Three days and three demanding legs: from Fornovo to Pontremoli, passing through Cassio, Berceto and the fateful Passo della Cisa. Rucksacks on shoulders and camera in hand, with a great will to walk and discover.
Departing from Fornovo on a bright morning of April, a quick visit to the parish church of Santa Maria Assunta with the headless pilgrim as its guard, who also happens to be used as the pilgrim passport stamp of the church; we immediately begin to climb, with the view becoming more and more captivating, step by step.
Having crossed some hamlets, the route joins the hill trail, skirting alongside a river. A few people greet us as we pass, inhabitants of these villages that identify us a pilgrims by our cumbersome rucksacks and coloured walking boots.
We pass Bardone and its ancient and mysterious parish church, then proceeding to Terenzo, where we find Castello di Casola, a tiny hamlet nestled between the rocks of the hills, known as the ‘salti del diavolo’. Here we meet the keeper and inhabitants of the five houses and the finely restored church, which still safeguards a few hidden gems: conserved in its archive are documents in Latin that date back to the XVII and XVIII centuries, that Romano, the church keeper, proudly showed us.
A short break to recover our strength and we return to the route towards Cassio, not without difficulty, the first stop of our brief trip. A modest dinner and a rest, the first day is always arduous.
The next day we venture on towards the Cisa, the view opens as the thick vegetation, a characteristic of the previous leg, dwindles. A long break at Berceto allows us to visit the famous parish church, decorated with sculptures from the XI and XII centuries and with more recent paintings. We receive the pilgrim stamp and depart once more.
The route towards the Passo della Cisa hostel seems brief, perhaps for the company of two other pilgrims, Fabio and Kim, who joined us on our way and share a great surprise: a deer leaps across the route before us, but not so fast that we still manage to get a glimpse of it.
We reach the hostel in the late afternoon and they offer us a more than adequate relief, a delicious meal and the warmth of our hosts accompany us for the entire evening until we are united with the beds we long for.
The last and longest day takes us to Pontremoli, extensive but extremely exciting nonetheless. There are six of us now when we depart in the morning, as Mimmo and Valentina join us, increasing the size of our group. We cross the pass in the first hour of walking, passing through the wooden arch of the ‘Porta della Toscana‘, or in other words the doorway to Tuscany. We walk along the crest of the mountain where we are able to admire both regions; we then proceed through the thick woods on the steep trail that suddenly descends towards the valley.
In spite of the rain that accompanies us, we are welcomed and fed by the owners of a guesthouse and a small trattoria along the route, who, having seen six figures proceed solemnly under the pouring rain, offer us a rest-stop, a sandwich and a plate of pasta with a bottle of wine. Nothing was needed more in that moment. We dutifully rest and, thanking our hosts, depart once more.
We reach Pontremoli, a splendid Tuscan city, more densely populated than the towns we passed in the past two days. We have just enough time to visit and then, exhausted yet satisfied, we make our way towards the station, towards home, certain and keen to return and pick up the route where we left off.