Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Walking with Angels. Montefiascone to Viterbo

What a great rest we had here in the Urbana hotel. Simon was right, it is a hidden gem. They had a fabulous breakfast laid out for us. I say us because we never saw another sole in the hotel. We ate until we couldn't  hold anymore and left after 8am. We followed the VF signs up to the fortress overlooking the town and lake. The day was beautiful and sunny but there was the hint of fall in the wind. The walk was downhill pretty much and flat all the way to Viterbo. The farmers are planting winter crops and doing their summer fallow. They use a lot of small caterpillar tractors for their field work as well as the standard tractors. We passed a hot spring along the way. As soon as I went to go in, someone came out indicating that I would have to pay. One of the people standing around showed me where I could use a free pool. The water coming out of the ground was extremely hot but the pool it flowed into was just warm. I took off my boots and socks to see what is was like. There were a lot of German tourists there in their caravans, basking in the hot pools. Viterbo is another walled city and we are booked into a pilgrim ospital La Toretta which is located literally in the inner surrounding wall. Maria and her husband are very pilgrim friendly and accommodating. They usually make a communal meal in the evening but with just C and I here, it is not worth their while. They charged us 10E each for staying here and gave us a key to get in and out. We came here more on the recommendation shown in the CPR accomodation listing which called it one of the better stays. Well for us it is just okay. The people are nice but really you should have your own sleeping bag here, which we don't. I am sure when a group of young people are here in the summer it could be a fun place to stay. Breakfast is minimal and the toilets have no seats on them. Strange how you get used to toilet seats. Even another broken one would have been okay. This is their last day to be open for this year as it closes on October 31st. We have bought our own breakfast stuff as we need more than just coffee and a bun in plastic in the morning. We also hit the tourist office for a little English on getting us on the right street in the morning and then we walked it for a kilometre just to make sure we get started right in the morning. Getting out of the cities can be confusing at times with the traffic and signage. I can remember when we started walking how great it would be to see the roads built by the Romans. Now we walk along Roman roads without any fuss at all. This is a very big holiday weekend for the Italians as well as being Halloween. There is an abundance of flowers on busy corners and in front of the cemeteries  for the people to purchase and put on the graves in remembrance of their family members who have passed away. We have lined up a13E three course restaurant meal for tonight. Tomorrow is more climbing up around a volcano rim on forest trails. 

Walking with Angels. Bolsena to Montefiascone

UAfter a relaxing stay with the sisters, talk about quiet, we set off at 7:15am. Unfortunately the marking out of town was nearly non existent and we retraced our steps back into town and then decided to just go ahead. Eventually we found the VF signs crossing the highway and followed them meandering through olive groves and sheep trails. The going was not difficult at all but we both found ourselves struggling after a few hours. We have decided that our bodies are just getting tired generally. Even my wrist watch is getting loose on my arm and the belt on my pants looks more like a rope than a belt. The view out over the lake is fabulous. The town appeared perched on top of the hill like so many are.
I asked a business man where the hotel Urbana is and he invited me into his office. He printed off a google map for me and we had no trouble finding the hotel. It is located within the old city on the main street and that again suits us. We went into the reception with our gear on and asked about the price and to see a room. The place is a very good three star and the rate is 70 E with breakfast which is within our price range for today. If it is a Buffett breakfast as I think it will be, we will really be chowing down since we haven't had one of those in a long time. The views over the lake from this very unique town are absolutely stunning. The fortress here had such a dominating view over the area for many miles in every direction. We are always amazed at the traffic here as one intersection has six raids coming together but somehow everyone dodges each other and the pedestrians. One of the information sign boards along the way, showed how the Roman roads were constructed. It is no wonder that they are still around while the mideaval roads were just rocks put down without the base dug out like the Roman roads were. I like the part where they left either side of the road with a gravel type of surface for the calvary and there was a raised pony type wall along either side of the flat rock road surface for the riders to get on their horses. One of the things we in North America could learn from the Italians are the greetings. We always try to address Italians with buongiorno or buonasera and in the restaurants the people coming in and leaving, address the others with an appropriate greeting.
We did just that when people came into the restaurant tonight and when we were leaving, it made us feel less like a foreigner. The restaurant Borgo Antico just down the street from the hotel Urbano gave us a pilgrim meal with three courses, wine and water for 14 E each and it was very good food. Just once I want to say, with gas, when asked in the restaurant if we want water with gas or no gas.
 I see a real opening for an Italian with an enterprising spirit who wants to make a few dollars. Go into the toilet seat repair/replacement business. We have yet to find a toilet seat, other than the hotel we are now in, that raises and lowers without one side giving way. Perhaps they are worn out from so many uses without someone tightening them up. The other suggestion I would have for an enterpriser is headlight and running light replacement in automobiles. Having seen so many Fiats bearing down on us with only one headlight or running light, I can assure you there is money to be made. C said tonight when we were discussing the pilgrimage, that if she knew before just how tough it is, she might not have agreed to do it. We have a saying, we aren't 70 anymore.
As we were walking along we saw what looked like a herd of dogs coming towards us. It turned out to be a bird hunter with his gun over his shoulder and his four dogs all harnessed together in a gaggle walking sideways.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Walking with Angels. Acquapendente to Bolsena

