28 Nov Stage 8: On the Road to Sansepolcro
29 August 2017. We have to wait to settle the bill with the innkeeper of Buca di Michelangelo. While doing so, someone brings us a typical Italian breakfast: a jam tart, croissants and biscuits. We top it off with espresso. The others having breakfast with us are also possibly pilgrims on the trek, but on a different route.
We say goodbye to Caprese Michelangelo, and take the first steps on the modified Stage 8 of the Way of St Francis. After last night’s rain the air is cool and brilliantly clear. The going is easy. We start on a nice long downhill and mainly go along tarred roads.
I reflect on the trek to get to Caprese Michelangelo. Niels is right. I must be getting fit. At least for now, I’m managing to keep up with him, although this is easier on downhills. That is when his ankle gives him the most jip. After more than 40 minutes and I’m still feeling good, surprisingly not needing to rest. He still takes the lead, but I keep him in line of sight.
As we walk we come across the odd early bird (for the Italians), and it’s “Buongiorno,” as we pass. We mentally tick off the waymarks and landmarks – sign to Anghiari, entering the locality of Ponte Singerna, sign to Cesena. After that, the waymarks become fewer and more faded. We find ourselves on the Strada Provinciale 47 (SP47). Even now we can see the hazy waters of Lago di Montedoglio* (featured image). I am in love with the beauty of the Italian landscape.
As we carry on the verge of the tar along the SP47 we are passed by cyclists going in both directions – many of them. It’s not so bad to be passed by cars, but the trucks pose a bigger problem. This means leaving the asphalt verge to either walk along a very rough grassy edge, or stop if continuing is too difficult. This is one of the reasons why pilgrimage paths sometimes take one on difficult routes through the countryside.
Eventually, it reaches a point where it a while since seeing any signs. We can’t really make out from the instructions where we’re supposed to be. Niels decides to consult the GPS. I have a drink of water. We have indeed lost the path. Again. However, looking at our position and our destination, we see that if we continue along the SP47 we shall re-join our route later. The unfortunate thing is that we won’t get a closer look at Lago di Montedoglio.
Niels often teases me about crossing any body of water. For me, this has a long history. The first time Niels was my hiking partner, I nearly drowned more than once. Ever since then, I’ve always compulsively packed the contents of my backpack in plastic bags. I also carry a large plastic refuse bag to cover my backpack.
“We can always go down to the lake and cross to the other side,” he says. “Then you can inflate your plastic bags and float your pack across the lake.”
Hell, no! I just laugh. He has this ability to make completely hysterical remarks with a deadpan face.
Our detour means we do possibly avoid a Poggio flogging or two. The scenery is still beautiful. We go downhill into the woods on a gravel road. As we emerge we find ourselves on top of a levee. We are walking along the Tiber river. Occasionally we see signs, warning us of flood dangers.
“You see, my water measures may well still be necessary,” I joke with Niels. After Italy’s driest summer in a long time, this hardly seems necessary.
We stop for brunch and have our regulation almonds which we didn’t have at breakfast. I have some of the seeded wafers and the colourless, odourless, flavourless energy wafers. In the distance we see a lovely little fortified town. I curse the guidebook for not having a map indicating its name.
Making good time, miles pass underfoot. Niels pulls ahead of me by about five minutes. We skirt Santa Fiora, the biggest modern town since leaving Pontasieve, the break between Stage 1 and Stage 2. The only way to cross the Tiber river is the bridge on the E78 highway. The dense traffic is a stark contrast to the silence of the countryside. There is a short quiet stretch between the highway and Sansepolcro.
I feel good as we enter the town – tired, but vaguely triumphant for having coped well with the day’s trek.
* Translation from Italian to English: Lago = Lake