“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