Day 19: May 28, 2017 Monte Sacro to Vatican City, Rome 15.4k/9.6miles

Today’s post is from the last day of our pilgrimage, The Way of Saint Francis of Assisi. This post is coming late. Eleven days late to be exact. By no means does its delay reflect the incredible journey it was. 

Another day of off and on light rain was the forecast for today. Not what I had hoped for on my last day of walking and the day we would enter Vatican City and complete our pilgrimage. Good thing the forecast was wrong. 

What could have been a dreary, awful day turned out to be wonderful. 

We took the bike path along the Tiber River into Rome. The path was a bit overgrown and the weight of the water on the bamboo leaves made the branches arch onto the path. We had to dodge and duck through the leaves. It wasn’t terrible for walking, but it made it seem a lot less like a city bike path and more like a jungle. 

It wasn’t long before the skies cleared, we were able to take off our rain gear and the rest of the day was rain free. 

Our group started this trip as three and today we are eleven. I didn’t know any of these friends (except Ed) before I walked the Camino De Santiago last year, but by the end of that journey, we were a Camino Family. We knew at the end of that journey that we weren’t finished, but I had no idea this is where we would be today.  

During this journey we would often start at different times, walk in different small groups and leap-frog with one another, occasionally walk alone for a bit, throughout the day. 

Today we decided to walk the final part of our pilgrimage together as a group, a Camino Family, into Vatican City. It is said, “It doesn’t matter who arrives first, that we arrive together is the most important”. And that is what we did. After 210 miles of hills, challenging rural trails, long hard days on asphalt, lunch stops with amazing views, blisters and blisters on those blisters, laughing, more hills, sore feet, sore muscles, swollen legs, singing in the hills, aching backs, wrong turns, miles of vineyards and olive groves, ancient hill top villages, the most wonderful hosts and with the best pilgrim friends we all made it to the end together. The Basilica in Saint Peter’s Square in the middle of Rome. 

We took our time, enjoying each others company, taking too many photos and making sure we didn’t miss a thing. All of a sudden, there it was. The dome of the Basilica way off in the distance. We were almost there. I couldn’t wait, but at the same time, this was it and I didn’t want it to be over.  The end of this amazing journey. 

We left the Tiber River bike path and headed up the steeep steps into the bustle of the city. The blue and yellow Way markings that were on trees and rocks were now on the pavement with the markings of many other pilgrimages, all ending at the Basilica. 

Here we are in front of St Peter’s Square, our group of eleven plus Angela from Germany who joined us the last couple days. We did it. 

Now to get our final stamp at the Basilica. We arrived at a little after 1:00 and went to the Pilgrims’ Welcome Office just to find out that the Sacristy in the Basilica closes at 1:00. We would need to return tomorrow for our final stamp. 

The priest at the Pilgrims’ Office stamped our passports and gave us a brochure with instructions on how to get to the Sacristy in the Basilica the next morning. He also gave us a Testimonium (the certificate of completion) just in case we weren’t able to get it the next day. 

I was happy to have the Testimonium, but this was pretty anticlimactic. Without checking our Pilgrim’s Passports to make sure we completed the journey as required, he gave us each the paper and told us we could fill it out later. I’m looking forward to getting mine at the Basilica in the morning. 

Ron and Trisha booked a wonderful AirB&B for our stay in Rome. Trisha and I decided to take advantage of the TINY kitchen and make a meal for our group. While Susan and Gayle wandering the streets of Rome in search of dinner wine and Lemoncello, they ran into our pilgrim friends from Holland, Sandra and Esther, and invited them to join us for dinner. How fun! We have a small kitchen but a big table and by using the coffee table as a bench, we made space for two more. 

We were tired of eating out and Trisha and I found another common bond. We both like grocery markets in foreign countries and cooking for hungry people. Ron and Ed joined us on our quest to find a market and buy food for dinner. They may not be as fond of shopping as we are, foreign markets or not. But together, they could support eachother during our search for perfect ingredients and make it a good time. 

