Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler…
(Robert Frost , The Road Not Taken, 1920)
My dilemma every time I take a walk from my village Casabasciana, but unlike Frost’s traveller through life, I can return another day to take the other road.
Usually I’m a lone wayfarer, imagining myself as a present-day shepherd or woodsman, a pre-war craftsman from my village of Casabasciana carrying my plaster of Paris figurines to market on my sturdy mule or, stretching my imagination to the limits, a mediaeval pilgrim on my way to Rome (in the 9th century Casabasciana had a hospice for pilgrims). Sometimes though, friends ask to accompany me, and so it was on a warm, sunny morning at the beginning of September. From my huge mental sack of unexplored roads and trails, I plucked the dirt road that skirts the lower edge of Crasciana, the next village up the tarmac road from Casabasciana and at the end of the line as far as paved roads leading up our side of the mountain go.
Having parked at the side of the dirt road, sharing a lay-by with a heap of building rubble just before the road dips steeply downhill, we set off on foot down the broad road cut into the side of a steep slope with Crasciana behind us on the left and a gently murmuring stream way below us on the right, hidden from sight by the leafy trees and undergrowth. This road has to be modern, constructed maybe in the 1970s to allow access to hunters arriving in 4x4s with their hounds in cages to shoot the recently introduced wild boar.
We pass two tracks off to the right, which I pop into the mental sack. After about 20 minutes we’re nearly down to the stream bed. The road widens into a sort of car park, then suddenly hangs a U-turn over a broad ancient stone bridge and narrows to a single-file track that rises steeply up the other side. I learn later from Michelangelo in our village shop that the name of the bridge is Rialto, which means ‘raised place’, appropriate to the Rialto bridge in Venice, but a total mystery why this perfectly level bridge sunk in the valley below Crasciana should bear the name.
We soon start to see markers painted on trees and stones, indicating a maintained path, perhaps by CAI (Club Alpino Italiano). There are many on the other side of the Lima Valley, but part of the fun on our side is trying to follow unmarked trails.
One mark is on the ruins of a what was very small building, with a corner stone engraved with the letters ‘C. L. N. F. A.’ and the date 1778. A puzzle to investigate back in the village.
We had set off rather late, and after an hour of uphill progress broken by stops to survey the new terrain, we realise we need lunch more than we need to know where the path leads. We vow to return soon better prepared to finish the job.
I’ll tell you where the path leads and about some strange objects along the way in the sequel on 26 December.
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