Day 35 of our Via Francigena pilgrimage took us from San Quirico to Radicofani. Distance: (20 miles, but we caught a ride). Weather: sunny, temperature: mid-80s.
The segment between San Quirico and Radicofani is widely considered one of the most difficult of the entire Via Francigena. It takes pilgrims between 10-12 hours to cover the uphill distance.
Another Way to Radicofani
Last night, I got a cryptic text from my parents to meet them at 9:20 a.m. in front of the church wrestler statues. Since that is a late start by pilgrim standards, I knew immediately that Dad must have found another way to get there.
Pilgrims might not know what numerical day of the month it is. In all seriousness, the days blend together. But by thunder, we know when Sunday is!
Strangely, our awareness has very little to do with religion, and everything to do with self-interest. If you don’t plan your food stops wisely, you can go hungry come Sunday – almost everything is closed. Anyone walking this section knows darn well that there are no food or shops until they reach Radicofani.
I had been dreading today on several counts. I had full confidence our family could make it. However, 20 miles of uphill climbing on a hot day is not our idea of a good time.
(Ironically, taking a train to bypass this section would have taken **EIGHT HOURS** and involved multiple connections. There are also no buses from San Quirico to Radicofani…it seems demand was so low, they discontinued services.)
Therefore, we had been fully prepared to hike it…if we had to. However, Dad is an incredibly resourceful man. He had met a local at a bar, who said that for €80 (€20 per person), he’d get us to Radicofani promptly. A man showed up precisely at the appointed hour, and had us there in 23 minutes.
Here’s to the private sector!
Arrival in Radicofani
Radicofani lies HIGH up on the hills. The ascent is so steep my ears popped twice during the car ride. It is an incredibly beautiful and lovingly preserved town. Since we had arrived far too early for check-in, the question became what to do for the next few hours.
First, we visited the Church of St. Peter. Although it was heavily damaged during World War II, it has since been restored.
By chance, we met and had coffee outside the church with a lovely older Swiss couple who had lived at UC Berkeley in the 60s. They adored Italy and vacationed here regularly. They were therefore quick to recommend we try the specialty in Radicofani – mushroom soup. The husband is a bona fide mushroom expert; he was a biologist and spent decades traveling internationally learning mushroom cultivation techniques.
After the delightful encounter, we strapped our backpacks back on and climbed through the forest to the famous Fortress of Radicofani.
The Fortress of Radicofani
The Fortress of Radicofani dates back to the 10th century. It remains one of the most important medieval fortresses in Italy. In the 14th century, the castle was taken over by Ghino di Tacco, an Italian legend roughly equivalent to Robin Hood. Ghino di Tacco was so renowned for his exploits during medieval times that Dante himself wrote about him in the Inferno.
Although it had taken substantial energy to climb to the Fortress, when we got there none of us felt like paying the €5 to go inside. Instead, we all agreed we were super hungry, and decided to go back to the town center for lunch.
As we had promised our Swiss friends, we all tried the mushroom soup. I had expected the soup would be a cream-based starter, and was amazed when it came out almost like a stew. The hearty mushroom and tomato soup came with warm toasted bread for dipping. It was so satisfying and filling that it was its own meal.
The mushroom soup was SO GOOD that when we were allowed to check in to the apartment, all we wanted to do was nap. Mom outdid herself by concocting a fantastic soup for dinner from leftover bread and garlic.
It was the perfect Sunday.
Tomorrow, we head to Aquapendente.
We are seeing more and more appeals to pilgrims from commercial businesses the closer we get to Rome. It’s kind of funny. The churches don’t often carry stamps for the Pilgrim Passports – the tourism offices and bars do! The businesses are very savvy about advertising their stamps. In addition, many bars also note that they offer free Wi-Fi for pilgrims, and a specially priced Pilgrim menu.
Is it commercialism? Absolutely. But I think I don’t think it in any way cheapens the pilgrim experience.
Rather, I’ll venture that it offers value to businesses, towns, and pilgrims. In any case, I love seeing these pilgrim signs!
Breakfast: Supermarket snack
Drive: €20 per person
Lodging (per person): €31