This dinner was fun, especially when it turned into a talent contest. Gayle and Ron sang a song they had been practicing while walking, Sandra and Ed ended up with a push-up competition (Ed won, but dang, Sandra is a machine) Trisha and Ron did a lively traditional Scottish dance that Trisha used to teach her students. The only thing that would have made it better was a kilt. Then, Craig calmly stood up, took off his sweatshirt, and in a very controlled manor slid down into full splits. Left, right and center. He was clearly the winner but didn’t finish there. The finale was a headstand with splits in the air. Wow, he’s 68. 

After a good night’s sleep, we headed to the Basilica in search of the stamp and Testimonium from the Sacristy. This was by far the most challenging part of the pilgrimage. Not physically, but it sure did take determination and stamina. After being turned away at several areas, most of the group headed to the Swiss guards at the left of the Basilica. I decided to go to the right, where the brochure the priest at the Pilgrim Welcome Center gave us suggested. The line was huge, probably three hours long. A officer noticed I was holding my Pilgrim’s Passport and the desperate look on my face and told me to follow him. He didn’t speak English, but somehow knew what I was after. I followed him to the front of the line, through closed gates with “no entry” signs, through the security check points, past the Swiss guards, through the Basilica and into the Sacristy. I took pictures of him in front of me, but another guard saw and made me delete them all in front of him. The Sacristy was calm and peaceful with just a few monks and nuns walking silently. 

I finally got the Basilica Stamp and the completed Testimonium from the Sacristy. What a great feeling. 

Now my pilgrimage down the spine of Italy on The Way of Saint Francis of Assisi is complete. What an adventure, following the routes that Saint Francis once took, stopping at places where miracles occurred so long ago. 

I could not have done it without my camino family. Maybe I could have, but it wouldn’t have been the same. This is a very different journey than the Camino De Santiago. I think I would have been very lonely without the companionship of friends. We rarely met other pilgrims on the route and towns were far and few between. The spiritual aspect was wonderful as I read and learned of the importance each area held. 

I am already planning my 2018 journey. 

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Day 18: Monterotondo to Monte Sacro 19.3k/12 miles

B&B Domus Citta’ Giardino

We start out each morning as prepared as we can be. Each of us use our favorite resources to calculate distance, ascents, descents, services available between towns, weather and where we’re going to stay that night. The next day’s walk is usually the topic of conversation at dinner and around the hostel, hotel or B&B that evening. I have a couple favorite resources. 

The evening before, I usually read the next day’s stage from Sandy Brown’s guide book, Trekking The Way of St Francis book. It gives suggested kilometers with maps and shows elevation graphs along with other helpful information. 

But my FAVORITE resource of all is Susan! She’s the one I met last year on the camino in Spain and was the first one to commit to walking this pilgrimage with me in Italy. Good thing, I can’t imagine doing this without her. She started researching this route last summer and has made our overnight reservations for our entire group for this entire pilgrimage. She’s been our travel director and accountant and has made our pilgrimage perfect. 

Every evening Susan sends a Facebook message to our group with a dropped pin that tells us the name and location of where we are headed. All we have to do is walk and find the right place at the end. 

Today was the first day that we had to walk in the rain. But it wasn’t a hard rain and it was off and on for just the morning. I would just get my poncho on then it would stop and I’d get hot and take it off then it would drizzle again. But I would take that over an all day downpour anyday. 

Oh, the poncho. Maybe if it was a better color, I might like it more. I doubt it, though, I really just want sunshine. But this is the first day of rain since I started this pilgrimage, so I’m trying to be positive in my olive green poncho. 

We passed more pilgrims on the trail today than any other day so far. There was a large group of 16 people walking from Denmark. And a couple of other random people with packs. But mostly we passed dogs and sheep. Lots of sheep. 

After walking throug fields and farmlands we finally came to the suburbs and busy streets of Rome. Even though I prefer country roads and wooded paths over city streets, I do love the cafes that come along with the cities. This was a great coffee shop and the barista was fantastic. He made our eight cappuccinos faster than I ever thought possible. Angela from Germany and Esther and Sandra from Holland walked with us again today. Too bad we didn’t meet them until the last couple days of our journey. It’s been great getting to know them. Looks like our pilgrim family grows again. 

