La Giustiniana to Roma 21k The Eternal City

After a 2 coffee breakfast we rejoin the Via Cassia, now a busy highway with cars and buses paralleling a railway line. After a few k we enter a wooded area with an abundance of butterflies, small blues, whites, commas and clouded yellows.
At the end of this section is a steep hill and by the time we get to the top, Ray is feeling a bit whoozy in the heat, so a prolonged bar stop is needed. We continue on a pleasanter road section with less rubbish until we reach Monte Mario Park from where we get our first glimpses of the Eternal City.
We walk along a wooded ridge to Monte Gaudi ( the mountain of joy ) from where we get a panoramic vista centred on the Dome of St Peter’s Basilica, the pilgrim’s first view of his or her goal.
Down a long winding path and then we enter the city, walking along broad streets with elegant buildings shaded by plane trees. As we near the Vatican the streets become choked with tourists and sellers.
Past a control post manned by Swiss Guards, under the double arch of Porta Angelica, through Bernini’s  collanade, that runs around the square, past the queue waiting to get into the cathedral and WE ARE THERE !!
We take photos and get emotional for a bit and then collect our Testimonium of Completed Pilgrimage from the Opera Romana Pelligrinaggi. All that remains is to find ice cream at a reasonable price and find our lodgings.
We are booked into an apartment on the sixth  ( groan ) floor of a building nearby, where we will stay until Saturday, when we fly back to Bristol.

Formello to La Giustiniana 15k Thirty Five Degrees and Urban Sprawl

After a good breakfast ( our host has his own bacon slicer and coffee machine! ), we are late starting and within minutes our T shirts are wet with sweat. We pass big houses with manicured gardens, high fences, swimming pools, hot tubs and barking dogs. The road is being resurfaced and we stop to chat with one of the workers.
Suddenly we are back in the countryside again with fields of grass and grain and flocks of sheep.
Notice boards at the side of the road promise us the ruins of the ancient city of Veii, the capital of a tribe that  that lost out to Rome after a 10 year siege. It has clearly been excavated and then allowed to disappear again under the corn fields.
Round the corner, past some rock tombs below a waterfall, is a pool that provides welcome relief for hot feet, although we swiftly retreat when small leeches start to appear.
The long hot uphill to La Storta brings us onto busy roads with traffic and piles of uncollected decomposing rubbish, there is apparently a long running dispute between the rubbish collectors and their employers.
We stop for ravioli in a taverna and Tony , for the first time in his life, is heard asking for more water! Just as we are finishing, 3 Australians, who we haven’t seen for a fortnight, roll in for a late lunch. We had thought we would be seeing lots of pilgrims in the final stages of the walk  but on the contrary they are few and far between.

Monterosi to Formello 26k Roman Holiday

It is festival week in Monterosi and the children parade with colourful banners. At midnight we hear fireworks, motorbikes and hilarity and then at 4 o’ clock thunder and lightning, this is unfortunate as we are getting up at 5.30 because it is going to be a long hot day.
After walking through grass meadows we come to Monte Gelato Falls, a series of small waterfalls but no ice cream! A police lady is on duty and portaloos are ready for some event later in the day.
Oak woods are next and then the steep ascent into Campagnano Di Roma, another hilltop long street town. In a pleasant square with a dolphin fountain the first bar is full but we find a little old place with an English proprietor.
In the bread shop, cakes and pastries are being bought and beautifully wrapped up, maybe for Sunday visits to mama or nonna.
Later, we are sitting, perspiring under a tree at the edge of the road, when a man with a man bun, in an open top black Ford Mustang, slams on his brakes and comes to a halt beside us. Oh O what have we done wrong?  But no, he just wants to discuss with us doing the Via Francigena and how it compares with Compostela which he has already done.
Up and down long hot roads with little shade we eventually come to an open area with a little stream, ringed with shady oaks. Families are picnicking and barbecuing in the heat.
It is now over 30 degrees and a man with a fridge run by a generator, containing cool beer gives Tony a couple of bottles which disappear down our greedy  throats under the next shady tree.
We finally make it to our B and B for the night just outside Formello.

