Day76 Lucca to Lucca – Rest Day

Our first rest day since Day40 in Besancon France. That was 36 days ago peeps. This was certainly overdue and what a fun city to choose.

Back in 1999, Allison and I visited Lucca for an afternoon and hoped one day we’d be back. We’d never have guessed we’d WALK here, but that’s how life changes you.

Morning Update

Lucca is a walled city and has its full share of tourists and vendors hawking touristy goods. But it’s such a pretty place that you can overlook all that as you walk around its twisted streets that all have Roman roots.

In the piazza Anphiteatro you are literally in the center of a Roman Amphitheater.

The 13th century Duomo borders the Roman Forum. It contains several important art works on the interior (some of which irritated me for reasons I won’t explain here). The one image of the last supper I enjoyed because it was from an unusual perspective.

Zoom in!

But the two things that intrigued me most were the labyrinth carved onto one pillar and the carvings for each month and the zodiac on the front portico.

Labyrinths are associated with a pilgrimage and some full size ones exist throughout Europe. The exterior has magnificent marble columns as well.


The 13th century Cathedral at San Michele is just as beautiful. The interior is stark but the crucifix above the alter shows Christ not suffering but triumphant in death. I like different representations like these.

Since this was a rest day the “waking around” had to stop. So Allison and I sought out a good spot for lunch. Serendipitously (good word right), we walked passed a couple who sat beside us at dinner last evening. They recommended the bistro called Ciacco who’s “motto” was “No pasta, so pizza, no stress”. There were no tables available so we walked on. Finding nothing better we returned and a spot had opened up. “Due insalasti per favore!”

We talked again to Jim and Brenda, and their two friends Scott and Lisa. Brenda had already hooked up with this blog so…a shout out to these guys and the laughter we shared one afternoon in Lucca.

After the late lunch we were done for the day. It was time to take off the vacation hat and become pilgrims again. A quick trip to the supermarket yielded groceries for dinner (microwave stew and a pre-packaged salad) and breakfast and lunch for the next day. It was sad to return to living in relative luxury. We are once again poor pilgrims.

Pilgrim dining in the hallway

Funny story to end the evening. The microwave we thought we’d see in the Ostello….was a toaster. Hmmmm. We’ll figure it out somehow.

P.S. more and more pilgrims joining the route. Yay!

Day75 Camaiore to Lucca – Happy Returns

Early morning and fast packing meant that we were on our way by 7 after already having a yogurt breakfast.

We shot a morning update but embarrassingly left the lens cap on. Oh well, enjoy the audio anyway.

The morning was cool when we left Camaiore. Four Polish ladies who’d shared the B&B left at the same time and we walked with them briefly until Allison’s 5th gear kicked in and we were off to the races.

It’s good that it was cool because three strenuous climbs awaited us. Ok, so they were nothing like the Alps in expanse but for a morning it got us huffing and puffing. The first climb was intentional, the second was labeled Via Francigena, but apparently it wasn’t the main route but rather an alternate “panoramic route”. We didn’t see that detail until we’d rejoined the main route and looked back at a sign. Oh well… ?? We needed the exercise ??


The third climb was also intentional but this time the “official route” climbed but there was a flatter/easier alternative…and that was our morning.

We started running into “Passion crosses” which were popular at the turn of the 20th century when a group called the Passionistas (no joke), were popular. These crosses all share features from the biblical account of the crucifixion such as a spear and a sponge on a pole Sometimes there is a crown of thorns and a hammer and nails as well.

A passion cross

We ate a rather posh lunch of Parmesan cheese, crackers and smoked salmon before making our way into town. Lodging had not been firmed up but in the end we opted for a hotel/B&B instead of the Pilgrim Ostello. We both needed a break.

The walk into Lucca along the Fume Serchio was nicely shaded and but the suburbs were big and the afternoon dragged on until we met the walls of Lucca.

22yrs ago, Allison and I visited Lucca. Here is our reflection of that event and a brief tour walking into the town.

We checked into our b&b which is just inside the old Roman Amphitheater.

We ended our evening with some class. A concert (opera) and a nice dinner together.

Here’s to over 75% through this adventure.

Day74 Massa to Camaiore – Forts and Statues

We really struggled to get out of Massa due to a triple take exit of the city.

The steps

The walk started with a climb up a steep set of steps. Halfway up I noticed an unusual <click> sound. Looking down at my pole I noticed the rubber stopper that I use on pavement wasn’t attached. This is actually normal – we’re always taking them on and off – but this morning I’d looked to make sure it was on before leaving the Ostello. So….back down the steps I went. I found it at the second to bottom step. Micro-crisis averted.