As we arrived at our B&B we had to say good bye to the two Dutch girls. Their schedule put them in Rome tonight and we’re stopping here and heading to Rome tomorrow. Angela followed us to the B&B to see if there were any extra beds, she doesn’t book ahead and just looks for a place as she arrives in town. She isn’t lucky enough to be traveling with a Susan. 

Lucky for Angela, one of our rooms had four beds and we only had three people in it. Lucky for Ed and I, we are in a room with one double bed and a private bath. That doesn’t happen too often on pilgrimages like this. 

This might be out last dinner together with the entire eleven in our group. What a great group it is. Each one brings a unique aspect and I am so glad they were on this journey with me. It’s hard to imagine that I didn’t know any of them before I started my pilgrimage on The Camino De Santiago a little over a year ago. 

Except Ed, I have known him for a while. We will be celebrating our 25 year anniversary this Monday, May 1. What a great place to celebrate! 

Tomorrow we will walk into St Peter’s square in the center of Rome and this pilgrimage will come to an end. 

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Day 16: Ponticelli to Montelibretti 13.5k/8.33 miles

Overnight Accomodations: B&B I Due Gelsi

The suggested stage today is 29.8k with a fair amount of steep inclines, so we decided to split the day into two short stages giving us plenty time to catch up on laundry, visit the area, rest and visit with eachother. Good call. 

The olive groves we walked through are a little different today. The trees are much bigger and older. We asked a local farmer how old they were and he said over 450 years. Wow. 

We were happy to see both a produce stand and farmacia as we passed through the small towns, two essential stores during this pilgrimage. I got a banana and orange at the fruit store and some allergy cough drops at the farmacia. I love the little pharmacies. 

Not many cars and no other pilgrims passed us on the route today, but we did meet lots of farmers and tractors. 

The view from my room is a little different tonight. It’s a tiny balcony with today’s laundry drying in the sun. Although not as good as the mountains and fields, it’s kind of a good feeling to see the sun shining and know I’ll have clean dry clothes tomorrow. 

Tonight’s dinner was especially fun. The waitress heard us talking about playing guitar when we were on the Camino. She called her sister and had her bring a guitar for Ron to play and Gayle belted out her latest version of The Camino Blues. Almost everyone took a turn with their own verse. Barb’s was The Camino Bunion Blister Blues and Bob’s was The Camino Hayfever Blues. 

The evening ended as it usually does, with Craig practicing yoga and bending himself in all sorts of ways. This time Susan and Gayle joined him. Craig has been practicing yoga for over 50 years and teaching for over 20. He’s the most flexible guy I’ve ever seen.  And he’s 67. 

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Day 15: Poggio San Lorenzo to Ponticelli 23.2k/14.42

Total Ascent: 821m/2,694 feet

Total Descent: 1015m/3,330 feet

Overnight Accomodations: Casale Delle Stelle
This morning’s walk was full of beautiful views of Italian fields and distant mountains. We stopped too often for the perfect shot just to find another amazing view right around the next turn. 

We had a lot of long steep uphill climbs followed by even more steep descents down country tractor paths and natural wooded trails. Nothing about today was flat. 

Some days the route is well marked and other days, not so much.  Today’s signage seemed to be recently redone and we found the blue and yellow trail markings often and accurate. 
It wasn’t long before Ron, Trish and Bob were far ahead and out of sight. Still not sure if its because Beth, Gayle and I were taking to many pictures or just really slow on the hills.

We arrived at a small gravel road at the top of a trail and immediately noticed new laminated signs clearly pointing to the right. We naturally headed the way the signs pointed. I checked the GPS just to make sure and it showed us off course, we looked back and noticed a metal sign, slightly hidden by overgrown trees, on a post pointing in the opposite direction of the laminated signs. Hmmm. We decided to follow the GPS track and metal sign instead of the laminated ones (it was shorter). 

There are often farmers working in the fields as we pass through and we greet them with our best, “buongiorno” (good day). They always respond with a smile and a wave and occasionally assume we speak Italian and try to start a conversation. It doesn’t take long before they realize we’re Americans and don’t speak more that the “buongiorno” that we already proudly said. 

