We travel to Casoni di Suvero by public transport, where we begin our trek. If there is time for a meal it is certainly a good idea to stop at one of the many typical restaurants or holiday farms where we will find outstanding dishes with mushrooms, chestnuts, game and cheeses to enjoy with honey from the hives found everywhere in these valleys.
Setting out, we leave behind the vast pine wood that characterizes the suburbs of Casoni and enter the cartway with the red and white AV marker which takes us to the slightly higher altitude of 1042 metres at the Sella di San Genesio. From here on the road to Sarzana is almost all downhill.
Crossing large pastures framed by broom bushes alternating with more wooded areas, we can enjoy more than one beautiful view of the village of Calice al Cornoviglio with its imposing castle rising above; by going a little way off the main path we can admire Monte Cornoviglio, which overlooks the Val di Vara, the Lunigiana region, the Gulf of la Spezia and the Apuan Alps. Continuing along the old muletrack we reach Monte Alpicella, almost entirely covered by pine trees, which were planted at the beginning of last century to block erosion caused by previous deforestations.
Along the descent towards the Valico dei Solini, the road turns into a narrow path for a short stretch, where oaks and chestnut trees to keep us company along the way. On the right towards the valley appears Bolano.
On reaching Tirolo after passing olive groves and vineyards scattered here and there, we leave the Alta Via and continue along the paved road in the direction of Santo Stefano Magra: right after the bridge over the river we turn and take the scenic road that follows the river.
Here we come to uncontaminated meanders populated by many waterfowl. We approach the centre of the village, where the S4 trail starts. In little more than an hour it will take us to Ponzano Superiore, a small town with ancient origins, perhaps dating back to Roman times. Some believe it derives from the name of the Roman consul Caius Pontius Ligo. It is certainly worth a visit owing to its cultural heritage and cuisine. Since 1975 this is where the Sagra della Scherpada takes place; it is the festival of traditional vegetable pastries, with the consumption of thousands of these delicacies which are a must for visitors. From Ponzano we begin to follow the Via Francigena, which leads down towards Sarzana.
At the halfway point we come to the remains of the Castello della Brina. This stronghold was once important in controlling and protecting pilgrims and collecting tolls. A little farther on we come to the outskirts of Sarzana, a town with a rich heritage and many vestiges not only of its history. In the cafes and restaurants of its well-maintained old centre we can enjoy the typical Ligurian and Lunigiana cuisine, but the dish that stands out in Sarzana is the spongata, a sweet pastry with fruit and jam.