10 Jul Stage 24: Rieti + 100 = Rome!
16 September 2017: We’ve grown accustomed to leaving after breakfast. Today we’re a bit later than usual. After the revelry by the Italians of last night and the somewhat less than good night we had, this is hardly surprising. We get to the dining room, and it’s quite full. The spread offered by Hotel Cavour is the best since starting the trail. I finish the muesli. Knowing Niels’ opinion on processed meats and its possible connection to my tendency to asthma, I sneak some salami after he leaves. It’s the best on the trek so far.
I get to our room and he already has his pack on his back. I’m already packed, so no worries. A last quick check of the room reveals no forgotten objects. We set off. Since last night’s stop is across the Velino river from the actual starting point of Stage 24 of the Way of St Francis, we have to pick up the trail just before the large church noted by Sandy Brown.
We wander down a path with a waymark, only to find out it’s the wrong way. We’re getting good at this because we discover our mistake in less than two minutes. Just after 09:00 we get to Chiesa San Michele Archangelo – the large church. A sculpture of St Michael slaying the serpent stands outside the church. There is no notation of the sculptor’s name.
100km to Go!
09:25: We get to the 100km waymark* of the Via Francigena di San Francesco da Roma. This is quite a momentous occasion even though the surroundings are particularly unspectacular for Italy.
“We should stop in at a pub and have a celebratory drink!” Niels says.
“Sounds good to me,” I agree. Only trouble is that there seems to be nothing of the sort before we reach today’s destination.
We make steady progress on the way. Soon we’re on the path that runs along the SS4bis. It’s a beautiful treelined road with an easy hiking path running along it. Traffic is still relatively light. We get to Kartodromo La Mola (go-kart track) and we hear engines roar. This track is surprisingly long.
Houses, pastures, fences, hayfields and other landmarks come and go. For some time, a small black fluffy dog quietly follows Niels. Then it follows me and turns to a driveway of a large house where I assume it lives.
Time and Distance
Statistics indicate ascents for today, noted as 499m. The descents are yet to come (377m). Clouds close in steadily. I wonder how long we’ll walk before we have rain. The silence leads me to believe that we’ll definitely have some rain before we get to our destination.
Our snack-stop is halfway between the go-kart track and Ponte Sambuco. My guesstimate puts us about halfway along the 21.8km journey for today, graded as moderate. I must have slowed down a bit because I get there just as Niels is finishing his snack. I enjoy a few moments of silence after he moves on. A slight throat niggle puts in an appearance. I decide to blast it with some salbutamol in the hopes of keeping it at bay while hiking.
After I leave, Niels is still in sight along a straight road. I develop a method to track if he’s pulling away from me. Noting a point which he passes, I time myself to see how long it takes me to get there. According to my calculations, he’s about three minutes ahead of me. After repeating this method a few times, I see he’s walking at the same pace as I.
Ponte Sambuco appears. We both stop to take pics. This Roman bridge has stood since the 4th Century AD. I wonder how many millions of feet have trodden this road.
At a junction, we have the option of going to the town of Ornaro Basso. We decide to press on to Agriturismo Santa Giusta. Technically it’s part of Poggio San Lorenzo, although it’s quite a bit out of town. Signs for the Agriturismo become more prevalent.
As we descend, we reach houses on the outskirts of the town. Niels waits for me at the point where we leave the main road to our destination. The air is very damp. A very gentle rain starts falling intermittently. My chest doesn’t like this. From the valley to the Agriturismo there is a steep ascent. Niels stops and waves to encourage me. He points up the hill as if to say it’s not far.
This last hill is very strenuous for me. It reminds me of the climbs of Pietralunga at the end of stage 11. However, it is well worth it. I sit for a very long time on the porch and let the relief of dropping my backpack seep in. The sweeping views from the top of the poggio are stunning.
Our room has an air rural chic to it. It is huge. The door is like a castle door – thick, worn, solid, dark wood with a huge key. There is a large fireplace.
The Price of Haste
As I unpack I make an alarming discovery. My phone charger and cable are missing. Niels’ cable doesn’t fit mine. I cannot believe I was so careless this morning. How could I commit such an oversight? The only explanation I can think of is that it must have slipped into some nook where our room checks did not pick it up.
My chest gives me problems again. This time Niels comments on it. I still refuse to accept the probability that I am ill. Not only is my chest asthmatic, but also my throat is feeling very tender and I have a nagging headache. Thinking back on the journey, I can but pin the cause on that very wet and cold afternoon in Ceselli.
*Conversions from Metric to Imperial
100km = ~62.1 miles
21.8km = ~13.5 miles
499m = ~1637.1’
377m = ~1236.9’