First Day on the Via Francigena -Rome to Isola Farnese

And we’re off!

And we’re off!

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.

View of St. Peter’s were awesome.

View of St. Peter’s were awesome.

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.

We were elated to spot our first Via Francigena trail marker.

We were elated to spot our first Via Francigena trail marker.

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.

David fills our water bottles at the local fresh water fountains.

David fills our water bottles at the local fresh water fountains.

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.

Picnic tables were few and far between, but were a great rest stop.

Picnic tables were few and far between, but were a great rest stop.

Information signs in Italian gave our rudimentary Italian and our imaginations a work-out.

Information signs in Italian gave our rudimentary Italian and our imaginations a work-out.

We passed a flock of sheep and got a kick out of the modern day shepherd who sat next to his flock chatting on his cell phone.

We passed a flock of sheep and got a kick out of the modern day shepherd who sat next to his flock chatting on his cell phone.

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. .

The pizza was interesting and unusual, but quite tasty.

The pizza was interesting and unusual, but quite tasty.

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