Dispatches From Italy -  Hiking near Stazema, transition to the Mediterranean

Thursday morning, 6 July 2006.  Above Azzano

Yesterday was sweaty hot, today the chillier skies are streaked with white clouds and mist is falling towards us over ridgetops.  I’m standing on a brilliant white road, a road of crushed marble.  Somewhere up the mountainside towering over us is Michelangelo’s favourite marble quarry.  We’ve just travelled an age old donkey path, and much like grappling with the history in Rome, grappling with the echo of Michelangelo’s footfalls on that path proves mind bending.  Rain starts to patter, and we dash for shelter.

Thursday late morning.  Above Azzano

A growing business in this information age is database mining; looking for patterns, habits, connections.  Database mining dredges something of humanity’s own creation rather than a line of ore in the ground, but both are a concentration of something valuable to somebody.  I’ve read snippets about scavenging operations in today’s voluminous and expanding trashheaps, sourcing metals and other materials.  I’m guessing at some point this mining may become commonplace enough that even concentrations of materials made by man will become scarce.  Scare enough that even this pile of old tanks in front of me will be scavenged?  First mined for marble, this quarry may eventually be mined for metal.

Thursday afternoon.  Above Azzano

We’ve made our way farther up the mountainside, exploring abandoned roads, scrambling up slopes, dodging the occasional rainfall.  It’s been a little stressful for me; having little clothes and food when I am exposed and potentially wet a couple thousand feet up goes against my training.  But this cavern has wiped any concerned thoughts aside.  I’ve been inside cathedrals, monuments, government buildings.  I’ve seen marble in many shapes and places.  Yet I’m in awe of this marble.  I’m standing inside a massive cavern, hewn out of a mountainside by man.  It’s difficult to comprehend the sheer size.  Remnants from the mining crew hang from ceiling and walls, ladders for fleas.  The light, already scattered by the mist outside, creates an ambient glow on the streaked white walls.  Gazing around, my head stutters.  How?  But?  Wow.

Thursday night.  Below Azzano

I’m listening to the wind in the treetops, gnawing on an excellent slice of pizza as I walk the dry riverbed.  I’m looking for my odd spot to sleep, hopefully a comfortable spot in the gravel to pad my still deflating thermarest.  I can see the hillside we scrambled up today, the massive cavern entrance miniscule from here, made unremarkable by distance.  The wind sounds funny.  It’s moving… but too slowly for wind… the sound resolves into raindrops pounding leaves!  I sprint towards Karen’s tent!


Just a beautiful leaf

Empty metal canisters…

Kevin in front of a marble face

Face of the marble quarry - each layer is about 12 feet thick

The marble ceiling of the mountainside cathedral - 8 stories up?

Karen face to face with marble

We scrambled up this - look for Karen on the left

Life inside, life outside

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Friday mid-day, 7 July 2006.  Lerici

I’m mid-air, 8 feet of thin air between me and the sea below.  My life isn’t flashing before my eyes; maybe those years mountain biking on ramps and rails is stemming the tide of biological alarm.  The sun is warm today and I’ll find out soon enough if the Mediterranean is.  Just moments ago, I asked myself how many other chances I might get to cliff jump in Italy.  Rhetorical question?  I’ve always been a water person, living near water in some way, though for the last 30-plus years, it’s always been pretty far north.  I also chill easily, so I’ve never been quick to swim in those far north places.  Italy, in June, is a different matter.  Here I get to play.  Water is such an equalizer.  Dive into it, swim in it, caress it, beat it to a froth or try to hold it back.  It is always there, soothing, running through fingers no matter how young, old, rich, poor, carefree or troubled they are.  Salt water, especially, has a grit to it, a smell that seemingly speaks in your head.  Is it ancient inner biology recognizing an old friend?  Speaking of, where is this salt water that my biology is supposed to be landing in?

Friday late afternoon.  Lerici

My camera can’t capture this.  More emotions, more feelings, more flashing thoughts.  The sun is slowly setting, lighting the masts arrayed before us as we lounge on the pier.  Sea life plays just over the edge of the pier, dashing out of Karen’s legs-held-head-dunked reach.  Kids and adults scamper around, living the warm glow of a summer afternoon.  Charming, amazing, captivating.


Hanging on a wall, we see evidence of life, hues of different colours, strung out to dry.

Peter after the plunge

Beach toys, piled high

The geometry of nature

Getting advice on how to fix something

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Peter Newbury's Published Adventures