2018

Day 84 – For a moment I thought we were back on the North Downs Way

“One of the most beautiful routes along the Via Francigena” says the AEVF app, referring to today’s 31km stage from San Gimignano to Monteriggioni. Beauty is subjective. The walk was through mixed oak woodlands and was just like the North Downs Way. Last night’s heavy rain turned the path into a slippery muddy mess and it was under water in places. It reminded me of our first few days when the NDW was flooded.

The day started at 5.45 when we made our way through the deserted streets of San Gimignano. All the cafes open at 6.00 so they refused to serve us. One lady actually hurled insults at us in Italian from the back room when we entered the empty shop and called out “Bonjourno”. Why not just unlock the door at the opening hour to save embarrassment?

It was 20km to the first bar, about four hours, so hardly surprising that the beauty of the walk escaped me. We passed under the dripping trees, occasionally skirting a derelict and abandoned farm. There was no Tuscan scenery. It really could have been Surrey. What a shame to spend all that money going to Tuscany only to discover that you’re still in Surrey.

Our Frizzante stop couldn’t have come much later. The barman produced the large bottle, the two little bottles of juice which are extraordinarily expensive, two large glasses but couldn’t understand ice. We tried charades without success. When we pointed to the empty glasses and made clink clink noises he pointed at the whisky bottles. When we shivered he pointed to the kettle. I gave up convinced he was doing it on purpose and retired to a table outside. But Paul then appeared with two glasses full of ice so the show was ready to start. After a lot of compromising we have reached the point where we pour our own Frizzante. Paul likes to pour the juice first, followed by the water. This is obviously wrong because the Frizzante always floats on top of the heavier juice and the drink now needs stirring. I pour the Frizzante first then add the juice in the style of a Tequila Sunrise. The result is spectacular. But should the barman get involved in the pouring, which often happened in the early days up near Aosta, then we would both shout at him No!

We rarely stop at the first bar when approaching a destination. As I walked past the first bar on the outskirts of Monteriggioni intent on reaching the town centre, Silvia came running out shouting “Tim!”. So we had to join her for a beer. I was concerned that we hadn’t bumped into her in San Gimignano but she had not only walked there without incident but had beaten us to Monteriggioni by taking a different route. Beginners luck. She decided to stay in the hostel by the bar but we pressed on to a hostel in the town.

We stopped at a restaurant while a massive storm hit, flooding everything. However the extra large bowl of pasta saved us from a soaking as it took so long to eat and we reached the hostel between downpours. Fortunately they had space for us.

Tomorrow: Ah Siena!

Crossing a swollen river after last night’s rain

It’s just like the North Downs Way

An abandoned chapel by an abandoned farmhouse

An active chapel

approaching the walled town of Monteriggioni. Tonight’s hostel is right in the middle

About Tim

Pilgrim on the Via Francigena

6 comments on “Day 84 – For a moment I thought we were back on the North Downs Way

  1. I thought you would realise by now, when an Italian shouts and screams at you it is because they are being extra friendly…

  2. Haha re your sarcasm.t thnx for.the laugh. pity about the mud

  3. Roger Clarkson

    For future reference: Potresti prendermi del ghiaccio? (Can you get me some ice?)
    From the same root as gelato
    Are you going in the wrong direction as The Pope is in Ireland this week?

    • Or, if you can’t remember that entire mouthful of Italian, just point to your glass and say “gee-ahch-io” per favore. πŸ™‚ (the “g” is soft like ghost, not like hard like in gelato)
      He still may pretend he doesn’t understand you, but at least you will have the satisfaction of knowing you gave it a shot in his language. Sounds like that’s a word that may be handy to add to cappuccino and frizzante for the rest of your walk, along with birra (beer) and ostello (hostel); or even letto (bed).

      • Hi DJ thanks for the help. We need that ice. I’m not sure how many days to Rome but there are 12 official stages from Siena and we have planned another rest day in Viterbo next week. So the latest day to arrive in Rome is Monday 3 September. But we may shave a day or two off that because some of the later stages are quite short. Thanks for sticking with me this long 😊

    • I hope he’s not away too long. I have a plane to catch!

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