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Day 44: San Quirico to Radicofani

The plan for today was to start walking and take the bus when I can’t go on. There is only a bus in the beginning though, so I decide to take it for 24 kilometres and only do the last eight uphill to Radicofani. It’s a wise choice. Eight kilometres are totally enough for me today, and going up the hill through the fog is simply beautiful. Spider webs with raindrops on every plant, I can hear a concert of bells long before I see the sheep on the pasture, I breathe in new life, soaking up the fresh air with my lounges. I’m the first person to walk here today and the energy is amazing. My spirits return. I’m enjoying the walk! I can only see the next 100 metres ahead of me so all I have to do is set one foot in front of the other and enjoy the moment, where I am right now. When I reach Radicofani, it’s beautiful. I’m happy again. I’m here at eleven and basically sleep half the day.
My feet still aren’t well. My body is tired. But I’m more positive about being able to reach Rome on foot while enjoying it a little…

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Day 43: Ponte d’Arbia to San Quirico

Today I’m failing. We head off pretty late and reach the next village after four kilometres. I have to admit to myself, I’m already done. My feet are hurting. But even worse is the inner numbness. I don’t want to walk. My feet keep moving none the less. After a while the pain is everywhere so I can’t even feel it anymore because I can’t locate it. To the next village it’s about 13k and since the hiking path is in the middle of nowhere, I know I have to get there. I’m slow. So very slow. My brain is tired and my spirit is low. But somehow I do get there. The boys are waiting in a cafe. I sit down for some coffee and pastry. Then coke. When the others walk on, I follow the example of three other pilgrims I saw before on the bus. The last six of today’s 24 kilometres, I sit with my backpack in my arms looking out of the window. A part of me feels bad because I think I should be walking every single step. But the other part is at peace. I know it was a good choice.
San Quirico is beautiful. But really all I do is have shower, sleep, buy some food and rest some more. I’m tired. My whole body is tired. It’s time to arrive. I’m at the end of my journey. Only a few days left…

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Day 41&42: Badia Isola to Siena to Ponte d’Arbio

Yesterday the boys and I started early to go to Monteriggioni which is an old village up a hill and then walk for ages, coming by a pretty cattle and stopping at a rest place for pilgrims to get to Siena, a very beautiful city along the way. The walk was long but doable. As I said, I’m kind of getting bored with the walking. I have to admit though, that the landscape is beautiful!

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This morning then we start really early because the day will be around 28km. It’s nice when we leave, all foggy.

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We manage to do 14k before the first break which then last for over an hour. It’s ten o’clock by then. When we continue walking, the sun has come out and it’s boiling hot. The landscape is beautiful, no doubt, but I do reach my pain limit and find myself wanting to simply lie down in the shade and never get back up again. I keep walking however. Why? I guess it’s just common sense, knowing that you have to reach that place where you can shower, eat and sleep. Eventually we separate because everyone has their own speed. And after only three minutes of a stop I set out to do the last rice kilometres of today. When the sign appears saying that there are only two left it saves my life. I can’t begin to explain how tough tidal was for me. Maybe it’s just a mental thing, but u really didn’t want to move anymore. I did, none the less, and I ended up in this really beautiful place, where they provide you with everything you need, including food. That’s the thing. I suffer. And I hate it. And then I get to a place unknown that really blows my head of, and everything is forgotten. I’m happy again. And I know, somehow, I’ll survive another long day like this tomorrow.

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Day 40: San Gimignano to Badia Isola

Leaving San Gimignano on my own in the morning I’m enjoying the peace and quiet and my own speed.

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I decided to do the longer, but more beautiful walk. It meant five kilometres extra, but at least it didn’t include ten kilometres of walking along the street. And although it gets exhausting to go up and down a lot, I’m happy for quite a while. After about six kilometres I see a sign which tells me that there will be a bar in 40 minutes which works out perfectly for my ten o’clock break.

