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Last week I took advantage of the lovely late fall weather to cycle from our cottage in Gibsons to our city condo. Brisk and sunny 36 km.

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GPS recording distance whilst sitting on ferry; actual cycling distance was 36 km
Langdale ferry terminal
Looking east towards Stanley Park from Marine Drive in West Vanccouver.
Me at high point of Lions Gate Bridge.
Looking west from bridge.
English Bay
False Creek East
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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 4 – San Miniato to Gambassi Terme

A basic breakfast in the convent followed by coffee and pastries in town to start the day. This was a long stage (24 km) with no options for food so we picked up a couple of sandwiches for the road. Lovely ridge walking on dirt farm roads and agreeable cool temperature. Stopped at winery in hamlet of Colano where we picked up a bottle of vino rosso to enjoy with picnic lunch. Afternoon was more ridges that culminated in a long climb up to Gambassi Terme. Osteria de Pelerino bar was a welcome stop just before the end.

Found our room and sadly discovered the hot baths were closed for maintenance. Joined fellow pellegrino Gaetan from Montreal for underwelming dinner at local ‘Gato and Lupe’ restaraunt.

Distance officially 24 km (but felt longer!) and our Fitbits agreed!

Stayed at: Villa Della Certola, right near the (closed) thermal baths.

Second breakfast

Hostel in Gambassi Terme