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Walking along the Via Romea Germanica from Stade, near Hamburg, in Germany south through Austria and Italy to Rome.

Wednesday, 4 July 2018

Citta’ della Pieve, Ficulle & Orvieto – days 96, 97 & 98 on the Via Romea.

The thing that astounds me on the journey is the number of stunning villages and towns that I walk through that I have never heard of.  I was constantly being surprised in Germany, and I continue to be gobsmacked at the villages I am walking through here in Italy.  Each town (we would call them that in Australia, though here, except for Orvieto, they would be referred to as a village) that I ended each day in was a town of beauty and fascinating scenes and superb views.

The first of these villages / towns was Citta’ della Pieve.  The journey too was full of interesting scenes, and tranquility.  After breakfast on the terrace at the Albergo il Casale I set off along the path heading towards Citta’ della Pieve.  There were a few up hills followed by downhills, though on the whole the path stuck up at a reasonable height, with a steady climb the last 8 kms or so till reaching the steep climb into the town.  I passed olive groves, old buildings, some up for sale, walked along quiet paths and roads, managing to miss a turn at one point, discovering it pretty soon when the path became impenetrable, so I didn’t have far to retrace my steps!  At one point I had to negotiate vehicles parked in such a way as to make a fence, then had to open a gate and clamber through, before heading off, and up, on a lovely forest track – a small stream on one side, and a paddock full of cows on the other.
Some of the olive trees were obviously ancient (left), and the church at San Donato
I passed a line of ants marching across the road.  When I looked closely I could see they were busy carting seeds from one side of the road to the other (below)

Starting the climb up to Citta' della Pieve

Because of my early start I arrived in Citta’ early enough to have something to eat and drink before heading to my room, right in the centre of town.  Though this is a hilltop town, much of it is on top of the flat part of a hill, and so there are not as many steep streets.  It is a town built of a lovely red brick buildings, and unlike many other hilltop towns was not visible until I was nearly there, and likewise the next day, it disappeared fairly quickly, with few “looking back” photo opportunities. 

I stayed in a beautiful B & B right in the centre of the town.  It was run by brothers who also ran the cafe.  They kindly organised that I could have breakfast early (at 7.00!), though I think they thought that was quite uncivilised!  After returning the key to the cafe and having a coffee (because I didn’t know hoe to work the coffee machine in the B & B I set off on what was, in the beginning a fairly cool day, though it didn’t take long for it to heat up.
Citta' della Pieve
Citta' della Pieve.  My lunch time view (left) & a street scene.
The view from my room in Citta' della Pieve .....
...... and looking back at the town

I was headed to Ficulle, a place that I had been warned, was hard to find accommodation and places to eat.  After a lovely peaceful 5 kilometre descent from Citta’ the path followed a quiet country road before the last three kilometre climb up to the township.  At one point, after the village of Santa Maria the path went through a field, via a board walk.  Crossing the field was fine, as was the turn to the edge of the field, but then the board walk was so covered in blackberries that is was impossible to see it, I decided the safer option was to retrace my steps and go through the field to the road,  I was able to pick up the path some 500 metres further along.  There was even a little picnic spot for me to rest before the final onslaught to Ficulle.  This was a beautifully designed path, but as is the case so often along the way it had been built, complete with signs and railings as well as the rest spot, but no maintenance had been done.  Hence  the weeds, the rubbish, and the look of tiredness about it.  It is a shame, but I guess if there are only a few people using the path it is not worth bothering with.

It was starting to get hot, and so finding a Pizzeria open on the outskirts of Fabro Scalo was very welcome.  Leaving the town I headed downhill past what in Spain would probably have been called bodegas.  There were a lot of doors in the hillside, and I think they were probably storage caves for wine, vegetables etc.  As I plodded along the quiet road I could feel the heat rising off the tarmac.  With only a short way to go I was perched on a guard rail, having a brief rest before continuing on the uphill slog.  When a car came along, and there weren’t very many, I decided to hitch a ride to the top of the hill.  The temperature gauge in the car said it was 32, but out in the sun, with the reflected heat coming off the road it felt a lot hotter.  I was dropped at the bar, which as it turned out, was just about opposite the guest house where I was staying.

Again, here was another town that was a total surprise.  Very steep streets, some narrow, and houses decorated with geraniums and other pot plants.  This village was built on a ridge and so there were stunning views from both side of the village, though the haze was so great both in the evening and the next morning that I didn’t even bother to take photos.  The bar opposite was open early - 6.30am and so I was able to have brekky and be on the road by 7.00am.  The air felt warm and wet on this morning, and I was dripping, even though I had over 5 kms downhill!  Its history dates back to Etruscan times, as do so many of the villages around here, and in Roan times it was a fortress guarding the road from Rome to Florence.

In Germany I would regularly find a seat n which to rest.  This seat was the only one I have seen for days.
The boardwalk through the field, and later, the path
Doorways into the hillside leaving Fabro Scalo
The old town of Fabro

This was the day I was headed for the bigger town of Orvieto, built on top of a volcanic tuff cliff.  Tuff is rock formed by the consolidation of debris from a volcanic eruption – there are a lot of remains of volcanic activity in this region, nearby Lake Bolsena being one of them. Making good progress I was three quarters of the way there before lunch, managing to have 2 bar stops along the way.  A cold drink from a fridge is much more palatable than the warm water in my water bottles!  On the second bar stop a man came and sat down with me for a chat.  He spoke wonderful English and we covered all sorts of topics such as U3A (in Aust. and in Orvieto), olive growing in the Adelaide Hills and in Umbria, and wine production.  I told him how the day before I had been walking through olive groves, but today it had changed to vineyards.  He told me that there was more money in wine than in oil production, and informed me of a law that existed that people weren’t allowed to pull out the olive groves and replace them with vineyards.

Although it should have only taken me just on two hours to get from Orvieto after this rest it took about three, and a simple walk turned into quite a challenge.  At one point I had to retrace my steps.  The path (a dirt road) had been graded and cleared, which was fine – except for the big container placed right in the middle of the track that I had to clamber around – but they had also graded the river.  The options were to take off my shoes and wade through (it was just deep enough to fill my boots), but it didn’t really look safe to me as it was the sort of place that might have had glass on the river bed, or lug heavy rocks to make a crossing.  Neither seemed appealing, so back out to the road and I re-joined the track further along.  It was very slow going up the hill into Orvieto in the heat – half a dozen steps, rest, more steps, more rest and so on.  I eventually got there, and am now having TWO rest days, resting, and exploring, but more of that in the next post.
 The wet air meant that the views (above and below) were obscured for most of the day.

 These little vehicles are a very common sight in this part of the world.  Three wheeled, tray top for carting gear, and enough room for the driver in the cab, they can be heard coming begind for quite a while - they sound a bit like a lawn mower!
 Usually Orvieto can be seen from quite a way away, but because of the mist I was quite close before I could see it.  Above you can see the tuff cliff that it sits on.
Orvieto on top of the tuff cliff
The Tuff cliff on which Orvieto is built. 

Orvieto is another town of surprises, but they deserve more time and so will tell you of my exploring of this beautiful place soon.
Orvieto's stunning Cathedral

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