|The white-marbled Cathedral of Saint Martin in Pietrasanta. A brickwork bell tower stands alongside. (Image from Wikimedia Commons.)|
It seems incredible now, but on Day 26 I walked nearly 40 km — two stages in one day. This was partly because I had company, and the hours raced by as we chatted. But I'm getting ahead of myself.
I'd diverted slightly from the Via Francigena to get to my B&B in Marina di Massa, but in the morning the B&B owner directed me back on course. I soon arrived at Capanne, where I took a quiet minor road towards Strettoia. A big hill intervened and I began climbing. At a lay-by on a bend in the road a seated figure watched me approach. This turned out to be Benji, a young German pilgrim from Berlin, also heading for Rome. We agreed to walk together, and talked incessantly all the way to Pietrasanta. He was just twenty years old, but mature beyond his years, and spoke excellent English. I remember that we passed several marble factories and saw stone being cut by machine in the open air — constant jets of water cooled down the process. I'd originally intended stopping the night in Pietrasanta, but it was only lunchtime, so I decided to carry on, and after a few hours caught up Benji who'd gone ahead.
|Pietrasanta's Cathedral Square by night. (Image from Wikimedia Commons.)|
The countryside was lush and very pretty. It was also varied, with a pleasing mixture of hill and valley, small town and village, forest and open farmland. Oh, beautiful Tuscany . . .
It was late afternoon when we finally reached Valpromaro. There was an open door on our right halfway down the main street. We peered inside and were immediately greeted by an exceptionally friendly and welcoming pilgrim reception committee. The warm hospitality continued all evening, with speeches and gifts and a fine dinner at a long, communal table. Quite honestly I'd never experienced anything quite like it. Here I also met for the first time the Swiss couple from Lausanne in whose footsteps I'd been following — until that time they'd always been a couple of days ahead.
|I was given this personal momento of Valpromaro by my kind and enthusiastic hosts at the hostel. As you can see, I was their 552nd pilgrim this year.|