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D-46 (12 June—Tuesday) Montelibretti to Monterotondo

Day 46 of my Camino. On my way to Monterotondo, I savored every one of the 16 km (10 mi) and all the 1132 ft of climbing, knowing that my friend the Camino and I will part in Rome in two days. The bitter-sweet emotion is already setting in. I didn’t even complain today as I gingerly walked uphill over its rocks that were out to trip me up. BTW, not once have I fallen in all the 46 days—and I thank my trekking poles for that. And my right sandal held on for dear life not letting its sole separate another millimeter. Thank you.

Just a few pics along the way that intrigued me: the randomness of bales of hay; the path; resting next to the path and thinking about it; my primo pellegrino hotel room at the other end of the Monterotondo Cathedral (there is no better room).

D-35 (1 June—Friday) Assisi to Foligno

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D-26 (23 May—Wednesday) Chiusi della Verna to Ceprese Michelangelo

Last evening, a well-intentioned deed turned disastrous. While trying to confine my muddy clothes to the bathroom, specifically the shower, I needed to sit to remove my socks. Of course, on top of the toilet cover—well, it cracked into dozens of pieces and left me wondering how I could explain this in Italian! This morning came the time of reckoning—and luckily, the owner spoke German and settled for 20 Euros. To all you pilgrims out there who might be staying in a hotel, let this be a lesson!

So with a clean conscience, I started the route of 16 km (10 mi) and 1600 ft of climb. And with only a light drizzle it made for a reasonable day—although rocky trails, mud, and slippery paths were about the same as yesterday. 

The special treat at my destination is Michelangelo’s birth house and the museum that surrounds it. Known as Caprese’s Castle, it’s situated atop a hill with 360 deg view of the valleys (one pic shows a sample view). They have a respectable collection of copies and casts of his sculptures—you’ll recognize the one I chose.

D-24 (May 21–Monday) Stia to Camaldoli

Did 17.5 km (11 mi) and climbed 2140 ft—with drizzle, but I just called it quits a little early and called my lodging in Badia Prataglia to ask if they can pick me up. Would have to have climbed another 1200 ft and hiked only 8.5 km (5 mi) but just didn’t have the energy. Took a break at hotel/Cafe del Parco (owned by Famiglia Baroldi—wonder if any relation to Anita) and will have to wait two hours until they can pick me up—oh well.

It was a great day, walking much of it in forest with only one stream that was a big challenge that I managed and very little mud. Also, I have to give credit to the folks who paint the red/white way markers—I must encounter over 100 of them each day, and they‘re an inspiration in themselves. Someone actually came to these remote spots and painted these stripes to let you know you’re on track and wish you well until the next marker. They’re the official Via Francigena markers, which actually is a bit of a different route than the Via Assisi that goes only from Florence to Assisi.

D-23 (May 20–Sunday) Consuma to Stia

At only 16 km (10 mi) and a 1760 ft climb (half of yesterday’s) you’d think this would have been a cake walk. Well it was the stream crossings and mud that showed me who’s boss: the final score today was Kurt five and streams two and mud came in the winner. I didn’t fall into either of them, but I slipped on some rocks and ended up stepping into the water and there were a half dozen places where I just couldn’t walk around the mud, so I had to bite the bullet. I took my shoes and socks into the shower with me. Shoes are drying in the bidet—clever, huh!

Twice I said to myself, “You’ve got to be kidding.” I missed my turn by about 100 yards, which ended up turning off a six-foot wide muddy path onto a steep uphill one-foot wide path that the deer would use. Then about a mile up this path, a bunch of trees were cut right across the path, blocking your way. Luckily I found a bypass.

It was fun at the end of the day to find my German buddy sitting at a bar/cafe. We had to compare stream and mud stories! 

D-17 (May 14–Monday) San Martino di Lupari to Camposampiero

Nine miles of zigzagging through the countryside and for the first two hours with light rain brought me to my destination hotel here in Camposampiero. It’s the last stop before Padua, the end of Stage I, where I switch from the Via Romea to the Via  Francigena (aka, the Assisi Way) by taking a train to Florence.

