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Thursday, 16 April 2009

Easter Bike Ride

Tuesday / Wednesday we went on a ‘mini-holiday’. Our friends from Northampton are over at the moment in their holiday home in Casola in Lunigiana. We had decided to go and visit them on our bicycles. The normal route by car is about 40km. It would have involved us hurtling down our hill, than ride along a busy main road to Aulla and then slowly climb up for about 20km along a busyish road towards Casola. I took a look at this map of mine, which has on more than one occasion lead me up the garden path (quite literally!). Now as the fly crows…erm, sorry, as the cry flows… the flow cries??? you mean what I know… it’s only 20km to Casola from here. If the cry flows high enough that is, as there are plenty mountains in the way, namely the foothills of the Apuan Alps.

So, following the map and our noses we set of on a bright and sunny morning, climbing up from Ponzano Superiore (300 a.s.l.), along a rough track to a lonely cross road known as ‘4Strade’ (550 a.s.l.). From there we headed into Tuscany towards the town of Fosdinovo, which we left below us, taking us to a small village called Pùlica.

So far, so good. A turned out to be a picturesque little place, nestled among the mountains. From there, according to my map, is a road leading to another village called Marciaso. The distance between the last junction to Pùlica, which took us about 15 minutes to cover, looked the same as from there to Marciaso, but where was the road? So we asked an elderly lady, who told us that that would be very rough road to cycle, but if we insisted we’d have to go out of the village, then left and left again. We arrived at the first left turn and asked a younger lady this time. She in turn directed us right and right. We decided to follow the latter directions. This turned out to be not only a rough road, there was also no signage or indications where you might be, as well as a complete lack of any peasants one could ask for further directions.

Several equal looking forks in the path tempted us invariably into cul-de-sacs, forcing us to turn around and try the other way. After about 2 ½ hours spent mostly pushing the bikes, I was sure we must have passed Marciaso long behind, we stumbled onto some houses with signs of life in them. We woke the inhabitants out of their siesta, to ask them where we might be. The good news was that we were heading the right way, the bad news was we were only just before Marciaso. Thankfully from there the going was relatively easy. The high mountains were now south of us and we were on the right side of the mountain ridge. After an initial free wheel downhill we climbed into the village of Tenerano, then down hill to Monzone, near the thermal baths of Equi Terme. From there we descended towards Gragnola and a short ride along the main road took us to Casola. We had well deserved our beer and hearty dinner that evening!

We stayed the night with our friends, and after a strengthening lunch with some other acquaintances of ours in the nearby village of Codiponte we cycled back the easier route. However due to a large landslide over the main road to Aulla we had to divert over some hills. I’m really glad we did this trip though. We saw places that we otherwise would have never seen, either because in the car you whiz past far to fast to even notice them and they are too far to walk to them, or you wouldn’t have gone there in the first place in a car.

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