The mountainous challenge of two days ago faded into the distance as our Tuesday morning walk from Arrone led us through a wide river valley. A peaceful, easy stroll. I glanced ahead and saw our day was about to change.
The mountains quickly got higher and closer. The Way of St. Francis turned left and up 600 feet in just a half mile, through another dense forest. My hips and legs quickly remembered their aches from our Sunday climb.
What did we find at the top?
A tourist center, of course! Bars, restaurants, gift shops, a hotel and coed bathroom. Play equipment for kids, a museum, campground and lush parklands.
Why here? It dates back 2,300 years when the Romans developed a system to drain swamps. Now a dam and reservoir, the system is turned on and off during the day to feed water to huge power-generating turbines. A siren beckons tourists to viewing sites when the waterfall is switched on. We missed the viewing, but coffee and jelly doughnuts fit our needs just fine.
Our pilgrimage path to Rome led us past a dam and lakeside resorts. We expected it would take us along the shore for several miles to our hotel, but it turned left—again…
…into swampland and forest where Tarzan would have felt at home. At several places, our trekking poles were bushwacking tools. Around one turn, a cackling voice sounded an alarm from the forest ahead. A woman, eyes large, emerged, holding a handful of greenery. Was she warning us to turn around or calling for help? As she passed, the “crazy lady of the lake” paused long enough to say “buon giorno” then walked on, still cackling.
Now, safely in our lakeside Miralago Hotel room, we have discovered that our guidebook warned about the overgrown “impassable” path and suggested a detour. Oops.
St. Francis and European monarchs came to the village of Piediluco centuries ago, before the lake was made. As I write, loud thunder and torrential rain are having their way with the afternoon. They are expected to return tomorrow, when we face our greatest climbing challenge of this trek, up into the dense forest beyond. Our hotel host warned us to pack plenty of food and water for the remote journey. Stay tuned.