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I keep walking and three times I come across cages filled with dogs barking intensely for help. Super Kate frees them all, but normal Kate keeps on walking, heartbroken. Eventually I cross a road and enter a forest were I am being massively attacked by about a thousand horse flies. It gets so annoying I even start to run for a bit, which I give up again quite quickly since it’s pretty exhausting. I then cross another street and walk up to a church which tell me both, the sign and my guide book. After climbing through some bushes, I figure this can’t be the way and a nice older man tells me I have to return to the street and take another road. The bar doesn’t show either. I’m getting pretty annoyed and frustrated with walking. I have to admit that after six weeks on the road, I’m really looking forward to getting to Rome and then going back home to my cosy nest. I haven’t been there in over five months due to other obligations. It’s getting time.
Well, finally I see a bar (a different one) which is a great relief. I had been walking 14km straight by that time. Even more happy am I about seeing the boys there. We take a longer break and I’m in a better mood again. My day is saved when we reach a Roman bath which I use for a little swim. The water is pretty cold but so very refreshing.

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After many more kilometres we reach Strove, a nice old village. Sadly everything is closed so we don’t stay long but set out for the last three kilometres.

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We reach Badia Isola where we stay in a very nice and new hostel next to the church. It’s lead by two older men who also make dinner and breakfast for us. The ice cold beer in the bar after a long day is amazing. So is dinner. We are now in a region where more and more pilgrims gather so it’s quite a fest with eight of them. We have too much wine and I go to bed happily yet tired of walking none the less…

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Day 39: Chianni to San Gimignano

This morning I leave the hostel with Jesper and Markus around 7.30. The dinner last night was amazing and afterwards we got a private tour of the church the hostel is attached to. Amazing. I’ve never been in a church alone at night before…
The breakfast is the usual Italian one so we stop up in Gambassi Terme for a proper coffee and some more food. Today’s trip isn’t long, but we’re taking ages. The landscape is beautiful and we pass quite a few wineries. One of them we enter: La Torre Antica. It’s all organic wines and Markus and I try a very good dessert wine from the region. It’s called Santo Colombano.

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On it goes. Quite a bit uphill. I’m trying to keep up with the boys and have to admit that I’m defeated after a while. I let them run on and slow down to my usual uphill speed, which is that of a snail. We finally get to take a break later on and then see a pilgrimage church called Santuario Madre della divina Provvidenza. Afterwards we climb even higher to see an old farmyard called Collemuccioli, which includes a church. The people from all different religions living there are in a silence phase so sadly we cannot have a look around. It’s very impressive still.
A little further away we can ready see San Gimignano which we reach via a road.

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Here we are staying in a monastery, Convento Sant’Agostino, which is very big and rely beautiful. The view from my room is amazing.

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After the daily routine of a shower and washing the clothes, we go for a stroll around town with the other pilgrims. It’s beautiful.

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Finally we climb up to the castle to get this magnificent view.

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Day 38: San Miniato Basso to Chianni

This morning, Markus and I start our walk uphill to San Miniato Alto. After a nice breakfast with a great view, we collect a stamp in the church and off we are to enjoy the most beautiful views of Tuscany.

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All up and down, today’s walk is more strenuous. But the beauty around us definitely makes up for it.

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We find a sign that tells us it’s less than 300km to Rome. Which isn’t true anymore. But encouraging anyway. So much behind me. Getting closer and closer to my goal!

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We also find a pilgrims’ book which we happily sign. The Canadian couple were at that place three days ago. I guess I won’t see them again…

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After many kilometres without a single bar (i.e. Coffee) we reach today’s destination. A pretty new hostel for pilgrims in the church building of Santa Maria a Chianni. It’s amazing and located just before Gambassi Terme, which would have been today’s goal if their hostel had a shower…

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Our multicultural group has found together once more. That should make for a good dinner time 🙂

Day 37: Altopascio to San Miniato Basso

My path leads me out of Altopascio over a roman road, through desert land, over an old bridge holding a hostel for pilgrims, via an ice cream break and a beautiful church, led by an old pilgrim to San Miniato Basso.

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It’s rains during the walk, but not too much. It’s nice and cool and it feels like I get to San Miniato Basso in no time.
Here I run into Markus from Austria and rejoin with Jesper from Switzerland. We are later joined by Mauro from Italy and Mery, my Spanish companion. Five pilgrims in one place! Who would have thought this could happen on the Via Francigena?

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Day 36: Lucca to Altopascio

I don’t get up at six as I intended to, but around seven. I need sleep. I’ve been feeling a little under the weather since that supermarket lunch in Florence. Mery and I have breakfast at the hostel and finally leave after eight o’clock. We take quite a few breaks since we’re not used to the weight of the backpack anymore. The good thing about being a grown up is that you can have ice cream as often as you want by the way. Very handy in Italy.
The walk isn’t too long or too hot and we reach Altopascio well in time to rest a little. Throughout the whole walk, pain excluded, I feel absolutely happy. Like a room without a roof…. I’m not sure how to describe this absolutely contentment inside yourself without a single doubt. Joyous!

