Tuesday, June 19, 2012

In the Land of Marble ........

....... everything!  In some of the villages we have been in even the curbing is marble!  We have seen, over the last few days marble statues, marble floors, marble tiles, marble buildings and even marble footpaths! 
It's not snow - just one of the many marble quarries in the Apuan Mountains. 
 Michelangelo resided in the part of the world while he chose the marble he wanted to work!

A marble pillar AND a marble floor!

Our first marble art work, on entering Pietrasanta,

and another marble statue,

Yesterday, after an early start we walked from Sarzana to Avenza.  This was the first place we saw the marble curbing, and it was here that we had a marble bathroom! 

When we arrived in this town we were thinking we would have to get a hotel room, but instead we found a lovely pilgrim refuge, with 4 beds, and as I said, our marble bathroom.  The people were obviously very proud of their refuge as we had numerous people stop us and give us directions to it - unlike today, when everyone I asked told me that there was no pilgrim "Ostello". 

 Persistance paid off though and we are staying in an annexe to the convent, and were attended to by the most lovely little Nun, who was quite proud of the fact that she was hosting 3 Australian pilgrims.  There was much "grazie" - ing on both our part, and her part, and as she was leaving she wanted to know what grazie meant in Austrlaian, and with that she switched to "thank you"!

Our little abode for the night in Pietrasanta.

Because a couple of our days have been long, we have stopped early and caught a bus or train to the end, it is a shame, but we have to keep moving forward (or I do, at any rate, in order to get home for work!). We actually caught the bus part way up the Cisa Pass to a delightful village called Berceto.  Here we stayed in a pilgrim refuge and our host was the village priest Don Guisseppe who has been the village priest for the last 45 odd years (or at least that is what I calculated).  He was a delightful man, and also proud of his refuge and what he was doing for pilgrims - and we of course were very grateful. 

Our refuge at Berceto
Leaving Berceto, complete with the washing drying on the back!

We left Berceto early the next morning to climb to the pass, via the mountain, and here Carol and Elizabeth climbed the highest point of their path - it was around 1,220 metres.  While we had a rest at the top three Swiss pilgrims came along and so we had a bit of a chat before going our seperate ways.  Descending to the pass was slow work for me as I didn't want to damage my knee, but when we got there we were rewarded with coffee and cake!  The morning was lovely, but the afternoon changed into a hard slog - down a road, complete with zig zags, and a little traffic though not much.  We stopped for a delicious lunch of regional foods part way down the mountain, and then pushed on in the heat.  We had no alternative accomodation options for this night and so we had to slog on to Pontremoli, and pretty and ancient town, where we stayed in the Cappucin Convent for the night.  As we were walking down the mountain a car stopped next to me with a dirver and a little friar as a passenger.  During our "chat" I made a "booking" there and then on the side of the mountain, which meant that we didn't have to worry about whether there was abed - only about where to find the convent!
About to descend to the Cisa Pass.

We were going to stay the next night in Villafranca, but when we arrived in the town there was a bike race about to begin, which in turn meant that there were lots of extras in town and there was no bed for us at the only hotel!  We made a snap decision and caught the train to Aulla where we ended up staying in a 3 star hotel because we were too exhausted to look for anything else.  We even resorted to eating dinner at the resaurant, again because we were far too tired to go out, and the town didn't seem to have any resaurants nearby. 

To catch up we than caught the train the next day to Sarzana a very historical town, and a town where the people were very proud of there pot plants.  There was potted jasmine everywhere, and for me that will be a smell forever associated with that town.  That night we had fun trying a dinner of more regional dishes, but ate far too much!

Jasmine - the signature flower and perfume (for me) of Sarzana.

The paths have been many and varied.  Today we went up a hill on what was first a little tarmac road, changing to a cart track lined with pampas grass, then to a single footpath - overgrown with balckberries, and then, as we walked along the ridge, the path was so narrow that there were times when I looked down, through the balckberries to sheer drops into the ravine below.  A horse, or a bike would have struggled on this part of the path!  Today we have followed the contour of the hillside around, winding past vinyards so steep that I would think you would have to hang on to make sure you didn't fall down when working them, and the occasional olive grove.  We were lucky today as most of the path was in shade, and we started walking at 6.15 too, but, out in the miday sun - well - the song says it all!

Carol and Elizabeth walking in a field at Luni
About to cross an old bridge on the path
The path is the little gap in the middle of the picture between the blackberries!


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