Since we bused from Viterbo to Montefiascone the other day when I got the shingles news, this was one leg of the Via Francigena that we had not walked. Though still quite uncomfortable, I felt after a few days that I’d like to give walking a try. Since we didn’t feel we could rightly continue until we’d properly walked the distance between the two cities, today was the day we’d make things right … even if it was backwards from our already backwards itinerary. Confused? So are we!
We moved our gear early in the morning, not without some major uphill effort, to the Hotel Urbano V in Montefiascone’s centro storico, where they allowed us to store our backpacks until we returned later in the day. Walking without the 20# packs on our backs is heaven, comparatively speaking.
Rain was forecast for mid-afternoon and we carried our rain gear just in case. The day was cool and cloudy, but perfect for walking. We started the trek with a very steep, cobblestone climb up from the hotel through a city arch announcing ‘100km to Rome’. Then it was up, up, up (hard on the legs) even steeper to the Rocca dei Papi, a previous summer residence for several popes with fabulous views of lovely Lake Bolsena.
We were both feeling amazingly good and quite satisfied to be walking again … even if it was without packs … and backwards. Once again, fields of scarlet poppies were in bloom. There were also several small shrines along our route, one of which had a thick cluster of purple iris beside it. It’s no wonder van Gogh was inspired to paint them.
Just as we entered Vitterbo, we came across a huge cemetery and it beckoned us to peek in. Flower vendors were stationed outside the cemetery gates and many of the graves were well-tended and graced with fresh flowers. We wandered through some of the graveyard ‘streets’ noting centuries old stones and crypts.
It was yet another holiday in Italy (there are many!) and the bus schedule was limited. We had a 2-hour wait and during that time tried our darnedest to buy bus tickets. The bus station was closed for the holiday. The local tobacchi shop which sells everything from tobacco products to coffee, beer, lotto tickets, bus tickets and croissants, was closed for the holiday. We could buy the ticket on the bus for €7 each or in advance for €l.30 each. It seemed pretty unfair that we’d have to pay nearly 7x the regular price because no shops were open to sell tickets, but then sometimes life isn’t fair. Then Roselma appeared, a Filipina nurse living in Italy who had an extra ticket and gave it to us. We offered to pay, but she firmly declined. We think of this as a ‘pay it forward, pay it back’ moment.
Rain began as we exited the bus. Even with our rain jackets, we were drenched through and through by the time we walked up the steep hill to the hotel. No matter, we were thrilled to be walking again and a little rain wasn’t going to dampen our spirits. Dinner was at Antico Borgo, a delightful little restaurant just down the street from the hotel. They offered a ‘Pilgrim’s Special’ which included wine, water and two courses. It turned out to be way too much food, but just enough wine and perfect ending to a wonderful day.
The 11-mile trek was fairly easy going and just what we needed to get back into the groove. This, then, will be our Plan B until I’m capable of carrying my pack again. We’ll find a base, leave our packs and travel backward and forward on the Via Francigena, making sure to account for every step along the way, taking a bus when necessary to get back to the base or a starting point on the path. When life gives you lemons ...
Day 6 - 12.53 miles walked/ 29,149 steps
Leg distance: 11.0 miles – 1193 miles to Canterbury