It was another short day in the sunny, warmer climate around Lake Bolsena. Despite many steep but short climbs and descents in the mountains overlooking the lake, some of the forest trails that we had today were the best that we have seen in Italy.
The short day also led to the late start and dawdling again. I suppose we are just realising that the hardest of days are behind us and we have a week of short to normal length days ahead. We only have one week left. Again today, we started walking like its a stroll in the park but at the first of those steep hills that we got to, the Francigena reminded us that we are not in Rome yet.
While the routes today were often on mountain trails and several bits in very lovely, shaded forest paths, this was the first day that I was not impressed by the trail signage. They have obviously made some recent changes in the route and old signs were still in place, competing with new ones and there were some forks or turns that had no signs at all. I hope that is not what the next six days are like. The GPS came in very useful today.
One of the more unusual recent changes in the route is a detour just before entering the outskirts of Montefiascone that added about 600m to the distance today. When the new sign said to turn right but my GPS route said to turn left, I tried to figure out the reason for the change. It appeared that they just wanted us to pass the church of San Pancrazio. With a name like that, I was intrigued and took the new route. Sure enough, as we approached the church, the VF signs directed us walk up the very steep driveway where, in front of the church, was a sign that said it was exactly 100km from the tomb of St. Peter in the Vatican City. Wow, that was cool. Wait a second though… I know we have more than 100km to walk. I wonder if that distance is “as the crow flies”. I checked my GPS. No, that wasn’t it. Rome is 80km away by that reckoning. I wondered, then checked the GPS: how far is it to drive to Vatican City? The GPS suggested the most direct route to St. Peter’s Square. It was exactly 100km. So what!?!? We walked a extra 600m to see a sign about the driving distance left before arriving in Rome!?!? In the words of the prophet, written on the subway walls, “What the hell???”
Again, we know there are other pilgrims around because we saw them in Bolsena yesterday and we’ve already seen a few who we recognise here in Montefiascone. I’m just going to make the assumption that they start walking earlier than we do. We only saw two people in our direction today and they both were carrying day packs. They also had a small dog in tow. I do not think they were doing much more than a portion of today’s walk. We did meet two Auusie ladies who said they were walking from Viterbo to Oviedo over five days. I have heard of Oviedo before but was having trouble placing just where it was on a map. I just checked, it’s in northern Spain near Leon. I guess I did not hear her right.
I’ve said before that one of the joys of walking these long trails is when you first see the city or village that is your destination for the day. It gives you a goal and tells you that you are close. This is, however, not always the case. As with Radicolfani, Montefiascone, sits high on a hill that is easy to see from a great distance. While beautiful, it can also be disheartening. “We have all the distance to go, then, we have to climb that!!!” Uggh.
We were promised some trails today along Roman roads but I believe that part must have been cut out by the recent changes. Over the walks in Spain, I learned to recognise Roman roads and I am pretty sure there were none today. We did pass by some ruins and a necropolis from more than two thousand years ago but I had to rely on a sign to tell me that. We didn’t see anything like that at all. The sign was near a beautiful shaded picnic area though and maybe, I was just admiring that too much.
We have not had gelato for a while so our promise for the day was to stop in the first gelateria that we saw along the route. I nearly died of impatience though because there was not a single store of any sort along today’s route until we arrived in Montefiascone. Furthermore, the first cafe or bar that we saw that sold ice cream was the one attached to our hotel. The promise was that we would have a gelato before checking into the hotel or even having lunch or another snack. Much to our horror, the only ice cream they had downstairs was Walls, Magnum and other mass produced crap. Fortunately, just across the square was a real gelateria and I had the best, smoothest, creamiest, sweetest, mouthwatering caramel ice cream in the world. I darn near got a second helping right away.
For those following us, we used Booking.com again. We are fast becoming their top customers. The lodging for the day is an economy room at the Hotel Italia & Lombardi, just across the piazza / seven-way intersection from the gate to the old town. At 49€, it is closer to our budget. They only have wi-fi on the first floor and we are on the top floor, as far to the back as possible. That actually turned out well because there is a huge balcony outside our door, just perfect for stringing up our clothesline. With the sun and wind, we washed almost everything and it dried in about a half hour. You gotta love solar power.
Peace y’all. (And congratulations to Manchester United and Louis van Gaal)