A New Use for Old Footwear
I always notice things in the freshness of morning that I failed to appreciate the previous day. In this case, I was tickled to see dozens of abandoned shoes outside the Ostello Sigerico. The shoes had been chucked by pilgrims after the soles lost their tread. However, the footwear had found new life…as plant holders!
How clever is that?
After a 16+ mile walk yesterday, today’s route to San Gimignano was a meager and very welcome 9 miles. Although it was a short walk by Via Francigena standards, it involved several steep hills.
As we departed Gambassi, we were overtaken on a long dusty road by two cars full of nuns. We waved our hiking sticks at them in greeting, and they smiled and waved back. Although we didn’t see them again, I think I know where they went.
About a mile later we heard the sound of some absolutely angelic female singing from within an old church.
A Morning Glass of Chianti
The church conveniently happened to be next door to an open winery. Initially, we all asked the kind proprietor for coffee. However, since I had no clue when I would be in a famous wine-producing region again, and the locally-made bottles were RIGHT THERE, I also had a glass of Chianti….at 8:40 a.m.
The woman didn’t blink twice as she poured the glass. Please understand, I don’t encourage folks to drink in the morning. However, let me say that during what ought to have been a painful uphill climb, I felt NOTHING.
We passed by a number of establishments on today’s route to San Gimignano that advertised wine and olive oil tastings. I’m curious to know where their business comes from. I very much doubt it is from Via Francigena pilgrims. For starters, almost every pilgrim is walking from Gambassi. Whether they are at church hostels or commercial hotels, most pilgrims are required to leave at 10 a.m., and many are usually on the road by 8:30. Today’s route is so short that the most popular beverage pilgrims seek isn’t wine; it’s coffee or water.
Secondly, every ounce in a backpack seems to double every five hours. No matter how great the wine is, no one wants to carry more weight than is absolutely necessary.
A Dangerous Second Half Into San Gimignano
The first half of the walk was gorgeous and varied. We also got to have a delightful conversation with our new friends from Milano during a second coffee break.
I don’t have many nice things to say about the final miles into San Gimignano. There is a horrible stretch of road against oncoming traffic. This madness is compounded by the fact that a section of the road boasts exceptional views of the city. Alas. It is so stunning that motorists and cyclists alike stop ON A CURVE to take pictures. Cars swerved and made vehement hand gestures at each other as they passed.
Make no mistake – this section is dangerous, and every person I’ve spoken with hates it.
Arrival in San Gimignano
San Gimignano has a distinctive skyline unlike any I’ve seen so far. Because of its soaring architecture, it’s known as the “city of fine towers”. The medieval towers and 13th century walls are magnificent.
However, that afternoon it felt like Disneyland. Dozens of tourist buses transported visitors inside the famous walls and to streets bustling with shops and restaurants.
Dad ran into a Washington couple we’ve shared the road with these past two days. They warned him that prices grew more expensive the further one moved into town. We backtracked, found a restaurant on a side street, and spied the three Milanese with Kobe the pilgrim dog.
It’s amazing how much camaraderie you build during the Via Francigena. Since by now we’d leap-frogged each other a half-dozen times, we kissed each other like lifelong friends.
The restaurant didn’t have a table for four, so Dan and I took a table indoors, while Mom and Dad dined outdoors. The menus were all in Italian, so I translated for my brother.
“What are you thinking of? Do you want a pizza or pasta?”
“What is that, Kate?”
Dan pointed at a photograph of the restaurant’s daily special.
“Um, that’s wild boar, with fagoli beans, tomato, and rosemary.”
It was AMAZING. We used the generous bread slices and mopped our plates so clean the owner beamed with approval.
Our apartment for the evening turned out to be a mere 40 meters from the restaurant. The hostess had left a lovely bottle of local white wine on the table. I’m loving this Tuscan hospitality!
And even better than a bottle of wine?
A washing machine!
Breakfast: Supermarket snack
Lodging (per person): €42