At 15 km (9 mi) and nearly flat, today’s route followed the swift currents of the Nera River and ended as one of my journey’s easiest days. That was despite walking for a few hours in a light drizzle and having a most difficult time finding our lodging—the iPhone just doesn’t work very well in the rain!
The trail was mainly unpaved and could be considered a farming access road as well as a road for the Monti Sibillini National Park. Some of the trail was under the shade of trees.
Crazy, difficult day because after climbing up the 300 feet or so to the Rocca Albornoziana, named after the cardinal who ordered the fortress built, I discovered that the bridge to cross the valley had been closed. The bridge is actually just the top of a huge imposing aqueduct looking structure. My only alternative was to go around the fortress until I find a way down and use an alternate route. Luckily an escalator took me down the 300 or so feet, but coming back up on the other side of the canyon was a difficult rocky path that foreshadowed more rocky segments to come. The downhill parts were especially hard on these jagged rocky segments. So, all in all, probably walked 20 km (12.5 mi) and climbed 2500 ft.
For my Australian friends, the day went even worse. They too had to do this bypass, but then took a “wrong” turn (they also have CaminoWays and are only using the book) and ended some 20 miles off course. We ended up at our remote B&B at almost the same time, they having taken a taxi to bring them back on course, as it were. So for nearly an hour and a half I’ve tried to get Bill to download MapOut, but everything was going wrong, and we gave up (he has an iPhone 3 and the app wouldn’t install; then he tried it on his iPad; couldn’t remember passwords or passcodes, on and on). They’ve basically lost confidence in navigating using their guide book—sad, but I tried to help, but couldn’t. By the next morning, however, they had the app and the two tracks working on Patrice’s iPad.
The rocky path was so hard on my blister that it popped, but no blood, and I’m trying to make a Compeed stick after my shower. It doesn’t hurt—just worried that it’ll get infected. The day ended as one of the hardest because of the sharp rockiness—glad it’s over.
The first pic shows taking a break about a third of the way through.
Pics of several water sources along the way wanting to make their way down hill—made for muddy crossings.
I managed to leave by 7:45 AM with intentions of beating the heat. But the distance was so short, only 12 km (7.5 mi), that I arrived in the hill-top community of Spoleto before noon. Luck was with me; my hotel is at the bottom of the hill and it was ready within 15 minutes after arrival. And, big celebrations in nearly every square—a three-day “Spoleto in Bloom” festival.
Since I’ll have to climb the hill tomorrow anyhow, I mapped out all the sights to see except for the ones on the top. I started with the Spoleto Cathedral, Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, just a few hundred yards from my hotel. The Cathedral is Romanesque dating to the second half of 12th Century. Lots of activity in the square in front where an urban race was about to take place.
Next was Ponte Sanguinario (“bloody bridge”), a Roman bridge 1st century BCE. The name is traditionally attributed to the persecutions of Christians in the nearby amphiteatre. Then I walked up to the Roman Theater, now a museum of archeology where the stage was. The museum was great in putting the various tribes into perspective.
And lastly I visited a Roman House with well preserved mosaic floors. The thinking is that because of an inscription by Polla to Emperor Caligula that the house was that of Vespasia Polla, the mother of Emperor Vespasian (1st cent AD).
It’s hitting the low 80s, and tomorrow even the high 80s. Luckily, much of the route meanders under the shade of trees. The walk of 20 km (12.5 mi) with a climb here and there took me through the scenic, medieval town of Trevi. I read its history in a handout, “Trevi Footsteps”—so colorful and going back to 450 BC! Today, tourists and pilgrims pass through paying their homage to Trevi—and I did so with a beer in their little square. Any town that survives for 2500 years gets my respect.
Met a Brazilian pilgrim yesterday and met him again on the trail—we rested before the last push up to Trevi and then had a beer together. Afterwards we parted because he had to walk further than I did and on a slightly different route since hotels were totally booked in Campello sul Clitunno. Our paths may cross again.
A common theme of these days’ walks is passing through olive orchards. They range in age from newly planted to surely over a hundred. The bar in terms of age is still the one I saw in the Garden of Gethsemane in Jerusalem dating to the time of Jesus—never realized that olive trees could reach several thousand years.
Couldn’t make it in one fell swoop and still have time/energy to see a pharmacist / doctor about my heel, check into the hotel, and get my Testimonium at the St. Francis Basilica Pilgrim’s Office. So, I stopped after 16 km (10 mi) and climbing about 1500 ft, had lunch, and waited two hours for a bus that everyone was trying to tell me wasn’t coming. He finally came, and I was the only passenger. He didn’t have his ticket machine set up, so I traveled free. He saved me another 13 km (8 mi), but most importantly another 1500 ft of climbing. Although from where he dropped me off in Assisi, I still had about 300 ft to climb!
The pharmacist couldn’t help me, but said that I’d have better luck at tomorrow’s destination—it’ll be a bigger city. After my shower, I came to realize that I have a blister in this very awkward place on the side of my heel. That’s not a showstopper!
