Last night’s accommodation was not one of the best. The room was very cramped, the water was barely hot enough for a shower, and the sound-proofing was so poor that Tom had to bang on the wall around midnight to get the person adjacent to turn down the sound on their TV. Breakfast was advertised for 0800, which was after we wanted to have left, but when it came to it breakfast started at 0715…so we had two breakfasts as we’d eaten our own muesli and milk first!

Albergo La Villetta in Sarzana

We made an early start, passing by the impressive castello on our way out of town. As it didn’t open until 1000 there was no question of spending time looking around it as we had a long day’s walk ahead of us.

Although our guide to the VF stated today’s walk was on the level, we started by climbing up a steep cobbled road to another castello about 1km outside of Sarzana. Again, because we had a long day’s walk in prospect, we didn’t stop to explore this castello either, but carried on over the hill and down into the next valley.

Down in the valley we initially followed an irrigation channel, but the route then took us uphill and through a sequence of villages. Apart from the occasional barking dog they were very quiet and not particularly interesting. We noticed that many of the irrigation channels we walked along today were infested with huge bamboos, and in some places an attempt had been made to clear them.

The canale Lunense

Today, for the first time, Tom spotted fish in several of the canals. He thinks they were chub. He also noticed a coypu swimming towards us, and then a second coypu following. Avid readers will recall that we first saw coypu several weeks ago, but they were too far away to see clearly. Today’s came within about 6 feet before getting nervous and swimming to the other side of the canal.

By about 1015 the forecast rain arrived, lightly at first but then heavier and persistent for the rest of the day. We would probably have enjoyed the walking and scenery more than we did if the weather had been better, but we did get a sense of the lushness and fertility of this area.

Vines still in leaf further south and nearer sea level

We decided to detour from the official Via Francigena route to walk right down to the sea near Luni, the ancient port from which medieval pilgrims embarked for Santiago de Compostella.

At 1243 precisely we touched the Mediterranean thereby completing an important milestone – having crossed the continent of Europe on foot, from Wissant on the French Channel coast!

The final step to complete the crossing of the Europe

Having detoured to the coast we also decided to walk along the coast road to Massa di Marina rather than going back uphill to rejoin the VF, which would have added kilometres and climbing to an already long day. We hoped to have sea views, but in fact the seafront was heavily developed, and much of it blocked by one ‘proprieta privata’ after another.

Part way along the road we stopped under the awning of a bakery to put on our waterproof trousers and were very touched when, as we were leaving, a woman dashed out and thrust a bag of warm focaccia into Julie’s hands, saying it was ‘on the house’. We later stood in the undercover carpark of a block of flats to munch a couple of slices to keep us going.

Looking towards the mouth if the Magra river and Luni, the historical departure port for pilgrims heading to Santiago de Compostella

The rest of the day was a long slog along a very busy road following the coast southwards. At Marina di Carrera we attempted to check out the yacht marina but were told to “go!” by an officious security guard and misdirected by someone else in the port office who had seemed to be more helpful. Once it was obvious we’d missed any opportunity to visit the yacht basin we headed into a cafe for a warming drink and torte con marmolata before trudging onwards in the rain.

Containers being railroaded away from the commercial port at Marina di Carrera

Massa is about 3kms inland and uphill all the way, though not steeply. It was just an uninteresting trudge, made bearable by having a pavement all the way so we didn’t have to worry about the traffic. There is an extensive industrial area surrounding the old city, with many large factories. There is an extensive Baker Hughes plant which is probably quite a big employer. Quite what they make here is not clear but it is an American oil industry service company. Next door was a substantial plant producing polished marble, which was discharging sediment-laden waste water directly into the river!

Waste water from a marble polishing business discharging to the river
An old steamroller in dire need of some TLC!

We found our B&B located in the old city centre not far from the cathedral, and received a warm welcome – in every way: with a cup of tea, hot radiators to dry wet clothes on, hot showers, and a restaurant booked for supper. And the restaurant was excellent!

Mixed fish carpaccio antipasto – both beautifully presented and delicious!
We arrived too late to visit the duomo

We can’t complain about one wet day in what is supposed to be one of the wettest months of the year, but today was not very enjoyable, except for one of the best meals we’ve had in Italy so far and being in a very comfortable billet. However we can now claim that we’ve crossed Europe on foot!

Massa’s old centre looks interesting but we’re not going to have time to explore it on this visit.

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