This happy farmer not only responded to our “buongiorno” but rattled off a bunch of Italian that we couldn’t mistake for “wait right there”. He rushed over to a stash of freshly picked produce, filled his hands and insisted we take it. We didn’t really know what it was, but I love cute Italian farmers and I love free stuff. 

We stuffed Beth’s pack full of this green goodness and off we went. Happy pilgrims with mystery fresh produce. We assumed we would cook it the next time we had kitchen access. 

It wasn’t long before the speed demons, Bob, Ron and Trisha came up the trail be hind us. They took the turn to the right following the laminated signs and never noticed the metal sign. They learned that the laminated signs were put up to direct pilgrims off course to a small cafe that hoped to benefit from the traffic of passing pilgrims. Too bad it was closed when they passed by. It did give us a chance to not only catch up but get ahead. 

Trisha immediately recognized our bounty sticking out of Beth’s backpack, identified it as “broad beans” and showed us how to peel and eat it. No prep work needed. Just pop off the tip and pull it back to expose the pods inside. It was a perfect treat for our first snack break of the day. 

Maybe this isn’t the best spot for our second snack break. 

We were hoping to go into the Church of Saint Victoria, but after the last earthquake it was declared unsafe and closed to visitors. I tried my best to be able to enter “at our own risk” but was unsuccessful this time. 

Another successful shortcut, right down the edge of a olive orchard. 

Susan left a piece of Gayle’s orange travel towel on the hostel’s sign so we wouldn’t miss our turn. Did I mention that Gayle brought an abundance of travel essentials and she graciously shared anything she could to lighten her load. We each got a piece of her microfiber towel, which came in handy as sit-upons during breaks, to dry feet after soaking them in creeks, snot rags and now trail markers. Thanks, Gayle. 

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Day 17: May 26, 2017 Montelibretti to Monterotondo 14.3k/8.9 miles   and….Ed’s Here! 

May 26, 2017

My favorite pilgrim of all, Ed joined us in Monterotondo today. Now we are a group of 11 pilgrims strong. 

As soon as we started walking this morning we noticed two people getting out of a car that looked like pilgrims. Sure enough, two people from Holland were also following the way of Saint Francis to Rome. They were hiking during their two week holiday. Last year they hiked the Camino De Santiago in Spain and this year decided on Italy, seems to be a trend. 

Sandra and Esther (from Holland) are in the front, on the right. Beth took this picture and Susan was tending to a leg issue. 

It didn’t take long before we stopped at the side of the road and took off a couple layers of clothes and added another helping of sunblock. 

We mostly shared the road with tractors again today as we walked on farm roads as far as the eye could see. 

There was the perfect second breakfast stop with picnic tables under an old wooden pavilion with a big open field. 

This is where we met Angela from Germany, another pilgrim. 

After walking 500 miles on The Camino De Santiago last year and almost three weeks of hiking this year, Beth developed a small blister under her baby toe. Ouch! 
The picnic area was marked with this sign. Too bad none of us speak Italian. 

The two Dutch girls walked with is all day and the German lady joined us after our break. They all ended up staying at the same hotel as us at Monterotondo. It’s fun to have fellow pilgrims join us, reminds me of the Camino. 

It wasn’t long before we noticed three other people walking up the field toward the picnic tables. Craig, Tony and Barb caught up and joined the party. 

More fields, distant mountain ranges, narrow paths and rocky farm roads and we finallly arrived at today’s final destination. 

The fountain in front of our hotel. 

Yay, Ed’s here!!! Ed flew into Rome this morning after a long overnight flight, dropped our “travel” bag off at a storage unit near the B&B we’ll be staying in after we walk into Rome, took a train and a couple buses and finally arrived in Monterotondo. Just to wake up tomorrow morning and walk with us back to Rome. I’m so glad he’s here. 

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Day 14: Rieti to Poggio San Lorenzo 21.8k/13.55

Total Ascent: 499m/1637 feet

Total Descent: 377m/1,237 feet

Overnight Accomodations: Agriturismo Santa Giusta 

We arrived in Rieti as eight and after busy day of rest are leaving as ten. So happy to have Trisha and Ron from Scotland join our pilgrim family. We have a lot of catching up to do. Good thing we have eight hours of walking ahead of us tomorrow. I walked with Ron a lot last year on The Camino De Santiago and was entertained and enlightened by him along the way. His wife, Trisha, joined him for the last week into Santiago, so I was lucky to get to know her as well. 