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After buying what’s necessary, like antinflamatories, blister plasters, foot cream, water and some food including fresh fruit, I take a little rest. I’m so tired. My shoulder still hurts a lot, my trapezius is inflamed, my feet hurt again and my eye is burning and watering non stop today. Might be an allergy. I’m not sure. But all of this together with the bad food yesterday make me simply want to sleep.
We then find an Asian restaurant and feast on sushi. Finally no pizza or pasta. It’s great. But after a month I really needed something different. This is tonight’s reward for staying strong. The view from my window.

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Day 35: Florence

I’m not quite sure which word to use to describe my visit to Florence. Great just doesn’t seem to cover it. I’ll go for marvellous I think.
Starting with the cathedral I was already stunned. The building is amazing! And since we asked for a stamp for our credential, we even got access to the prayer section instead of the tourist part. And we got a little peek behind the scenes in the priests room.

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Next on the list was the church of Dante Allighiri, where his beloved Beatrice takes letters from people who have lost a loved one in a basket. Like he was never able to be with her but was inspired by her to write the divine comedy and many other works.

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First editions of this amazing book can be seen in his birth place as well as one of his death masks.

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Afterwards we head to the Museo Nazionale del Bargello. It’s totally impressive and FREE. Crazy. I’ll keep to showing you some sculptures by Donatello. There was so much to see. It was overwhelming.

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Next we go to the Palazzo Vecchio. It’s stunning. But we don’t go inside. Everything costs money in tourist land…

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Off to the Basilica di Santa Croce. The church was built in 1294 and us the biggest church by the order of San Francis in the world. This is the place where some of the most famous Italians are buried. Like Michelangelo with 30 members of his family. Btw, the tomb is next to the statue. Not everybody knows…

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Galileo and Machiavelli.

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And the statue that inspired the Statue of Liberty.

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On the way we find a lovely underground paper store and meet Pinocchio.

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We buy some lunch in a supermarket because Florence is even more expensive. The idea is to eat it in the Gardino Bardini which is supposed to be really nice. So we cross the river Arno at ponte alle Grazie to get there. However, it’s closed the first and last Monday of the month. Bad luck I guess. Instead we head up through the Porta San Miniato to the rose gardens. It’s beautiful. Wind is coming up.

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On the way back we cross the river at the famous Ponte Vecchio. It’s full of jewellers. Story says it used to be meat and fish sold there. But the people didn’t like it and wanted something beautiful instead so they started setting up stores with shiny bling stuff.

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The time left I want to spend at the Galleria dell’ Accademia to look at Michelangelo’s David and some other amazing art. We make our way back through the town centre because it’s at the other end.

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The gallery is closed on Mondays and I don’t get to see David. I personally don’t understand how in a touristy city like Florence they can close the most famous museum, but it gives me a reason to come back. This time, we have way too expensive coffee and return to Lucca.

After these two days off, I can’t imagine being on the road walking again the next day…

Day 34: Pisa

This morning we took the train to Pisa. Those things are pretty fast, I must say. Landscape is simply passing by. But anyway…

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In Pisa, the tower, the cemetery, the cathedral and so on are literally crammed in one place overcrowded with tourists. I’m sure if you had loads of time, you could also go explore the city itself. For today, we stayed with all the other tourists. It’s way too expensive, but we climbed the tower for 18€ to get a spectacular view. It’s 257 stairs up there. I counted differently, but I’m sure they know better…

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We had started our visit with the cemetery before that. But in tourist land things are stressful so I had to rush to the appointed tower tour. I convinced the lady at the cemetery to let me back in afterwards. She agreed. Thank you. It had totally been destroyed in world war 2 and been rebuilt afterwards. All by hand. Incredible. I actually watched them do it in a film…

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Next on the list is the baptism building. Yes, a whole building just for baptisms. It holds an altar and one of those old basins in which the children used to be baptised. Not just a splash of water on the head, but with a full bath.

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After an overly expensive but quite good lunch, we make our way to the cathedral. It’s beautiful. And we even manage to get a stamp for our pilgrims credential.

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We are leaving again. But not before kissing an angel!

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