Assisi Diary Post 14: 12/09/2008, Foligno about 25 kms left
To start with I completely forgot to tell you about my last meal in Rome, so what would an Irish Pilgrim eat on their last night in Rome? Why Irish Stew of course, washed down with Guinness!
So I travelled to Rieti by bus and it was absolutely hair-raising! The road snaked up and up into the mountains and had blind bends on one side and sheer drops on the other. Sitting up high on a bus I could see over the low wall to the drop below. It reminded me of the day in 2006 when I walked to Menton, high up above Monaco with exactly the same sort of terrain, except the drop was to the sea as opposed to wooded valleys below. There were only 2 things on my mind - a) I would have to repeat this journey to get back to Poggio and b) how on earth was I going to be able to walk to Assisi if I had to walk along a road like this? (The reason for this intrepidation is my fear of heights.)
I spent 2 nights in Rieti and did get very useful info from the Tourist Office there although detail coverage was only for the Rieti Valley. The town itself like many of the Italian towns I have visited has a lovely old historic centre. The buildings often fused with the rock below - see pic
I did not realise it at the time but the information from Rieti was just another piece of the jigsaw that has been this section of my pilgrimage. I know I am travelling north from Rome but I have nearly lost count of the number of times I have changed my itinerary! Do you know the story about an American tourist who is lost in the country lanes of Ireland. He sees a farmer and asks for directions. Back comes the reply ¨Well I wouldn't start from here if I was you.¨
I seem to keep finding myself at exactly the same place i.e. the wrong startpoint!
I returned to Poggio Mirteto and started on my replanned route. This took me up high over the mountains - probably nearly 1000 metres. On the way up there was a layer of something covering part of the valley below. I am not sure it was cloud - I have found as I think I have said before that visibility is often not very good and I suspect pollution rather than cloud is the culprit. Anyway it gave an interesting effect - see pic
It was pretty hard work going up but the views at the top were great
After camping wild that night I set off for Fonte Colombo, a Franciscan Shrine, and when I reached the point at which I should have gone effectively right, and by the way found the waymarks for the St Francis Way, see pic below
but I went left instead towards Greccio, another Shrine. I can only believe I was being guided as I then subsequently met an Italian pilgrim who could speak very good English and who turned out to be another Guardian Angel in disguise. So I replanned again. And again my itinerary changed when I found the route from Greccio to Stroncone (part of my original itinerary that I couldn't find on the map) was signposted from the Greccio Sanctuary. This was another hard climb to nearly 1000 metres but was followed by a lovely walk along a plateau for several kms before descending to Stroncone.
More info from the Tourist Office in Terni gave me another piece of the jigsaw and off I went to Ferentillo. Having gone up and over the heights the previous day, and that morning it was a relief to walk along the valley floor - see below
The following day I put my faith and trust in God and did something I previously said I would not. I headed off into the mountains to try and find a path that was not marked on my map. The first part of the day again was a climb with great views but on a little used road. Then I found the path and more St Francis waymarks - see below
This was a pedestrian 'sentier', very pleasant in places going along the side of the mountain with shelter-giving trees on each side. But every now and then the trees on the valley side would disappear providing magnificent views across to the mountains on the other side, and down into the valley below - see pic
The problem is, as I have already explained, I am very uncomfortable with heights. On a narrow footpath this rises to real fear! I kept having to tell myself to look down at my feet and the path, not up at the lovely view. The picture above I took at a point where the path was wider and I leaned against the rock to steady myself. The bit of stone in the foreground is the edge of the path. At last I reached the top at 950 metres and the descent started. The sentier eventually came out on a road which it crosses and continues descending. I was so relieved I nearly got down on my knees and kissed it (the road I mean)! As it was going to the same place, needless to say I stuck to the road.
From the sublime to the ridiculous, the next day, armed with another piece of jigsaw I was on a nice, flat, safe cycle track.
The only minus point was that I had intended camping wild but there was no suitable place, it was all very open ground. I carried on walking until dark and eventually found a narrow stretch beside the track that could not be seen from the road running parallel. There wasn't room for the tent so I just bedded down there in the sleeping bag. Fortunately it did not rain!
Church of St Francis at Foligno
Now in Foligno I have the final piece, the itinerary from Spello to Assisi, though not from here to Spello so I will just take a minor road to Spello which is only a few kms away. I expect to reach Assisi on Sunday 14/09/2008.
It seems strange to think my journey is almost finished. I am getting a little tired and must confess that I am looking forward to not having to carry the rucksack day after day!
So hopefully the next posting should be after I reach Assisi.
Take care all