Morning Updates

When we reached the top of the steps the Via took a right turn. Allison got to the corner first and let out a small groan. The steps were replaced with a long uphill slope that was quite steep. The air was cool but humid, so we both worked up a quick sweat first thing in the morning.

At the top, Allison mentioned something about the keys to the Ostello. “Oh No!” They we’re still in my pocket. So…I told Allison to sit tight and I went back down the slope and then back down the steps, dropped off the keys and then did it all again. What a start!

The day got dramatically better after that. We continued the climb up to Castello Aghinolfi which was incorporated into Hitler’s Gothic Line and paid a heavy price as a result.

The climb also provided some panoramic views of the sea and coastline we’d walked yesterday.

As we descended off of the mountain we entered a heavy industry section where every other business seemed to be part of the marble trade. The huge chunks of pretty marble set my mind to buzzing about how much inventory cost they dealt with. We even saw a yard where they were actively sawing the huge chucks to 1”-2” slabs.

The big town of the day was Pietrasanta. As we entered the village we passed a different kind of marble trade – one that made sense a bit later. This shop clearly carved marble for art and/or statuary. We peeked through the fence and saw a massive marble statue. I sure wish I knew where it was going.

Pietrasanta, as we soon found out, is a hub of art, particularly carving in marble and bronze. There was a school of art and art boutiques and artwork scattered throughout the town.

The main Piazza with its Duomo and bell tower were the site for our gourmet lunch of canned tuna, hard seed crackers and two day old Parmesan. It doesn’t sound wonderful, but honestly when you are hungry everything tastes better.

Leaving Pietrasanta the trail was normal hills and streets with nothing notable. However coming down a small country road we came upon two gentlemen working on Cable TV lines. They’d stopped work for a bit and were having lunch in the road next to their car. We struck up a conversation that ended up lasting for an hour.

These two guys were astounded with our pilgrimage walk and ended up offering us a taste of the wine they were having for lunch. It was a good Tuscan red. For their generosity they received two keys and we explained their meaning. One of the two was very excited with the gift and it’s significance. The other struggled with language a bit more and I think the details were lost in translation.

Our Ostello for tonight is a bit disappointing. It has everything you’d need but half of those things are either not working or “closed for Covid. The price of 18E/person is reasonable but expensive for Pilgrims.

The kitchen is one of those items that is “closed for Covid” so we will have to go out to eat at a restaurant. Honestly I prefer what Allison makes. In the end we opted for microwaveable dishes and ate at the Ostello.

At dinner we celebrated JeanYves 70 something birthday. Happy Birthday pilgrim.

Day73 Dogana to Massa – Coasting

Morning Update

Well the storm we passed through yesterday was apparently no ordinary storm. See today’s headlines.

It was newsworthy.

Since we’d been forced along to Dogana we resisted the urge to move farther ahead and just kept with the original stage ending in Massa. This stage would have been a tiring 32km walk almost entirely along pavement but we’d already completed 9km the previous day. Net result, we slept in. 🙂

After a leisurely morning and huge breakfast which included finishing off the leftover ice cream from dinner – Yeah, I know – we hit the pavement (literally). The route was all roads and sidewalks as promised.

Our B&B

We entered the town of Carrara- famous for the marble that has been mined here since pre-Roman times. The town became wealthy in the trade of quality marble. They go a bit crazy for it here though. It was nice that the main church and piazza were entirely marble.

It was slightly more posh when we found ourselves walking on the marble sidewalks. But it was just crazy when later we noticed that curbs and storm drain covers were also marble. Well, I guess if you have got it, you might as well make good use of the stuff.

Seriously, curbs made of Marble???

The VF on this stage reaches its closest point to the Tyrrhenian Sea – only about 1.5km away. The temptation was too great and we created a slightly longer but flatter route that would take us to the sea.

We were initially disappointed because the street we chose ran not to a nice Mediterranean beach, but rather an active port where truckloads of ….you guessed it, marble, were queued up to load onto large cargo ships.

Rocky beaches. Those are wet chunks of ….marble.

We weren’t deterred as we turned south along the coast and soon we were out of the port area and first rocky and later sandy beaches stretched for miles. Walking along the beach is nice when you are barefoot. Walking along with hiking shoes and a backpack however is less than ideal. After about a km we traded the beach for a series of coastal boardwalks, small-boat harbors and streets.

A sandy beach!

At one beach cafe we stopped and made a couple of calls to Nadine and Cindy to show them the water and our accomplishment of making it all the way across a continent. It was fun to touch base with them for a few minutes and show them the sea and mountains where the marble is quarried.

Mountains of marble

The walk ended with an uninteresting walk from the coast into the town of Massa. It was traffic-filled and loud. But the time went by quickly.

