Wow! What a day. Since we’d already walked the 1.6 miles from St. Peter’s Basilica to the entrance to Monte Mario Riserva, we took a cab to the same spot in the early morning, donned our packs and began what will be our longest walk ever.
There was a mix of anticipation and a tiny bit of angst, as we looked up, up, up to the top of forested hill. It wasn’t nearly as difficult as it looked although the switchbacks paved with coarse stones were a bit rough on the feet. Every once in awhile, there would be a well-placed break in the thick trees affording us views of St. Peter’s Basilica which were breathtaking.
It’s Spring here and the air smelled fresh and clean, perfumed by blossoming trees and wildflowers... iris, cherry blossoms, poppies, clover, buttercups, a colorful, delightful spring array.
I spotted our first Via Francigena (VF) sign while climbing the hill. We were on this ancient pilgrim’s path walking to Canterbury as Archbishop Sigeric had done ~1200 years ago. We subsequently saw the signs frequently as we went along the path, strategically placed to keep pilgrims on the right trail. The signs came in many different styles. Some were just basic red and white marks, some were formal road signs, and some were specifically printed for the VF, but all served their purpose. It became a challenge to find them. On a few occasions, we were chatting and missed a sign marking a turn and then had to retrace our steps.
We met our first fellow pilgrims coming to Rome. This Belgian couple had started in Reims, France. They weren’t able to make it over St. Bernard’s Pass due to snow, so ended up taking a bus to Aosta instead. He was quite sad to be ending their trek, a feeling we’ve experienced many times on passages and our Thames Path walk. You look forward to the end and then… it’s over. What’s next? We chatted for a few more minutes. then walked on in opposite directions.
Mid-morning on the outskirts of Rome, we stopped for a quick caffe-latte. The shops are getting ready for Easter and though the baskets look a bit different, chocolate bunnies and lambs seem to prevail. We passed flower shops and fruit/veggie vendors, everything looking fresh and bright and appealing. Just click on the thumbnails to make them better.
The route took us through Riserva Monte Mario and Riserva dell’Insugherata along old cart roads and lovely footpaths through wooded ares, up and down, up and down. Sometimes, we walked along the side of heavily trafficked roads, through villages and congested areas, but mostly it was pleasant walking.
Once again the forecast was wrong and in our favor. The day was sunny, clear and warm until about 2pm when it clouded over and prompted us to don our rain jackets and pack covers. A few drops later, it cleared and held out till we arrived at Tempio di Apollo, our hotel for the night.
We were tired by day’s end. Our room was spartan, but clean. Unfortunately, the restaurant there was no longer open and it was ½ mile walk back to town for dinner… after 7:30 pm when the ristorante opened. We took a brief nap and relaxed till 7pm, then headed out on foot to the Osteria del Brigante. The forecast rain finally arrived and it was pouring. .
Drenched and cold, we were welcomed at the restaurant. A bottle of their vino rosso della casa warmed us right up. Pizza and salad were our choices. The thin-crust veggie pizza had eggplant and zucchini on it, as well as potatoes and lettuce. Interesting and unexpected, but actually quite good.
It was still pouring as we retraced our steps back to the hotel. Hot showers were great and after a quick hand laundry of socks and undies, we hit the sack. Exhausted, bellies full and satisfied with a wonderful first day.
The Via Francigena encompasses several paths and variations of paths on its way from Canterbury to Rome or vice versa. We estimate our trek will be ~1,270 miles. We also realize that we’ll walk about 10-20% more than the 1270 to get to hotels or restaurants or occasionally to retrace our steps when we get off the track. We’ll give a daily tally of miles walked, steps, leg distance (miles made good) and remaining miles to Canterbury.
Day 0 –St. Peter’s Basilica to start of trail 1.6 miles
Day 1 – Walked 14.24 miles/ 33,114 steps. Leg distance 11.75 miles - 1258 miles to Canterbury