Wednesday 12 November.
When it started to get light outside it seemed to be dry. We got ready after getting up at 6 am then had breakfast, yoghurt and a banana, bread and jam with coffee. We were wrapped up in our wet weather gear and our rucksacks covered just in case it rained. It was a nice walk through the town with its piazzas and churches, one with a big golden ornament in the centre of the altar. We picked up the waymarks and it was along a narrow street to the outskirts of the town. Once clear of Camaiore the route went off-road and we ended up on a narrow path overgrown with thorn bushes which snagged our jackets and packs. It soon widened and began to climb, it also started to rain. The rain was on and off all day but fortunately never very heavy. After the initial climb we reached a small village which I thought was Montemagna but it was a bit soon to have covered the 4.5 km to get there. There was still another very steep slope to get up before we reached Montemagna.
From there we were on a tarred road steadily downhill. It wasn't too busy but we had to be careful at the bends. We were on the road for about 3 km before cutting off to Valpromaro. It was only another 2.5 km to the next village of Piazzano and that was where we planned to have our morning tea break. Cicerone had recorded the altitude of Piazzano as being 170 m, the highest point of the day's section. So I was surprised when we were striding along a very flat nice wide gravel path through the woods beside a river. We reached a point where there was a number of houses to our left and it looked like the guide book had made a mistake about the altitude. But it hadn't, instead of heading to the habitation we turned the other way and began to climb, and it was some climb, straight up.
Near the top we met another pilgrim, Thomas from Lubeck in Germany. He had only started walking a couple of days ago in Pontremilo and was hoping to reach Rome in another 16 days. He was busy checking his position on the GPS on his computer. We were happy following the waymarks which were good today. It was still more climbing before we got to the church in Piazzano high on the hill with a panoramic view of the valley and surrounding mountains. There was a table and two portable chairs in the yard beside the church, we sat there and I got the cooker going for tea. As I waited for the water to boil the rain started again, we moved the chairs to under the porch of the church and had our drink and biscuits there. While we were there Thomas past on his way down and we had photo session with him.
From the church we were almost immediately off-road on a muddy track covered in leaves. It was downhill and very steep, we took it very slowly and carefully especially in these wet conditions. There was a junction about a third of the way down where the route wasn't clear. We examines each direction and Moira found a faded red and white band on a tree. That was the only waymark until we reached a road at the bottom where there were three different indicators for us to turn left. It was a minor road and very quiet and we were on it for about 5 km; it was flat and ran beside a river lined with trees in their autumn colours. The road got a bit busier as we reached some villages, San Macario in Piano and Ponte San Pietro, but we just skirted them.
After crossing the River Serchio we picked up a cycle track that ran along an embankment above the water. The river was flowing very fast with all the rain and was at a high level, the little islands in the middle covered by the water and only the trees showing. The track was full of puddles and stretches of water but our shoes were soaking by this time and we waded through.
When the track joined the road at a footbridge we suddenly saw Lucca through the trees. It wasn't far to the outskirts but it was then a long trek on a busy road before we crossed the ring road and through the city walls into the old town by the Porta San Donato.
It looked like an impossible task to find our hotel in the labyrinth of old narrow streets and as usual with the map system on the iPad your actual location doesn't show up when you need it. But we were in luck as we entered the Piazza Verdi there was the Tourist Information Office and it was open. There we got a street plan and the woman marked the location of the our hotel on it. It still wasn't easy and trying to find the names of some of the narrow alleyways and what direction to take can be difficult but at last we got there. Lucca dates from Roman times and was a staging point for the pilgrims of old, having had at one time 35 hospices for them. Once known as the 'city of one hundred churches' it now has just 23; we past a number of them as we made our way through the narrow streets and piazzas. Originally it was also famous for as a commercial centre for a thriving silk trade. Our hotel B&B Anfiteatro was on a street that ran round the walls of the Piazza Anfiteatro, the once amphitheatre.
We had an apartment in the B&B, a bedroom en suite, a lounge and a kitchen. There were plenty of radiators but they were cold, the man played around with the controls and ensured us that the heating would work. After stripping out of our waterproofs and wet shoes and socks we had lunch. There was good WiFi and once the newspaper was downloaded I posted my blog. After lunch Moire went out to get something for dinner, there was a Spar mini-supermarket close-by and she got chicken for a curry. I showered and felt much better afterwards. The rain had come on heavily while Moira was out and the forecast had said it would deteriorate in the afternoon. We didn't fancy any sightseeing now in the pouring rain. Instead we spent a lot of time on the Internet trying to arrange accommodation for the next few nights. We have a hotel for tomorrow but haven't decided on the following days though there seems to be plenty available for a change.
We had a nice chicken curry for dinner with spaghetti, that Moira found in the kitchen, instead of rice. It was lovely. After washing up it began to get cold and the heating hadn't come on. Moira got the woman at reception to come and sort it out, you need a qualification in computing to figure out how these controllers work. But the woman managed and the radiators were going full blast and our clothes were drying. The next problems was when we got to bed, the place was like a sauna. Moira opened the windows and turned the thermostat down but it took a while to cool the place down and allow us to get to sleep.