Rogue Carver on the Loose in Italy
Part 22, Lunigiana Roadside Attractions, Part 1
I love to drive roads devoid of traffic, and during the week I spent exploring Lunigiana, Tuscany’s most northerly I covered many miles of these beautiful byways. Here are a selection of the photos I took along the way.
Quite why the roads are so empty is a matter of speculation, but two factors undoubtedly played their part: firstly, the autostrade so completely and effectively zooms all through traffic along the valley that little or none of it seem to feel the need to exit. Secondly, Italian drivers are so intent on speeding from A to B that they just don’t seem interested in nice leisurely country drives. Thus the wonderful mountain roads remain blissfully empty of traffic… and a pure joy for ambling drivers such as me to enjoy quite undisturbed by throngs of would be racing drivers.
On and on they stretch, winding their way through a quite magical landscape.
But should a fastcat Italian driver rear up in my mirror I would simply veer slightly to the right and let him zoom on his way… continuing my journey of discovery at my comfortable and leisurely pace.
I never knew from one blind bend to the next just what would be facing me around the corner.
This herd of horses appeared at a picnic spot as I rounded one bend. The poor things were literally swarming with flies, which must have been irritating for them. A younger mare began to take an interest in getting to know me (top), but as I made steps to investigate the clan a little closer the mother of a newly born foal made it very clear that I had strayed quite near enough.
Vista after vista appeared with astonishing regularity.
I’m not really sure just why I find crumbling old farmhouses so reassuring, but there is something about completely ungentrified rambling compounds such as the one above that give me hope that the countryside is not yet one huge playground for second, third and forth homeowners.
It’s interesting to note that the Via Francigena – a pilgrim route stretching from Canterbury, England, to Rome winds its way along the entire Lunigiana valley. I spoke to several walkers who all told me that the path was excellently maintained, clearly marked and a joy to hike.
As I arrived at the ‘Passo della Cisa’, on the ancient trading route between Parma and the ports of the Mediterranean, the weather suddenly took a turn for the worse and in the tiny hamlet of Bosco I took shelter at the imposing hotel while the sky roared to the sound of thunder, and lightening struck all around.
While I found all this quite entertaining (the thunder really was astonishingly long and loud – very loud indeed… and that’s coming from someone who lives at 8,000 feet in the Rocky Mountains), the locals however were completely non-plussed. Sipping on my glass of vino rosso I was admiring these collosal thundercaps when an old lady who had been mopping the kitchen floor when I peaked through the window came out and puffing her cheeks made it abundantly clear that she was sick and fed up of the rain. Through a combination of mime and words familiar to both Italian and English she told me that the rain was becoming quite unbearable, and as I set off to complete my tour by wending my way back to Pontremoli I immediately understood just why she was so perturbed by the sight (and sound) of yet more rain:
With lightening continuing to flash on all sides I came across long stretches of road that had been completely washed away – a scene I would see repeated many times as I explored the mountain roads of northern Tuscany. 2011 saw the worst of it, with entire villages flooded and in some cases washed away. Many roads have remained impassible to this day.
I can’t count the number of times Tuscans have told me that the weather has changed entirely from that of their youth; ‘It’s not Italy anymore’, and variations of the sentiment, were repeated over and over as people vented their disgust and irritation at the new warmer, wetter weather.
The oddest contraptions would appear without notice to leave me guessing as to what they might possibly be – in this case… no not a roadside still, but an irrigation pump and fresh water drinking fountain.
However, you’ll have to take a stab at guessing this builder’s intentions for yourself…
Gradually I wended my way cautiously down the narrow country lanes arriving back in Pontremoli by mid afternoon. The rain never quite let up, and indeed became quite incessant as I approached my accommodation. But I’d enjoyed a great day out, some lovely driving and truly magnificent views.
Next time we’ll take a look at another trip I made… a drier and altogether more eventful one at that!
Until then, thanks for stopping by,