Ecumenical Pilgrimage - Sarzana - Marble Quarries and Not Much Else

First, a sta tis ti cal note: we have been on the road 50 days now, and today is 10–10-10.

In the morn ing Andrew, Zeke, and I walked through a silent La Spezia to the camper and then we all rode back to Sarzana. Jed, Andrew, and I headed off for our day’s walk a lit tle after 9. We said our morn ing prayers as usual, with the Sun day bonus we’ve been hav ing of each per son offer ing a one-minute homily on the Scrip ture verse of the day, espe cially appre ci ated now in a place where we can derive nei ther lin­guis tic nor sacra men tal ben e fit from pub lic worship.

The scenery was as dull as the past week’s had been thrilling. (The prob lem with high points is that you inevitably have to come down—which reminds me of the Trans fig u ra tion hymn that con cludes: “How good, Lord, to be here, but we may not remain; So since you bid us leave the mount, come with us to the plain.”) It was semi-continuous vil lages of no great charm, one blend ing into the next with no dis tin­guish ing bor ders, along sec ondary roads and weedy verges. The sky was mostly over cast and the weather was nei ther hot nor cold. After awhile we turned off the main route for the alter nate one along the beach; but once we got there we dis cov ered the path was actu ally along the miracle-mile main drag, just out of sight of the sea, through even uglier beach towns—though I’ll give it this much credit, there was a side walk the whole way.

The one sight of any inter est was the rav aged moun tain side. This region of Car rara is home to the biggest mar ble quar ries in Italy, and you can see the evi dence in what at first appears to be snow but is actu ally the scars of quar ry ing on the rock faces of the Apuan Apen nines. The per ma nence of these scars was par­tic u larly strik ing to me. And the left overs of mar ble quar ry ing are appar ently so plen ti ful that the curbs of the side walks are lined with mar ble! Chunks of mar ble lit ter the shore. On the plus side, it is from here that Michelan gelo selected his stones for his sculp tures. So does my friend Sarah Hempel Irani, a bril liant sculp tor herself.

And that’s pretty much it for the day. We found our hos tel and checked it, met with the oth ers in the camper, found a camp ground for them, had some din ner and retired early to get things done.

Since there isn’t much to say about today, I thought I’d throw in a bonus recipe. I came up with this way back in Ger many when we were still cook ing on a butane stove and needed some thing healthy, fill ing, and easy to find in the dis count gro cery stores that pep per the Euro pean coun try side, and when we had to carry our food awhile before cook ing it so raw meat wasn’t an option. We’ve had it a num ber of times in the past 7 weeks. It seems most fit ting to call it

Pil grims’ Veg etable Stew

1 onion, diced
1 large egg plant, chopped in small cubes
2 large toma toes, cubed
1 large yel low pep per, chopped in small cubes
6 oz feta
basil or other fresh herbs
½ lb. short pasta, like penne or macaroni

Heat 1 Tbsp. of olive oil in a pot. Add the onions and egg plant and cook over medium heat till they start to siz zle, sprin kle with a lit tle salt, then cover and cook 7–10 min utes or so till the egg plant is quite soft. (When it has reached this point is a good time to put the pasta water on to boil.) Add the pep pers and cook about 10 min utes more with the lid on until every thing is quite soft; mean while cook the pasta. When the pasta’s done, drain it and serve with scoops of the stew on top, gar nished with gen er ous quan­ti ties of feta and herbs. Serves 2 hun gry pil grims, but prob a bly 4 peo ple under nor mal circumstances.