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Day 7 Rovinaglia—Passo Dei Dué Santi

Lenore steps outFOLLOW OUR WALK

We walked. Ralph of course lovingly studied and clutched the map we'd bought (Carta dei Sentieri e Rifigi 1:25000, Appennino Parmense Alto Lunigiana, sheets 9/13) which indicated that the path we were to follow (845) began beside a house a little further down the road towards the church.

We missed it at first (there are red and white blazes everywhere insisting that we follow path 943, which isn't on the map at all). Beside the cemetery we met two ladies , one of whom spoke some English and told us that the path started back opposite our cottage...ho hum. We headed back, but then Ralph noticed a path where it is marked on the map, so we followed it up the hillside until it came to an end at a meadow, which we crossed towards a gate and reached the correct path (probably trespassing).

The "path" is in the main a forest road. For two thirds of the route it is metalled with blackish volcanic stone, and then with sand. There are red and white painted route markers at intervals, but, confusingly, at junctions you often have to go 100 metres up each alternative before finding the correct route.

The first couple of km from Rovinaglia (807m) up to Groppo del Soldato (The Soldier's Shoulder...The Ridge of the Soldier — 1,110m) are the hardest, a steady steep climb that makes you sweat and regret the beer and wine you consumed last night.

And the map is hard to follow: although you can't easily lose your way following the forest road, you can't see any features to get a bearing on so that you can work out how far you've travelled: the forest paths and roads never seem to be in the right places, and the streams marked are dry or nonexistent. A power line (marked) crosses the Groppo, then another (unmarked) and there's a shrine (marked) just before you skirt M. Pero. But apart from that, paths meet and split and cross and hardly ever seem to correspond with the map (although Ralph found it easier on the way back).

Also, there are no views. The forest changes subtly as you get higher, from immature deciduous to mature deciduous to coniferous, and at the end of the walk there are a few clearings over which peaks glower, but despite the fact that you are walking along a ridge between two valleys, you see nothing through the trees. Cuckoos call, the occasional bird flits through the trees, lizards scurry away amongst rustling leaves.

And when you finally get to the Passo Dei Dué Santi, you meet a clearing and an unmetalled road and a parked excavator. In fact Ralph wasn't convinced we were really there, and we walked on another 500m or so before deciding he really didn't know where we were and that we probably had reached and passed our goal! The blazes ran out, so we turned back and had lunch in a clearing. A thunderstorm rumbled in the distance.

Walking back was mostly downhill, of course. This time Ralph managed to tick off most of the paths going hither and thither from the main trail. There were wild flowers and fine mosses. There are at least half a dozen shrines beside the trail, the oddest being on an electricity pylon. Some presumably commemorate the role of the partisans who fought in these hills during WWII. And we arrived back at our doorstep to find a sign marking the path leaning against an old cottage on the opposite side of the road! Ho hum...

Total gain 500m. Time (excluding lunch and without hurrying) 5 hours. Gentle going apart from initial climb.

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