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Friday, 18 January 2008

Via Francigena

The good weather has returned yesterday. And today we took full advantage and went for another walk trying to find an easier route over the mountains towards Aulla for any Via Francigena pilgrims. After enquiring with our neighbour Piero, to ensure that there is indeed a route across the mountains and getting rough instructions, we headed off again. For those who have been asking, here is the description of the road from Aulla to Sarzana, avoiding the Via Cisa. It should only be attempted by fairly fit mountain bikers, or in an off-road car or horse. In fact for horse riders it’s the only route. Whilst the Via Cisa is dangerous for cyclists, it’s impossible for horses. The problem in finding this route was, that every single detailed map of the road that I have consulted shows it passing the 665 metre peak of Monye Grosso on it’s eastern flank. This is however not the case it goes around the other way.

Out off Aulla you take the left turn signposted Bibola, Vecchietto. This a proper paved road with very little traffic. On reaching Bibola you carry on towards Vecchietto. Halfway between these 2 villages is a cemetery on your left. Shortly afterwards an unpaved road turns off to the right next to an old useless rusty gate. It starts climbing quite steeply, then levels off a little, before becoming really steep just before you reach the top off a crest. Just before you reach the crest, you will notice a gate on the right and a load of noise indicating a quarry, the road forks. Bear right to reach the top of the crest. The road then descends steeply again for a couple of hundred yards, where you take a sharp double-left turn, away from the quarry. Now you’ve got the worst behind you. The road now follows the contours of the Monte Grosso for a couple of miles, with the mountain on your left and the Magra Valley on you right. You pass a little crossroad, signposted ‘Monte Grosso’ to the left and ‘Chiamici’ to the right. Carry on straight ahead. Finally you reach the ‘Quattro Strade’, a larger crossroad. Sharp left is a sign for ‘Monte Grosso’, left the Via Francigena sign for ‘Vecchietto’ and ‘Aulla’ and to the right for ‘Sarzana’. Turn right following the sign for Sarzana. As a point of interest after 2-300 metres there’s a small path to the left which only goes on for about 10 yards, but the view from there is spectacular.

The next sign you encounter is to the left for Falcinello, which you ignore. Since 4 Strade you have been going gently downhill in a fairly straight line. After about a mile and a half you arrive at a hairpin bend to the right. Straight on at this point is the pedestrian route down to Ponzano Superiore, however riders continue on the wider road, ignoring any deviations. After another mile or so, having passed a couple of derelict buildings and still steadily descending the road becomes paved. After another 3-400 metres you arrive at a road with a restaurant on the corner ‘Il Volpara’. Turn left there and after 1 km of undulating paved road you arrive at the main piazza in Ponzano Superiore.

Here you can come and stay at Susannah and Marco’s or visit us for some refreshments. Walkers follow the signposting for the VF off the Piazza, which takes you down there within 2 hours. Riders ride through the village. At the first hairpin bend at the bottom of the village there is a small road branching off the apex. Follow this down. It is paved at first, then becomes a rough track again. Avoid the steeper right turn halfway down, other than that this route is straight forward. Near the bottom off the hill the road becomes paved again and you arrive at an old-fashioned (Victorian) looking tile factory. Free wheel a bit further until you reach the main Via Cisa again only about a km before Sarzana.

We walked the bit from Ponzano Superiore to Bibola in the reverse direction and it took us 3 hours. On the way back we took the official, well signposted path via Vecchietta, which took us 2 hours. Puci, the neighbour’s dog followed us all the way, causing search troops to roam the village for him. It was a great adventure for him anyway. Hope this helps, Babette and Paul. It must at least partially be the route you took in September.

1 comment:

pedals and paws said...

Thanks for all you are doing and this is excellent, extra detail for us to add to our guide. You will definitely get a mention!

all best to you both