The sun beat down mercilessly on us poor pilgrims yesterday afternoon in the main square of San Miniato. Our 1600 farmhouse hostel had no WiFi or 3G so I was cut off from my London based support team which includes the ghost writers for this blog and the photo desk which trawls the National Geographic archives to provide the photographs for the day’s walk, processed to resemble a snapshot from a Sony compact camera.
Paul and I returned to the farmhouse to face the consternation of the hospitalier for using the tumble dryer when the Tuscan sun was on offer outside. He was right, of course.
One more pilgrim had arrived during the afternoon, a woman named Silvia which seems to be a popular name in Italy. This latest Silvia is escaping from her teenage daughters back home near Venice by walking for four days from San Miniato to Siena. Apparently she has never walked before.
As evening fell, the farmhouse came to life. Not in a nice way. We sat down to dinner in the kitchen and had barely started the risotto when the cat (actually a kitten) arrived with something squealing in its mouth. It was a horrible sound and the cat was not in a playful mood. The mouse was doomed. Silvia jumped on a chair, Tom & Jerry style, while the Roman hospitaliers gathered around the makeshift amphitheater, cheering as the slaughter began. The pounding of the mouse was ceaseless and the cat jumped around the table like a crazed killer while Paul finished the last of the risotto. I’d had enough. I approached with the broom and the cat fled outside with its prey.
We could have kept a dozen cats busy all night. At one point (2am), something heavy landed on my bed but by the time I found the bedside lamp and switched it on, there was nothing to be seen. There was no electricity on our floor, two storeys up. A candle burned in the hallway and my lamp was the only light, fed by an extension lead emerging from a hole in the floor. In the next room, Silvia lay awake all night, she said.
When our alarm finally sounded we went downstairs for breakfast and discovered some poor soul had arrived in the night and was asleep on the sofa. Silvia appeared with her walking poles and asked if she could walk with us. So we three set off, Silvia on her first ever walk like a little branch loco coupled to the London to Rome Express.
We walked along a ridge for 24km, rising and falling with the terrain. The views were stunning. Everything you’d ever imagined Tuscany to be like. Blue skies, olive groves, vineyards, rolling hills, mustard coloured villas and dramatic hilltop villages. A hawk hanging in the air and the ceaseless chirping of crickets. It’s beautiful walking country.
There were no bars along the way but we did stop a couple of times to rest Silvia. At the end we three fell into the first bar on the outskirts of Gambassi Terme and called for Frizzante and juice. Silvia kindly paid and we dropped her off at the hostel while we went in search of a B&B. She was tired.
The Roman hospitalier, Paul and Silvia ready to depart. Note the kitten
Olive trees everywhere