Via Francigena Day 20 – Vetralla to Sutri

This morning we walked with a woman from the Netherlands and our chatting with her helped the 17 km to Capranica, our lunch stop, slip by.

Torri D’Orlando – Roman tombs

After Capranica the VF changed to something more akin to a jungle trek.

Settled into a fantastic little apartment in Sutri – La Mia Cassata – for two nights then off for a Aperol Spritz on the sunny square

That night we had a truly good dinner. These have not been as frequent as we hoped. A fabulous all-veggie antipasti platter, followed by grilled porchetta and oven roast potatoes. Yum!

Distance 24 km

Via Francigena Day 19 – Viterbo to Vetralla

A fairly short day that preceeds three longish ones. We started by following the spectacular Via Cava di Sant’Antonio. This is a road dug by the Etruscans into the limestone and still used today.

Hazelnut and olive groves mixed with the now ubiquitous wildflowers were the theme today.

Poppies add a touch of colour to the olive grove
A rare rest stop with panoramic view
Pork bun picked up when leaving Viterbo

Arriving midafternoon at our apartment in Vetralla gave us time to do some much needed laundry and the sun provided the drying. Not our favourite town. If you are ready for a rest day, go one stage further to Sutri!

Distance 16 km

Via Francigena Day 18 – Montefiascone to Viterbo

Our day started with dramatic views of Lake Bolsena and the surrounding valleys from the ramparts of Montefiascone.

Shortly after beginning our descent the route became ancient basoli paving of the Via Cassia Antica. These roads are in remarkable condition considering they are 2000 years old.

Just before Viterbo, on a rather long and monotonous stretch, is the unique and low key Thermal Springs of Bagnaccio. Free for pilgrims! We hopped into our swim suits and enjoyed a soak.

Fellow pilgrims Christiane and Andrea in the thermal Springs
Long shot of Lisa

The final leg is through the busy outer neighhourhoods of Viterbo before reaching the walled old city.

Lisa’s phone had been giving her increasing grief so she purchased a new one at the Vodafone shop. That’s two new phones for us this trip. Not what we wanted to do.

Enjoyed a stroll around the quiet medieval quarter and drinks/snacks at a funky bar there.

Distance 18 km

Stayed at Medieval House BnB. Very engaged owner, proudly serving (breakfast) meat from his family’s factory, and his grandmothers cinnamon toast. Beds a bit soft tho.

Via Francigena Day 17 – Bolsena to Montefiascone

Rain was in the forecast but we were lucky and experienced fair weather for all but the last hour of walking today.

Mostly woods walking on gentle trails and gradual climb.

A jolly group of Italian bikepackers

Walked the second half with a lovely German pilgrim – Christiane. She was joined by her friend at Montefiscone and we all met for dinner that night.

The weather was quite grim when we arrive in town so pretty much hunkered down in our cold (again, until we asked for heat) room.

Of note… we passed the 100 km to Rome line today!

Our friend’s German guidebook said it is manditory to have a stamp from the Church just outside town (left side of route) to receive the pilgrims’ certificate in Rome. Proves you walked the minimum 100 km for this. The stamp is self serve on the outside of a garage like structure just to the right of church. Thus factoid never came up in other guides or web sites so who knows?

Footnote: The representative at the Pilgrims’ office in Rome barely glanced at our passport stamps before issuing our testamonials.

Distance 18 km

Via Francigena Day 16 – Bolsena Rest Day

We love being near or on the water and have been missing this on the Francigena, so planned Lago Bolsena as a rest day. I booked two nights in a water front hotel with a terrace overlooking the lake.

And it rained pretty much the whole time we were there.

First night we froze in bed and when we inquired were told that it is May and we never have heat on in May… but we will put it on now, if you like…

We visited museums, bought umbrellas, dodged downpours and had a rocking pizza at a restaurant advertising touristic menus, which should have scared us off.

Castle – museum
Ball turret from a WWII B17 bomber that crashed in Lago Bolsena
Rain swept piazza where we had cocktails – in our dreams!
Camino lace in museum
Best and also biggest pizza of the trip. La Tavernetta in the pedestrian zone!

