Sunday, 11 February 2018

St Augustine Way - Noli to Pietra Ligure, Italy

Day 12. Noli to Pietra Ligure 24km
Total walked: 255km
Well every story has to have an ending and this is the last day with Claire and Sue. We were up with the larks and we'd secured free breakfast in the bar because our B&B does not serve until 8am
From leaving Noli we were immediately ascending the hillside, past the ruined church of San Lazzaro and then to the promissory point and the ruins of Santa Margherita. The wind was blowing a bit despite the humidity so we did not stop for too long. Back on the trail we past the old farmhouse that now houses the wooden roof trusses and all manner of other things from the church. Everything left open to the elements as the door swung to and fro in the wind.
The walk notes have been interesting to read and interpret and today was no exception. We continued to climb on the narrow scrubby path lined with oak and pine, past two red robbers.....yes it mentioned to red robbers. These turned out to be two red rhomboid signs.....
At the summit is the local Carbinieri (police station) which I believe is there because permits need to be bought to walk through the park during the height of the season. 
I find days like today exciting when there is something special to see and you have people who share those same passions and today was going to be a special day. After passing a camping sight we picked up a stranger, or should I say he picked us up......a lovely old black and white sheepdog that walked in front of us, stopping every now and then to make sure we were going his way.
At a small hamlet an old Osterio was being rebuilt which sat perched above a prehistoric cave, we chose not to venture round to have a look as it was already going to be a long day. It was a bit surreal seeing a huge yellow mobile crane in the middle of nowhere going about its construction business.
For me it truly was a fabulous days walk, cooler, accompanied by a wild wind with unexpected splashes of sunshine. We walked through the now very familiar pine and oak woodland, soft leafy trails and when I can I love to kick my feet through the crunchy leaves. We slowly descended into a new valley through towering limestone gorge like edges.
The second special moment, if the cave was not one of those, was the three Roman bridges that criss crossed the red earth and over boulder strewn dry stream beds. Two were in very good condition and the third left in ruins. This was obviously a Roman road and so caled,l Via Julius Augustus.
Back on tarmac we weaved our way through olive groves and vineyard terraces, occasionally taking a short cut to avoid the long winding hairpin bends. This is mountain climbing country and one such route stood epically like a majestic giant proudly showing its size. Sorry thats not for me, I'll stick to walking it not so far to fall if you do!
Finalborgo was the first habitable place we passed through, again there were strong Roman influences around. After passing through the 13th Century Royal Gate into a maze of charming cobbled piazzas with numerous Osteria, bars and Ristorante, quite a few vegan friendly, which with the outdoor climbing, mountain biking, running and walking shops clearly marked this as a centre supporting outdoor sports.
After looking at various menus and one that even offered and English breakfast , we settled on one which just turned out to be an ordinary bar for Claire and Sue's Italian bean soup (Zappa fagioli) and tomato ( pomodoro) bruschetta for me. I don't think she liked the English or was having an off day as I never received any cutlery for my bruschetta which turned out to be two pieces of toast, so I settled on using my penknife much to the amusement of the lady on the next table.
Our final ascent took us virtually straight up, we took our time, stopping every now and then to see the view......there never was one just trees but Sue that it was funny as she called......"let's just stop to admire the view". On the ridge the churches of San Martini and San Maddelena overlooked the wide bay of Pietra Ligure from a lofty cobbled Piazza fringed with scots pine and stone planters filled with red and white cyclamen. After a fair rest and before we got too cold we descended down cobbled paths through a few more delightful medieval settlements, with tiny churches and piazzas overlooking the sea. Before arriving in Pietra Ligure and settling into our accommodation before searching for a well deserved beer!

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