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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

Pieve di Rigutino, Cortona, Pozzuolo & Paciano / Il Casselle – Day 92, 93, 94 & 95 on the way.

I am going to try and squash most of the past week into two posts.  All I really need to write is that it has been hot, as in very, I have passed through some extraordinary villages, and have wonderful scenery to accompany me each day.  That summarises the days, but I will say a little more and try and paint the pictures for you.  Despite the beauty, there have been a couple of occasions when it has been quite disheartening trudging along on a white gravel road in the heat.  I am still walking up and down hills, and will no doubt do so all the way to Rome.

The first day after Arezzo was a little shorter as I decided to stop at a pilgrim refugio at Pieve di Rigutino.  What a delight.  It meant, despite the ups and downs that the day was fairly easy because it was quite a bit shorter.  I was continually distracted leaving Arezzo as there were some wonderful views of the town looking back.  The path on this stretch winds it’s way through olive groves, sometimes tarmac, sometimes dirt and rocks.

I had been tipped off, thankfully, about the pilgrim refugio which is why I changed my plans and stayed there.  For the Camino buffs reading this, it is a donativo refugio.  Giovanni is the delightful host, a man who has walked to Santiago five times, so he knows what pilgrims appreciate.  The dormitory is very large with about a dozen bunks along with a couple of single beds.  Giovanni lives in the house which is attached to the Church, and of which the refugio is part.  He cooked a delicious dinner for another guest, Dario,  and myself.  The evening was a delight as from the terrace we could see the beautiful views while we ate dinner, and after dinner people started to go to the bar at the side of the church, and yet others arrived to rehearse a programme of Gregorian Chants.  I of course sat in on the rehearsal, until I could no longer keep my eyes open.  The rehearsal didn’t begin until 9.30, which is about the time that rehearsals have stopped at home!
Th first sign I saw leaving Arezzo was at this .....  Obviously a school holiday programme was obviously in progess.
 The path soon went steeply up hill, with wonderful views back towards Arezzo.


The hostel at Pieve di Rigutino is next to the 1,000 year old church, and is run by Giovanni - a wonderful host.
The refugio in Pieve di Rigutino, and hospitalero Giovanni with the terrace vista behind.

The next day I was headed for Cortona.  I must say that I have been somewhat oblivious to this part of Italy.  I was totally unaware that it was near here that an American woman renovated a house, writing a famous book subsequently made into an equally famous film (Under the Tuscan Sun).  Cortona, an extraordinarily interesting village, is where much of the action took place and consequently the place is inundated with American (and other) tourists.  Every other voice I heard while in the town had a north American accent, though there were many British too.  

On the way I was very tempted to stay in Castiglion Fiorentino, which is also a very interesting hilltop Tuscan town, but decided to move on to Cortona.  Having a long rest in Castiglion I called on the barman for assistance.  He kindly rang the convent where I planned to stay and reserved a room for me which meant that I could relax knowing I had somewhere to stay.  Somehow I missed a turn as I walked through the village of Montecchio, and ended up on the busy highway. I was only about 6 kilometres from Cortona, but to get back on the path it meant a steep uphill climb, in the hot afternoon sun.   I was cutting it fine to get to the convent in time (bearing in mind that we couldn’t stay at the monastery in la Verna because we were too late), and so I decided to hop on a bus.  A bonus, because it got me half way up the hill, though I still had plenty of climbing to get to the convent.  Cortona is a village with narrow, twisted alleyways, steep stairs, and ancient buildings.  To live there one would maintain a high level of fitness.   The bonus is that wherever one looks there are views – views up or down streets, of rooftops, and of panoramic vistas.  The nun who checked me in must have decided I needed a perk and so having opened a (single) room for me she departed to write a receipt.  On her return she offered me the room next door – an upgrade to a double bed, and a TV, which she thought was a bonus for me.  Of course there were only Italian programmes, but later that night I was able to see a Mozart opera which was a nice change.  

