Day89 Montefiascone to Viterbo – Spas and Popes

The short climb back up to the Torre di Papi was almost the only climb we made today.

Morning Update

The rest of the day was a slow steady downhill run across ancient Roman pavement and modern cinder farm tracks.

We ran into Victoria and Margarite who were on day 1 of their renewed March to Rome. These two friends have done pieces of the walk for several years.

Dark rich soil

We also crossed paths again with Tobin (Canada) and Raphael (Baltimore) but spent little time with either as one was speeding on and the other taking a slower approach.

Porcupine Quill

The weather warmed a little and we were soon in shorts again.

Other than the beautiful scenery, the highlight of the day was passing another hot springs resort.

It was nice to take advantage of the free entry for pilgrims. The hot springs were relaxing even if the method of changing into our bathing gear I.e. our underwear was less than private. Me holding up a towel for Allison was the best we could do. As usual…no one cared.

Sneak pic

As we were leaving Elana was arriving and we gave her the lay of the land so-to-speak. There were 4 pools (puddles number B1-B4). B1 was cold but the other three warm and only varied in size and shape. Sorry. No pictures were allowed.

After our luxury experience, we continued our journey into town. As we entered Viterbo we were hungry for lunch and there w as a Burger King right across the street. The temptation was too great and the enjoyed some fast food for the first time in about 3 months. It was less than inspiring I’m happy to say.

Snow on the horizon

Viterbo was founded by the Etruscans but is know as the city of Popes. Remembering that in one period of history the Pope was more than a spiritual leader but also reigned over a country of his own “The Papal States”, it is not surprising that he would have a palace and a fortified one at that. In fact, it was here that in 1145 the first conclave was held to elect the new Pope. A fun fact is that they took so long (3 years) that the citizens revolted and literally locked the cardinals up, giving them only bread and water in order to “nudge them along”. It was in 1266 that the Pallazo (Palace) was built.

Now I tell you all this cool history and I have to admit that we had a chance to visit the palace and chose not to. We got there and there was some cool architectural outside and the open church. After that we just both yawned and decided to head back for supper. Honestly we’re a bit tour-ed out.

Instead we strolled through the medieval streets instead and found some cool things. We popped into an open church just to look. It was the Church of Gonfalone – never heard of it – us either. But inside we found an amazing ceiling. It’s the kind of place that, as an engineer, bends the mind. I studied the ceiling for about 15min and I honestly can’t tell you if it is flat, domed, or vaulted. The painted scene is a master work of illusion.

We also found a cool medieval street with a crazy suspended arch.

Our night ended with a stop at the grocery store for tonight’s dinner supplements and lunch supplies. On the way out we were stopped by a Nigerian man. He asked if we were English and he seemed relieved to have someone to talk to. He was from Nigeria and worked until recently. He isn’t too happy about the Italians (he doesn’t feel accepted). He hopes to get to the USA some day because “there, anyone who wants to work can make a living”. The American dream is alive friends. Honestly, I hope he finds his way there. If we had our packs with us he’d have received a key.

We decided to eat in at the convent. They have a small kitchen and we have a package of risotto that we’ve carried for about 10 days. There we met two engineering students from Myanmar an d a high school student from the area. We were also served by our host. She was one of the kindest loving souls we’ve met on this trip. For her gentle heart and attention she got a key. I told her the story of the key and although she was already familiar with it I think she loved that she heard it from me. Hugs followed.

Tomorrow is yet another short day. A pilgrim could get used to this.

Day88 Bolsena to Montefiascone- 1/2 Days worth of a walk

Today was sweet. We had less than 18km between Bolsena and Montefiascone. Although it was uphill the climbs were never that bad. To take advantage of the short day we took a 1km detour right off the bat to get down to the shore of Lake Bolsena.

Leaving Bolsena

Morning Update

We did our update and then went to check out these famous volcanic black sands.

And then it was time to get moving…

The walk today was also nice. A large portion of the day was either on farm paths or woodland.

Along the way we met Rafael – American from Baltimore. He is on a multi day package Pilgrimage. That may sound unintentionally disparaging but it is not meant to. Everyone has different time constraints and abilities. Later in the evening we met again and since he’s lived in Rome he has the inside scoop. He has volunteered to show us around Rome when we arrive. So nice.