Limbs lost to cold -zero, luckily

Raindrops – bazillion

Puddles – everywhere

Via Francigena Day 15 – Acquapendante to Bolsena

We started this day with a breakfast covered in sugar ants. Yum.

Walked into town and stopped at a bar for a coffee. That’s when we discovered a tick burrowed into Rand’s forearm.

This picture is a pretty accurate representation of how well I could see it during the removal process.

My close vision being the best, it fell to me to dig it out with tweezers from a Swiss Army knife. A tick ‘lifter’ which we have, unused, at home, would have been more re-assuring. Lyme disease is present in Italy, and we have gone through a lot of tall brush, so we are checking ourselves pretty rigorously now. Then to the farmacia for a 10€ tube of antibiotic cream we are now afraid to throw away.

First half of the walk was, briefly on the side of a highway, then off across relatively flat and scenic farmland. Very pleasant.

A massive car rally was taking place this weekend – hundreds of performance cars through the ages – roadsters to lamborghinis. We learned that the teams pay 7000 € to participate in this three day event, 1000 Miglia 2019. Uncounted zoomed past us at crossroads and during our lunch stop.

Had pizza and beer in San Lorenzo Nuovo, the midway point for this stage. Randy had a true Quattro Stagione.

Might have overindulged as we were pretty slow and drowsy on the second half. Here we traversed a beautiful oak forest and then had views of lake Bolsena and amazing fields of wildflowers- poppies offset with blue, purple and yellow blooms. Pictures just can’t capture this.

Nasty invasive Broom makes for a colorful picture.

Arrived Bolsena, where we planned to enjoy a rest day, with a lakefront terrace room splurge. Sun. Prosecco. Cleaned clothes drying in a warm breeze. It was going to be awesome!

Our lake view terrace, where we hoped to spend a day relaxing.

Km walked – 23

Geckos – thousands

Poppies – millions

Via Francigena – Navigation

The VF is very well signed and in theory a walker could simply show up and follow the signs to Rome.

The route markers generally take three forms – sign posts, concrete ‘mini’ milestones and stickers.

Four years ago while on a driving holiday in Italy we bought a 1:50,000 VF map of Tuscany. This is useful for planning purposes and for our Tuscan section I carried this in my front pocket for quick reference.

We noticed a guidebook that seemed to be very popular with the pellegrinos crowd we were meeting. I took a peek at the French edition and was impressed with the layout and maps. The tourist office at Monteriggioni was selling the English version so I grabbed it for €20. ‘The Via Francigena’ by Terre de Mezzo publisher. Highly recommended.

The official Via Francigena web site is excellent and broken down by stages.

https://www.viefrancigene.org/en/

Nice features include downloadable stage pdfs formatted for smart phones and downloadable route onto the Maps.me app.

Maps.me is a great app. You download the maps you need so no data reception is required. The route can be downloaded on this through the VF site. This feature will use your phone’s gps and place you on the route. It only activates the phone”s gps when app is open so minimal battery usage.

We also use maps.me for planning purposes. If you zoom way in on the route you can often see agri-tourismos you would never be able to locate any other ways and plan rest breaks at tiny little bars.

Via Francigena Day 14 – Radicofani to Acquapendente

Today we had the beautiful cloudless skies and warm sun that seemed to be eluding us on this walk.The first ten km of this stage is downhill to Ponte Rigo where we stopped at the Girasole bar for an early panini lunch. Worth noting – there is a new 8 bed ostello here, run through the bar.

The decision then was to either walk directly to Acquapendente following the highway (total 24 km) or take the alternate and longer route that loops up and around the Val di Paglia (total 32km). Lisa went for option one while I took option two.

Not such a flattering picture of our parting at Ponte Rigo. We are close to the same size. Lisa is not holding me up in the air.

Lisa walked to Centeno, crossing from Tuscany into Lazio in the process. Beyond this point the route is directly on the highway shoulder and our guidebook recommends taking a bus or taxi for this dangerous bit. Lisa didn’t see the bus stop, but talked a friendly courier into giving her a lift along the most dangerous 5 km. She observed walkers on both sides of the nearly shoulderless highway during the quick lift.

