What a day – one of the most challenging I have had on any of my journeys, and certainly the most difficult on this way. It began well enough with a few kilometres of gentle climb before hitting the first of two big climbs taking us from around 400 metres up to over 1,200 metres. After the rain of the previous day the day dawned fresh and clear. Indeed it was one of the clearest days I have had thus far, with little haze.
Once we had left the outskirts of Bagno di Romagna we crossed the road and headed up into the mountains, often walking on the remnants of an old Roman Road probably used to walk pack mules across the mountains. Both Jill and I were pleased with how we went up the mountain. We arrived at the first high point and had a rest and something to eat – we had bought a pizza each the night before to eat during the course of the day. After a brief rest we continued on up, and up, and up. We were very pleased with ourselves when we reached the top of the pass, but the difficult part was about to start.
A king sized "bike" ornament (you can see my poles as a measure)
The start of the climb, and the Roman road (referred to as ancient engineering in our guide), and below a Roman Bridge corssing a stream part way up.
We rested here (right), beofre the path increased in steepness.
The top of the first part of the climb at Nasseto (below) had wonderful views (above)
The higher we went the bigger the views.
We descended a little off the pass and then the heart stopping work began. There are lots of eroded mountains / hills here in this region of Italy. On our guide it calls them the “badlands”, and we had to cross a section of them. This part of the path went across the this section of loose shale, with ravines on both sides of us. It was only about 500 metres across, but there were a couple of patches that were very difficult. I got down on my backside for one part, and had to climb out of another section on my knees. We were quite elated when we finally got across, and absolutely stunned a few minutes later when a mountain biker came along, warning us that there were 20 more mountain bikers heading down the hill shortly. Neither of us could comprehend riding a bike across and were so glad we didn’t meet them while we were on this stretch – there was no way we could have got out of the way! We had more to climb, and after this group had passed us we watched from a distance as they crossed this ridge one by one.
The path crossing the "heart stopping" section of the track (below) - I'll let the photos tell the tale.
Jill is heading up the path, and the last of the cyclists are setting off down the path and about to tackle that section of the path above! Rather them than me!
Our goal for the evening was La Verna, the Santuario so loved by St Frances. I had been looking forward to staying here, but it wasn’t to be. Despite the fact that we knew we had a bed, the distance, and our walking pace were such that there was no way we would reach there in time to get a bed. After crossing Mount Calvano we tried to ring somewhere to stay, but had no reception. Light was fading and so we decided we would just take the road down to the village. We arrived in the midst of a very busy Saturday night dinner, but got a room in the same Albergo that Julie and I had stayed in when we walked the Cammino di Assisi.
Earlier in the afternoon we had tried to get to la Verna by asking a couple we met if they could help us by driving us a few kilometres. Not sure what we said, but they didn’t drive us, instead they escorted us – at a great pace – to the turn off up the mountain. It was about 3 kilometres along the road, but these people were intent on frog marching us to the turn off. Jill and I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry, as it was obvious we wouldn’t make it in time (we had to be there by 6.30). Adding an extra 3kms of zig zag road down to the village meant that we didn’t arrive till dusk. We were 13 hours on the road that day – and very tired, but satisfied at our achievements.
Looking towards La Verna, in the distance.
Crossing Mount Calvano had some fairly high undergrowth, along with sweeping views.
We put on hold till the next day our visit to the Santuario – but that is for the next post.