Posts Tagged With: trekking

The Way of St. Francis: Over The Hump

Yesterday afternoon we arrived at our hotel in Trevi so incredibly soaking wet that the owner simply handed us our key. No passports, no check-in, no formalities. Plenty of time for that after showers and hot tea!

We awoke to more rain this morning and grudgingly donned our rain gear as we set out to cross the invisible halfway point on our trail to Rome. By days end, our feet will have taken us 141 miles with 43,742 feet of elevation change throughout our twelve days on the trail.

As the skies cleared, our waterproofs instantly morphed into personal saunas. While Reg changed his clothes trailside, I fashioned my rain pants into a pair capris and we again set off toward our destination – the ancient city of Spoleto.

We’d walked a few hundred yards when Reg suddenly stopped and said, “Oh no! My glasses!”

Sure enough, they were not on his nose where they belonged. A quick about face and we retraced our steps.

How lucky he was that we chose the bike trail route, and that we had it mostly to ourselves…and that his glasses didn’t go flying into the tall grass or we might still be looking for them!

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The Way of St. Francis: Spello Spelled Fun

The charming hilltop town of Spello stands guard over acres and acres of olive trees that the Angelini family (pictured above) is passionate about. We would also learn of their passion for wine.

Yesterday our path took us through the olive groves on our way to what would be a delightful and educational dinner at Enoteca Properzio, located in the heart of Spello. Based on the recommendation of a fellow English-speaking tourist, we sat ourselves down at a table outside.

Questions about wine quickly brought the owner’s son to our table, and gosh, what a charmer he was! Oozing enthusiasm, he explained that he had recently returned from three months in the U.S. where he’d been wine tasting. His English was quite good and he was very knowledgeable about local wines and the olive oil the family makes. Then his father came over to shake our hands. Before we knew what was happening, we each had a glass of local white wine and a mouthwatering plate of bruschetta in front of us, dripping with their best olive oil. We were beginning to feel like family!

When I suggested a photo, Mr. Angelini broke into a smile, grabbed my hand as we ran to the front of the store where we all posed for what will be a special memory for us.

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The Way of St. Francis: The Way to Assisi

The Way of St. Francis led us into Assisi yesterday, our ninth day of walking. We’ve covered 109 miles and endured 37,046 feet of elevation change. While the above photo appears to show a pleasant downhill stroll, in reality our day began and ended with steep climbs. All a distant memory today as we enjoy the sites of this beautiful city.

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The Way of St. Francis: A puzzling Assisi reception

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Our arrival at one of the most important religious places in the world did not go as expected. It left us puzzled.

The Basilica of St. Francis stands on the mountaintop in Assisi and sets a high bar for spectacular settings. We had completed the 109-mile pilgrimage from another icon of Catholicism, La Verna.

Now it was time to receive our Testimonium Viae Francisci, an official document honoring our walk on the Way of St. Francis.

“Come in, sit down,” said the brown-robed Franciscan monk, perhaps 25 or so.

A man in his 50s, in civilian dress, sat at a small table across from us in the Pilgrim Office in a building next to the grand Basilica. He was straight-faced, hands folded in front of him.

“Have some water, all you want. Drink, drink,” the monk implored us, pointing to several bottles and glasses on a counter in the tiny room. He burst into laughter. “Have some candy, have some candy,” he said as he waved a bowl in front of us. Laughing harder.

“Thank you, thank you, but we are fine,” we responded, turning our attention to the man at the table.

The older man said a few sentences in Italian and slid two forms across to us with pens. Sue handed him our pilgrim passports, which contained stamps from each of the nine places we had stayed on our journey.

As we filled out the forms, the monk continued to chuckle as his colleague seemed to battle bursting into laughter himself.

When they noticed that we wrote “Roma” for our destination, the monk said, “You will receive your testimonium at the Vatican then.” More laughter.

He saw the disappointment in our eyes.

“Would you like the blessing of St. Francis?”