But the major “event” was the passing of the 100km mark. This marker is placed just inside greater Montificione.

Despite our reaction….

One Hundred kms is significant not only because it is a cool number but because the “rules” of pilgrimage require you walk at least 100km to receive a testimonial. Getting one of these is of no real importance to us other than the souvenir it represents. But in the Middle Ages, this was the document required to prove your pilgrimage was completed. In some cases this was in concert with the receipt of indulgences.

Even with our detour we arrived hours too early to gain entry to the monastery of San Pietro. That’s ok, we were hungry for lunch anyway and we’d spotted a trattoria on our way into the old city.

So we arrived at the restaurant. It was wafting wonderful aromas out of the door. The place looked a little too fancy for pilgrims, but the menu actually offered some good prices. Plus the food was excellent. We splurged on deserts knowing that our dinner was to be at the Monastery and that typically means basic fare.

After a long lunch and finally getting into our room we did the shower and laundry thing. Here I’m going to interject a bit of pilgrim inside info.

Bathrooms have to be the most varied of all rooms in the world. I’ve travelled to over 49 countries and the variety of ways to wash, pee/poop, and shower seem to be infinite. Bidets for example still baffle me as do holes with a garden hose attached.

But in this monastery, and in many others on this pilgrimage, we have the unique set up of a toilet-shower. Now remember, this room is set up for four strangers on four cots to occupy. But in the bathroom (that has neither latch nor key) you will find a seat-less, lid-less toilet lined up with a curtain less shower fixture. “Space-efficient”- indeed….”practical” however, not so much. So there ya go.

After this adventure we took a quick stroll up to the fortress, Rocca dei Papi from where we had beautiful views of Lake Bolsena and unbelievably Radicofani. That hilltop has been visible for 3 days. Crazy.

Well, that’s it folks. Dinner was indeed basic, but filling (pasta, hamburger, spinach, and cauliflower with grapes as dessert). As an interesting note, all the food other than the meat was grown within the monastery- including the wine we drank.

Lastly I should note that we only have 6 days of walking left to go, and they are also slowing down in distance and elevation. Wow.

Day87 Acquapendente to Bolsena – Volcanoes and Silence

We left our pizzeria/lodging leisurely this morning since we had a short day planned. Actually there are no long days left in the itinerary anyway….so perhaps this is the new normal.

Morning Updates Part I and II

As we left Acquapendente we realized it was a larger village than we’d imagined. We spent several minutes at historical marker after historical marker soaking in the history.

Once out in the country I was surprised to see Radicofani still standing prominently in the background over our shoulders.

Radicofani looms

The entire rest of the day was strange in that we spent it mostly in silence. It’s good to walk that way sometimes but this wasn’t an intentional act but rather ….there just wasn’t a lot to say.

The silence was broken when we caught our first glimpses of Lake Bolsena. The lake, which will be our companion for today and tomorrow was formed from a huge collapsed magma vault The whole area is littered with evidence of past volcanic activity. The lake itself has black sands.

First view of lake Bolsena

Next we saw a flock of sheep being worked by four dogs as their master whistled instructions.

Working Dogs

Our approach to Bolsena was a nice wooded walk.

Finally we arrived at Bolsena. The castle dominates the approach and the steep streets leading to the Basilica were interesting.

Bolsena Castle

We wound around the streets, through arches and alleys to the Main Street of the village. The town seemed like a ghost town – ah yes, it is 1:30pm on a Monday. All of the stores were shuttered.

A steep entry into Bolsena

It took us a minute to find the convent across from the famous Basilica of Bolsena. We rang the bell and pressed the buzzer, but the place, like everything else seemed lifeless.

Just as we were about to turn around and consider our options a weak voice in Italian spoke through the speaker. I don’t know much Italian, but honestly even if I was fluent I’m not sure I’d have understood what came out of that speaker. However I did perceive the word “pelegrini”…so I said “Si”. Then the speaker went dead.

Lamp likely not lit in awhile

There is the odd moment when something happens and you’re not sure what to do. Do we wait? Did she give us some instructions. Are we even in the right place?

I played back the speaker sounds in my mind and I thought I might have possibly heard a word that resembled “aspette”. Aha! That means wait. So we did.

Our lodging.