The village of Massa has a beautiful castle and some stereotypical Italian piazzas. Our Ostello for the night is recently renovated and located on the Piazzo Mercure.

Day72 Aulla to Dogana – Shocking!!!

First a bit a note about our maps. I found out today that I has ant been updating. (Someone should have told me!! :). But it is fixed now. Check out the Maps page.

Morning Update:

Despite our attempt to have a short day, there were no lodging opportunities at Sarzana. We grouped together with Paulo (Portugal) and JeanYves (France) and booked an AirB&B at a nearby suburb of Dogana and headed out for the day. Our path took us sharply up.

But the views are nice.

Now, you’d think that after tackling the Juras, the Alps, and the Appenines, we be used to it but today was hard. The weather had turned sour and it was both warm and very humid AND rainy.

Having rain gear on really traps in the heat and because the humidity was so high we both struggled. The reward was some picturesque hilltop fortified villages. Their names all blurred together but they all felt old – ancient really.

Our plan was to get to Sarzana and then take an ugly, but direct road route to our B&B. But those plans changed.

As we entered Sarzana the skies opened up. It was a soaking rain – this alone was OK, but since it was lunch we sought out a cafe to get a coffee.

Twice we had to seek shelter from the rain, but we found a coffee shop and sat down. The timing was excellent. Almost as soon as we did, a flash and an instantaneous loud crash of thunder rattled the shop. Over the next hour a lightning storm of epic proportions shook us and we started talking about alternatives to a walk along a busy road in an electrical storm – smart, eh?

Wine? Oil?

We still needed to get some groceries and made a dash to a local supermarket and then promptly called a cab. Yes, I know – a cab for a pikgrim isn’t really kosher but we had bought supper and breakfast meals for four and the lightening and torrential rain made it an easy decision.

It turned out to be a very smart move. Because the lightning and rain only got harder after we arrived. Jean Yves struggled in after 7pm with these words. “ you have room for a pilgrim coming from Hell?” Haha. He’d had a rough evening.

Dinner with Paulo and eventually JeanYves (who decided to walk) was prepared by chef Allison. Man was it good. But somehow it ended like this. Long story…

Phillipe on the left with Jean Yves

Trying to find his way to the B&B JeanYves had stumbled on a Belgian family living here. They came by for a visit and we had a funny and fun evening goofing off. JeanYves always lands on his feet.

Oh, a Portuguese saying “a good story never starts with ‘one day I was eating a salad’”.

What a wild day!

Day71 Pontremoli to Aulla – Walking through history

First this depressing start…don’t worry, the day got much better.

It took a while for us to wake up today. The length of today’s walk was at least filled with interesting sights.

First we woke to a scene shrouded in mist and cloud. It was really pretty and make the morning feel like the start of an adventure.

Our history lesson started in the Copper Age about 4000BC. It is around this date when the Lunigiana people of this region created stone carvings or stele. The reason is uncertain but the human representations are interesting. The oldest are symbolic representations of people on rectangular stone. As the ages progressed the representations began to take more human form eventually become more statues that stele.

As was common practice, buildings were made from existing materials and some of the stele were incorporated into churches. One such church is Santo Stefano di Sorano near the village of Filattiera. While visiting we dropped by the Tourist Information booth and got a stamp and a gratis coffee.

The previous village was founded in the early Middle Ages around 550AD. A surviving tower demonstrated an interesting defensive principle. The entrance was on the first floor (for Americans that would be the 2nd floor – the first about Ground Floor). To reach the entrance, a ladder was lowered. The second floor (3rd floor for Americans) was reached by another ladder lowered from that floor etc. All that was interesting but just the fact that the tower still stands and has been incorporated into a house is amazing.

After visiting the Stele sight, we climbed to the town of Filatteria itself. This small town has a medieval layout and was the sight of the Hostel of San Giacomo di Altopascio. The 2nd church in the small town dates to the 12th century but houses the funerary stone of Leodegar of the Longobard Age (752AD)

The final history lesson came with the village of Filetto. This town is of Byzantine origin and has a precise square pattern. The portals to the city are still used by traffic and walking through the main square was like stepping back in time.

Our day ended with pleasant ups and downs that weren’t too tasking but enough to get the heart pumping. The weather however was humid so….let’s just say, we needed a shower.

Finally we headed off for a much deserved 5star dining experience.

Take Out Pizza

Day70 Berceta to Pontremoli – A steep decent into Tuscany

Morning Update

First we promised not to have a long day today…and failed. Today was 29.6km (more than 31 after you add in the grocery shopping excursion). Tomorrow is 31….but then we are done with it….I promise.

