I am going to walk the 560km St Francis Way from Florence to Rome through Tuscany, and Umbria across the Apennine mountains during the month of October 2017. It a hard walk and quite isolated compared to other classic pilgrimage walk in Europe.
After spending a fair bit of time planning the trip there is a clear lack of depth in the information on the region and walk. That and the desire to learn a new skill and become a stronger digital native inspired me to create this blog.
Taking advantage of an opportunity to reflect & rejuvenate
Information and links for people considering the walk
A map and details of the walk
A day by day guide with some pics along the way
Follow my Journey Here
Today I completed the walk to Rome with a 35km walk from Monterotondo to the Vatican. The longest day in the walk. It’s only been 25 days. I have had an amazing journey through the spine of Italy, both physically challenging and intellectually stimulating whilst embracing the Italian people, culture, history and food. Thanks to[…]
I love Italian food. Has it made a bigger impact on world food than the French? I don’t know, but I sure am enjoying my lasagne tonight?
Today was a long walk at 29km. It continued in the vein of the walk so far; both natural and man-made beauty. It’s as if an architect sculptured out the landscape two thousand years ago and has carefully managed it since.
I commented on breakfast yesterday, today 4 small pieces of round toast and a jar of home made apricot jam. Very tasty, but not the breakfast of a long distance pilgrim. A pistachio brioche addresses this when I get to town washed down with a good coffee.
On the positive side, the Agrtiturismo had some good beer to assist in recovery last night and spectacular views.
It brought me some sadness when I crossed the top of a hill after about 8km’s today and the broad expanse and civilisation of the Tiber Valley to Rome briefly same into view.
A big thanks for the 39 great people that have supported fund raising alongside my walk. It will assist the Black Dog institute who are helping many families, corporate organisations and communities create awareness and support to deal with the pressures of life that have a terrible impact on our community.
If you have not donated yet – you may via this link.
There are only 3 more day to walk ….. with about 80km’s left to Rome. And I am just getting in the groove. Seriously, there is an art to this. My day pack is must lighter than it was when I started, you will note I have not complained about my feet for maybe a week now.
Today is one of the big ones; about 900m climb and 1000m decline, in fact, I think it is the biggest single day on the walk.
I woke very early this morning with a bad dream, was it the mushrooms last night stimulating my sleep into places it should not go? Getting a good night sleep is fundamental to performance. People are asking me what I do at night; well after I write the blog. Last night I watched an episode of survivor but the night before a short facebook video on sleep. Blue light (computers, ipads, iphones etc) and bad and raspberries and structure are good. Where was I going with this; well I was a bit cranky around lunch today.
I love Italian’s, but I just don’t get their breakfast. This morning it was a selection of high sugar cakes, coffee and sweetened juice. This is being fed to people who are walking and need slow release energy. Amanda I have been listening.
On the positive side, I got a much more detailed response from Jack today following the video I try to send him each day (Jack is six and likes fighting, ninja’s etc but not writing). I was pleased but then Amanda tells me Jack found predictive text on his ipad….
The Walk to Ponticelli
First stop is revisiting the quaint little hilltop hamlet of Poggio San Lorenzo. I find a delicatessen (tick – Prosciutto, Pecorino and Pomodoro bagel for lunch), stop at a Bar for a Cappuccino (tick – 1 Euro, it was great) and head off looking for the remains of the Roman fortified walls.
After yesterday’ weather which was I’ll admit fun for a day, planning around weather for today was high on the list and there was good news. No rain forecast after 8am, 20kph winds but no rain.
Hotel Cavour was well situated in the city and I went for a walk through the old city before I left. Early Monday morning I quiet but it had a good feel and some intact Roman walls.
The Walk to Poggio San Lorenzo
The wall was easy largely following a river valley before climbing hills after about 10km’s. The autumn colours and clarity of the water in the streams are the 2 aspects I don’t tire of. But I prefer the hill walking, with the odd walled town or roman ruin.
Today it was forecast for rain and it looked pretty serious about it.
I said my goodbyes to Villa Tizzi, and the owner asked me if I wanted to buy it. It’s a good old building which obviously was successful probably 20 to 30 years ago. Her mum is the chef. It’s hard to see a viable business long term unless the Italian Government put’s some money behind promoting the walking trails as a broader form of Tourism.
Before I leave Villa Tizzi, I had a great starter salad last night. Very simple, very tasty. Champignons, Parmiagiana cheese, rocket with olive oil and balsamic. Deliciouso.
The Walk to Rieti
Today’s walk started went over Chantalice to La Foresta and onto Rieti. It was about 18kms and followed a ridgetop walk offering spectacular views and scenery (best when sunny!). I was optimistic, I had the new shoes on, it was not raining. As I had not visited the top part of town including the convent I did so before I started the actual walk.
