We made it. More later.
Day93 Campagnano to La Storta – Locked out.
Our morning started with a cold snap that made us dig the warm gear back out to start the day. Not to fear, we were shedding it within 30min.
The day was going to be marginally challenging since we had 500+m ascent in store and we really haven’t climbed much in recent days. “Would our climbing muscles scream at the effort?” We’d see soon enough.
The climb into Campagnano di Roma continued on the other side of town as we left the streets for a nicely forested walk.
We spent some of the morning asking each other questions about what the trip was like, what our favorite foods were etc. Here’s an example:
One of the only “tourist sites” on todays walk was a church known for a miraculous Madonna. However unlike so many churches this one was no mere museum but had an active congregation. We visited the place not to view an image, but for the more banal reason of getting one of our last pilgrim stamps before Rome. The church, of course, was on the top of a steep hill.
When we reached the top we ran into Victoria and Margarite (Maggie and Vicky to their friends) We’d last met them in Montefiascone. These two Italian ladies are loads of fun and are having a great time together. Unlike our first meeting we spent a long time today talking and walking together.
Along the way we also met for the first time Annie. She is a French lady and spoke little English. Switching back again to French was sooo difficult but after a few minutes we could have a conversation together (except I kept saying “Si” instead of “Oui” all day).
As those that know me well will attest, I talk a lot. I love to converse. Allison is more reserved. But I was proud to see her chatting in French with Annie.
Here is they REALLY scary part. Somehow we ended up acting as interpreter at times between the French and Italian. Whaaaaat? Let’s hope no important international relations have been destroyed as a result.
One more companion joined us walking today. Herman is from the German-speaking part of Switzerland also walked with us for a couple hours.
I have been surprised how many people walk the Francigena in stages. Herman has walked sections for a few years.
The end of the day we walked through a national reserve. It was pleasant but the path was also shared with mountain bikes, and there were tons of them out today (Sunday). Enough were around that we walked in kicked-up dust at times.
After a quick pilgrim lunch (our last for this pilgrimage actually) we continued to the end of the park where it was interesting to see a hoard of Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts of different ages playing in the park. They were in full “dress” uniforms but playing games and exploring and having a blast.
Our day ended with a bit of a stumble. We’d booked a room in a house a bit on the outskirts. We arrived to the designated address and no one was home. The gate was locked and no one answered the buzzer nor the telephone number.
I tried emailing and messaging multiple times and became somewhat frustrated. Your options are really limited when you are on foot.
Finally I contacted Booking.com via chat. They also had no luck. However they requested we stay put for 30min and if we didn’t hear from the owner they’d be “back with a resolution”. I’m not sure what they’d have actually done but it never came to that.
At about the 28min mark our host was in touch via WhatsApp. She apologized and told us to go two houses down and look in the mailbox for the key. Sure enough we were able to get in and get washed up.
Allison was excited to think that we didn’t HAVE to do laundry tonight but I think she was off by a day. Sorry dear. One more night.
One chore was left and after a shower I headed back out for a shopping adventure. The round trip added another 3km but I was smart and brought my backpack this time so that I would be able to more easily tote the groceries home. Dinner tonight = an Italian sausage stir fry with cauliflower, carrot, onion and celery…and of course rice.
We’ve declared this the last of the stuff meals. Tomorrow we will begin weaning ourselves off of 3000cal/day menus and retrain our appetites to match no longer walking 26km or more per day.
I really HATE this part. But it’s oh, so necessary.
Day92 Sutri to Campagnano di Roma – Feeling cooped up.
Looking forward at the weather it seems each day from yesterday until we arrive in Rome will get 1degC warmer each day. You could tell the change already as we left this morning.
The walk today was pleasant but rather uneventful. There was only one village between start and end and there wasn’t anything of note to see there either.
We did enjoy the quiet walk mainly along farm track and country roads.