In a nutshell, Assisi is amazing. I thought Gubbio (2 towns back) was hilly, but Assisi tops them all—steep and narrow streets—and very medieval looking. I only spent time at the St Frances Basilica to get my Testimonium and attend a special pilgrims’ benediction mass—very beautifully done. The only other pilgrim I knew was the British fellow who actually lives here. I include one pic from the outside, and one I grabbed from the internet of the inside.
Interesting crucifix I saw on the way. And the view of Assisi at a distance.
I did 22 km (14 mi) and 2940 ft of climbing on a great walking day despite drizzle for the first 3 hrs or so. About an hour out from Gubbio, I came across a stream that I opted not to cross and circumnavigated it on “county” roads. The side of my left heel had been tender all day, so it was a good decision for more than one reason—I couldn’t have tolerated a rocky path. At the end of the day, I discovered what felt like a bone spur on the left side of the heel—very unusual place. They’re either on the bottom of the heel (fasciitis related) or at back of heel (Achilles tendinitis related). I’ll use mole skin tomorrow to see if I can keep the tenderness down—we’ll see. At any rate, I’m disappointed and hope it doesn’t get . . . .
A fallout from my decision to circumnavigate the stream crossing is that I came across a restaurant and just at the right spot, but it was closed. So I eat the sandwich I made at breakfast and had one of my bottles of water with it while sitting at one of their tables outside. As I was getting to leave, the owner opened the place (despite it being his day of closure) and made me a cappuccino. We got to know each other—I him, more than he me. But we touched each other’s souls. He had a business in NYC, but came back home to Italy right after 9/11. Business here was good, until the freeway (autostrada) took cars from the county road away—typical Route 66 syndrome! Now he can’t make his mortgage payment. Meanwhile he became immersed in spiritualism and got to know one of the Indian gurus—his restaurant reflects his spiritual beliefs. Quite a guy—I really felt for him.
Lodging tonight is at an Agriturismo B&B with three or four others staying here. The pictures certainly paint a resortsy atmosphere—but that may only be at the surface? A pool area, vineyards surround us, and a beautiful landscapes!
This covers two nights at the Hotel le Mure because the distance between the two cities is 31 km (19.4 mi)—a little bit much for one day. Since it was very hard communicating with the driver through the English-speaking receptionist, I gave up on the idea that the driver would pick me up after a one-way walk. I didn’t trust that he could find me, so on the first day, Sunday, I headed to the next day’s destination and ended up walking 16 km (10 mi) round trip—a cushy walk with nearly empty backpack while enjoying the scenery.
On that walk I became aware of the Umbrian custom of growing olives next to their vineyards—this dates back thousands of years and is called “coltura promiscua.” They really complement each other in terms of ripening time, similarity of processing procedure, and infrastructure. Mixed farming of the two crops may have other benefits: the Umbrian practice of coltura promiscua was credited with regional resistance to phylloxera!
At the end of the first day, I explored Citta di Costello and ran into a German walking buddy I met about a week ago—it was the two-night stay that enabled meeting him. He had meanwhile chummed up with three other German ladies.
Today I headed out from the hotel with a Dutch couple to a “midway” point that allowed us to continue to Pietralunga. Although they had their luggage shipped and walked with day packs, I soon left them behind me. My lodging at Pietralunga is a Agriturismo stay—not sure what qualifies it as such. I always likened it to a farm stay, but today’s stay isn’t even close. Before finding it on the outskirts of town, I stopped for a beer at the local bar and used their toilet. I was surprised to find an Asian-style fixture—only the second one of that kind while on the road—never in any of my lodgings. It was explained that they used to be popular and are quite costly to change out so they just leave them. They’re usually in the unisex toilets.
dog that first chased me and barked at me, then befriended me and walked with me about half a mile!
you see the bricks used in Città—only good building material
my luxury hotel room in Citta
Today I covered 25 km (15.6 mi) and climbed some 1650 ft. It was a marvelous hiking day: no mud, no rain, not too many rocky paths, and no slippery places. I struggled with the last third energy-wise, maybe because it reached the high 70s and I was a bit tight on water—I expected some water sources on the last third that never materialized. Finally just outside of my destination town I found a bar/cafe and guzzled a liter of Powerade.
Much of the route along the middle of the way hugged the rolling hills of Tuscany—I felt the rare essence of solitude and serenity. The landscape consumed me, as I did it—we bonded—no one else around. No houses close by, no arable land, no vineyards, just spotty forests and wild grasses. This is the priceless quintessence of a pilgrimage that one never forgets. And I may never experience that euphoria again on this Camino—that’s OK—today was worth it. That was “the hole-in-one” that keeps the golfer coming back.
By the way, this city, Sansepolcro, has a fantastic 1000-year history and a crazy reason why it was spared damage in WW II. That’s for another place and time.