directions. Eventually we reached the SS1 road and our enquiries there paid dividends. He directed us to the archeological site in Luni that was on the route and when we reached the turning to it there were the waymarks again. The old Roman site was fenced off and there was a fee to enter, we sat outside the gate and had our tea break. The route then followed the perimeter fence and at one point we could see the remains of the amphitheatre.
Even though there was very little in the rucksack and was light it still managed to hurt my back and Moira took a turn of carrying it. Now it was a long slog beside the railway line to the town of Avenza. I was starting to get worried about trains or the lack of them, we didn't see one on the line. The time table for this afternoon that we got at the station yesterday gave trains every half hour, I was beginning to think that was the week-day schedule and there was nothing on a Sunday. We kept going and entered Avenza then it was a long straight road into the town centre.
We crossed a river, Torreinte Carrione, reached Torre, the remains of an old tower and at the church, Chiesa di San Pietro, stopped to get out the IPad. The official VF took a long loop up into the hills but Cicerone had an old route that was flat and on roads, we followed that one by consulting the iPad at every junction and change of direction. Once out of Avenza it was beside the railway again and this time a couple of trains passed that raised our confidence that we would manage to get back all right.
As we approached Massa it was through an industrial area predominately involved with the manufacture of Italian marble. The hills behind where the marble was quarried looked like they had been sculptured as it was cut away and the coating of dust appeared as a covering of snow. The marble was in huge blocks in the yards of the factories, white and rough, difficult to imagine the smooth polished surfaces that come from them. After a long walk up a very busy road, fortunately there as a wide shoulder and a pavement in places, we reached a roundabout and turned on to the SS1 into Massa. Here a walking / cycle path ran parallel and it was now safe walking. We spotted a MacDonald's restaurant and stood outside hoping to pick up their WiFi but there didn't seem to be any. The path crossed over the River Frigida by a long bridge and below on the banks was another marble factory with big blocks of the stone. From there we picked up signs for the railway station.i
From the town centre it was a long walk down the Viale Stazione on a tree lined pavement to the station. It was very busy with the carpark outside full, any remaining fears of not getting a train were dispelled. Moira got the tickets, just €5, and there was a train leaving in 15 minutes at 2:15 pm. I had thought about having the lunch we had carried before getting a train but decided to get back right away and eat at the hotel. It had taken us over 5 hours to walk this section now the train took us back in just 13 minutes. The route on the train was on a different line to the one we walked beside, it went along the flat area nearer to the coast, we could see the waters of the Mediterranean sparkling a short distance away. It was good when we arrived back in Sarzana to only to go round the corner from the station to the hotel.
We had a late lunch in our room and relaxed for an hour before showering. The clothes we washed yesterday were all dry with the excellent heat coming from the towel rail. Moira decided to wash our fleeces and they will easily dry by the morning. The plan for tomorrow was to get the train to Massa and walk on from there but the next big town at a reasonable distance, Camaiore, didn't have a lot of accommodation available according to our list, we needed to find WiFi. We went out at 5 pm and the pizzeria owned by the hotel was open and we asked the man about where we could get WiFi. Instead he phoned a church hostel in Camaiore; although the person who answered was no longer involved with it, he said it would be OK. We accepted that but as a second option we checked trains at the station. It would be possible if we are stuck to get a taxi to the nearest station and from there either return here or go on by train to Lucca.
Satisfied that somehow we would be all right we returned to our room and had dinner. We had bought a packet of risotto yesterday and Moira added a tin of tuna to it. It was very nice with some red wine to go with it. We got a text from Suzy with some mixed news. She had gone to Port Glasgow to check on the house and Hugh (Brady) our next door neighbour told her that his wife Betty had died suddenly, about a fortnight ago, from a heart attack. She was a very nice person and very friendly, always surrounded by her grandchildren who she looked after during the day. She will be sorely missed and our sympathy goes to Hugh and the family. The better news was that we received a cheque from Ken Dodd, to Pancreatic Cancer UK, for £100. Audrey our sister-in-law is a great fan of Ken and when he is appearing in Blackpool goes to every show. When I say every show I mean literally that, if he is there for 5 nights she will go every night. She must be his greatest fan and sees him after his shows, that was when she told him about our pilgrimage and he kindly donated towards the charity.
After washing up the dinner things I tried to do a crossword but couldn't concentrate. I read for a while instead but my eyes were slowly closing, I gave up and went to sleep. Moira seems to be able to stay awake a lot longer and continued reading for a while. The weather that had been nice again today, sunny and warm, changed and it began to rain. This had been forecast, and it continued all night with a lot of thunder.