Many fellow British people come to Tuscany for their summer holidays and you can see why. The landscape is magnificent, the food and wine hits the spot and the weather, of course, is most pleasant. Add to that, lashings of gelato and you have everything you could want Perhaps a good book or two and an iPod full of music and you are in Heaven. Am I the only person left with an iPod? I’ve even forgotten how to load music on it but it doesn’t matter because it’s full. But I left it at home this time.
The Via Francigena has truly come alive in Italy. It is well sign posted and the facilities for pilgrims are good. Most stages seem to have one or two bars where you can shout Frazzante! to quench your thirst and most towns have a bakery which is open even at the early hours when we depart, 5.30. The hostels can be good or bad. We slept in a filthy little stuffy room in Miradolo Terme but have had four good hostels in a row: Fornovo di Taro, Cisa Pass, Pontremoli and tonight in Aulla. These hostels are often attached to the Church and manned by volunteers. They ask for a donation (10 Euro is expected) and are clean and welcoming. If cash is a problem you can do some chores instead.
From our experience so far the hostels are more empty than full. Last night we had the entire dormitory to ourselves and today we have one other person in our room. It’s a great place to meet other pilgrims.
This morning we slammed the gate of the castle and lowered the drawbridge at 5.30 then set off down the narrow streets of Pontremoli. I was drawn to the smell of baking croissants in the bakery and we entered the shop next door to buy a couple. What a great start to the day. By the time we reached Filattiera, we were ready for the reception we received st the Bar 2000. The owner spoke some English and soon had a giant cappuccino and pain aux raisins on our table together with the giant Frizzante and juice. We had a second Frizzante stop in Filetto before completing the 32km stage to Aulla.
Our early morning departure from Pontremoli
Beautiful walking in Tuscany
These things are everywhere
A dream Tuscan villa
This is the relic of the local patron saint. You could be forgiven for thinking Pirates of the Caribbean