Walking out of Tuscany
The courier driver spoke no English, but they were able to reassure each other that they were not ‘criminales’

Once dropped just prior to the Gregoriano Bridge, Lisa walked the last three kms to town where she had an Aperol Spritz with the best assortment of complimentary snacks witnessed in our travels. Then she walked another two to our agri-tourismo.

One woman, one drink, 5 snacks!

I did the alternative route that added 19 km to my day and I only rolled into our overnight stop at 1900 hrs. Would have been earlier but Maps.me let me down on the last leg. Saw no other walkers on this alternative route and although longish it was quite beautiful. Recommended.

On the alternate route
I stopped to pound a big “Morty” in Proceno

Stayed at: La Sentiero agri-tourismo – hard to find, we were the only guests and also dinner hostages. Good beds, limited wifi. 50 Euro

Pilgrims spotted risking their lives on the road: coupla dozen.

Via Francigena Day 13: Castiglione d’Orcia to Radicofani

This would have been a 30km day, but we had advanced ourselves about 6 km along the way, on purpose, the previous day. It was very cold in the morning when we set off.

That pimple on the horizon is our destination

Once down in the valley, it warmed up a bit. We had to cross a few fords, luckily the water was low.

Good trail, but long. No services without detouring.

The tough part is the eight km climb to Radicofani at the end of the leg. We had wind and rain to make it even sweeter.

For the first time on this walk we did not book a room ahead. Our reward was to sit in wet clothes in a lovely bar, Tocca, getting increasingly frustrated with Booking.com. We know from long experience that “sold out on Booking.com” is not the same thing as sold out, but every effort we made to contact some of the local properties eventually sent us back to Booking.com. we were forced to surrender at last and take a room outside the town centre – which means downhill ( but only slightly.)

Lesson learned. There are two ostellos in town, but if you haven’t guessed by now, that is no longer my scene. I’ve earned a bit of privacy.

As a rule of thumb, we agree that in towns of 2000 population or more you can probably book 1 night ahead, for towns of 1000 population, two nights ahead. And this is off-season. For Ostellos, we know that Monteriggioni was fully booked in advance when we passed through, and our friend Kees was out of luck a few times when he tried to book a bed one night in advance.

If you are counting on budget accommodation, book ahead is my advice, but in doing so, seek opportunities to break the longer legs into two parts. I’m a good walker, but the Tuscan hills leave me feeling shattered after about 22 km.

Luckily, our host whipped us back to town for an excellent and good value meal at La Grotto.

Via Francigena Day 12: Torrentieri to Castiglione d’Orcia

After a cafe breakfast we once again set off to complete the previous day’s stage and begin another. It was a pretty big climb up to San Quirico, where we set out to find Birrifico, a craft brewery.

After a ceremonial pint we had some lunch and proceeded to Bagno Vignoni. Very cool spot. After a relaxing beverage by the village square hot pool, a sticking of the feet into a warmish run off trench, and a short hike to Mill park to see the beautiful but-not-hot pool, our afternoon was gone.

Suddenly, we were short of time to meet our hosts for the evening. It was an even harder, steeper walk up to Castiglione d’Orcia, than to San Quirico

This town is worth a climbing detour off the VF. We had our best accommodation of the trip (to date) in this village as well.

We met – our friend from Day One in Lucca – Kees, (pronounced ‘Case’), and his wife, Germaine, for dinner here, which was fun. They told us how nice their apartment was, and we said the same, and it turned out they were right above us! So we went back to our place to sample that wee bottle of Brunello purchased the day before.

Can’t recommend it enough as everything was brand new and well done. We had one bedroom, a wood burning stove, a beautiful garden with loungers and a washing machine. Our friends above us had two bedrooms but no garden area. Would be a great base for exploring Tuscany. And the name of this amazing place:
Alla Porta di Sopra. Its on Booking.com

Cost was 70 euro, with no breakfast. It was worth every nickel. Got all our clothes washed and dried and slept under a fluffy quilt.