Link to where we are on Google Maps

Capranica to Monterosi 19k The Etruscan Necropolis

It is already 20 degrees by the time we set off after breakfast at 7.30. We walk down the long central street along the top of a limestone outcrop until we finally have to drop down to the road below.
After the inevitable re-ascent  we enter a thick wood with fallen trees and follow a babbling brook crossed back and forth with log bridges.
On exiting the wood, Sutri rears up in front of us, another ancient town on a top of a limestone spur. Fortunately we skirt it in order to visit the Etruscan Necropolis, consisting of 60 square caves hewn out of the rock along a stretch of cliff. There are flat platforms for bodies and niches for funeral urns, all looted in medieval times unfortunately.
We re-enter the Nutella orchards for the afternoon section as the heat and humidity build under an overcast sky.
Lunch outside a golf club gives Tony the chance to do a definitive survey onto what cars golfers drive, all those entering the club drove non-Italian cars whilst all the Fiats went straight past and up the hill.
A final stroll past the vast golf course with people whizzing about on milk floats brings us into Monterosi, a small town with a couple of locked churches. We are in the ( relative ) lap of luxury tonight at Casa Di Sophia with washing machine.

Link to where we are on Google Maps

Vetralla to Capranica 18k To the Woods

It is another 25 degree day but we spend most of it walking in trees so the heat is not too bad.
After a few k getting out of town we enter the oak woods of Monte Fogliano. Under the high canopy of the trees the only people we see are mountain bikers on the marked trails.
Crossing over the road by a ruined church we are in the nut bush orchards again. The carefully coppiced trees are spaced out regularly and some of the arched areas are very attractive.
The Torri D’ Orlando appears, a 15 high ruined tower poking up above the trees, it is apparently a Roman funeral memorial.
Coming out onto a road crossing there is a sign for a bar 300 metres down hill (and hence uphill on the way back) and off route. There is much debate, it would be the only one on today’s route but will it be open or even exist? Eventually we go for it, but is a tense time for Ray until we find a small bar by a railway crossing in the middle of nowhere.
Lunch is taken as yesterday in the shade, this time it had to be a hazelnut bush.
We emerge suddenly from the trees into the outskirts of Capranica and find our lodgings in a small section of old town at the Hotel Capranica, converted from the old hospital.

Viterbo to Vetralla 18k Nutbush City Limits

We set off through the streets to the Palazzo del Papi and descend past this grand edifice to exit the city through its extensive walls and towers.
We soon enter the Etruscan Via Cave, a magnificent road cut deep into the tufa limestone and running for 3 k from the old Etruscan city. In places the narrow walls are 15 metres high and there are supposed to be inscriptions and bear symbols, but we cannot find any.
Unfortunately the rush hour traffic  uses this route also.
We have to follow a path next to the current Via Cassia, the fast road to Rome before striking up over farmland to a picnic table with a view for a welcome break.
We pass through olive groves and fields of grass, cut and drying for cows that we never see. Some groves are bright with flowers, some have earth or lawn like grass under the trees and some have sheep in them happily munching away.
We sit under an olive tree and munch our lunch surrounded by grass whose seeds get stuck in our clothes and irritate until removed. There are butterflies and mice and ants about, all busy with their lunches too, no doubt.
We pass the  church of St Maria in Forcassi built on top of a Roman forum and a precious stop on the Via Francigena, but it is ruined and locked up now.
As we approach Vetralla, we come past fields of farmed hazel nut bushes, neatly coppiced and trimmed. Vetralla is another ancient Etruscan town on a hill with an excellent ostello where we are staying tonight.

