Day 24 of our Via Francigena pilgrimage took us from Sarzana to Avenza! Distance: 12.1 miles. Weather: cloudy, rain in the afternoon, temps: 70s.
Via Francigena pilgrims who stay in communal church berthing are generally in bed, lights out, at 8:30 p.m. They are also up around 5:20 a.m. As a Navy Sailor, I’m used to early start times. However, 8-9 hours is a long time to be in bed, especially if you can’t fall asleep. On a ship, the coffin rack curtains give you some privacy to read, write, or watch TV. At church lodging, if you can’t fall asleep in the communal area, you generally just have to lay there.
Alas! I’ve found my kryptonite. It’s snoring.
Despite stellar earplugs, at some point in the wee hours I couldn’t take it any more. I grabbed my pillow and sheet cover, went outside, and lay on the bench.
(I’m know any parent is going to (rightfully) say a little snoring is nothing compared to looking after a fussy newborn. No doubt there are also those with arched eyebrows, going “Weren’t you on an aircraft carrier? Didn’t JETS launch right above your stateroom?” All points are valid. I’m well and truly embarrassed.)
But after two nights of little sleep I was so tired I was literally dizzy. When the dogs came out to bark, I snarled back at them. I’ve come to the conclusion that, since I have the good fortune to afford a private room, my plan from here on out is to book a B&B or hotel room. There’s every chance my pilgrim nights are over.
Road to Avenza
The French ladies and the Italian are very fast walkers. Yet somehow, they kept popping up BEHIND us, grinning and shrugging sheepishly. (They’d gotten lost three times.) Since I’m paranoid and am constantly bouncing our position off the App, I found today’s route very straightforward.
I enjoyed walking along the canals and seeing the fish swim. There was a lot of walking on asphalt. After a few days of conditioning climbing up and down hills, we were chewing up that road and making excellent time.
We waved hi to the Germans and Swiss we’d seen the day before as we approached the National Archaeological Museum and Archaeological Area of Luni.
The ancient Roman town in Liguria dates back to 177 B.C. Later, it was a popular stop on the Via Francigena. These days, in order to preserve the area, the ruins are safeguarded by the Archeological museum.
Thankfully, the Via Francigena route weaves around the ruins. Around one curve, we heard a youthful group excavating behind the fenced-off area. It is exciting to know that discoveries are still being made today.
We came across an ancient amphitheater just outside the old Roman gates. The sole woman manning the tiny building outside looked surprised to see visitors, and quickly sold me four tickets. At €1 a piece, it was a bargain. Behind the woman, I saw a poster advertising a special performance of Gladiator inside the amphitheater. There were multiple chairs neatly laid out in anticipation of a one-of-a-kind movie night.
Who WOULDN’T want to see Gladiator from inside a Roman amphitheater?
Unfortunately, after centuries of people cannibalizing the marble from the 2nd and 3rd stories to construct their own places, all that remains is the ground level. For 20 minutes, we had the entire area all to ourselves. It’s both hard and very easy to imagine some 7,000 spectators cheering as gladiators inflicted incredible violence on each other.
If you prize Roman ruins, authenticity, AND quiet, forgo the Coliseum. Go to Liguria instead.
Avenza and Carrara Marble
Avenza’s location is amazing: it’s between the Ligurian Sea and the city of Carrara.
Carrara marble is legendary. More marble has come from quarries in the Apuan Alps than any other place in the world. It was the Romans who first extracted marble from these quarries and used it to create buildings and art. Italy continues to be one of the top producers of marble, along with India, China, Turkey, and Brazil.
Michelangelo used this famous marble to sculpt his David and Pieta. I don’t know how many artists sculpt with Carrara marble these days. However, if you’re looking for some luxury finishes for your kitchen or bathroom, you know where to go!
I had booked a 1 bedroom AirBnB in Avenza. Fortunately, it was available shortly after the rain started. I laid claim to the living room sofa and immediately fell asleep. The nap felt absolutely delicious.
Mom has been cooking up absolute feasts every time we stay in a place with a kitchen. That evening she made a scrumptious dinner with salad, pasta, and wine.
Tomorrow, we’ll be trying something new. I’m taking Dan out for a little sibling revelry as we make our own way to Lucca. I’ve had one-on-one travel time with my sister and five brothers. This will be my first time traveling one-on-one with Dan. I’m looking forward to it. We’ll meet Mom and Dad the following day in Altopascio. But first thing first – I have a theory I’m eager to test out tomorrow…
…at the beach! 😊
Ticket to Ligurgia amphitheater: €1 ($1.11)
Breakfast: Supermarket snack
Dinner: €12 ($12.81)
Lodging (per person): $33