Day 5 – Via Francigena – Vitralla to Viterbo

Old, rutted cart roads lined with stone walls are often part of the VF path.

Old, rutted cart roads lined with stone walls are often part of the VF path.

This 10.5 mile ‘short’ day seemed very, very long. My left shoulder and arm have been hurting me for the past day or so. A pulled muscle, maybe? David noted that my pack was sitting unevenly and after making some adjustments to the straps, it seemed better. That said, the pack doesn’t rest on my shoulder/arms, but rather on my hips, so I’m not sure what the problem is.

DIY breakfast at Casa Augusto. Sometimes the ‘room’ is a bit overwhelming for just an overnite stay.

DIY breakfast at Casa Augusto. Sometimes the ‘room’ is a bit overwhelming for just an overnite stay.

We started out after our DIY breakfast at Casa Augusto and hit the road by 0830. The trail was a mix of gravel roads, paved roads and cart roads through the countryside. Barking, growling dogs were a constant disruption to the country quiet and we wondered, with so many pilgrims passing by, how the owners could stand the never ending noise. We think most of these dogs, by the way, are Maremma sheepdogs, an Italian dog breed known for guarding livestock and other small animals… and guarding against pilgrims.

Maremma sheepdog … photo nicked from  https://www.dogdojo.org/big-white-dog-breeds/

Maremma sheepdog … photo nicked from https://www.dogdojo.org/big-white-dog-breeds/

I wish I could better describe the beauty and serenity of the olive groves and vineyards and fields of poppies and wildflowers as we pass by them. Some seem to expand beyond forever, up the hillsides to the sky. I write the words, but they don’t capture the smell or the feel. I take the pictures, but they don’t really capture the beauty of the scene, the richness, the thousand color variations. Walking allows us to take so much of it in, digest it, appreciate it in the moment.

field of poppies.JPG
The soil is rich and the growing season is long. Farm workers are already harvesting cabbage here.

The soil is rich and the growing season is long. Farm workers are already harvesting cabbage here.

One narrow road looked as if we were entering a tunnel … dark and quite ominous looking. The walls were 30+’ high on both sides and there was barely room for a car, never mind a car and two walkers. We saw several scrapes on the sides of the carved stone walls. It turned out to be just a narrow canyon. Once entering, we could see light at the end and light above us. Luckily, no cars came for the five minutes it took to get through.

A tunnel or a canyon?

A tunnel or a canyon?

We met seven pilgrims today from Spain, Germany and once again, we met up with Casper, the friendly Swede. He walks much faster than we do, but it seems he gets lost more frequently, so since he’s going in the same direction as we are, we usually wind up at the same place at around the same time. We had spread a tarp on the grass in an olive grove to rest and have a snack. I could have easily taken a nap right there, but Casper came along and chatted for awhile. He mentioned walking the King’s Path in Sweden … another candidate to consider for a long trek in the future.

Sometimes the markers for the Via Francigena can get a little complicated.

Sometimes the markers for the Via Francigena can get a little complicated.

The climb up to the old city wasn’t any tougher than usual, it just seemed that way at the time. We wandered through a maze of narrow, cobblestoned streets and alleyways and finally came upon Il Marchese, our room for the night. From the outside, it was wonderful… a centuries old medieval building in the heart of the historic district. The host showed up about 20 minutes after we called. As always, access to the room required at least one more flight of steep stone steps, a killer at day’s end.

You can’t always tell a book by its cover. Il Marchese looked great from the outside.

You can’t always tell a book by its cover. Il Marchese looked great from the outside.

We wouldn’t necessarilly recommend this place to stay. The host was quite stingy with the ‘breakfast’ supplies … a couple of coffee and tea sachets for the coffeemaker, no milk and four pre-packaged little cakes that looked mysteriously like Twinkies, constituted ‘breakfast included’. There was no way to heat water if we opted to buy our own tea bags or coffee. Though clean, the place was cold and damp, perhaps part and parcel of medieval buildings. The heat came on for a few minutes at a time, but never really took off the chill. A shower, the size of a small postage stamp, left as many parts exposed as other parts were washed. No soap was offered. Luckily, we brought out own.

A flock of novices heading to church in Viterbo as we head out in search of our pilgrim stamp.

A flock of novices heading to church in Viterbo as we head out in search of our pilgrim stamp.

The worst part? She didn’t have a ‘timbro’, a stamp for our pilgrim passports proving our stay. She suggested walking back down the hill to the tourist info office about ½ mile away and, of course, it was all down. We did the ‘down’ easily enough and procured a stamp, the subsequent back ‘up’ had us stopping to catch our breaths. We stopped at a post office on the way back for a couple postcard stamps… €2.40 ($2.68) each. Methinks we won’t be sending many postcards.

Viterbo from below the historic center

Viterbo from below the historic center

Stores and restaurants close in Italy for a couple of hours each afternoon… riposa… and then open again in the evenings. Restaurants in particular open up again around 7:30pm. When we’ve been walking all day and not eating much, we’re starved when we arrive at our hotel at about 3-4 pm. Waiting till 7:30 or eating a big meal then is hard for us. Picnics in the room suit us best and so far, we’ve managed to find everything we need.

Day 5 – 12.75 miles walked/ 29,651 steps

Leg distance: 10.5 miles - 1204 miles to Canterbury