👣 29 km by foot – Monday 23 August
Ok – these last few days have been very full and quite overwhelming. The result: I’ve been having a lot of work accumulating, and now it was just too much! This is why I decided to stop in Altopascio’s hostel for the whole morning and get everything done. Today’s first part of the blog is hence made from the stories today’s walkers told me. Many local associations joined us today, showing a high degree of interest and commitment, not only for Road to Rome but especially for the Via Francigena and its impact on the territory!
Because of the very dense timetable we have lately, which can transform these enjoyable daily plans into stressful work (we don’t want to repeat huge delays on our schedule as we did yesterday!), the group decided that on some occasions it is best to split in two smaller groups. For this reason, today one group started walking very early in the morning, following the route towards San Miniato. The other group was carried by a shuttle directly to Galleno, one hour ahead of Altopascio, where the group had a meeting along the medieval Via Francigena trail.
Leaving Galleno, the route heads into the ‘Riserva delle Cerbaie e del Padule di Fucecchio’, a natural and protected reserve area that leads to the town of Fucecchio. We were accompanied by the Cavalcanti del Padule, a group of horse riders, and by seven horses! The local CAI (Club Alpino Italian) group and Proloco Fucecchio association also walked with us in this section. The green forest protected us from the very hot weather of today.
We were welcomed by the whole town of Fucecchio! The Councilor was there, the horses of the Cavalcanti stood tall aside of us, and the CAI group welcomed us with a photo exhibition they had set up in the main square. The photo exhibition was ‘Twelve months on the Via Francigena’: the group took a picture along each stage each month, starting from Siena, January, to Rome, in December. It was amazing to see how the Via Francigena evolves in different seasons, and how beautiful it is at each time of the year!
After a big lunch with lasagna and Tuscan ‘panzanella’ – oh dear, how I missed Tuscan traditional dishes! – we walked on into San Miniato’s territory. Something I really enjoyed was our stop at the Piccolo Ristoro di Via Parini, a public resting spot along the route. The family living across the street from the Ristoro takes personal care of it in exchange of donations. They provide chairs, shade and a beautiful wooden banner with all information necessary for pilgrims, as well as fresh water, coffee, juice, snacks, and a book collecting comments and signatures of travelers – which they have been publishing each year and which we were kindly gifted.
San Miniato welcomed us heartily: Tuscany really makes us feel special everywhere we go. We were greeted by the local walking associations of Pinocchio and of the Palisportiva – Casa Culturale San Miniato Basso, as well as San Miniato’s Proloco and two representatives of Cavalieri del Tau. San Miniato has just been decorated with murals, in honor of our passage! The town decided to seize this opportunity to re-qualify under-developed areas, giving new color and meaning to urban empty spaces. I couldn’t be gladder to see the impact we are having on the places we cross. Romeo, the Via Francigena yellow pilgrim logo, is now coloring the walls of the town, giving an incredibly welcoming feeling to travelers. Thank you, San Miniato!
I only walked from Fucecchio to San Miniato today, but I quickly noticed the change of landscape between one town and the other. We are now entering the ‘classic’ Tuscan painting, with cypress hills and bouncy vineyards and grain fields, which will keep us company for many stages – until we reach the landscapes of Tuscia, in Lazio!
– Walking aside gorgeous horses
– The Piccolo Ristoro di Via Parini resting spot
– The warm welcome we get in every single Tuscan town!
Myra Stals, Social Media Manager (EAVF)
Luca Faravelli, Project Manager (EAVF)
Elisa Montanelli, vice-mayor of San Miniato
Massimiliano Petrolo, Comitato Francigena Galleno, Guide
Stella Buggiani, Associazione Pinocchio
Alessio Spadoni, Associazione Podisti Casa Culturale
Giovanni Corrieri, pilgrim & hospitalero
Luca del Corso + knights, Cavalcanti del Padule
Gianluca Battini, middle school San Miniato Basso
Alice Sconfietti & Francesco Mugnani (@viaggiaconalice)
Filippo Racanella, videomaker