Sunday, 26 April 2015

Photos on Flickr

I've put a lot of photos from this trip on Flickr. The album also has some photos in Rome at beginning and end of the trip...
Umbria Album 2015

Thursday, 16 April 2015

En route home...

I am sitting at the Fossato railway station, waiting for my train back to Rome.... It's homeward bound.... Bye bye Umbria. It's been superb getting to know you...
Now I am on the train... I had no idea how exciting I would find this train ride- it's allowed me to re-live my journey a little! We stopped at Nocera Umbra, and then as we were leaving, I saw the track that I had come downhill on! Then we whizzed through a couple of little stations that I think were in valley villages I walked through.
I have been re-breathing where I went. The leaves might be slightly greener, but other things remain. I have walked up the hills again, seen the houses and old churches perched on high. I have walked alongside the olive groves, and seen people in there pruning the branches. I've seen spring blossoms. It's been a short but precious time.
Now I am back in Rome. Arriving at Termini in rush hour was an experience: last time I was here I think many of the Romans had gone elsewhere.
And so the end cometh to this blog. Arrivederci!


Gubbio

I had the morning to explore the amazing town of Gubbio. Though it seems like a museum piece in a way, with buildings from the 1200s, the Renaissance time, Roman times, and important discoveries from before then, it is also a living town where residents actually live... - as well evidenced by all the cars driving around in the narrow streets.
From my hotel room window, my view was of a church, which turned out, appropriately enough, to be the church of St Francis. I went there first on my tour of the town and it seemed an especially reverent place, at that early hour anyhow.
It was begun after Francis' death by his friend Spadalonga, in 1206.
Outside near the church was a statue of the legend of Francis taming a wolf that was terrorising the town.
My next stop was to the remains of the Roman theatre, but I was too early as it turned out, so just had to look from a distance...
They found some really important pre-Roman written tablets here.
Next it was off uphill to explore. Strangely enough, the hill climbing didn't even seem to get me puffing very much. Here's just a selection of photos to give you a taste. I'll put a link here when I eventually get some trip photos up on Flickr, but the whole town was so photogenic, I eventually had to tell myself to put the camera away, enough was enough!
Anyhow, after several hours it was time to say ciao to Gubbio and hop on the bus to get me to Fossato di Vico train station, ready for my trip to Rome.


Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Biscina to Gubbio

I woke this morning to see some clouds out my window at the agriturismo in Biscina. I was hopeful that meant it'd be a little cooler on the walk- and it was a little. I also packed my raincoat in my daypack, but never needed it!

It was quite nice to look down on the castle from my apartment, as it had taken a long time yesterday from first viewing it to finally rounding the castle's hill from below to emerge on top!
I enjoyed breakfast with a Frenchman who was also staying. He has reached Compostelle via three long French routes already, and he is heading there again via the route from Rome to Florence, and the coastal route via Arles. He looked longingly at my small daypack, but didn't seem to hold it against me!

It made a pleasant change to start the day with a long but not too tricky descent, instead of having to wind up first into an ascent. I hadn't gone too far before an elderly couple called to me from their house to see if I wanted a coffee. Very friendly, but I had a long way to go. Eventually I was looking back up at the castle, mindful of the impression that would have on today's arrivals towards the end of their day!

It was actually mostly a bush walk early on, very pleasant. There was a stream to cross, and I was quite keen to avoid getting wet socks: my walking poles helped me to keep my balance and my shoes dry.
There was also a series of old churches, monasteries and things like former leper hospitals to pass by. Obviously both the Franciscans and the Benedictines had been active in this area in the past. At one stage I began to wonder why so much money was being spent on restoration when the economy here is in poor shape. But then I met a group of what I think were probably German pilgrims, heading down the big hill I'd just ascended- and I guess there is a lot of money for regions in such tourism ventures. I imagine they were heading down to see the churches I had just passed climbing uphill.

At one point I passed a Benedictine monastery that is still in action out in the solitary kind of place I was walking. It seemed very tightly enclosed, but I hadn't gone far past it when a car came driving along the road, being driven by a clearly very monastic driver with a very long beard.

I knew the day still had fairly big climb ahead, but as it turned out, it was up a twisty winding dirt road, instead of a mountain goat track!
Somewhere near the top of my climb I met a young Swiss woman who took details about Biscina. It seemed that both she and the Frenchman had been 'tricked' by time indications in their guidebooks that took no indication of the terrain and ups and downs. She knew she couldn't walk all the way to Valfabricca in one day.

Not long after I spoke to her, I reached the top, and had my first view of Gubbio. It looked impressive, but it also looked a long way away! And yes, it was... The end of my tour proved to be a long flat stretch into the city. I wish I had actually sussed out the local buses at a bar I stopped in with a bus stop nearby... It would have given me more time to explore Gubbio.


Finally, I arrived in this incredibly historic city. And I was pleased to find I didn't have a Nocera-style climb to reach my hotel!
From my hotel room I can see a church, which turns out to be the St Francis one. I'll spend the morning exploring the old town before I return to Rome.

