A common man marvels at uncommon things. A wise man marvels at the commonplace. CONFUCIUS

Friday, 4 December 2015

Via Francigena: Days 20 & 21: Fornovo To Passo Della Cisa

The Ostello di Cassio. (Image from Wikimedia Commons.)

During the next two days I would walk 45 km, climb more than 1300 m and gain the border with Tuscany, one of Italy's most famous and beautiful regions.

On the first day I flirted with the river Sporzana, sometimes walking along its banks, sometimes along its dry riverbed. I came upon a bridge which had been partially destroyed by winter floods. Luckily it was not necessary to use it, as all I had to do was simply walk across the dry and stony watercourse itself. 

Waymarking suddenly became much more pilgrim friendly, and stone wayposts popped up quite regularly to confirm the path. Such welcome and reassuring signage continued into Tuscany. The route was hard going (part of it was an Alpine Club route for experienced walkers), with many steep ups and downs, but the extensive forests gave much-needed shade, and every so often stunning mountain-and-valley views opened up.

Eventually I arrived at Cassio and gratefully deposited my backpack in the Ostello di Cassio, one of the most comfortable and intriguing pilgrim hostels of the whole journey (see photo above). Each alcove, nook and cranny of the place was packed with 'stuff' — all kinds of food and drink, also ornaments and other knick-knacks. The bathroom and shower upstairs were crammed with sweet-smelling toiletries and perfumes, and the huge dining table downstairs was laden with bread and fruit, cheese and cold meats. Both this table and some smaller breakfast tables adjoining the kitchen were permanently set for meals with plates, bowls, cups and cutlery.

A few other pilgrims were already there, including a newly-married couple (she was Italian, he was Spanish), a Belgian called Marcel who had walked all the way from his homeland, and Paolo, a very tall and benign Italian cyclist. Our host was very discreet and hardly ever to be seen. We gathered there was a modest charge for the lodging, but dinner and breakfast were by donation only. Paolo volunteered to cook, and later that evening we sat down to a splendid meal of spaghetti carbonara washed down with several glasses of red wine.
Berceto. (Image from Wikimedia Commons.)

On the second day, after a lunchtime stop in the pretty little town of Berceto, I continued climbing endless forest paths throughout the afternoon until I reached the Passo della Cisa, the col which would take me from the Ligurian to the Tuscan Apennines, from Emilia-Romagna into Tuscany. (I spent the night in the Ostello della Cisa, another excellent family-run hostel on the road just before the pass.)

Chiesa di Nostra Signora della Guardia. (Image from Wikimedia Commons.)

Above is the pilgrim church of Nostra Signora della Guardia, which lies in a magnificent position at the top of a stone staircase rising from the pass. It's a fairly modern church — built in 1921 in a mock-Romanesque style with Gothic additions. The interior was a delight, though bordering on the kitsch.

And below is the the Porta Toscana, the wooden portal which directs the pilgrim into Tuscany and heralds the next section of the route.  

The Porta Toscana at the Passo della Cisa. (Image from Wikimedia Commons.)


donna baker said...

Unbelievable trip, but I wonder if it was more of a pilgrimage...

The Solitary Walker said...

Yes, it was certainly a pilgrimage, Donna.

dritanje said...

lovely to see the mountains and the chiesa on top of a mountain. Bet you were glad after the long Po plain. It looks tremendous, as ever.

Nick said...

...which all goes to show that you have NOT been dead for a long long time. Nice journey I think. Regards, Nick.

The Solitary Walker said...

Thanks, Dritanje and Nick, for your comments!