Day 60: Aulla

Number of kilometres today: 24.7

Total kilometres walked from Canterbury: 1,531.4

Total steps since Canterbury:  2,122,463

I was in no rush to start walking today.  It's not that I didn't want to walk.  I just didn't want to start walking.

Despite being really tired, it took me a long time to fall asleep last night.  Then at 1.40am I was woken from my beautiful slumber by the crack and rumble and flashes and downpour of another thunderstorm.  Better last night than today.

I procrastinated my way through packing and eventually left the convent at 9am and headed straight to a bar for my cappuccino and marmellata (croissant with apricot jam inside) then started to meander my way out of Pontremoli.

Pontremoli is a beautiful medieval town with its green-roofed duomo, restored castle and stone bridges crossing the Verde River that connect it to its historic centre. Wednesday is one of its market days with  food and clothing stalls set up in the two main squares.  The town was a hive of activity.  It is one of the prettiest towns I have passed through so far and somewhere I could have stayed a bit longer but I have this aching desire to rest near the sea which means moving forward for two more days and that is what I did, right after I purchased my lunch supplies and had second breakfast which was nothing more than a tactic to delay walking.

As I walked across the bridge at Via Antonino Siligato, I could smell the sea.  Warm and salty.  Tears welled. I miss the sea.  It is a sacred place of rest and healing for me and I haven't seen it since I walked to Wissant on day 3 of this journey.  A few minutes later, an ambulance sped past with its lights and sirens blaring and I actually started crying.  I am naturally sensitive but my tiredness has made me hypersenstiive right now.  I need to rest.  Its not just the physical tiredness from the long distance walking.  Contantly moving is not my travel style becaue it makes my spirt weary so usually I move from place to place every few days at most not every day like this and I have always ended up staying in the one spot for at least a few days if not longer.  This pilgrimage doesn't quite allow for that at least the visa restrictions and my desire to walk the whole trail from beginning to end without breaking it up over time means I have little choice but to keep moving everyday.

So I cried and kept moving and eventually found the sweet place in my walking again as I always do when I keep moving, keep breathing, keep feeling. Storms always pass, just like yesterday, after which the sun even came out. 

It helped that I was fuelled by the kindness of strangers.  I had three cars stop and drivers ask 

"Vuoi passaggio?" The sweetest words I heard today despite the fact that I declined every offer explaining I am a pilgrim walking Via Francigena.  I crossed paths with one of the drivers hours later as I entered Aulla. He felt like an old friend.  In

 Barbarasco, one of the old-timers patted me on the back in encouragement as I walked past.  And upon arriving at the

Abbazia di San Caprasio in Aulla before I could even open my mouth to explain who I was I was ushered inside, seated and given coffee and biscuits. 

This kindness puts a bounce in my step and lifts my weary spirt every single time.

Tonight, I am sleeping on a bed that folds out of a cupboard.  The doors are open on either side of me so it actually feels like I am sleeping in the cupboard.  But it is a wonderful set up here with new modern bathrooms and a small kitchenette that I couldn't figure out how to work so ended up eating doner kebab for dinner because I couldn't stomach yet another pizza. 

There's even a terrace here where I was told I could hang any clothes I needed to dry.  I thought that was such a great idea at the time that I washed my tshirt and my socks and hung them out to dry.  It may have been 23 degrees today and it may have been warm when I did my washing but the temperature dropped very quickly.  There's clear skies and I expect frost over night. I brought in cold and still very wet clothes off the terrace and I am hoping without much hope they might dry inside overnight.  The t-shirt is not a problem. I have a spare.  However, I sadly now have only 3 merino socks.  I lost one on the walk from Fornovo di Taro to Berceto that I thought I had securely strapped to The Devil so it could dry as I walked. Tomorrow I may be wearing one dry sock and one wet one.  

C'est la vie!

Now that the singing and drumming rehearsal downstairs sounds like it is over, I am going to sleep so I can wake up early, walk 16.4 kilometres climbing 535 metres over that one last ridge that separates me from the coastal plain so I can be on a train heading to Cinque Terre and 2.5 rest days as soon as I possibly can.

View of Pontremoli from the Cappuccini Convento

Market in the main piazza

One of the old stone bridges linking the historic centre and newer town

Fog covered mountains

River Magra

Bridge over river Magra in Aulla