03 Jan Stage 10, Part 1: Trekking to Città di Castello
31 August 2017. A good night’s rest at Poggio Villa Fano was just what the doctor ordered. The necessary recovery from walking double the distance to Citerna, on Stage 9 of the Via Francigena di San Francesco, feels complete. My boots feel good on my feet. Niels and I begin again with a clean slate.
After having some of mamma innkeeper’s snacks, we set out at sunrise. Indications according to Sandy Brown’s book is that it’s a moderate walk today, of 20,3 km*. Three major ascents total 816 m and descents 938 m. We are well stocked with water because we have to go a long way before we can replenish our resources.
A Good Start
This time we make sure of our bearings. Our first landmark is a tiny chapel before we pass the last of the houses and head downhill through pastures. The sun begins to catch the top of the hills around us, colouring them in the special light of dawn. Walking feels good. Niels, as usual, is way ahead of me. For now, I can keep him clearly in sight.
In the distance, we see the town of Monterchi, beautifully bathed in light as the sun gets high enough. St Francis spent some time ministering in this town.
I’m thankful that we won’t be walking too far along the SS 221 highway. Soon the silence of wooded hills envelops us. Occasionally there is a parting in the foliage, which presents us with beautiful views of the landscape. The first ascent brings us to Agriturismo Le Burgne. We are too early for breakfast or coffee.
Soon after we reach another landmark: the stylish Borgo di Celle hotel. We soon come into sight of the Castle of Santa Maria Tiberina in the distance, dominating the landscape around it (featured image at the beginning of the post). In the valley, we break for snacks and water. I still must pinch myself. I’m walking in Italy!
We then tackle the second major ascent of the day. The heat starts to build. It’s easy to believe the forecast maximum of 33ᵒC will be reached. The going gets more difficult. I begin to tire.
We pass through a cattle farming establishment. I note with keen interest that they farm with buffalo. Clearly, this is not the wild African buffalo, but none the less, they are impressive and beautiful beasts. These are the animals that produce the milk from which buffalo mozzarella is made.
The path remains favourable for walking, but the heat is getting to me. I’ve at least reached a point where I can keep going if I shorten my steps. It’s definitely better than starting after stopping, which makes hiking more difficult.
After cresting the hill, we descend into the town of Lerchi. The last part of the walk is along a suburban road between two-storey homes. What adds to the challenge is that large vehicles use this road, and there are at best narrow sidewalks. In Lerchi I lurch into a chair on a shady porch at a café/bar.
Route Alternatives into Città di Castello
Niels gets us refreshments. We discuss our progress. We have three options. Neither of us feels like heading back up the same hill very close to where we descended for another poggio flogging. Taking the bus into Città di Castello is another option. The quickest route on foot is to make our way along the road – a shortcut noted in the book.
We seriously consider taking the bus. Niels enquires of the shopkeeper when the bus runs. There will be one within the next half hour. I am conflicted. It sounds so very tempting. Yet it feels as if I would be cheating myself out of something.
Walking the shortcut is the best compromise. There is no spectacular scenery. All we want is just to get there. Judging by the now familiar footprints we’ve been seeing along the way, we’re not the only ones to take the shortcut. Two stretches along the autostrada bracket the walk. Fortunately, most of it is through quiet suburban streets, with part of the way along a gravel road.
Entering Città di Castello
Crossing the Tiber, we pause on the bridge to take pics. The road leads into Città di Castello through an arch in the wall – part of the ancient fortifications that gives the town its name.
We reach Hotel Le Mura, our base for the next three nights, before 13:00. That is the earliest we’ve finished a Stage on The Way of St Francis our destination. They aren’t ready for us yet. We both have an espresso as we wait for our room to be readied. I’m looking forward to tomorrow, our rest day in Città di Castello.
*Conversions of Metric to SI
20,3 km = ~12,6 miles
816 m = ~2677’
938 m = ~3077
33ᵒC = 91,4ᵒF