Sure enough moments later we heard a key unlatching a distant door, some steps, and then a shadow appeared on the other side of the heavily frosted glass. When the door opened there stood a tiny nun who later introduced herself as Sister Rita.

The next several minutes we struggled with my 20-30 words of Italian. She rambled on at top speed despite knowing we weren’t taking in a word of it. Something was important about the stove. There were some instructions about coming and going and a mention of the Basilica.

Google translate was unhelpful because I’d ask my questions but she’d answer at full speed without taking a breath before I could get the transcription to English running. Simple questions like “Is there a key” were answered in 2min discussions. In short we were lost.

But Sister Rita was sweet and gentle. We just have no idea what she was telling us. For the 100th time this trip we decided to just politely nod and then wing it from there.

Later, after we were settled we decided to tour the Basilica. The basilica of Santa Christina is dedicated to a 12yr old Christian girl that was martyred during the reign of emperor Diocletian (beginning of the 4th century). The cemetery inside was in use by Christians for 100yrs prior.


Under the current cemetery is a series of catacombs that were discovered in the 1900s and date back to the Christian persecutions. These were burial crypts and not hiding places. The Roman authorities knew of them well and they were even protected by Roman law.

We paid the 10€ to tour the crypt and had an unusual surprise. It wasn’t lit. In fact, at first we were locked in behind a iron gate….in the dark!

Now let me pause here and mention that it was really windy at this point. There were dark clouds overhead as well, but no rain. But there in the dark, behind the iron gate, the wind literally moaned as it ran through the underground tunnels.

Threatening skies early continued all day

We turned and saw through some reflected light a small room and a stone sarcophagus. Nothing else was evident. No exit, not light switch, not instructions…nothing. Our first thought was (that was kind of a rip off). But we knew there must be more.

Spooky crypt writings

We walked around the crypt and there was a nice mosaic, a crack in the sarcophagus in which you could see inside (nothing there).

Nice mosaic

Then we saw it, I the corner, hiding in the shadows was a dark set of stone steps leading down. Hollywood horror movies couldn’t have written a better script. On came the cell-phone flashlight…and down we went.

Lit by my phone

The wind moaned again and the faint sound of another iron gate closing echoed on the stone walls.

Down the steps we were in history. Row upon row of human-sized niches were carved into the rock. The main corridor had multiple branches, each with more stacks of niches which once held the remains of the victims of the Christian persecutions.

Mystery around every corner

After our slow tour with the flashlight alternating between our next step and the walls, we made our way back up. By this time some other “victims” (a tour group) had joined us and we decided to linger until they left. We were the first in and the last to leave. As we did, the manager of the catacombs came in and uttered some words of disbelief. She walked over to a panel hidden in a corner and flicked a few switches. These had the effect of lighting the whole place up. Oddly, the moaning seemed to stop in concert with the lights. Spooky.

It looked so different with the lights on

We’d seen everything with my flashlight but we couldn’t resist taking a second look in the light. I’m glad we did. We’d missed a lot. Carved into or painted on the rock were writings or Christian symbols like the fish and the chi-rho.

It was a pretty cool way to end the evening.

We made a quick grocery run to get some breakfast supplies before coming back to the convent to warm up a pizza in the oven and then hit the sack.

Also in the convent tonight are a group of about 5 gentlemen that are on Day 1 of their West to East cross Italy walk – apparently that is a thing.

Day85 San Quierco d’Orcia to Radicofani – Wind and Reunions

Morning Update

We set out at 7:00 knowing it was going to be tough. We had a long day 33km and 900+m climb. The wind was cold and the warm weather gear came out for only the second time. But it was beautiful.

In the distance.

It is rare that we can see our destination at the beginning of the day especially when it is 32km away, but Radicofani sits atop a volcanic cone and it’s tower is so prominent that it is easy to pick out.

The problem of course is that it enhances the distance you have to go as well as how slow you progress. That tower just never seemed to get any closer. Well that was our impression anyway.

Deer me

The Via in this area passes several thermal baths and if you had the time it offers some wonder relaxation. We, of course had a long slog ahead and couldn’t stop, but I was suspicious that they’d be closed anyway. They weren’t as it turns out.