I was heading up to the clouds the 12th century convent of San Giacoma which has several small medieval chapels and cells and a Grotto of Revelation where St Francis had 2 in 1208 which gave him the confidence to develop his order.
Villa Tizzi is great and I would recommend it to anyone wanting to stay in the area. I am the only one here, but still had a great dinner put on in a big restaurant full of tradition ( A Cardinal wrote his book here, whilst there is a huge history of celebrities and football[…]
I was looking forward to the walk today; although after almost 3 weeks I still feel a little intimidated by a 22km walk that climbs 1000m and declines 800m over 20+ km’s and takes 8 hours.
But today was special, the walk is to Poggio Bostone via Faggio San Francesco where St Francis was inspired by an old Birch tree. The tree is still there, over 800 years later so I was keen to see what it looked like.
I am writing this tonight on the balcony of a Villa Tizza Poggio Bustone; glorious views only impacted by the old man typing this as his weary legs create constant groans.
Last night I stayed at Hotel Miralago – beautiful position on the lake but the place is shutting down and their restaurant is closed. I am sent to a local restaurant which was ok. I ended up talking to Marie (a retired American lady interior designer) who is staying here for a few months on a daily budget of EUR50. She is here to see the ‘pyramids’. Yep; that’s what I thought and she then pointed out a number of the mountains nearby that are geometrically pretty uniform to a pyramid shape.
So if you are interested click here.
And later in the day I saw this mountain – go figure.
Walk to Poggio Bustone
I woke at just before 7 and ventured onto the balcony; it was cold, foggy, ducks quacking…… I was so chilled today just enjoying the diversity. I left around 9 for the walk of about 8 hours
It was an eerie start to the walk in the fog. Along the shoreline was the headquarters of Italian Rowing and I was heading that way; I stopped in and sent Maddie a few photos (she is training as Cox with the South Australian squad). We skype, as the fog began to clear is was so tranquil and beautiful.
It was a big day yesterday with the walk to Arrone – 35kms and steep tracks
Today’s walk to Piediluco which is situated on the shore of a lake was a welcome ‘cruise’.
It is beautiful country, travelling first through a valley of hilltop villages, before following a waterway to the lake and then the hotel.
For my efforts yesterday, I received a new Fitbit badge – I don’t find the branding cool but it’s another milestone. Note to Fitbit – try to be a bit more International. Zac perhaps a role for you.
Oh, and while we are on the subject of congratulations, Jack lost his first tooth today and has prepared his bag for the tooth fairy.
The dinner I have at Residence Fiocchi last night was quite good. Gnocchi with lamb and whole brown trout. The serving of my white wine was a little unusual though but the taste is all that matters and it passed there.
Walk to Piediluco
It was the coldest it’s been this morning and I started with more clothes than previously, long top, sleeveless vest and walking t-shirt and while it started off very cold ~ only 6 degrees, it quickly turned into another glorious Italian day, I would de-layer as I went.
When I signed off yesterday I was a little worried about getting the 2 tough stages in today.
The walks in the St Francis Way book are recorded as hard to Ceselli (about 15km’s) and easy to Arrone (another 15km’s) with an estimated walk time of 11 hours 15 minutes. This time of year, we only have about 11 hours of sunlight.
But the earthquake last year destabilised the 13th century aqueduct which was used to cross the ravine and a detour of 2 to 3km’s was required. So, I woke early before the alarm keen to get going and was down having breakfast at 7am sharp. Breakfast was pretty good; muesli, yoghurt, salami and cheese on brown, cappuccino, pineapple juice (2 glasses) and a banana stolen away for morning tea. Yes, I know it sounds a lot but 11 hours of walking ….
I was out the door at 730; picked up a panini for lunch, topped up the camelback and away we went paying close attention to the routing notes for the diversion.
I am writing this pre-dinner in my room. Arrone is super quiet but I have to accompany me some great Montefalco Umbrian red, mature Sardinian Pecorino (the Italians keep the good stuff for themselves including pilgrims) and some amazing local salami. I have to say this is one of life’s great pleasures.
Ok now back to the walk.
Walk to Ciselli
The diversion was tough. The first km was up, up, up. I was dreading I didn’t have the routing quite right and would have to retrace but I persevered for another 500m and confirmed I was on the right track. The diversion gave some great photos of Spoleto, the dramatic fort, Rocco Albornoziana and the aqueduct.
The immense fortress with its dominant position over the landscape. The climb begins well below it.
The city of Spoleto. Great place but really guys, restaurants and bar only opening at 7pm. Shops closed until 430pm. I had 2 places lines up to visit but with dinner at 8 in my own hotel some 15 minutes’ walk away …
Today the official plan was to walk a casual 12km to Spoleto mainly along the valley floor. But last night Federica suggested a different routing following the mountain sides, a little bit longer, a lot steeper but a lot more interesting. So off I went …. But before I do, I just want to acknowledge[…]