Day 8 GEA Montepiano

Bit of a frustrating day today, the weather was poor, we got lost a couple of times, and to be honest I'm just starting to get a bit tired of all these trees, even with their semi-autumn colours.

We were scratching our heads last night about accommodation. The guide suggests that after Montepiano we hit a brick wall in terms of places being open this time of year. There were four Italian walkers in the hotel and one of them spoke perfect English. He soon put together an itinerary for us, corrected the book were it was wrong and found alternatives where there was a genuine problem. Really is nothing like local knowledge, the problem is getting hold of it if you don't speak Italian.

The fog was very thick in the morning and visibility was down to less than 10 metres. Everything was of course very wet and there was absolutely no chance of seeing any of the promised views.

Thick fog at Passo della Giogo

Somewhere near Mt Castel Guerrino we found a broken sign with two alternative routes up the mountain. We chose one in a fairly arbitrary fashion and 45 minutes later were back at the sign - we had gone right round the mountain. Sense of direction in the fog is amazingly deceitful. We tried again, this time referring occasionally to the compass, and of course didn't have any trouble.

Optimistic hunter
Despite the fog there where men with dogs and shotguns squatting behind little hides all along the route. The reports from the guns occasionally rang out but today for once, the odds seemed stacked in favour of the hunted.

We saw just three other walkers all three on a route from Bologna to Florence. I wander if there are less trees on that route.

German war cemetery at Passo de la Futta

Despite roaming around the mountain we arrived at Passo de la Futta at the expected time. We stopped to look at the German War cemetery containing just some of the 30,000 plus Germans who lost there lives in Italy in the Second World War. Most of the graves here were from the fighting in September 1944, six months or so before the end of war. Apparently remains of the dead are still being found locally and bought here.

By now the fog had cleared but that didn't stop us making a wrong turning in the trees. After walking along a strangely abandoned road, an access road to the nearby motorway, where there no way marks we headed back into the trees where there too many. We came to a junction and where there was supposed to be only one route exit, didn't notice there were two and followed the way marks along the wrong one. About 30 minutes lost time but at this time of time of the day it was enough.

You don't have to walk into Montepiano on the road but it is quicker and by now quicker and a beer were the priorities. The town centre when we arrived was absolutely buzzing, not sure why, maybe just the right time for a Sunday promenade and everyone was out.

We stayed in the Hotel Margherita, bit plain on the outside but comfortable on the inside with very good food. We had the set menu which involved a gnocchi in a rich cream sauce, a potato stuffed ravioli in a ragu sauce, veal in a wine sauce and a rich stew with garlic croutons - finished of course with a creme brûlée (a sort of euro standard). It's a family business and the food was served with great precision by the matriarch, it would been a bit kinder if we had sat a little closer to the kitchen.

The manager, the grandson I think, has kindly booked us accommodation for the next two nights. The refuges are of course closed but so too was the Cascina di Spedaletto which is normally open but is currently being restored. He tried five different places, all shut, but eventually found us somewhere at Migliana which looks like a long way of the trail.

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