Not the spa, but looks nice

At one point we came to an obstacle. The VF crosses and iconic foot bridge which was chained off with barricades. There were no detour signs in place and we had a choice to make. 1) Climb back up a steep hill, add 2km to our walk and follow a road around. 2) Scramble down the bank and rock up across the stream 3) hop the fence and risk the bridge.

Here’s a picture from the other side of the bridge. Yep we hopped over the barricade and walked across a perfectly good bridge. We are pretty light pilgrims ya know.

The choice

From this point the trail took a aggravating series of steep ups and downs never seeming to gain much net altitude. The weather was nice however and the company amazing.


As we approached noon, the wind picked up and the temperature dropped. The sweat on our backs allowed the wind to chill us quickly and we faced the shoo ever of windbreakers (that make you sweat more) or chills.

We had another water crossing albeit small. Now this is an interesting solution.

Odd solution

We made good time during the day despite the climbs and had a chilly lunch break on some gravel on the side of the road. While we were eating you could feel the temperature drop so we made it a quick lunch.

We also met to s of new pilgrims from Italy, France and Germany. It’s actually feeling crowded. Many people seem to have joined in Siena.

As I mentioned Radicofani sits atop a dormant volcanic cone. In hiker terms this translates to “a steep pumice-strewn climb at the end of a very long day. We were beat.

Much closer, the last climb

But a reward awaited us. In addition to the nice views and quaint town we had visitors! Dana and her husband Ido live near Milan and had driven 3hrs to meet us. Dana is Heidi’s (former owners of Hutton Vineyards near our home) sister We’d met several years ago and have stayed in touch via Facebook. It was so nice to see them and spend the evening together. They treated us to dinner and even spent the night in the Ostello (their first Ostello experience).


My night however was fretful. The blog had not been done, the clothes still very wet from a late laundry and poor ventilation and my batteries running low. It was after midnight when I was able to burrow under the covers and fall to sleep.

Good night

So…what a day. It was hard and fun and joyous and difficult. But I wouldn’t change a thing.

Day86 Radicofani to Acquapendente – a frigid start but we crossed the finish line???

It was a tough start to my morning due to too little sleep l, but we had the compensation of enjoying a coffee and pastry with Ido and Dana.

The sunrise was pretty, but our primary focus was on the 6 degree C start that was accompanied by a blustery wind. As a result we were both pretty bundled up when we started.

Looking back at Radicofani

But as we made our way off the peak, and as the sun rose we soon shed layers.

Looking back at Radicofani

I will admit that I don’t feel great about how I spent my morning. I was determined to make up for last night and make a real Day85 post so as we descended I was not focused on the beautiful scenery, but rather on my cell phone and camera. As a result I missed some things, but it would have gnawed at me all day until I got it done.


This section is know for its wild beauty. It was rugged and filled with empty rolling hills and herds of grazing sheep. The sun cast cool shadows over the landscape.

Undulating terrain

The route was primarily downhill all day. As a result we kept a good pace and we’re only passed by a few of the ultra marathon racers.

At about 10:30 we came to a fork in the road. Go right and we’d have a beautiful forested walk, but one that added 10km to the day. Go right and we’d have the shorter way but would have to walk along a busy road for long stretches (basically most of the rest of the day).

We had a few minutes to decide since at this juncture we were literally flagged over into a taped off area. We were mistaken for racers and had been herded into a refreshment area. Recognizing their mistake we were still invited to have some snacks and juice. We definitely qualified for the minimum distance on any case.

After downing a couple jam filled croissants and a banana, we came to the junction and went left. After yesterday we really didn’t want another 30+km day.

Not the most inspiring portion

As promised the rest of the day was not nice. The traffic on the road was mostly courteous but we still had to walk past trash and broken glass sadly typical of most roadway shoulders here and back home. The noise and minor stress of walking in traffic made for a less than lovely afternoon.

Chestnuts everywhere

Our pit stop at a unique cafe was interesting. We often joke about our timing at restaurants and cafes. Very often we arrive at a place and are the only ones there. By the time we leave, the place is packed. This was true this time as well. We joke that it is because of our popularity. Clearly everyone wants to eat where we eat. I just don’t know how the word spreads so quickly. Haha

Within 1-1/2hrs from our lunch we arrived at our destination of Acquapendente. As you might guess the town derives its name from several small waterfalls or “hanging waters” in the area. In the Middle Ages it was a main pilgrim thoroughfare. It was famous for its good wines and bread and also for its rude people. There was even a saying “Acquapendente- good wine, good bread, bad people”.

