Saturday, September 22, 2012

Day 25 - Pontermoli to Fiumaretta (Thursday 20th September)

(92 kms)

Garmin Record:

The day started in good fashion. I know I changed my destination to Massa instead of Pietrasanta but in the morning when I went through the detailed planning for the day I realised that the reason I'd chosen to end at Pietrasanta is because there was an alternate route that followed the beachfront roads and so I could see the Mediterranean. I revised my plans and set off for my first point, Aulla. I followed the official Italian Francigena cycling trail. It was wonderful, high on the slope of the mountain, following the course of the Magra River, riding on good tracks through cool green forest. What a way to start the day.

In Aulla I checked the next section, 17kms across the mountain to Sarzanna. Based on my experience so far, sounds tough but a good ride.

Let me interject here with a lesson I have now learned on this trail. Never admit to a satisfying day because the Ms V Francigena takes out the big monkey wrench and tightens the nuts (in a manner of speaking - you get the gist). The first 8 kms was a challenging uphill ride to a mountain top village called Barleto. At the very top the guide book said "turn away from Barleto centre, there is a VF sign and a path, take the path and after 1100 metres turn left uphill towards the quarry". Off I  go but the directions don't seem right, however I keep seeing VF signs (often just red and white stripe on trees or posts to let you know you're on the path).  So I go on, at 1100 metres there is an upward sign but it is theVF walking path - no bike can go there - but also there's a fork to the left. So I continue merrily, another 3kms down through the valley, still seeing VF marks but no quarry. Eventually I run out of road, path, track, whatever. I backtrack and find someone to ask. He just shakes his head and says "Why would you be crazy enough to cycle across the mountain when there is a perfectly good road going round it?" I explain about following the VF trail and he indicates that I need to go back across the valley and up to Barleto and on another path from there. Gritting my teeth I backtrack all through the valley and way up to the mountain top village.  Here I discover that I should have gone 30 metres further uphill then taken another track that seems well marked. So off I go. At the right distance I find two roads fork to the left and no mark to say which one. So I try them both, after 3 kms on each (and back) still no turn to a quarry..... Not even a quarry. So back to the village and try one last time. Once again I end up in the bush and nothing matches where I am supposed to be. Now i've spent 3 hours not getting anywhere so I find a road that goes downwards and head back towards Aulla. The road I'm on intersects the main road to Sarzanna so gratefully I turn left. In 30 mins I'm in Sarzanna. No wonder the man giving me directions was bemused.

I'm irritated and tired so I stop for an ice cream and review the next section. It's back in the bush and across another mountain but I don't mind that because it branches off towards the sea and I can ride to Pietrasanta along the beach road instead of going through Massa. Grand plan,  let's go. Just outside of town the way is up a steep grass track that I cannot ride. Now irritation turns to frustration and I say "no more for today"!
I look at my map of North Italy and I see that I can go to a town called Lerici then take a road along the beach front that leads to Pietrasanta.

Squeak. That's the sound of the nuts tightening. Never abandon Ms V!! I had the most beautiful ride for the next four hours. I rode along mountain roads, uphill and downhill, past wonderful beachfronts, little inlets, beaches, expensive hotels, restaurants, tourists everywhere strolling around enjoying themselves. It really was lovely but it took me absolutely nowhere closer to Pietrasanta. At 17:00 I found a man who speaks english and explained my plight. He directed me to the correct road, warning me that I had a steep uphill climb to Montemarcello before the road leads down to Boca di Magra where I can connect with the road to Pietrasanta. It was getting close to sunset by the time I made it down to Boca and found the right road, so I checked in at the local Albergo in Fiumaretta for the night. This is the first time I've not made my designated stopover but I don't regret it I thoroughly enjoyed the ride and the countryside. Very tired though after all the bundu bashing and then the mountain riding. Quick supper of a rather bland lasagne with prawns that I definitely could have cooked better and then to bed.

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