More walking through the farmlands of Italy. 

Ron always one step ahead, pointing out the Way

And here’s the daily lunch update that everyone’s been waiting for: more local cheese, Italian sausage, another banana, some chips from Tony, a cookie from Susan. I sure do miss the coffee shops and cafes of Spain. 

Today we were lucky to stumble upon picnic tables along side an old Roman bridge in the middle of nowhere at just the right time for a lunch stop. Our entire group ended up here at about the same time. The slower walkers usually leave a little earlier, the faster walkers like to stop a bit more for pictures and when everything lines up just right, we’re all about the same place around lunch time. 

The weather, views and company were all perfect today. 

It’s always a good feeling when we pass a sign letting us know we’re heading in the right direction and we’re close to our final destination. 
Yay, we made it. Agriturismo Santa Giusta is a beautifully renovated old home in the middle of olive fields surrounded by mountains. 

We got in early enough to relax in the sun, do a little poolside yoga and get our laundry on the line. 

This Agriturismo is run by a couple and their two young adult children. The daughter and father made the most delicious meal for us. 

Another great day of walking and incredible evening in the Italian countryside comes to an end. 

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Day 13: Rest/Tour Day in Rieti, Italy 

Our friends from Scotland that we met last year on The Camino De Santiago joined us today.

Back row: Barb (Missouri), Craig (California), Tony (Nevada), Trisha and Ron (Scotland), Bob and Beth (Florida) Front row: Susan (Florida), Gayle (North Carolina), me, Rita (B&B owner), Andre Cason (famous athlete that joined our tour, google him)

We stayed another night in Rieti at La Terrazza Fiorita as scheduled. This place is amazing. We are awkwardly packed in like sardines, but the fabulous B&B owner, Rita, more than makes up for our lack of comfortable space.

Meet Rita, the B&B owner. She is an archeologist that has worked all over the world and has recently returned to her home town of Rieti, opened a B&B, written dozens of books (in both English and Italian), speaks many languages, has started “Rieti Underground” tour company and leads amazing and informative tours of Rieti’s ancient underground system as well as the above ground areas of interest.
The yellow building in the middle is the B&B.

This attic room was shared by Barb, Ron, Tricia and Susan

Gayle and I shared the attic loft

Directly under the attic loft was a small space with two twin beds for Tony and Craig.

The tiny bathroom 6 of us shared. Don’t stand up.

Craig on the B&B balcony

The following pictures are of the Underground Rieti tour. I’m getting too far behind on the blog, so I’ll just throw in a some pictures and you all can figure it out. 

When I saw this interesting pilgrim on the street in front of the Cathedral I had to introduce myself. She started walking the Camino De Santiago in Spain over a year ago and hasn’t stopped. She walked from Santiago de Compostela to Rome and is now heading North on the Way of Saint Francis, the same route that we are taking except we are headed South. She is going all the way to Canterbury, England. 

We compared our pilgrims’ passports. She just got out a few of hers. Wow-impressive!! I’ve got some work to do. 

We stopped by the local market to get lunch supplies for tomorrow. 

And of corse, our evening was topped off with a delicious Italian meal.

Are you all tired of my blue puffy jacket yet? 

So this is just a touch of what we did during our “day off”. Back to the trail tomorrow.

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Day 12: Poggio Bustone to Rieti 17.8k/11.07 miles

Total Ascent: 395m/1,296feet
Total Descent: 745m/2,444feet

Overnight accommodations: B&B La Terrazza Fiorita

It was another cold morning as we headed down the steep alleyways to the gravel road just below Poggio Bustone that leads out of town and through the forested Apinne Mountains.

It wasn’t long befor we noticed a path to the right that split from the gravel road and lead into the woods. Having just been challenged a bit beyond our comfort zone the day before, we paused. But just for a minute. And then we took the natural route.