Acquapendente was a walled town that requires constant defense from the neighboring town of Orvieto who was always trying to snag a share of the pilgrim riches.

The finish line

Acquapendente was also the finish line of the ultramarathon. We crossed through the finish line and had our photos taken. It was a fun moment.

We next found our lodging which is on the top floor of a pizzeria. Fun.

Our night ended by attending a mass and inviting Elana and Maria for dinner. All in all it was an excellent day.

Maria and Elana (Poland and Berlin)

Day84 Ponte d’Arbia to San Quirico – Meeting people

Pre-Morning update (no…the lens cap is not on)

Is that a giant headless swan in that field? At night your eyes can play tricks on you.

Morning came early at 5:45 am. Having a private room is nice when you can turn on lights and pack up without worrying about waking up others. A funny fact about our private room was we shared a wall with a bathroom. Our heads were against the shared wall and with only one bathroom on the floor with 16 other people, the toilet got flushed a lot! And we got to enjoy every flush throughout the night.

Potty Humor

We were out the door within 30 minutes of waking which is an all time record for us on this trip. And it was truly pitch black outside. We were in the country with no street lights so our headlamps were put to use. Within 30 minutes, the sun caught up with us.

Morning Update

Breakfast consisted of coffee and pastries at a cafe in the village of Buonconvento. It is a medieval village that grew along with the Via Francigena. Walking up to the city you can still see the 14th century walls and we walked into the village through one of the 15 century gates which is still used today. Pretty cool.


Now that we were somewhat fueled up for the morning, we headed up the trail. And up is the appropriate word as we began climbing. The rewards are the views of the beautiful rolling Tuscan hills!

A plus are all the grapevines covering the slopes. This is big winery country. We passed our first winery around 8:30am

And then we even found a winery offering pilgrims a deal! But it was only 9:30am. Then this happened.

Caparzo Winery is quite the place. The entrance was lined with cypress trees and surrounded with the rolling hills covered with grapevines. It’s all very iconic. We were told that they have 50 employees so this is no small operation. The staff was very nice and chatted with us about our trip. Thanks guys for the sandwich and wine. Both were delish!

Allesandra and Francesco – Carpazo winery

After our little treat we continued over rolling hills and eventually ran into Jill, Thomas and Thomas from Clearwater Florida. They were having a two week vacation in Tuscany and were just out having a walk but it was good to talk to some Americans. Apparently, (and all you back home know this) there is some manhunt going on and the media coverage is hyper crazy . Ah, the advantages of not being in touch with the media.

Next after getting some groceries we met Alex from Stuttgart Germany. He’d walked from Lake Constance near the Swiss border but crossed the Alps at a different location. He’s tent camping so has the freedom to stop where convenient. We may or may not see him again.

Finally we encountered two Italian pilgrims. I apologize but I didn’t write down their names. They are on a multi day walk and may be in the same HOTEL we are in tonight.

Wait…HOTEL??? But didn’t I mention that we were staying in a B&B? Well our lodging struggles continued today with a crazy but true twist. About 30min from our destination tonight we got a message from our B&B host. She was in the emergency room and obviously couldn’t host us tonight. She’d take the time however to find a room in a nearby hotel for an equivalent price. That was nice. It’s not in the best location (out of the quaint part of town), but acceptable.

Identify. It’s about 4ft tall and the bloom is about 5-7” long but only 2” wide.

Our evening ended with another grocery run while Allison took a quick nap. We followed that up with dinner at the hotel restaurant.

Our world today – pretty awesome.

So that’s it for today folks. Tomorrow is a long day with no sources for resupply, so everything goes on my back. We have nuts, energy bars, croissants, cheese, and prosciutto for lunch. For breakfast yogurt drinks, one hard boiled egg each, veggie/fruit juice, and a sweet yogurt treat. We should be good.

Ok…one last spin around our day.

Goodnight all!

Day83 Siena to Ponte d’Arbia – Rolling Along + Nurse to the rescue.

So today was interesting.

Morning Update

We started the day, up at 5:30am and we were on the street after breakfast by 7:00am, so no speed records were in danger. But we were off and soon out of the city of Siena.

