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Day 15+1 Terrarossa Castle

Terrarossa Castle

I just have to add an extra page on this. That word ‘serendipity’ keeps emerging. After over 70 miles of riding, very hot and sticky, I needed a rest. This Castle caught my attention, so I stopped, checked the information, the big iron gate was open, so I went in (as you do). In my very broken Italian, I asked how much entry was, and the young warden said they were closed because of repairs. Hmm, I thought, but the gate was open and he welcomed me in……

So I asked if I could use one of his computers, and he was delighted to say yes. Then he asked me if I was looking for a bed, so he made a couple of suggestions. As I was busy on the computer, he suddenly said “Would you like to stay here?”. Now ‘here’ means this huge fortified castle with massive rooms and staircases, and built to keep the enemy out………or the prisoners in! I got excited about this offer, but then discovered he was going to give me the key and I would be on my ownsome for the night. He showed me a few basics on how to manage a castle, gave me the key to the great padlock on the iron gate, and instructed me to lock myself in for the night!

Now I will be gone early tomorrow, so who do I give the key to? He showed me to a little office outside the castle walls, and said if there is no one there when you leave, can you put it in this hole in the wall (he points to where the cement has fallen out between two stones above a window).

So, I write these few words when I have not only got a computer (or four) to myself, but also this huge (and I do mean huge, medieval) castle as well.

I have been wondering what might be the single most unforgettable moment on this journey………………I suspect tonight, as I pretend to be the 16th century Marquis Fabrizio Malaspina (who built this place) will be in hot contention!

If you pray, say one for me.


Day 15:Fidenza to Aulla 74m (120km)

Got up at 6am (still dark) and out by 7am as sun was rising. It is so delightful riding in the coolness of the morning. Last  night, the Polish parish priest who is looked after by his parents, spoilt me. They provided me with food and wine, with no expectation of payment.

Passo della Cissa This climb dominated the day’s journey, landing right in the middle of the route. Though not in the same category as the Gd St Bernard, the climbing begins (seriously) 36km (23m) from the top. So that occupied about three hours, taking photos on the way up, and meeting a few very interesting VF pilgrims.

This Dutch couple (I hope they will be in touch to remind me of their names) started their trek a few days ago to complete the final 600kms to Rome (she had done stages of the route before). Charming people and I hope to meet them again. (Delighted to say they got back in touch with me on January 6th 2011 and they are called Peter Lammers and Stans Ligthart. They finished their pilgrimage on the October 29th).

This German gentleman had taken up long-distance cycling only 4  years ago, and has completed the route to Santiago, and has started the VF in  Milan.He said he used to weigh 86kilos and is now down to 70. No wonder! If you look carefully behind him, he is towing a trailer.

Motor bikers I had been warned the Passo della Cissa was a favourite climb for bikers from Parma. They always “hunt in packs” (usually of six or more) and they race up behind you and tear around the corners. They stop at their favourite watering hole and stand around admiring each others’ bikes and, yes, they are all men! All in their mid-forties and above and this is obviously their mid-life rejuvenation activity. However, some do come to grief, as you’ll see here.

An invention needed. Any volunteers? When I’m climbing big mountains, I always begin wondering how I can save weight. For some a few pounds of body-weight would help! But then I got wondering…….My drinking water (1.5ltrs) weighs about 1.5kilos, and I have both bottles full before beginning a climb. What if someone developed weightless water (or its equivalent)? There would be a good market for it amongst cyclists and walkers.

Some views from the climb today.

Castle accommodation I am using a computer at the Castle of Terrarossa, and have just been informed by the warden that I can stay the night! In fact, he will give me the key and I will have this enormous place all to myself. My first question, of course, was to ask if there are any ghosts! He assures me there aren’t any………………………….