Day 40 of our Via Francigena pilgrimage took us from Viterbo to Vetralla. Distance: 15 miles. Weather: clear, sunny; temperature: 80s.
Today there was an interesting note on the Via Francigena app:
“Leg 41 has been reopened for pilgrims that are traveling on foot. Pilgrims on foot must keep to the route without deviating. In addition, it is strictly forbidden to approach timber cutting machinery and piles of logs.”
I’m very curious to know what the backstory is there.
The Walk to Vetralla
Arrivals and departures tend to be a bit tricky around cities. This was definitely true of Viterbo. Although we left by 7 a.m., the morning traffic had already started to pick up. I was amused by the sight of teenagers on their way to school. They stopped at bars and smoked cigarettes alongside their morning coffee.
It took about 40 minutes and two miles for us to begin walking on a pedestrian path. Once there, we decided to split up again; parents and siblings. I think this pairing works well. Dan’s eyes lit up and he gave me a huge grin. He knows he can drink and eat as much sugar as he likes with me.
The walking itself was fairly easy. We passed through woods full of chestnut and oak trees. There were plenty of glossy nuts covering the ground and announcing that we are indeed in October. The occasional ammo shell reminded us that it’s still hunting season.
Most of the colors we see now are decidedly autumnal. I’m amazed and delighted by the hundreds of thousands of lavender forest flowers we’ve come across. They are such a delicate and pretty color, and the lavender really pops against the green and brown forest foliage. When the sunlight hits just right you feel as though you are in a fairytale.
San Martino al Cimino
Dan and I stopped for a light snack in San Martino al Cimino. We had just started nibbling on the food when Mom and Dad popped around the corner and joined us.
San Martino al Cimino is a small town that was prominent with back in the 17th century, when Pope Innocent X appointed his sister-in-law, Donna Olimpia, princess of the town.
We visited the 13th century Gothic-Cistercian abbey, which is absolutely magnificent.
And we procured two more stamps for our Pilgrim Passports.
Our books are nearly full!
Cars and Country Roads
It might sound strange, but I’m surprised by how dirty I am at the end of every day. I’m FILTHY. I’m appalled at how many times I have to rinse out my clothes before the water runs clear.
One of the nasty things about country roads is that we get spewed with a long trail of dust every time the cars pass.
I could hear a car approaching from behind. However, to my surprise, instead of passing, the driver pulled alongside and rolled down his window. His eyes were terribly sad.
“Scusi, hai visto un cagnolino rosso?”
Excuse me. Have you seen a little red dog?
I felt so bad for him as I told him no.
Twenty minutes, another vehicle pulled up from behind and the window rolled down. I already had my sentences rehearsed and ready to go.
“Mi dispiace. Non ho visto un cagnolino rosso.”
I’m sorry. I haven’t seen a little red dog.
Instead, the remarkably handsome driver asked what my brother and I were doing walking these streets. It was a fair question. I highly doubt many people walk these roads without reason.
I told him in my best Italian that we were walking the Via Francigena, that we had spent 40 days on the road, and that we hoped to be in Rome within the next four days.
He and his companion made appreciative noises and wished us safe travels. And when they sped off, they blew dust all over us.
Sometimes, all you can do is laugh.
After weeks of enjoying blackberries in Switzerland and Northern Italy, I think I found the last of the edible berries today. Although the easy proximity of blackberries was very charming early in the trip, I think I hate blackberries right now. The overwhelming majority of the bushes are nothing but thorns.
And unfortunately for us, they lined both sides of the streets.
I think the idea was that pilgrims would be safer walking a country road rather than a main one. However, that only works if 1) the road is wide, and 2) there is something safe for a walker to jump into if things become dangerous.
When two cars moving in the opposite direction decided to share one narrow space without slowing, it meant that Dan and I had to LEAP as far off the road as possible.
My upper left arm got ripped up by the blackberry thorns. I was LIVID.
Arrival in Vetralla
We were coming up on the final turn into Vetralla when I blinked in surprise. Mom and Dad were suddenly 200 meters AHEAD of us.
Dan and I had been well ahead all day, including at Tre Croci (Three Crosses). Therefore, we were utterly perplexed to see the back of them.
It turns out Dad had shifted his navigation from the Via Francigena App to Google Maps. Google had promptly directed them onto the most efficient route. It placed them on a main road with cars, but it also saved them a couple of miles.
We’re staying at an albergo tonight. This is a very popular place amongst Via Francigena pilgrims. We got two rooms on the same floor and had a supermarket dinner of cheese, grapes, wine and salami on the balcony. For dessert we had amaretto cookies.
Tomorrow, we’re off to Sutri.
Lunch: Market leftovers