If the weather had been just a bit better today would have been the perfect walk.
|Reception area at the Hotel Melini|
We left the Hotel Melini and it's amazing reception area at about 8.30. The owner kindly gave us a lift up to the pretty village of Orsigna and by the time we arrived the sun had broken through the early morning mist and the mountains looked great.
|From the bridge at Praccia|
Although the ride up to Orsigna must have saved us a couple of hours, there was still an 800 metre climb up to Rifugio Porta Franca located just under the ridge. The path up was lovely, along an obvious ancient trail often tree lined to provide shade. It took us a couple of hours to get to the top.
|Beech lined paths|
Breaking out from the trees onto the ridge the views were fantastic. I know I have mentioned the autumn colours before but they were nothing compared to the colours today. A bit higher and things are a bit further on with yellows, orange and even reds dominating. The open moor itself was sharing the act as the leaves on the little myrtle bushes gave their final display.
|Autumn colours on the Apeninnes|
The mist whipping over the ridge added to the drama, but soon we getting too much of it, and we were in the middle of an increasingly familiar thick fog. This stayed with us for the next hour as we climbed up to Passo Dello Strofinatoio but then, en cue, disappeared opening up a huge glacial basin and some wonderful views.
|From the Passo Dello Strofinatoio |
Chris was knackered and decided to rest in the sun while I shot off up Corno Alle Scale and the promised view. The Po Basin was completely full of cloud but I would like to think I could see the sun shining off the Monta Rosa glacier, sticking through the clouds, way off to the north east in the Dolomites. Stepping back to take a picture of myself with the self timer, I managed to stand on a walking pole and snap it, the second one I've broken this year.
|From the Corno Alle Scale|
Just as I arrived back at the bottom, the mist and cold weather returned. There was nothing to do but crack on to Lago Scaffaiolo and beyond that to Passo Calanca where we hoped to find a lift down. The fog now was really thick and the markings and the signs were a bit confusing but the lift was definitely not where the map showed it to be and, worryingly, there were signs that there used to be a lift, but that it had long since been dismantled.
We had resigned ourselves to a knee crunching descent down to Cutigliano when we stumbled on the funicular 200 metres down the hill at Dogganaccia. However our celebration soon became muted when a man, who seemed to be in charge, told us that in the summer it only ran once a day and that was at 5 in the evening and not for another two hours. Sensing our disappointment he organised a lift for us down the mountain and soon Chris and I were squeezed into the back of a mini flying down to Cutigliano. We have had some amazing luck with lifts.
The hotel we stayed in was close to where the funicular descended into town. The restaurant where we planned to eat was even closer, almost underneath it. Just before we go into dinner we see the funicular arriving (just after 7) and who should be on it but the man who organised our lift down the mountain. We thank him again and then ask him if there is any chance of a ride on the funicular next day. He says yes providing we can get there for 7.50 when the workers use it to go up the mountain.
Feeling very pleased with ourselves we go into the little family restaurant and ask the chef to choose a menu for us based on local specialities. For our first course we eat pasta and funghi, second course trippa florentine and the third course fresh fruit and cheese. We drink a bottle of local red wine followed after the meal by a glass of sweet Scillian wine. The trippa, providing you could forget what it was, was the highlight of a very good meal.
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