Relatively short day today 20 some kilometres. We had a great meal last night at one of the pilgrim(discount) friendly restaurants called il Borgo. Two courses each with natural water plus they brought a antiapasta and a small cold bottle of limoncella. Limoncella is a liquor served after the meal. We have only had it brought in two small glasses before so having a container was new and very nice. One could over do it quite easily, it tasted so good. All this for 26E in a very pleasant surrounding.
We left this morning at 7:15am as usual. We have fitted right in with the time change. The walk was quite easy and well marked. It meandered around the countryside and we stopped at 9:30am for a caffe and bun at a pilgrim friendly bar and snack place. The had a sign outside saying that you can get your credential stamped there if you are a pilgrim. As we approached our destination we looked out over the landscape and it looked like clouds or mist like we had in the mountains, but it was the lake at Bolsena. We are both starting to wind down now that we have left Tuscany and started into Lazio and 
consequently onwards toward Rome. After several asking, I think four which is not unusual, we found our destination, Suore SS Sacramento at Piazza Santa Cristina, number 13. We had phoned ahead asking for two beds made up with sheets and towels. The sisters gave us a nice sunny room with beds as we asked.
For this they charge $40E which we are fine with. The place is spotless and the sister dressed in habit was very welcoming. We are right down in old town where we like to be. We have a sunny deck for the washing to dry. Went out this afternoon to look around the town. Went to the museum located in the Castillo. Climbed up the tower and walked around the ramparts. There is a lot of history associated with the lake Bolsena and many artifacts going back many centurys have been disvovered in the lake and surrounding areas. C was a little hesitate climbing the tower, commenting that men like this more than women. Bought some fruit for tomorrow and then found the supermercato where B was not to be denied the tub of frozen yogurt. Back to the room for our trusted sporks from MEC. Out front on the street on a bench watching people going by, eating our frozen yogurt. Then into the local pizza shop for pizza and beers. Oh it was so tasty. Promised C an upgrade on the room for tomorrow night. Simon from the UK emailed us some time ago and called this hotel in Montefiascone a hidden gem. We will walk in with our packs on tomorrow and check out the rooms to see if they live up to our expectations, hopefully for the pilgrim rate as well. I remember in one town the hotel owner wanted. 90E and then asked me how much we would pay. Great day today and only 17 kilometres tomorrow, but it is all up hill.
There is a terrific basilica here, the Basilica of Saint Cristina. I don't have any pictures because they just wouldn't do it justice. It is named after an 11 year old girl from the fourth century who died a martyr. It is referred to here as the miracle of Cristina. The altar alone goes back to the eighth century. Difficult to get your head around how far back these times are.