About 3/4 of the way to Campagnano di Roma we walked past a recreational park near Monte Gelato (Mount Ice Cream – what an excellent name). There we found a small waterfall and cascades alongside an old mill in use since the 1970’s. It was a pleasant shady place so we stopped and enjoyed a gourmet luncheon.
For this trip I’d downloaded Oliver Twist Audio book and when the trail got monotonous we’d listen to a chapter. We have three days of walking left (two now) and we still had 14 chapters left. So we hit 10 chapters today. Great book.
We also spent quite a bit of time talking about what items in our packs and on our persons that would not make the trip home. I have to admit that I have spending way too much time day dreaming about what items I can throw away. My odiferous shoes are first on my list. All the people on my flight home can thank me later. In a shocking development, Mark had fewer items on his throw away list.
Campagnano di Roma is another fortress town that sits atop a tall steep hill. Translated from Latin, “Campagnano di Roma” roughly means “pilgrim must climb steeply at the end of the day”.
It was indeed a steep climb into town. But we were soon to the top and set about finding our lodging. This would be different in two aspects. Firstly I had neither address nor location. What I did have was an email with instructions. Secondly was the lodging itself.
Tonight we are actually sleeping in a chicken coop – on purpose. Well, a converted one anyway, but there are chickens outside. I hope they aren’t too upset that they got kicked out on our behalf.
We got set up in the coop and set of to walk the town. That was actually disappointing. We found nothing interesting. But we sat outside in a park with a good phone signal and got to video chat with Allison’s brother and sister-in-law. That was nice. It hit me during the call, when they were talking about next weekend’s plans, that we’d be home next weekend too. That will be odd having been gone so long.
Day91 Vetralla to Sutri – Woods and Amphitheaters
With a short day ahead we were really slow in leaving the apartment this morning. The high wind of yesterday had pretty much abated and despite the cool 8degC temperature it felt much warmer.
Right off the bat we ran into Stephanie, an Italian lady walking her dog. She’d lived in Wales for a few years and spoke excellent English. She was one of the few people to come up to us and initiate a conversation.
After a short climb we walked along a beautiful stretch of hazelnut orchards for a couple hours.
And then out of nowhere two ancient towers appeared. These were the ruins of an abbey and a Roman cemetery. It was interesting to try and identify portions of these unrestored structures.
By about 10:30 we’d already reached Capranica where, after visiting the church of Madonna del Piano we walked through the ancient gate to the city. The was yet another typical hilltop fortress towns with windy streets and fun narrow throughout.
The weather was cool but when the wind stilled and the sun hit you, you could get hot quickly. We must have donned and doffed our layers 4-5 times during the day.
After the visit to Capranica the trail entered a beautiful wooded trail that was soft underfoot and crisscrossed a small running stream. This section ran for about 8km and reminded me of home.
At the end of this section we were already very near our final destination of Sutri. But being near didn’t mean that we’d be propping our toes up just yet.
Sutri is home to several historic monuments including a “recently” re-discovered Amphitheater that is unique in the Roman world. When I say “recently” I mean in the nineteenth century. Before that it was pastureland.
It is unique as it is excavated entirely from the surrounding rock. Because it was lunch time we decided to park our bodies inside the amphitheater and have a bite to eat.
The amphitheater is part of an archeological park that also includes Etruscan cemeteries, a Roman graveyard and a former cave used in the cult of Mithras – turned Christian church (Madonna del Parto). A church within a cave is a pretty cool thing. The frescos were interesting.
Finally we made our way to our lodging for the night. Once again we ended up with an entire apartment to ourselves. We showered and washed and then headed out to get dinner supplies and food for tomorrow as well.
Allison whipped a quick dinner.
After that we just decided to veg and enjoy some rest.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
But as we made our way off the peak, and as the sun rose we soon shed layers.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Placeholder Day85 San Quierco d’Orcia to Radicofani – Wind
This will be short and sweet.
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.
I’ll supplement this update tomorrow.
Day83 Siena to Ponte d’Arbia – Rolling Along + Nurse to the rescue.
So today was interesting.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.