Day eight and we are off in the vans again. We drive down to the coast then take a boat across the Ligurian Sea to Elba Island. Nic and I had bought some snacks (bread, cheese and yoghurt) before leaving Volterra so we have a picnic lunch sitting in the sunshine on the upper deck of the ferry on the ride over.
For some reason I feel immensely sad today – I have no idea why, so I just keep to myself for a while and wait for it to pass.
Today, of course, there’s more walking; I think I’m getting the hang of it now! Anthony and Ross drive us to the hillside village of Sant Ilario and we follow Marina up and downhill for a couple of hours before arriving at our hotel in Marciana Marina. The walk is part sun and part shade, up dusty trails and down quiet roadways. We stop to marvel at the view along the way and there’s a brief conversation with a man who makes beautiful baskets from local plant material.
I’m boiling by the time we reach our hotel, and (as it has a swimming pool) I opt for a swim to cool off there before dinner instead of walking down to the sea.
One thing that has really impressed me about this trip is the variation in the landscapes. We really have seen a number of facets of Italian life and living. From the relaxed Parma, to the busier Cinque terre, the peaceful Apuan alps and the ancient city of Volterra. Now we are here in a place that the English seem to know about and, whilst it’s beautiful, I’d rather be back in Pruno where almost no-one speaks any English and my Italian, along with hand gestures and smiling alot, just gets me by.
Anyway, the island is beautiful even if I’m less fond of the number of other English-speaking visitors.
Again, there are aperitivi, this time at the Yachting Bar down on the waterfront. I think if I can do nothing else in Italian before I leave, I will at least be a pro at ordering some drinks!
A few of us again end up having dinner together at a place just off Piazza Vittorio Emanuele. I am in food heaven right now and, after all the walking, I’m ravenous at the end of the day and thinking about what I can eat that will fuel me up for tomorrow’s big climb.
Total walking time for the day – 2.5 hours, 9.2km
On the ninth day we once again head for the mountains. In our walking group today we have me, Nic, Lucas, Marianne and Marie-Lou. As much as I enjoy walking with the whole group, this smaller band of hard core walkers is one I’m glad to be a part of. I’m happy too that we are walking with Anthony as it will be the first day he’s done a full walk with us. I find out soon after we start that he is super-fast and it’s impossible for me to keep up, so I continue with my steady pace bringing up the rear and enjoying myself as I go.
We started our walk with a bus ride from where we will finally end up. The bus follows the windy road further around the coast and drops us back at sea level at Elba’s western most village of Colle d’Orano. We begin the rocky climb up another ancient pathway that takes us high into the hills above. Today we are following a historic trail called The Hermit’s Path. I’m once again wearing my holy merino as it could get cold higher up, but I’m less aware of how I look today – it’s too hot to care and I’d rather just enjoy the walk. We climb to about 700 metres above sea level.
Russ took two of our walking companions Neville and Anne via another route that joins up with ours at the top of the climb. We sit and eat lunch together enjoying the view before continuing the walk together around and down the mountains. Parts of this pathway are still paved and very much road-like, sometimes making it easier to walk and sometimes more difficult. I’m glad I am wearing my vibrams instead of traditional hiking boots, I feel more sure-footed and nimble being able to feel the ground beneath my feet.
The walk ends today at the small village where we left the van and we stop for a well-earned prosecco before heading back to the hotel.
This evening we are in for a treat – we dine in one of the finest restaurants in the village – Ristorante L’Affrichella. Russ and I are sitting together and something he says ends me up in hysterics and I can’t speak to anyone for a good five minutes. My travelling companions have been such great company and it’s not just the food, and the walking that is filling me up – the big, open hearts and travel stories of my companions are doing me a world of good.
From sea to the highest point today we climbed 720 metres.
Total walking time for the day – 5 hours, 12.5km
I am also going to include day ten in this entry as I think I’ve made this travel tale long enough already!
On our last day, Nic and I opted for a walk around the the old town and the marina before meeting up with everyone for lunch. The heavens opened up and we had torrential rain just as we were getting into the vans. We hop on another ferry back across to the mainland and head to Florence to drop off the first bunch of people. After a few teary farewells, Ross and Marina drive me and Nic back to Bologna where we stay another night before heading back to Heathrow for the next part of our adventure.
Goodbye Italy – you’ve been awesome.
Thanks to all of you for following along with our travels, and for the lovely comments here and via email.
And thanks again to Anthony, Marina and Ross – you are all amazing and I loved every moment of travelling with you.