Had two breaks along the way: a mid-morning break to eat the sandwich I take with me from breakfast and a lunch break (this tends to be my routine). Two things I noticed along the way. First, although the countryside was dotted with farmed land, many above-average homes appeared along the way along with lesser, but still very nice and newer homes. These might possibly be summer homes.

Then I noticed for the last week or so the practice of telling everyone the event that just transpired, such as a new baby boy or girl, a first communion (shown in the picture), or as was common last weekend—mother’s day. The fences or the front of the house would be decorated. Nice!

D-14 (May 11—Friday) Levico Terme to Borgo Valsugana

Last night I stayed at one of the best “Pilgrim” luxury spots one could imagine, but at pilgrim prices, $79. I booked one of the former Habsburg Royalty summer places ( it opened back in 1900) the Imperial Grand Hotel now still a four-star adventure with full use of pools, spa, breakfast and enough to make a lunch, too. I truly fell into this one. Thank you—thank you. In comparison, I have a picture of the hostel where I‘m staying tonight—and the bed is just as good!

Met some true Alpini along the way. Also met my first three pilgrims: a Dutch fellow and two Austrian ladies.

Getting back to Alpini, the ANA (Associazione Nazionale Alpini or National Alpini Association) is a registered society representing the “Veci” or former members of the Alpini corps. As the “Veci” see themselves as merely “on leave” rather than veterans, the ANA is colloquially known to be the 10th Alpini Regiment. Since 1920 every year ANA organizes a national reunion the “Veci”. Hundreds of thousands of Alpini congregate with family and friends to an Italian city for a weekend—and this is the weekend! I have a few pictures. 

D-9 (May 6) Bolzano to Kalterer See

Covered 15 miles with 800 ft climb, a few short stretches with sideway steps, but generally a nice day until the temperatures went up to 83 deg F (28 deg C). Leaving Bolzano, I saw hundreds of cyclists on the path—they were everywhere. The paths were a mix of everything and lots of forks in the forest, exactly where you don’t want to lose GPS , which I did for several miles—I nearly panicked (but there’s always plan B. (more…)

D-5 Stilves to Bressanone

Covered 15 some miles, nearly all of it downhill (with the usual uphills in between) and in a light drizzle. I decided to wear only my jacket and not the pancho—dumb idea. The good news is that I didn’t have to walk through any mud—my real nemesis! Didn’t get to stay where I wanted to, but managed to get a hotel in town.

So while all my things are drying (everything in my backpack is wrapped in a plastic bag—hence little “water damage”), I worked on a reservation 2 days down the road for Bolzano—BAD outlook. Hostel was booked as were the cheapies, so I blew the budget (a little).

From the pic you can see how everything gets an aura of mysticism—kind of fun walking in the rain. The other picture is the entrance into the old part of Bressanone—quaint town with lots of tourists.

D-3 Brenner in Italy

I pretty much followed the Sill River and made it over the Brenner Pass into Italy. Yeahhhh!

But I had a challenging day not only because of 13 miles and over 2,000 feet of climbing, but some small parts of which were so steep that I had to side step up the hill. The weather was gorgeous except for some gusts of heavy winds. But, NO rain. Then during  one very steep forest climb, the foresters blocked about 200 feet of the path with newly cut tree branches—couldn’t go around because it was too steep and I didn’t want to go back. So thanks to Pam (fellow mission walker), I invoked her mantra: “Suck it up, buttercup.” And 30 min later I made it through and without a fall. Interestingly, as I came out of this section there was a “Forbidden Entry Sign due to forestry activities,” but not when I entered at the bottom of the hill. Oh well.

Still gorgeous scenery. Am now at 4503 feet and the snow is still a bit higher.

The quad picture just shows a sampling of the types of trails. And, of course, there’s the “Do not enter” sign.