The blue arrow is where we entered the woods.

The wooded path was very well marked

This alternate route was a gentle walk through the woods. We made the right choice.

It wasn’t long before we met up with the guys, who left just a little earlier than us girls did this morning. We decided to let the temperature rise a few more degreese before our start.

Craig, me and Tony with the hillside town, Cantilice in the background

The view of Cantilice was beautiful with ancient stone houses and clay shingled buildings  on top of each other, clinging to the side of the hill.  We stopped for a second breakfast as we passed through the center of town and stocked up on lunch stuff. They had a large selection of prepackaged sandwiches that looked okay.

Going out of town was more up steep steps and alleys. How do the old people in this town do it?

We stopped several times to enjoy the views and take pictures, or maybe just to catch our breath.

Our path took us by farms, olive groves and grape vineyards, all with spectacular views. We could see the snow capped mountains in the distance.

We passed two pilgrims from Austria, two from Italy and four from France today, so we are starting to see more life on the trail. We met an American couple from Washington state last night in town but haven’t seen them on the trail yet.

Today’s lunch was at a quiet grassy area just off the trail with typical foot maintenance on the side. It helps to let our feet breathe and get a chance to let our socks dry out in the middle of the day.

We ate the very last of Susan’s dried apricots from Florence(I’m going to miss those), a few pieces of cheese left over from Aronne, the prepackaged tuna fish on white bread that I bought the town before (I’m the only one that found it edible) and a chocolate stuffed croissant that came with me from this mornings B&B breakfast.

Some people reapply bandages and change to different socks. I’m happy to report, my feet are still going strong. My morning foot routine is simply putting on my Vermont Darn Tough socks and broken in Hoka hikers. (I’m still waiting for their people to call my people). The first couple days I lathered up my feet with Aquaphor, but skipped it one day and ended up fine. So that took my three step process (Aquaphor, socks, shoes) down to just two.
Some of the most beautiful feet on the trail:

Our next significant stop on The Way of Saint Francis was Santiario La Foresta.
This is where Saint Francis would come when he needed a quiet place for prayer and respite from the crowds. As his sight began to fail him, he stayed here for more than 50 days and his followers  eventually caught up with him and assembled in the surrounding vineyards. They survived by eating the entire year’s crops of grapes leaving the farmers with nothing to produce wine with, destroying their chances of any earnings for that year. They went to St Francis to tell him of their misfortune. St Francis instructed them to bring what was left of their grapes to the wine press near the church. The few grapes produced double the previous year’s crop. This is now known as “the Miracle of the Wine”. A Convent was built here and pilgrims and tourist from all over the world stop here to pay their respect to St Francis.

A beautiful outdoor Stations of the Cross lines the entry way to the Santuario de Foresta.

The following pictures look just like any other picture of us passing through a small town. But this town was special in its own way. If you look closely, you will see the small blue and white universal restroom sign on the side of the building. That’s a tourist spot we couldn’t pass up. I’ve become an expert in using “natural” toilets, but when there’s a porcelain one available, I’ll take it. Even if it doesn’t have a seat, a light or toilet paper. It had a door and I always carry a couple squares in my back pack.

We entered the town of Rieti and had to walk another 4k into the walled section of this amazing town.

We followed the emailed directions to the most fabulous B&B in the town center. It’s an amazing place, but I’m anxious to explore the city, so that’s it for now.

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Day 11: Labro to Poggio Bustone 17.2k/10.69 miles

Total Ascent: 878m/2,880feet

Total Descent: 662m/2,171feet
Overnight accommodations: San Francisco Suites

The views looking back at the town of Labro were impressive, especially when you leave on foot then stop and realize how far you’ve gone.

Saint Francis would walk through these mountains during all sorts of severe weather, and he did it without a Patagonia nanopuff jacket. Today started at 42° and was the coldest and windiest day of our journey so far, which made my pack lighter since I had so many layers on. My extra pair of socks came in handy for gloves and Susan let me borrow an extra outer layer as well. 

One important stop today was at the beech tree that protected Saint Francis from the extreme weather. He took shelter under this tree during a storm in the early 1200s and by God’s command, the tree formed its branches around Saint Francis to protect him. It is said to be the largest and oldest beech tree anywhere with unusually twisted branches.