Walking with Angels. Radicofani to Acquapendente

Well if yesterday was 30 plus kms up hill, today was 30 kms downhill. We started off at 7:15am in the mist. We were the only pilgrims in the facility last night. We saw that Anna Maria from the Netherlands was there yesterday. We had been following someone whose boots were fairly small with not a big gait and I suspected it was a woman's. We had a car rally in town last night. We had seen these little all painted up cars with resonators on going past us. I guess they ran in the night on the gravel roads. We saw a lot of hay bales put up on the sharp corners of the gravel roads. We heard them buzzing around last night when they left town. Our walk today was quite easy compared with yesterday, however going down can be difficult with loose rocks on the footing. We passed land that was not arable and had sheep on it. One big white dog let us know that we weren't to come too close to his flock. As we neared here the landscape seemed to get more scenic and lush. We saw corn being harvested which we hadn't seen in awhile and caterpillars tilling the land on the hillsides. When we walked into town we went to where the tourist office is, and if course it was closed. A lady in an administration office there stamped our credentials and phoned the place here for tonight. We walked over right away and were met by Amalia who let us in and showed us a room. She also phoned for a reservation for us tomorrow night in Bolsena. Amalia showed us where to get a pilgrim meal and what attractions to see in her town. We had to walk on a fairly busy road for awhile today. While we were walking, a car pulled to a stop and asked us where in Canada we were from. They had seen the Canada flag on C's bag. When we told them, they said we are from Victoria, do you know Neville Tencer? When C replied that we did, they took our picture to send to him. They had rented a place here in Tuscany and just happened to see a Via Francigena sign down the road and then spotted us. It was only a few more minutes down the road that we turned off and would have missed them. Amalia told us that she runs a Confraternity here that looks after this building for the church. The person that gave them this building to be used asked that the pilgrims not be charged for staying here. On closer examination of my boots, I might have been a little hasty when I condemned them for not being waterproof. I noticed that they are cracked on the sides. You might even say trashed. They have been through more than most boots ever get abused. I couldn't take them back to MEC and say that they didn't live up to my expectations.
As we get towards the end of this journey, emotions change from one day to the next. Glad when this is over; don't know what we will do when we have to stop walking; we will miss the daily new adventures; we need a rest; ready to go home. Amalia told us to go see the most important church that they have. It is called Basilica del Santo Sepolcro. There has been a church on this location since the 10th century. There is a cript below the church with 24 columns and also shows some of the remanents of the original church. The church was bombed by the allies in 1944 and later restored. The pictures of the bombed church show the enormous devastation inflicted on it. I looked at the screw on top of my (lunch) water bottle, it was really dirty. I used a towel on the threads and lots of dirt came off. I cleaned the cap under the hot water and it looks better now. I call it the lunch water bottle because eating lunch and having something you can actually drink from is better than sucking water through a tube, which is what we do when we are walking. Six weeks of daily use in the dust and dirt plus everything else takes a toll on things. Our packs are starting to look lived in since we stop for breaks or lunch on whatever ground there is to sit on. I really craved another tub of frozen yogurt again and we took our spoons with us but the little store didn't have any so we settled for Pringles and a tin of beer.

Walking with Angels. San-Quirico d'Orcia To Radicofani

Wonderful meal last night. Homemade pasta and soup and salad. This place was recommended by our pilgrim friendly fellow in Ponte d'Arbia. We understand there is a time change tomorrow. The countdown is 8 more days to Rome. As we get closer we don't have the same feelings as when we were starting out,looking forward to the adventure. We are well seasoned travellers now and have been through some pretty tough days and have seen and experienced some great places. We have also met people who burned out from the rigours of the VF be it physical or mental. 
I went out early today looking for a bar and found one open. Purchased croissants and made up sandwiches. We don't go through any towns after 5 kms so we will need food for 8 hours walking. We maintained a steady pace all day with an up of 1300 meters. We had road walking more than anything else but there was some forest trails as well. After three hours we like to take the packs off and have some water and croissants. Later we do the same with the sandwiches and after that with the apples with cheese. By regulating our food intact we seem to be able to pace ourselves better. The route wasn't particularly well marked but we found our way okay. We arrived at 3 pm which is 8 hours walking for 33kilomtres. We had someone phone the person looking after the pilgrim facility here and he came and signed us in. The name of the place here is Spedale di S. Pietro e Giacomo. In the summer they do a communal meal but now there are so few people walking they don't bother. The place is very clean and well kept. We will leave a 20 E donation as we have said along the way, if everyone would put in 10E then perhaps they could have a local lady clean and maintain it. We passed a village that is very tourist minded with a big pool from the hot springs. We weren't very happy at that point because they had fancy VF signs into the village but it wasn't marked on the way out. We passed a few castles along the way. There is a fortress here as well that we could see from 20 or more kilometres away. We also passed an old pilgrim refuge and church location that Sigeric made note of in the 10th century. There was an information sign outside the small church that indicates that it goes back to the 12 century. The old Roman road is still visible at times that goes by it.
The picture of the church is the church of San Pietro right beside us. It goes back to the 12 th century with Romanesque-Gothic architecture. One thing I won't miss about Italy are the church bells. It happened again last night. Inevitably we are beside the church and the bells ring on the hour and on the half hour. If that isn't bad enough, they also ring the same number of rings three minutes after the hour, just in case someone missed the first rings. Yes, it was all night last night. We found a tiny store open and bought some fresh pasta and sauce to cook in the kitchen.