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…
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…
Leaving San Gimignano on my own in the morning I’m enjoying the peace and quiet and my own speed.
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.
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.
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…
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.
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?
It was a long straight walk along a street so close to the sea yet not close enough to see it today. This is the region where marble is produced. You might have heard of Carrara. The region is called Massa-Carrara. After that endless walk through a hopeless tourist area, I left this region behind.
However, obviously, I had to go for a swim before doing so since I didn’t go yesterday. The detour should at least have been worth it. It wasn’t as easy as I thought. All of the beaches down there are privately owned and you can only use them if you rent a sun umbrella or chairs. Since I’m from Germany where every beach is public (as far as I’m aware of) this seems ridiculous to me. Technically, they can’t forbid you to go for a swim. It’s just that you can’t reach the ocean. We learned it the hard way today. Eventually we made it to about five metres of public beach and I finally got my well deserved swim I. The salty water. Do you know what it’s like when you lie in the sea on your back? Your ears go underwater and you just stay above without any motion necessary. It was joyful. My whole body relaxed and I heard the most amazing sound of the day: silence! I enjoyed it very much.
Shortly after, Jesper’s and my way parted. He is taking a rest day at the sea, I wanted to walk on to maybe go to Pisa for a day while I’m in Lucca, which I should be reaching tomorrow. A rest day is needed. But after all the tourists in board shorts, I know I’d rather take it in a city with loads of culture to admire (and things NOT to buy…).
I intended to walk back up to the Via to reach Camaiore only to realise the way was twice as far as I thought. So Jesper convinced me to take the bus. I happily agreed. It was a detour of five kilometres to go to the beach. I’m happy to take the bus back. And I really enjoy this place here.
Well, when I arrived, the ostello seemed to be closed. But I asked around and found a different entrance. A little boy found the right person for me inside after telling him I. My three Italian words that I wanted to sleep here. The guy says they are full since a group of forty people is staying here tonight. I can’t believe it! I say that I got a mattress, if he maybe has a little space for me. He does. It’s the room that leads to all of the storage spaces to there is constant coming and going he says. No privacy. But he makes me a proper bed with a mattress, so I don’t care.
What I love even more is the shower. It’s crazy how walking in the heat makes you smell so badly (seriously!) and feel so dirty. Showering is what makes you feel human again.
So then I went for a long walk around the city. It’s beautiful.
In the church I ask the only person there for a stamp: the cleaning lady. She finds one. And is super nice.
I get myself some mandarins for tomorrow and strawberries to eat straight away. It feels like the whole town is looking at me while I walk happily down the road. Time for ice cream.
On a postcard I discovered that there is a Badia church so I set out to find it. And I do. The organist is practicing for a wedding when I enter. So beautiful!
After leaving Sarzana this morning I had to return immediately to pick up my walking stick in the café. First extra kilometre. I then attached them both to the backpack. Hands free now. Then we followed the signs to end up at a roundabout with no more signs. Apparently we missed a turn and walked some more additional kilometres up to that beautiful old castle. Today, however, I don’t mind. It’s hot already and pretty exhausting. Sweat is running down everywhere. But the weather is nice and so is the road. I’m annoyed, yes. But I don’t mind the walk.
And then, we reach the sea. Stopping for a cool coke we get our first chance to enjoy the view.
Several kilometres further on, having set up tent on a campsite and having showered long and with massive amounts of soap against the sweat from walking in the hot sun for half a day, we finally make it into the sea.
Today was amazing. And because of days like these I love travelling. It’s been one month on the road for me today! Unbelievable! Don’t rest in one place. There are so many others to be discovered!
PS: I have amazing pictures of today, but the internet is being stupidly slow on full reception. I’ll put them all in tomorrow. Sleep well y’all.
Due to all the rain and the paths through the woods being really muddy, we take the cycling path from Villafranca to Aulla. It’s like being in the rain forest. Including humid air, light rain and horse flies. We even encounter a wild hog. Very glad it stayed hidden in the trees after making some frightening noises…
The sky stays grey the whole time, but it doesn’t rain too badly. In the next village Barbarasco we even take off the rain gear. Through Terrarossa we make it to Aulla. We considered staying here but it’s only around eleven when we get there. So we get a stamp in the abbey which is also the pilgrims hostel and try to figure out what to do next. The very nice, very modern Italian priest gives me a coffee and biscuits and sits down with us. He advises us not to take the path through the woods because although it’s doable it would be very hard. The little road has been blocked by mud coming down the hills he says. So our only option is the national road. It’s not too bad as it only has two lanes and the cars aren’t going too fast. The sky has cleared up, the sun is shining. We have lunch and wait for traffic to slow down and on we march. It’s strenuous. And eight kilometres before our goal we give up. After buying some new things at Decathlon, we make our way to the train. It takes EIGHT MINUTES to get to Sarzana. We would have walked another two hours… Arriving, we run into the Italians again. Some of them took the hiking trail and jumped onto a bus eventually. Jesper and I have a look around tone and then a very nice dinner. Afterwards we have some beers with the five Italians in the backyard of the church we’re staying at. It’s a great evening and I can use my two Italian sentences I learned with my app so far. Then I mostly speak English…
Only briefly, because we’re about to have dinner and I won’t have wifi afterwards… After breakfast today, we made the last few kilometres to the pass.
We enjoy the view for hours to then reach Pontremoli, where we are staying with the Convento Capuccini. I have to say at this point, after my rant the other day, that I have encountered many nice and helpful church people on the way too. These ones included! The city is beautiful. And I’m nearly through the mountains. On foot. After I thought I might have to take the bus with all my injuries. Very proud!
Apparently in the Italian mountains it’s impossible to have any internet connection. I’m very sorry. Quite some catching up to do.
So, yesterday we left Cassio in the morning after a great breakfast at the amazing Ostello. All uphill, we run into an Italian girl and a German guy walking in the opposite direction to Turin. We pass a cute little village and after a lot more uphill, horrible sweating and heavy breathing, we reach Berceto. Beautiful!
There we have a nice pick nick and then visit the market and the dome. On the way out we pay a visit to a lovely little patisserie to get one of their dolci for the road. We choose and the owner decides to “pay” for us. It’s on the house. Farewell pilgrims. Thank you so much!
After walking up and down through the bushes some more, we change into the road where our hostel for the night is. Ostello della Cisa. It’s not actually on the pass, so we only get to see that the next day. But we have dinner with our Canadian friends once more and the view is awesome. Btw, there are more African refugees here.
The walking wasn’t easy that day, but my feet, knee and shoulder are alright. So no complaints here.
After saying goodbye to Günter in the morning we start our descend quite late around half past eight. It’s a lot of uphill and naturally it’s raining that day! The views are nice however and we take some shortcuts along the road to not constantly walk through mud while being attacked by mean insects.
Eventually we really need to take a break but can’t find any rainproof shelter. So we hide under someone’s staircase. When I get up again, an old lady is standing at her door. She invites us in while having half the family for a visit. We only want to use the bathroom but are being fed home made ravioli and white wine.
We continue walking through fog and mud. It’s wet and cold and anything but comfortable. After finding a bar, we have a hot drink to warm up and go back onto the road. Eventually we make it to Cassio. Obviously, when we arrive the sun comes back out. The ostello is amazing. You can take all you want to eat and then donate some money. They don’t have internet though. The day before we met the Canadians again at the hostel and they are now on the same trek. In Cassio we have a nice apero together. Today we are on the way higher up to the Passo della Cisa. More later…