The day started with a nice leisurely morning. We slept in until 7:30. Luxury. After a quick grocery store stop we were off to finish up the Appenine crossing at the Cisa Pass (which I kept calling Cibo pass for some reason in the videos).

It was steep but for some reason, despite yesterday’s efforts I was flying up the hills. Allison normally leaves me in the dust on uphill climbs but today I led the way.

Can anyone identify this track. It’s about 3”dia

Soon we were at the Cisa pass and peered back to see from whence we’d come. Goodbye Parmigiano-Reggiano, hello Tuscany.

The view from where we’d come
Fun on a bridge
Roxanne and Juliet

At the top we met two Belgian ladies who were on and appenine backpacking/camping adventure. They were on Day1 and were surprised to see us coming all the way from London by foot.

A cool entrance to Tuscany

The rest of the day was beautiful but technically challenging. It didn’t help that we’d been told that the day was only 26km. That’s not a small distance by any means, especially on difficult terrain, but when it turned out to be 30 we were hurting. Those last 4 are killers.

Along the way there were several stone bridges. This region held out a long time against the Romans. The entire population was deported to another region as a result. Having a high strategic value guarding the pass to Po Valley, the Middle Ages the region was “owned” by Genoa, Pisa, and others


We made it to the Convento Frati Cappuccini and we’re kindly explained the rules of entry and shown to our room. Normally we’d immediately shower and do our laundry but due to the late hour we thought it wise to stock up with food for tomorrow first.

We ended our night with an overly long walk to the nearest grocery and then finally we were able to sit down for a nice dinner at Trattoria Da Nori. Two pastas and a shared meat dish (pork in a sauce with peas) was just perfect.

By the way, meet JeanYves with whom we e walked on and off for weeks.

Good night all.

Day 69 recap

We had yet another long day 70 so I’ll make the day 69 recap short. Sorry.


First this.

Then we ran across the solitary oak tree if read about.

The tree, us, but not our car, honest.

….and then found this:

Going to Rome Signore?

The Appenines are beautiful:

Then we made this momentous decision made with poor facts:

You already saw what happened in the end. Our facts were wrong and we ended with 26.3miles and a 4400+ ft climb. Ugh

Walking into town at sunset. A loooooong day.
Our two day journey…in one day.

Day68 Fidenza to Medesano – Hills have appeared

The morning started early and we were out walking at 7 am. Of course we had to make a couple of stops at bakery and a cafe for breakfast and a lunch too. “Slices of pizza” for a well rounded diet. That is how the saying goes, right?

Another Sunrise

Morning Update

The big city of Fidenza is quite lively. All walks of life are visible within a few city blocks. It was actually nice to walk amongst the middle-school kids heading off to class, to see the moms dropping off the younger ones at primary school and to walk past the more senior citizens walking or resting in the park. It seemed alive.

Finally we walked out of the city, off of pavement, and onto soft dirt trails. All my body parts gave a sigh of relief. Plus we began climbing hills and could see the mountains we will be climbing for the next two days. What beauty the mountains provide.


The sunrise was beautiful. And we stumbled across a church dedicated to Thomas Becket, who visited here back-in-the-day. Images of walking in. Canterbury flooded back into our minds. Unfortunately, the church was locked. We had to satisfy ourselves with the information plaque. It was a shame because it sounded interesting.

As we are walking, we try to be present and not always looking at maps on the phone etc, There are times we do glance at the GPS. Sometimes, the map clearly shows an easier route than the one we’ve trodden. It seems pilgrims are chosen to climb the biggest and steepest hill in the village. Some communities must have a meeting to determine where it would be fun to send the pilgrims next. Today one village obviously must have enjoyed watching us practice stretching our climbing muscles as we went straight up a steep hillside and then along a ridge only to come right back down the same hill. Haha…”Fun with Pilgrims”.

Let’s put the path here and see if they’ll climb THIS one…bahahaha!

Oh, by the way….we have a BIG announcement!!!

We climbed the last hill into the town of Medesano where our lodging is for the night and promptly found a bench in the shade to have our late lunch. Cold pizza and an apple was on the menu today. While we were eating, Paolo from Portugal walked into town. It was nice to chat for a few minutes but soon he was off, walking more kilometers before we finished lunch.

Speaking of old friends. We saw Mr and Mrs Longshadow again for the first time in weeks!

The village had all the necessities along the Main Street: a grocery, a cafe and bar, and our place of lodging. After grocery shopping, we headed down the street to our place of lodging. Whil waiting for our hospice to open Paulo from Lisbon walked past. When we walked in the door to check in, Stephen from Belgium was already inside, signing in for the night. It is fun to see familiar faces of fellow pilgrims.

You know your in the mountains when you start seeing these signs!