Day 27 of our Via Francigena pilgrimage had us taking a train to San Miniato due to lack of lodging on the route. Distance: (3 miles of actual trail walking). Weather: sunny, 70 degrees.
As a general rule, I don’t like taking the train on what is supposed to be a walking pilgrimage. It feels like cheating. The only reason we jumped ahead was because there was no available lodging in Fucecchio.
There was a steep price to pay for taking the train. It took two hours and three trains to travel 19 miles. A taxi would have covered the distance in half an hour, but the closest taxi company was back in Lucca.
I trust Italian generosity, cuisine, opera, architecture, art, and style. There is so much to cherish about Italians and this beautiful culture. However, I am highly skeptical of the way they view time. While they care very much about speed – particularly when it comes to cars – they don’t seem overly concerned with timeliness.
If you look at any three timepieces in Italy, I’m willing to bet each is showing a different number. During our entire stay in Italy, we have yet to catch a train that leaves as scheduled. I’m amused that the TV screens inside the trains depict the stops the train has made in the PAST.
To be fair, the trains are much cleaner than I remember 20 years ago, and if they are late, they are much less late.
(I should also remember to be grateful that the Italians are so relaxed about time. If the restaurant in Torino had closed when they were actually supposed to, we would have been dizzy with hunger.)
Gorgeous San Miniato
Today is the first day it actually feels like fall. An awesome breeze rustled through tree leaves that have only just started to turn yellow.
The closest train station to San Miniato is actually in Fucecchio-San Miniato; about 2.3 miles from our destination. Getting to town involved a 50 minute uphill climb, and we soon shed the long-sleeved shirts. After a slight navigational error (my fault), a generous local smiled and let us cut through his olive grove. Thank you, Sir!
Once at the tourism office we got a coveted stamp and visited a stunning church.
Culinary Delicacies in San Miniato
The tourism office had a few posters advertising a massive upcoming truffle celebration. This part of Italy is renowned for its famous black and white truffles. I had been very eager to try some local truffle dishes. Unfortunately, a butcher informed us that white truffle season is in November, and black truffle season is in March. Therefore, he said any truffles sold were likely either frozen, dried, or artificially preserved with chemicals.
Instead of truffles, we went to the butcher’s restaurant, which specialized in all things pork. It also had the most incredible views of the countryside.
We drank red wine and the server came out with a complimentary appetizer: sausage crudo on toasted bread. As Americans, we are usually very cautious of meat that is served raw. Perhaps it was because pigs taste better here. Or perhaps we were blown away by the views. In any case, we all thought the pork crudo was sublime. The butcher knew exactly what he was doing.
(Curiously, the one expected protein I have not seen on the Via Francigena is the pig. I’ve seen horses, goats, cows, donkey, deer, sheep, mule, pheasants, geese, chickens…where are all the pigs hiding?)
A Lovely Low-Key Afternoon
After lunch, I hiked up to the Tower of Frederick II. If the tower seems a little too perfect and pristine, it’s because it is. Its construction began in the 11th century under the orders of German Emperor Frederick II. For centuries it was considered the prized symbol of the medieval town. Sadly, the original was destroyed by the German Army during World War II.
In 1958, it was painstakingly rebuilt to symbolize San Miniato’s rebirth. It’s a steep climb to get to the tower, but the unobstructed views from the top are PHENOMENAL.
I think everyone who has been to San Miniato falls in love with it. Fittingly, we came across a beautiful bride and a handsome groom oozing Italian glamor, being photographed from multiple angles by five photographers. This place just radiates romance.
I’d booked a 2 bedroom apartment conveniently located two blocks from the Via Francigena trail. The host had serious style! Not only were there plenty of clean linens; he had thoughtfully left several culinary gifts to try: local pasta, a bottle of Prosecco, a selection of fruit, several bottles of mineral water, and a package of prosciutto.
Best of all were the views from the balcony. This is the good life!
Tomorrow, it’s onward to Gambassi!
Train ticket: €8 ($8.45)
Breakfast: Supermarket snack
Lunch: €18 ($19.02)
Dinner: Ingredients came with apartment
Lodging (per person): €43 ($45.43)