This evening I have just rested my poor shattered feet that weren't expecting so much tarmac today! They have done well -no blisters. And I've cleaned my boots/ walking poles ready for NZ re-entry. And now I am just hoping for sleep soon. I am in a hotel (San Marco) with very fancy marble entry etc, and also a large group of Italian school kids as guests. Currently, it feels like I am enduring youth hostel noise levels, which I certainly wasn't expecting. Let's hope lights out means quiet time, because at present it sounds like a dance party. Night all...

Pioppo to Biscina

Well, it's hard to believe, but I only have one walking day left, to Gubbio tomorrow. And while I've been slathering myself in sunscreen, and even taking the rash step of not carrying my raincoat in my daypack, I'm aware everyone at home has been suffering heavy rains, and now a polar blast to introduce winter.
Today it was warm first-off, and I was aware I needed to take a bit of care of tender feet, so I seemed to start the day at a rather slow pace. (I think that my left foot got a bit wet in a small stream crossing yesterday: I stopped to put some wool on it, but I was carrying a pair of dry socks I could have changed into!) Anyhow, I talked sweetly to my poor feet, put my lovely French hiking cream on, then put wool on all the tender bits, and am glad to report that worked.
It was so peaceful leaving Pioppo this morning, with the sun shining and the birds singing.
In Valfabbrica, I bought some fruit including an enormous banana, and a yummy custard bun. I knew they would help me up the hills. Because there are always hills on this walk!
I just had a very quick look at Valfabbrica in passing, but it looked like yet another town with many centuries of history.
There was a restored Benedictine church not far out of town.
And higher up in the hills was another historic church under restoration, Pieve di Coccorano. And like most days, there was a climb and this church soon appeared far below.
There was only one shortish descent today, to Sambuco, and shortly after that I had a magic encounter. Three workmen had just pulled up nearby, and they were renewing the gold and blue markings for the roadside part of the trail. Two of the men came towards me, one saying Assisi! Assisi! And I thought he thought I was going the wrong way. But it turned out he had seen me by the basilica at Assisi on Sunday and had remembered me.
The day continued warm, but the slope ahead was mostly not too steep.
I could see the Biscina castle up ahead- and it did look quite far..
But plodding on, it loomed closer. And here I am at the Biscina agriturismo, with this great view from my bedroom window...
A Frenchman is also here tonight. He walked all the way from Assisi today, but didn't realise it was quite so far/hard as his guidebook underestimates the time required. That's what I've been thinking about the times on the trail signs too. He's en route from Rome to Compostelle.

From Costa Di Trex to Pioppo Pt 2

From my last seat just outside Assisi, I headed down hill to cross a historic bridge, then to start climbing again. It mostly wasn't too steep at all, and was mostly on quiet tarmac roads. (My feet were complaining a bit by the end of today, so I will have to protect them well for tomorrow in case there is more tarmac.

There was a statue of Padre Pio right where I needed to start heading uphill, with lots of official Sentiero Fransecano della Pace signs to show me the way all day...

This whole route to Gubbio retraces the steps of a young Francis, estranged from his father, and working out how he wanted to live his life as a Christian, by helping the excluded lepers etc.

There was more roadside evidence of how seismically active this area is.

The day was quite warm, and there wasn't much shade for the climb, so I made sure I was slapping on sunscreen. (Sorry guys at home, I know you will hate me for this...) And by now I had worked out that 2x750ml water bottles wasn't quite enough in this rural area once it warms up, but I never quite got around to carrying more.

At one stage I passed a huge group of Italian walkers coming the other way, bound for Assisi: the route is clearly marked in both directions.

The climb couldn't stay easy, and there was a steep little grunt to finish off. But I made it, and before too long, there was another descent. This was time spent mainly in the forest, and followed a small stream for quite a while. Nearing the end of the track I was really surprised to come across a group of English speakers who said they were on retreat in a place up in the hills above.

Not long before I rejoined the road for the last few minutes into the hamlet where I was spending the night, Pioppo, I saw the light on this plant.
St Francis and I have something in common then- a love for noticing nature.

Costa Di Trex to Pioppo Pt 1

It was a lovely family based agriturismo (Il Castello) that I stayed in last night. The women had worked so hard preparing the meal for their guests, and it was served with genuine hospitality. And breakfast this morning had everything a walker could want before it was time to say arrivederci.

Then it was off for what I knew was going to be another climb before Assisi. Turned out it was a forest climb and descent, and for the most part it wasn't too steep, and the path was much easier to walk on than the more mountainous paths yesterday. It reminded me quite a lot of the Gorge track, though without ferns and nikau...

The path was very well marked with red and white signs, and I felt very grateful to those who had done all the marking.

And so I arrived back in Assisi, and had another chance to revel in being there.

Today it was full of Sunday crowds all over the place. There was a bunch of teens ready to take on the track up to the eremo, and at least three had bare feet- not sure how that was going to go...

The sun was shining and again all the buildings in Assisi looked stunning.

People were pouring out of the basilica of St Francis as I went past.
I had to leave town by this gate just near the Basilica, and sat for a rest on a seat just outside. The woman in the photo with the reddish backpack was from Germany and was in Umbria on holiday. We had an interesting convo about how she wanted to go to the ruins below, but wasn't too keen on the ascent afterwards- and yes, the road did descend steeply... I left her and started my own descent, which I knew was to followed by another ascent! - such is Umbria!