👣 68,5 km by bike – Sunday 22 August
Back on our bikes, although only for one stage! It will be a very long time before we take our bikes again: we will be in Apulia, the very last region of Italy, where Santa Maria di Leuca is.
We were joined today by Gianni and two other guides from the Versilia Bike Tour group. It was already quite warm when we departed in the morning – not a good sign – and we started immediately climbing uphill. We arrived at the town of Pietrasanta, another surprisingly interesting and beautiful place I’ve never visited before, with vast enchanting churches, towers and squares, currently decorated with contemporary art installations (such as a huge blue banana statue at the center of the main square, Wonder woman, Spiderman, and a Pope on a skateboard).
We then arrived in Camaiore and, accompanied by two managers, we visited the Museo Civico Archeologico, where archeological heritage is recreated through detailed replicas and is made interactive so that school classes and children can feel free to touch the history of this territory as they study it. Elements of Via Francigena’s history are included in the museum, which made it super interesting for us. Before leaving the town, we had (already, at 10 am!) a prosecco refreshment and stamped our credentials.
We got back on our bikes and cycled uphill to Montemagno – a very pleasant climb, in the shade, not too steep, with an awesome view: vineyards, green forests and finally the first classic Tuscan hills with cypress trees here and there. At the top of the climb, in Montemagno, we met Marco Morotti from Wamdi Ista Team, an association that at the same time repairs and sells bikes, but also has a diner bar – I loved the combination! Marco prepared a buffet with fresh fruit and veggies for us (veggies are so rare on our journey – hurray!).
After leaving Montemagno we started our descent, at times pretty steep. We had a stop at the historical Hostel of Valpromaro to say hi to ‘ospitalieri’ Maurizio and Virginia, who are volunteering here. Donation-based hostels, run by volunteers, are essential to the success of the Via Francigena as a whole, because they conserve the vivid and authentic characteristics of this ancient, popular, and communal way of traveling. It was very important to us to stop here, enjoy some coffee, which we were offered, and leave a donation.
Yet, we quickly had to move forward: there were some miscalculations in our timetable today, and by the time we arrived in Lucca we were over 2 hours late. Nevertheless, Alessandro Tambellini, mayor of Lucca, together with Stefania from the tourism office and Andrea from Federcammini, were patient enough to wait for our arrival and welcome us warmly into their splendid city. We had lunch and then cycled over the walls of Lucca, which I really recommend – not only for the view, but also because the walls are shaded and the fresh breeze up there was fantastic! We also visited the ‘Via Francigena Entry Point’, a child-friendly museum that explains what it means to undertake a pilgrimage and what it’s like to walk for many consecutive days, weeks or months, through interactive installations. We finally visited the Cathedral and the Amphitheater Square of Lucca. It is simply an amazing city and a mandatory stop for every pilgrim on the Via Francigena.
At the end of the day, the mayor of Altopascio welcomed us in her town dressed in cycling clothes that matched ours: it was great to meet up in the same guise. On a Sunday, she also enjoys her cycling passion. I missed my bike, it’s hard to separate from it so soon!
– Visiting fun and interactive museums
– Visiting the historical donation- and volunteer-based Ostello di Valpromaro
– Cycling and being welcomed at our destination for today by another cycler!
Myra Stals, Social Media Manager (EAVF)
Luca Faravelli, Project Manager (EAVF)
Sara Massarotto, Movimento Lento
Gianni & 2 other cyclers from Versilia Bike Tour
Filippo Racanella, videomaker