Day 34 of our Via Francigena pilgrimage took us from Ponte D’Arbia to San Quirico. Walking distance: 13.1 miles (we cut off three miles by taking the bus). Weather: sunny, temperature: mid-80s.
Dan and I caught an early morning bus at 6:30 from Ponte D’Arbia to Buonconvento. The morning air was very cool, and we both rubbed our arms and moved our feet to stay warm.
I’m glad we took the bus the three miles there. We could see through the windows that the road had almost no shoulder. Furthermore, the darkness and heavy morning mist made visibility very limited.
When I tried to pay the bus fare, the driver held up a hand and shook his head. Thus, we got a free ride. Thank you, Signore – lei è un uomo magnifico!
Since it was still dark outside, Dan and I stopped at a bar in Buonconvento for a cappuccino and pastry.
As soon as we picked up the trail, who should we see but our parents?
We decided to test their powers of observation and trailed them for two miles before they realized we were there.
L’Eroica Bike Race
A few miles later, we found ourselves in a most unexpected situation. Our route to San Quirico was the very route used by several hundred cyclists.
The L’Eroica Gaiole in Chianti was created in 1997 for cyclists “to rediscover the beauty of fatigue and the thrill of conquest”. As it so happens, this event takes place on the first Sunday of every October.
This meant we were “racing” with them!
During descents, the cyclists cut within inches of us. However, we felt immense feelings of solidarity with them during the uphill climbs, when we could hear each other gasp. Morever, these cyclists were very sweet. No matter how fatigued they must have been during the 212.5 kilometer ride, they still called out “Buon giorno” as they passed.
They also did us a huge favor. The asphalt roads were largely closed off to vehicular traffic during the event. This meant we had an extra layer of safety for a few miles.
I have to respect the purity of this race. At similar events, there might have been people lining the paths to cheer them on and shout encouragement. Perhaps there’d be pulsating music and colorful flags as they passed Torrenieri.
There was none of that during the few miles we shared together. I get the impression they were doing it simply for the challenge and the thrill.
Arrival in San Quirico
We pilgrims had a steep set of ascents and descents almost as soon as we left Torrenieri. By the time we made the final ascent into San Quirico, my leg muscles were throbbing and my shirt soaked in sweat.
The gorgeous Collegiate Church of San Quirico d’Orcia is one of the first things we saw upon entering town. Right in front of this 12th century church were two enormous nude wrestlers by Italian contemporary sculptor Emanuele Giannelli.
Gianelli’s work is prominently featured outdoors in at least three other places in San Quirico. His art – all figures are nude – is definitely provocative. I can’t help but admire the juxtaposition of ancient and modern.
Architecturally, San Quirico differs from the other towns we’ve been to recently in that the streets feel much wider. The street surfaces are also more level. We’ve seen wheelchairs for the first time in days. San Quirico feels as though it is better positioned to take care of those with mobility issues.
Tonight, there was a very festive street life centered on the main street. It was great seeing so many people eating out and laughing, and the cool evening temperatures are delightful. Mom and Dad are staying in a hostel alongside several familiar faces; Dan and I snagged a gorgeous 1-bedroom apartment just outside the city center.
What a day it has been. I can only imagine how well the cyclists will sleep tonight. Even though we use our legs differently, I felt a small sense of kinship with those athletes today. There’s something very special about “the beauty of fatigue and the thrill of conquest”.
Tomorrow, we are off to Radicofani!
Lunch: Supermarket snack
Lodging (per person): €42