Looking back at Siena

Early on we passed a sight I did not expect to see. We’ve seen a lot of cool animals on this hike but I never thought I would see a camel. But sure enough, across the street was a small pen with three camels. It had some llamas as well and some donkeys and horses. Upon investigation, it was a small circus from Vienna parked for the night. It makes sense now, but I just never thought this is what the day would bring.

Camels on the Via??

The countryside was kinder and gently rolled although the Via actually went primarily downhill all day.

The pointy cypress trees and the rolling hills reminded me of the closing scene from the movie Gladiator, and well it should because it was filmed here. The actual spot is tomorrow I believe, but it makes no difference.


The overcast sky and cool air made it really feel like autumn. The air was cooler than it has been in weeks and when the wind blew or when we stopped for lunch we both got chilled.

Since it had rained last night there were a few puddles but the trail was mostly dry. Mostly dry that is until we hit this one stretch (about 1km long) thick with mud. It wasn’t the deep sloppy mud of the Somme but rather a drier sticky mud that attached to your shoes like glue and went along for a ride for a while.


It was actually kind of funny. One second you’d lift your foot and it felt heavy. The next few steps added to the effect and you felt as if you were lifting weights with each step. As I put my foot down it felt like I was wearing 3” heals and 2” lifts. Then in a stride a huge chunk of mud would fall off and your leg would fly up or you’d come back down off of your heels unexpectedly. Of course this never happened to both feet simultaneously so one leg was always longer than the other. I’m sure we looked a sight walking in that section.

My high heels and lifts

Later while we were eating lunch, we were passed first by a young couple Paulo and Martina and later by another couple. This second couple were waking three days from Monteriggione to Pont d’Arbia. They seemed to enjoy the short vacation and had a camper waiting for them in Siena.

Paulo and Martina were camping at nights and they seemed to be going faster and farther than we were. So, after a brief chat, we said ciao and I fully expected that we wouldn’t meet again.

After they both passed I looked down at my shoes….folks it’s going to be “touch and go” if they make it or not.

Odds on these Brooks making it to Rome?

When we arrived at our Ostello, billed as “The cultural center”, but containing very little in terms of high culture, the place was under construction and the door was locked. “Not too worry”, I’d heard that it did open until 3pm and it was only 1:30. So we headed for a nearby coffee shop.

Town sign

There before the shop was the other couple waiting for their bus back to Siena. At the coffee shop we were surprised to see Paulo and Martina. They’d stopped for a break before heading on.

Allison and I got our drinks and made a couple lodging inquiries. It’s a tedious process of looking through several lists and extracting phone numbers or email addresses and sending out queries. We were able to get the nights of the 8th and 9th booked and our final night in Rome near the airport as well.

Paulo and Martina meanwhile packed up and said goodbye when Martina mentioned some foot trouble (blisters). Well immediately Allison perked up and minutes later had all her supplies out and was busy tending to Martina’s feet.

It was really neat to see how efficiently Allison “went to work” and kindly Martina and Paulo responded.

Martina and Paulo

When Allison was nearly done, the waitress came from the restaurant with a cut finger. Although it wasn’t too serious, you could tell then girl was a little freaked out by the blood. She asked if Allison would take a look at it. Without hesitation, Allison was tending to the cut as well. She was definitely in her element.

We finished our evening with a short walk back to the donativo before going out for pilgrim pizza at the shop across the street.

I’ll close out today’s entry but sharing this “fun fact” that we calculated today.

Day82 Siena to Siena – Rest Day

What? Another rest day so soon. Yep.

We’d always planned this one and although we don’t need it physically we will certainly be happy to act as a tourist once again.

JeanYves and Paulo have moved on, so we made them breakfast and said our goodbyes. They both got a key for their companionship and help over the weeks.

Morning Update

The wifi in this place didn’t work well so I struggled posting last night – apologies for the lack of content. Today will be packed with touristy stuff since we plan to visit the Duomo and some other fun places. From tomorrow on however it will be non-stop to Roma (only 12 days more walking….and some of those days are quite short).

First a bit of background. In the Middle Ages, Siena was the place to be … well, sort of. It was a hugely prosperous town and as such was seemingly always at war with its neighbor Florence.

