Day 36 of our Via Francigena pilgrimage took us from Radicofani to Aquapendente. Distance: (12 walking; light car assist). Weather: sunny, temperature: mid-80s.
The first six miles after departing Radicofani took us down a steep gravelly road with very few cars. We beheld the enchanting sight of a shepherd and a hefty flock of sheep grazing on the fields. The attentive sheepdog spied us and immediately came out barking.
I love watching the interaction between sheep and dogs. They might be different species, but there seems to be a very clear understanding of each other’s roles and responsibilities. We saw this dynamic in action two hours later when the walk took us by a small fenced-in sheep farm.
The lone sheep dog was ASLEEP, his mouth curled up in a smile, as though he were dreaming sweet doggie dreams. When we approached, the sheep promptly left the fence where they had been lined up, and ran over to the dog to wake him up! The sight of sheep running to a sleeping dog for protection made me smile.
Farewell, Tuscany! Hello Lazio!
The first seven or eight miles constituted the pleasant part of the trip. We’ve officially crossed from Tuscany into Lazio. I do feel a little sad. What can I say? The Via Francigena segment through Tuscany is so full of joy and beauty.
Dad spends every evening faithfully preparing for the following day’s segment. Last night, he showed me this gem in Walking the Via Francigena Part 3:
“…Now brace yourself for 6-7 km of roadside ennui punctuated by a few seconds of terror as large trucks and fast cars race alongside the highway within inches of you.”
Based on that strong warning, we decided to catch a bus out of Centeno (a town on the route). Once clear of the gnarly bit, we planned to resume walking to Aquapendente.
Alas, no. Centeno was a much smaller town than we’d anticipated. We did come across a nice sign on a building dedicated in honor of Galileo. It seems the genius spent some time in Centeno in 1633 during a Tuscan epidemic and mandatory quarantine.
However, these days it was a very quiet village, and there wasn’t a human in sight. I’d later read that Centeno has a population of less than 100.
A Lift to Aquapendente
Just when we were bracing ourselves to walk on the road with cars, a woman emerged on the street and asked in Italian if we wanted a ride. It seems that everyone has heard the stretch is bad. She informed us matter-of-factly that there was only one bus a day to Aquapendente, and that we had missed it by ten minutes. The good lady offered to have her husband drive us to Ponte San Gregorio (a couple miles short of Aquapendente) for €20.
Her gregarious husband crammed a lot of information into the short drive as he rapidly conversed with Dad in Italian. We learned he and his wife were pensioners who made €1100 combined each month. I did the math and realized that €20 is a sizable amount of income.
I wish them a very robust business. However, given that there is so much awareness that this stage is dangerous, I’m curious as to whether there are any plans to create a safer option.
The gentleman dropped us off at a small bar near Ponte Gregoriano.
There, we ran into the husband and wife pilgrims from Washington. They confirmed that the close drive-bys from trucks and buses had been decidedly unpleasant.
Arrival in Aquapendente
The bar provided a nice break for us us to rest and catch up with the fast Washington hikers.
I think it very reflective of the differences in cultures that we Americans consumed ice-cream, soft drinks, or sandwiches. At a table 20 feet away, men in orange construction gear smoked cigarettes and poured from a carafe of red wine. It was barely past lunch time!
We passed these same construction workers an hour later as they repaired a road. One operated the machinery, while four others sat in the shade observing. All worked without helmets. Generally, wine, high temperatures, and machinery don’t mix well together, but this is Italy! Italians are intelligent people. I’m therefore intrigued by how much more willing they are to accept risks.
It’s a Via Francigena tradition that most days end with a hefty climb. That was definitely the case today. Our calf muscles were burning as we entered Aquapendente.
For dinner, Mom used the sage that had been generously left as a gift for pilgrims on the way to Avenza, along with pork and potatoes, to create a spectacular feast. Dad bought a bottle of wine at the grocery store for €4.90. For dessert, we had amaretto cookies. We’ve definitely been eating well this trip.
Tomorrow, we’re off to Bolsena.
Breakfast: Supermarket snack
Drive: €5 per person
Lodging (per person): €42