👣 19 km on foot – Wednesday 19 August
Et voilà! Today we start the day by entering the region of Tuscany: the land of cypress hills, dark red wine, wild boars, and fun dialects. I’m super excited to be here: I lived in Florence for 6 years and I already feel at home. Also, I expect a lot of amazing local food waiting for us in the coming weeks 😋 – I can’t wait to explore, once again, every aspect of the popular Tuscan section of the Via Francigena!
Today we were accompanied by a group of local walkers from the CAI (Club Alpino Italiano). At our departure from the church of the Cisa Pass we had a brief institutional meeting with the mayor of Pontremoli, Lucia Baracchini, and with Francesco Gazzetti, representing Regione Toscana. We then walked through the Tuscan gate of the Via Francigena, a well-known wooden arch just behind the church of the Pass. We were all expecting to spend the entire day descending from the mountain down towards Pontremoli, but the Appennini mountain chain is never that straightforward…we started the day with quite a climb and continued with a lot of ups and downs. Not expecting that, today’s stage ended up being harder than I thought – definitely harder than yesterday’s climb to the Pass.
As we progressively descended to a lower elevation, I could feel the sun becoming stronger on my skin. Luckily many sections of the path were in the forest, and we were able to stay in the shade. As some locals had predicted, the stage was extremely beautiful, with all the up-and-down shapes of the Appennini. We found traces of horses along the trail, which roam freely in these wild mountains. We then came across a pilgrim walking in the “wrong” direction. Of course, we stopped to meet him! This is Florent, who has just finished his service as a Swiss guard in the Vatican City. This is a common practice for Swiss guards: as they retire, they walk from their work position in Rome back to Switzerland. And Florent was not the only pilgrim walking in the opposite direction that we met today: we also met a brave man from Los Angeles who started walking in Rome and is heading to Canterbury!
Back on the route, we crossed a couple of charming towns: Groppoli, where a local offered us his own homemade red wine (at 11 am, just before another steep hill); and Groppodalosio, where we were fascinated by ‘Temperance’, a 2-years old accommodation facility that Greta and Marco decided to build after walking and falling in love with this stage of the route. The accommodation, that you can use on donation, is very nicely decorated, in a new age / hippie style that soothes and relaxes you as soon as you step inside. We stopped here for lunch, and the owners offered us some coffee to recharge. We decided to leave a donation for Temperance and to interview the couple to learn and share their practice with all Road to Rome followers.
After crossing the Via Francigena bridge in Groppodalosio, we came to Casalina and to the small fraction of Toplecca, where we bumped in a gorgeous yurt, a nomad tent used as an accommodation facility too, for passing-by travelers.
One last steep descend and we arrived in Pontremoli! Here, we were welcomed in the main square by the mayor and by a group of flag-throwers who performed for us. A very warm welcome in Toscana; I had no doubt! 😎
– The stunning landscape of the Appennini mountains
– Meeting other pilgrims and learning about their personal and spiritual quests
– Taking inspiration from Greta and Marco’s Tempere and from the yurt in Toplecca on how pilgrims can help each other
Myra Stals, Social Media Manager (EAVF)
Luca Faravelli, Project Manager (EAVF)
Cecilia Micciantuono, Amministrative Assistant (EAVF)
Lucia Baracchini, Mayor of Pontremoli
Sara Massarotto, Movimento Lento (@saramassarotto)
Stefano Guidotti, Rivista Francigena
Daniele Ceddia, RTR Ambassador
Marcella Biserni, Ragazze in Gamba
Massimo & Daniele (@walkingforcharity & @il_cammino_per_salus_pueri)
Local group of walkers from CAI
Filippo Racanella, videomaker