Il campo -Siena

At its height, it had about 50,000 people. Then in 1348 the Black Death slammed into the city, and it lost as many as 60% of its residents. Florence and Milan recovered, but Siena never did (until recently however).

We’re disgusting…I know. Don’t care. 🙂

Back in the day, Siena was all about banking and actually houses the oldest continuously run bank in the world. Being wealthy it also subsidized the arts and was home to dozens of famous Renaissance artists. The Sienese school was arguably the top in the renaissance world.

Siena is also a pilgrimage town being located on the Via Francigena. Hence our visit to this beautiful city.

We started our tour with the pilgrim hospital of Santa Maria della Scala. It was a hospital to serve pilgrims, the sick, and the abandoned until 1970. I can only imagine being sick and cared for with frescoes surrounding me. We are in Italy and the art was already there. The art work was breath taking!

Our next tourist stop was the tour of the stairs to the sky which meant that we were able to climb up into the roof of the cathedral and see it’s construction and some really cool views of the cathedral floor below and the statuary and stained glass up close.

During the climb up, I appreciated how good shape we are in. We felt the climb of course, but it was really nothing to us. Several others however really struggled and had to stop multiple times to catch their breath. Several emerged from the steps panting and sweating with the effort. We hardly noticed. I’m not writing this to brag. This would have been me years ago.

We then took a break in playing tourist and headed back to our lodging for lunch. We had fun shopping for lunch in a local shop. We settled on meatballs mixed with vegetables and a spinach and cheese patty. And because this is a day of rest a nap followed lunch.

After doing some laundry and making reservations for a couple of days ahead. This is a. necessity for every pilgrim but a frustration too as many places are closed or recently large tourist groups book and places are full. I did not realize that large groups would be allowed to stay in pilgrim facilities. Lodging on the VF in Italy has been challenging. We have had to be creative and have used airbnb several times which means paying more than pilgrim lodging.But we were able to split the cost with others and that eased the pain.

After our rest we went to finish a day of touring by climbing the remains of yet another structure (The Museo) for some glorious views on a structure that seemed to defy “sound” structural design.

This 2.5m wide structure we are on towers over the town …somehow. Hard to describe the of feeling fro on top, but the views were excellent.

As we headed back to our apartment we stopped at a wine bar to play tourist one last time. This place was actually very professional and well informed. I recommend Treflari located at Via Banchi di Sotto near Il Campo.

Well, that’s the day folks. I have 1000 photos but you’ll have to do with these unless you ask for more. It was a beautiful day.

Il Campo at night

Day81 Abbadia Isola to Siena – slip sliding away

We left our lodging while the sky was still dark. Bats were flying around outside….yes it was that dark. The storm last night was crazy. Mark, of course didn’t hear a thing. I don’t get it.

The day was not scheduled to be neither long nor hard but getting up early is a habit it seems and I, yes I have gotten used to it.

Good morning

We only had a short walk to Monteriggiano but shortly after we stopped for a coffee and pastry the rain started. Why did we stop so early…that’s another story.

It’s best told in video though….

The rain seemed to be that frustrating kind of rain that came and went in direct opposition to the amount of rain gear that we’d put on or taken off. What it did manage to do was to make a mucky mess of the path. As a result, we were slipping and sliding most of the day and it was only the last few km’s when we neared Siena when we finally gained traction control on some hard pavement.

Along the way we met three Danish men who were walking the short way from Lucca to Siena. Two were college friends who’d drifted apart. Recently they’d gotten together lamenting their drift. They pledged to plan adventures together to rebuild their friendship. I liked that.

Arriving in Lucca we felt a little like coming home. We had visited Siena in 1999 and it was a place we’d always wanted to come back to. Although it was quite different looking walking in by foot than driving in by car. The small quaint city I recalled on my mind was much larger but still retained its charm.

Arrived Siena

We found our lodging easily and our host was nice enough to meet us there within just a couple of minutes upon our arrival. The apartment was wonderful and close to all the sights and necessities that anyone would need or want.

I am looking forward to spending a rest day here but sad to say goodbye to Paulo and Jean Yves tomorrow morning. It has been fun and nice to build friendships with these two fellas. God had more adventures ahead for all of us. And hopefully we will be able to visit together again in the near future.

Because there is much to see and say I’ll leave the rest for tomorrow. goodnight pilgrims.