Link to where we are on Google Maps

Montefiascone to Viterbo 19k Like a bird on a wire……

A steep descent from Montefiascone brings us back down to the countryside and we are soon back on the Via Cassia. The roman road is splendidly preserved for 3k, along which we walk in the shade of oak trees. The road is paved with flat broad stones called basoli, originally the road would have been 4m wide but is narrowed to a country lane between olive groves and fields of grass now.
We come to the thermal springs of Bagnaccio, but here it is 5 euros for a bath in a hot pool so we give it a miss and carry on, we are hot enough already.
Stopping later on in the shade of one of the large umbrella shaped pines we are entertained by bee eaters on the high tension wires, 1,2,3,4 no 5 of them!
We enter the urban sprawl of Viterbo past a large cemetery ringed by flower stalls, but there is nowhere for pilgrims to eat their lunch so we ultimately a find a park.
Viterbo is a big place with ancient walls, gates and fountains, it doubled for Rome in some fifties Italian films, and George Clooney will be filming Catch 22 here this summer.
 It has a papal palace which was the site of the first conclave. In 1271  the citizens of Viterbo confined the cardinals in it, cum clave ( under lock and key), until they chose a new pope, as they were fed up of waiting for them to deliver a decision after waiting for 3 years, does that ring a bell with anyone?

Link to where we are on Google Maps

Bolsena to Montefiascone 18k The city of 100

The campsite cafe fails to open at 7 as we had been told, so we set off unbreakfasted and with the  knowledge that there will be  no bars until the finish of today’s walk.
Luckily it is lovely walking through the countryside with distant views of the lake. We come to an area of springs and cascades where according to the signboard, there are Etruscan  remains, but we can’t see any.
The only other pilgrim we see today is a french lady who seems to stop as often as we do.
 Montefiascone is, as can be guessed from its name on the top of a hill, it prides itself on being 100 k from/to Rome, bizarrely there are several signs in different parts of the town all making the same claim.
There is a large cathedral with an impressive dome and at the very top,  the ruins of Rocca dei Papi, a fortress and summer refuge of several medieval popes. Next to the ruins is a little park with a huge view of the area. Lake Bolsena and it’s 2 islands can clearly be  to be of volcanic origin and tourist potential. Tomorrow’s walk looks flatter.
We walk down the hill to tonight’s lodgings in a B and B and are welcomed in by a  lovely lady who gives water from the fridge, it is very hot.

Link to where we are on Google Maps

San Lorenzo Nuovo to Bolsena 14k Beside the lake, beneath the trees……..

We walk through fields and groves of olive and walnut trees, some of the grass has been cut for hay and is drying in the sun. The poppies are particularly vibrant in colour and the views to the lake are stunning.
Eventually the towers of Bolsena castle appear next to the lake to be photographed.
Coming into Bolsena we stop at a tiny church and are initially reluctant to go in  as there is a man inside doing some restoration but we are glad we do, it is dedicated to the Madonna of the Hunters and has lovely ancient frescoes.
Bolsena is a town of narrow lanes dominated by its castle towers, another lovely place you never heard of before but feel deserves a longer visit.
We walk out to a campsite by the lake where we have a chalet for the night.
The lake water is cool and refreshing after the days heat.

Link to where we are on Google Maps

Acquapendente to San Lorenzo Nuozo 15k Five go for a walk

We have a good meal at our ostello yesterday evening and then after the washing up is done we all have to share our thoughts of the Francigena with the other pilgrims and all have a hug.
This morning there is a walking marathon with about a thousand participants doing 42 k along the Via Francigena. The police are out in force to marshal the traffic, and whilst we are having a break, the tail markers go slowly past.
We are walking through fields of corn and sunflowers beneath a blue sky with high cloud, there are occasional breaks of woodland, the birds are singing, a few butterflies are about and the lizards are warming themselves.
We turn onto an hot road and slog up it until we reach a bar where we encounter Fred and Christophe, the young German, later 10 Irish walkers with daypacks pass through.
As we walk out of the town, Lake Bolsena appears, a large blue lake surrounded by low green hills and a few strategically positioned pines, they do know how to do landscapes here.
A pleasant woodland walk brings us to tonight’s lodgings in an agrotourismo with a lovely garden in which we will apparently be eating our breakfast tomorrow.

Link to where we are on Google Maps