Today has to go down as perhaps the most beautiful day of walking I’ve ever done.
This Via di Francesco is stunning.
For those of you who might be reading this and are tired of, or intimidated by, the crowds on the Camino, then you really should consider this walk. Because not only is the countryside exquisitely beautiful, there’s no-one here!
We were the only people on the track today.
Let me start at the beginning of the day – we woke to sunny skies! It had been raining quite heavily these last several days, but this morning – the first morning of our walk – it was bright sunshine and blue skies.
We had breakfast at the monastery at La Verna. The staff at the monastery are very strict – we had to start breakfast at 8am on the dot, and be out by 9am. Not a minute later.
The coffee was monk’s coffee.
Or nun’s coffee.
Undrinkable to us mere mortals.
We then loaded the van with those things we wouldn’t be carrying – Peter Landers being the only one who’s decided to do the walk with the full backpack.
The legend of the Landers Express lives on.
We then took a group photo of the start of our walk –
– then headed off, walking out of the monastery –
– only to find a coffee stand about 50 meters outside the gates. Of course we had to stop and have proper coffee!
For the next 5-6 kms we climbed up steep rocky tracks and walked along the side of ridges that had unbelievable views of the surrounding countryside.
Marie celebrated when she got to the top of a steep climb…
Jennifer and Patti hung back, picking flowers. We waited back for them and gave them a guard of honour when they finally caught up with us.
We discovered that we were averaging the scintillating pace of 2.75kms per hour. So slow! But today’s stage was only 15kms, and we were in no rush. But also, it was a gnarly track. Some stiff climbs, and some steep descents down paths that were very slippery.
But throughout, the countryside and the views were just breathtaking.
We stopped at the highest point and took photos –
And kept walking in The Sound of Music type country.
And then came a slow descent – stretching several kms – until we caught sight of Pieve Santo Stefano, our end stage town.
The walk took us about 6hrs – and for many of us our knees are sore from a total descent of nearly 1km (983m).
But we were all uplifted by the sheer beauty of today.
Tonight we are eating in the hotel restaurant – Jennifer and I have eaten there before, and it’s gorgeous home made pastas and local produce beautifully cooked.
There is something to be said about walking in Tuscany!