Castiglion Fiorentino ........
..... and looking back to the village of Castiglion Fiorentino (right)
I walked up to and through the village of Montecchio, before missing a turn.  I didn't clib up tot he castle though.  
Streetscapes (above & below) in Cortona.

Looking across the plain I was to plod the next day.
The panaramic vista from Cortona - this is the view I had from my bedroom windo too.
Sunset in Cortona
Looking back at Cortona. 

I left early the next morning, stopping at a cafe on the way for breakfast, and headed off downhill.  I had tried to book a room in Pozzuolo, but without success.  This has been a journey of people bending over backwards to help me, and even though she could not offer me a bed, Anitra, the owner of the B & B I had tried to book rang around and found me a wonderful agriturismo in Quercia del Pentimento to stay at.  It was a few kilometres short of Pozzuolo, but I was very glad to get to it.  I did think initially that the owner was shouting at me because she thought I would understand her Italian better, but later I could hear her “shouting” just as loudly to an Italian guest – she had even more of a foghorn than me, and that is staying something!  It was an easy walk, fairly flat and therefore not too arduous, just long, in the heat of the day.

I would have liked a breakfast at 6.30 so that I could get started before the sun got too hot, but it seems in this part of the world the standard breakfast time is 7 or 7.30, which makes it hard to get on  the road much before 8.00am.  My hostess had been so kind, providing me with dinner the night before, plus several bottles of very cold agua frizzante, I was reluctant to rock the boat by asking for an early breakfast when she clearly thought that 7.00 was very early it.  As it transpired, that was a bonus, because I intended to stop at the dress shop owned by Ivana, the vice president of the Via Romea Assoc (in Italy, I think), but when I arrived it was closed.  I had just finished writing a note for her, when it opened.  I was again helped tremendously as Ivana rang a restaurant where I could get a room and reserved it for me.  Thus I could set off again, knowing that I had a bed for the night.

These little green lizards flit everywhere.  They are incredibly quick, but very pretty.
The path crossed this footbridge, which is not very well used at a guess!

The little church at Pentimento, where I turned to go to the agriturismo.

It was such a hot day, but I plodded on slowly and steadily.  In the guide book the stage ended at Paciano, but my bed was 3.5 kms further on.  There was a “shortcut” direct to there, bypassing Paciano, but I missed it, resulting in an extra 6 -7 kilometres to my day.  By the time I realised that I had missed the turn there was no point in turning back and so I plodded onwards, walking on a bright white road, uphill, and with no shade, other than that provided by my umbrella.  Though I had water, it was not appealing being just a little cooler than what a hot drink would be!  My humour was deteriorating sharply, but it is amazing what a bar can do when a cold drink, with ice, is available.  Once I had refreshed, I was quite glad I had detoured through Paciano, a really pretty (hilltop) walled town, having the energy in the end to take photos before setting off to Albergo il Casale.  Here too I had dinner provided, eating on the terrace, looking across the olive groves to the town of Paciano on the other side of the valley, and out to the plains below.

Twice on this day I was recognized by people.  I stopped at a bar in a little village called Vaiano and was greeted by one of the customers.  Unfortunately I didn’t catch his name, but after a grilling from him about where I had come from and where I was going he produced his phone and showed me a picture of myself!  That evening, sitting on the terrace having dinner, I was introduced to Eraldo.  I was introduced as a “pellegrina australiana” to him, and immediately he said “ah Janet” and he too produced a picture of me!  He was wonderful, taking charge of where I would stay and booking accommodation for me for the “problem” town 2 days away, and for the following night.  His help was much appreciated and took the worries out of where I would stay in a town to come which was difficult to find accommodation.
This field of garlic made a change from the grain crops in the fields
Entering Paciano
Looking across at the village of Paciano from the terrace of Albergo il Casale.
Lookinng out over the olive groves to the plains below 

I am now having a couple of rest days in Orvieto.  I will update as soon as I can.

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