There is a small church at the top of the path that leads to the tree. Susan, Gayle, Beth and I decided to have our lunch at the side of this church because it faces the sun and would block us a bit from the wind. We wanted to have our lunch break at the tree, but it was in the shade with no protection from today’s strong winds. I’m glad the tree protected Saint Francis. He was probably a lot colder than we were.

Just as we were finishing up lunch, Craig, Tony and Barb came up the trail.

Lunch was leftover salami from last night’s feast, cheese that we have been carrying for since our happy hour on the balcony a few towns back and pastries that we swiped from this morning’s breakfast.

Time to get back on the trail, which means check our resources to see which way to go. We each seemed to have a different idea. There was a local guy in a car, so I asked him in my non existent Italian, “Via Francesco?” He obviously assumed I knew more than I do and rattled off his suggestion in italian. A couple words were close enough to Spanish that I understood if we stayed in the road to the left, it was a “comfortable” 10k or we could take a wooded path that was 6k. The 6k part also had the word difficult mixed in with his description.

The Sandy Brown guide book that most of us have been following suggested the path below marked in red. The natural wooded path started at the green circle and ended at the red circle and was less than 1k as the crow flies. It was not a straight path. 

After some discussion we decided on the wooded path. I always prefer a natural path over pavement.

We were happy to find trail markings right away and the trail was very well marked all the way down. 

It started out perfect, a natural path, my favorite kind. 

Then the trail got extremely steep with loose rocks and difficult footing.

This was the most challenging trail I have ever been on. The pictures don’t do it justice. I did a couple parts sliding down on my butt. Even though we saved 4 kilometers, we did not save any time, but I wouldn’t do it any other way. It’s great to throw in challenges like this every once in a while and everyone made it down safely. Maybe God was protecting us in other ways besides the beech tree today. I came here to step out of my comfort zone and today I did. 

The rest of the walk into Poggio Bustone was a breeze. Our legs were happy to be back on a comfortable trail.

This is the view from our B&B, overlooking the Reiti Valley.

Our host provided us with a nice breakfast to start the day. Cereal, toast and Nutella and more pastries. Good thing I kept the baggie from yesterday’s lunch, I’ll fill it with another one of these things and call it lunch. Hopefully we will pass a store to get something more nutritious to add to it. 

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Day 10: Arrone to Labro 19.3k/12 miles

Total Ascent: 403m/1,322feet

Total Descent: 152m/499feet

Overnight accommodations: Albergo Diffuso Crispolti

Last night the forecast for today was 60-80% chance of rain most of the day. When we left for the trail this morning it was down to 30% just for a couple hours. Guess what? No rain at all today. I am beyond happy about this. I walked in enough rain last year on the Camino to last a lifetime.

Today’s lunch stop was far from our usual patch of grass on the side of a rocky trail. Gayle, Susan and I went all out and stopped for lunch at a real restaurant in Piediluco, a small lakeside vacation town. The town was quiet. We were the only ones in the restaurant and practically the only ones on the street as we passed through. The traditional tourist season hasn’t started here yet.

Anyway, back to lunch… we shared seafood pasta, fried zucchini flowers, breaded local fish and grilled eggplant. All of it was delicious.

We could have stayed at our lakeside table all afternoon, but we could see Labro, our final destination town, way up on top of the mountain in the distance, from our seats and knew we needed to get moving. Labro is just 5 kilometers from Piediluco, but it’s ALL up hill. Not an easy hike, especially with a stomach full of deliciousness.

Getting closer. But, really, who decided to build way up there? 

Cars couldn’t even get up to this tiny town.

We went from steep rocky paths to steep narrow alleys as we entered the mountain top village. The views of the lake town below were amazing.

The view from my window.

The place we stayed was incredible. A Belgian architect and his wife (also an architect) bought the building in 1969 and started renovating it. They have since bought several other buildings in Labro and are known for not only keeping the town alive, but making it a thriving tourist and wedding destination.

Dinner was an eight course family style feast with unlimited wine at the local pizzeria.

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