He reached under the table. Was he going to sprinkle us with holy water? I looked at Sue, who returned my questioning look. I figured it would be rude to refuse.

“Yes, by all means,” I said.

I wondered what was next. Rather than a splash and solemn prayer, the monk pulled out two small certificates. More laughs from the monk and more Italian directed at us from the older man, still controlling an urge to giggle.

They both looked at us. Hmmm. The papers must be the blessing, I figured. As we got up to leave, we thanked them.

“You know, he speaks English,” the monk said, pointing to the man at the table. He laughed again. The other guy cracked a smile.

I am still puzzled by our visit. No questions about our journey. No “Why did you do the pilgrimage?”

Had we been part of a slapstick comedy routine? It was not what I expected after completing a walk that honors a saint.

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The Way of St. Francis: What Keeps Us Going?

There’s no doubt this is a difficult Pilgrimage, filled with highs and lows of all kinds. Yesterday we arrived at our hotel so wiped out that we couldn’t help but question the wisdom of walking The Way of St. Francis.

So, what keeps us going? Mornings like this one! When I asked at our hotel breakfast if it would be okay to take a photo, everyone jumped up, eager to pose and to get photos of their own. Instant camaraderie! We even got a blessing of sorts from the nun who was sharing our table. That just might come in handy in the days to come.

We met this adventurous Canadian couple at dinner several nights ago and have seen them on the trail several times over the last few days. They are incredibly fast walkers, but slowed down long enough this morning to join our breakfast club.

Vito is another strong walker who calls Milan home. As we ate our lunch trailside yesterday, he came striding around bend, stopping to chat for a moment. We were able to wish him a “Buon Cammino” this morning as he set a fast pace out of town.

Tonight we find ourselves in the beautiful town of Assisi. More about that later!

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The Way of St. Francis: Which Way Do We Go?

We’re always a little unsure of finding our way when we begin a distance trail. With so many trails converging from La Verna (where we began) and leading to Assisi, markers can be a little confusing…

Armed with our guidebook, and for the first time, a satellite trail map to follow with Galileo Pro, we set off with a fair measure of confidence, on the lookout for the red and white stripes.

Exactly one week ago, we stepped through this rickety gate, passing the first trail marker which would lead us along The Way of St. Francis.

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The Way of St. Francis: Hanging Out In Gubbio

We were afraid we’d miss touring the Basilica of St. Ulbaldo, perched high above the city of Gubbio. On our rest day we had no intention of conquering another peak on foot. However, when an alternative presented itself, we were first in line to hop aboard!

Seemingly hanging from a thread, the baskets of the Funivia Colle Eletto (or cableway) whisked us to the top of the mountain with only a mild case of sweaty palms.

I managed to loosen my grip long enough to take this photo…notice the dog calmly enjoying the ride along with the rest of us.

The views at the top were spectacular!

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The Way of St. Francis: Wildflowers Are Blooming

Spring is in full bloom on The Way of St. Francis.

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The Way of St. Francis: Italian Trekkers Lift our Spirits

Fresh from a wonderful stay at Le Rasse Country House, just outside of Citerna, we joined fellow Italian trekkers for a quick photo before setting out on our rather grueling (see last post) day of ups and downs. We’d see them several more times throughout the day.

A herd of cattle paused briefly when we interrupted their lunch.

The city of Città di Castella spread out below us, creating quite a contrast to the farms and forests of the last few days.

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The Way of St. Francis: Snapshots of Our Day

Our journey today was a short on miles but the change of scenery could not have been greater. After a leisurely breakfast, we left the bustling city of Sansepolcro behind. With just eight miles ahead of us, we set our compass towards Citerna, a quaint village perched atop surrounding valleys.

A quick stop for that energizing second cup of coffee found us sharing the bar with local farmers.

The village of Citerna dominated the skyline and guided us up.

We shared refreshments and conversation with a pair of fellow trekkers, Federico and Kasia, before heading downhill to our lodging for the night.

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