Yesterday morning we headed out of Aulla, this time with Jed, Andrew’s older brother, keeping us company. It was an induction into the pilgrimage life not for the faint of heart, or faint of calf muscle! We did nearly half of our day’s 660 m in the first hour, easily our steepest ascent yet. Jed came through with great aplomb, and it was great fun to talk to him. Once we were up we stayed mostly up with gentler ups and downs, curving our way around the last ridges of the Apennines.
Not long after lunch we finally saw the sight we’d been waiting for all day: the beautiful blue Mediterranean. It was about the most gorgeous weather we’ve had yet, brilliant white light all around us from the sunshine bounces off the water. Little stone villages capped low round hills, each with a few houses painted in yellow or red. We met a donkey and her foal, and startled a flock of creamy white pigeons. We’ve left fall behind and ducked back into the summer we never had in August—the change in climate and terrain was immediately noticeable coming out of the mountains and down to the coast. We are now very briefly out of Tuscany for a short stint in Liguria, the rocky coast of Italy’s northwest arcing from here up to the French border.
Midafternoon we met up with Roger and Ginny and Zeke in the camper at the train station in Sarzana. It is fitting to mention that alongside Andrew’s and my pilgrimage there has been another journey, frequently just as challenging, on the part of our road crew. They’ve been with us for 10 days now in the camper. It seemed like the easiest and best solution to keep Zeke near us once we got out of reach of weekend visits like in Germany, and to give them a chance to see a bit of Italy in the process. So far that has not been so. It turns out that nearly all camping facilities in Italy shut down on September 30. Why this should be so in a nation that has gorgeous weather through much of the winter and a population of avid campers I can’t imagine. Taking care of, um, certain basic sanitation issues has come to preoccupy all of our minds. My poor in-laws have seen more boarded-up campgrounds and nonexistent dump sites than charming Italian towns by now.
All of this is to say that, as soon as we finished our short day’s walk on Friday, the three of us were collected and shuttled off to the next prospective camper van station. En route there was fervent prayer for this one to be a success, and even more fervent praise when it turned out to be exactly what was needed. And may God ever bless and prosper the Associazione Camperisti.
After that we drove into the coastal town of La Spezia, found a safe place to park the camper—another task that occupies way more time than we hoped it would—found a place for me and Andrew to stay (no room in the camper with Jed here, and we thought Zeke needed a change of scenery), and then all of us went out to dinner at a cute local joint to celebrate the survival of ten days on the road in the camper. We were all kind of glad that the camper wasn’t there to celebrate with us.
Today was the designated rest day, which meant catching up on groceries, laundry, and photos for the gentlemen, while the ladies took a day trip up the coast. If you’re a fan of the movie “Enchanted April,” you’ll know exactly where we went and what we saw. It required a few km of walking even on my day off, but it was worth every step for the refreshment of spirit.