Assisi tour – minus day 5 / A long way there, and back again…

Today was a walking day.

Jen on path

Jennifer and I needed to walk, because we haven’t really stretched out since leaving Australia. Also though we needed to check our GPX tracks, to see if it all worked okay.

This Via di Francesco – The Way of St. Francis – is not as well travelled as the Camino Frances, or the Portuguese Camino. Today we walked an entire stage, and didn’t see one other pilgrim on the trail.

Also, the route is not as well waymarked as the Camino – there are some signs, but they’re intermittent, and as well, they don’t have km markings, they have figures which I can only assume represent the walking time to the destination.

But not everyone walks the same pace!



Anyway, it doesn’t matter because we have the route all marked out for us with GPX coordinates, which we can follow on our iPhones using a GPS app.

Jen walking to Citerna phone GPS

Our dear friend Arlene, who is shortly taking her first tour on the Camino Portuguese, put us onto a terrific app called MotionX GPS. And the GPX route files have been generously provided to us by Sandy Brown, whose comprehensive guide book on the Via di Francesco is soon to be published.

So today Jennifer and I set out to see if everything worked ok – the app, the coordinates, the route laid out as recorded by Sandy when he walked from Florence to Rome last year, gathering all his detailed information for his book.

And it all worked a treat. With this setup you follow a track that’s marked on a map on your iPhone, and if you leave that track it’s very quickly apparent. Fabulous!

We didn’t set out to walk the whole route – 13kms from Sansepulcro to Citerna – it just kind of happened that way. We wanted to do some hill training, and the only really sizeable hill was right at the end – the hill on which Citerna was perched.

We got to the top, walked through the old historic town, and then found a restaurant with a great view out of the surrounding plains.

view from table pasta with ragu chese flan beef with porcini

At the end of the meal I asked the waitress if she could call a cab to take us back to Sansepulco, but… we were told there were no cabs. Not in the town, nor in any of the nearby towns. Nor were there any buses heading back to Sansepulcro.

That left us only one option – we walk back.

After a fulsome lunch, the walk back was considerably slower than the walk there. But as the light dropped everything became more beautiful.

path in late light

thru tunnel

By the time we arrived back at our hotel we’d walked nearly 28kms.

A long day.

But today, because of all the surrounding beauty, and because of the gentle sunshine and the cooling breeze, I was reminded why I love walking so much…

wooded road

Assisi tour – minus day 7

International travel is so glamorous and fun.

A flight from Dubai that should have taken 6 hours took nearly eight. Then I waited over an hour to clear customs, because two A380s had landed at the same time – ours being late. Then a nerve-wracking wait of a further forty minutes to finally get the luggage.

You know that feeling when you’re the only one at the carousel from your flight – everyone else has picked up their bags except you – and you wait there in a hall that’s now empty, and your sense of dread grows with every bag that’s spewed forth from that dark gaping mouth of the rumbling subterranean beast that is a repository of all luggage.

Finally your luggage appears, all bright and chipper, as if nothing had happened – as if it’s just been messing with you all that time.

Then a long walk to find the car rental counters – and a further 40 minute wait to get served, then add fifteen minutes to fill out all the forms for the car, trying to figure out all the insurance stuff – then add another fifteen minutes to walk through the labyrinthine carpark at Rome airport looking for Bay 211, only to discover the car has been starved at birth because it’s a midget – a Compact when you asked for a Standard – and the midget boot wouldn’t even hold a dwarf, much less all the luggage we’ve got, including all the filming gear, which can’t be left on the back seat because everyone knows that thievery in Italy is rampant, unlike in Australia which is full of honest people who would never even think about stealing anything from a car.

Did he just say he’d put a dwarf in a boot?


So I walk all the way back to the car rental counter, and of course there’s now a line of people waiting to be served, and there’s only one guy on the desk and the other bloke who served me has gone on break, or paternity leave, or has been institutionalised, and so you patiently wait your turn, and tell yourself you’re a pilgrim, and finally it’s your turn and you then spend fifteen minutes explaining that the car is too small and you booked a larger car, but the guy tells you that actually you didn’t, and you’re lucky to get a car at all, even a midget one with a boot that could in fact hold a dwarf…


So after another 25 minutes I finally got new paperwork for a new car so I walked all the way back to the carpark and I found the new car and the luggage fitted – just – and then I tried to find my way out but got lost, and then the Garmin wouldn’t work because it can’t locate satellites that are now on the other side of the world, so I took the wrong turn on the ring road and discovered after a while that I was heading to Sicily when I should have been heading to Finland. which meant that I was about six hours late arriving at the hotel.

Enough of my whinging.

I’m in Umbria right?
What right do I have to whinge?

You should have seen the pizzas last night!


Jennifer and I stayed in the hotel we’ll all be staying in on the second last night of our tour – the hotel at Valfabbrica. The room was spotless, the bed was firm, and the toilet was in the shower.

Yes, the toilet was in the shower.

toilet in shower

I guess in Umbria they must be short of time – they have to do two things at once.

It’s the same with this hotel we’re in tonight, at Citta di Castetllo. The toilet is in the shower here too. Which means you can sit on the loo and wash your hair.

It’s just a problem when the toilet paper gets wet.

Woke up this morning to a perfect Spring day. Blue skies, sunshine, the temperature coolish but not cold – a refreshing 12-15C most of the day – with the trees starting to bud, flowers blossoming by the side of the road, the grass in the fields a luxuriant green.

sign near Valfabbrica

Today we made our way to the monastery at La Verna, which is where we’ll start our walk tomorrow week. We decided to walk up to the monastery from a little town below – a 2km winding path, quite steep at times, which emerged at the base of the sanctuario.

Jen walking up to La Verna ext walls of la verna cross through window

We picked up all the pilgrim passports from the monastery office – we’ll get these stamped each day, and pick up a certificate in Assisi. And then some bells tolled, and we realised it was 3pm – which is when the monks file in procession to the most sacred chapel in the complex, intoning a hymn and carrying a large cross.

Monks in procession

Jennifer and I watched as they made their way through a long covered corridor, one wall painted with ancient murals, just as they’ve done each and every day since the 14th century, never missing a day.

We then made our way back down the 2km path, and headed to Citta di Castello, one of the classic Umbrian historic towns which we’ll be staying in during the tour.

citta di castello tower


In the afternoon we sat and had a Preseco, and did the thing that all Italians do – sit and watch the passing promenade.

Citta di Castella piazza sitting watching

If the weather stays like it was today, it will be truly glorious for walking. And the countryside at the moment, in the early flushes of Spring, could not look more beautiful.

On the past two walks I’ve brought sunshine with me. I hope I can make it 3-0.