A new hiking team has arrived! Sytske and Anne, good friends of my parents, were walking with me through Southern Tuscany. We had expected it to be a beautiful stretch of the Via Francigena, little did we know just how beautiful it was!
We left early in the morning when our dad dropped us off just outside San Quirico. (Due to holiday season in Italy all the accommodations were fully booked, and we had to resort to sleeping way off the track. Luckily Sytske and Anne rented a car.) We had an enjoyable hike, on asphalt unfortunately, to the town of Torrenieri. Here we enjoyed a coffee at bar Ticci, which is over 100years old!
Then the more beautiful part of the day started. Over the rolling Tuscan hills, on dirt roads, with gorgeous views. It’s good to be in Tuscany. In the beginning we met very few pilgrims. But halfway through the day, we met herds of so called “weekend pilgrims”. People walking stretches of the Via Francigena in weekends with a small (or even no) backpack. The whole reason all accommodations are booked this weekend…
The endpoint for the day was Buonconvento, with the last hour or so on a small path next to a busy road. I was just texting my dad we were going to arrive in an hour, and he was driving past! He waited for us at Buonconvento and took us to a small town in the hills called Murlo (because, unfortunately, everything in Buonconvento was fully booked). Here we had lunch together, and we said an emotional goodbye. We all know who’s not here. And my dad drove off to the airport.
The next day we had a semi-long and hot day to Siena. Again we enjoyed the rolling Tuscan hills. We walked around the old monastery of Cuna before taking a break in Isola d’Arbia. From there we had one of the only challenges I’ve had for doing the route backwards: on our side it wasn’t indicated that the route was barred. So when we finally reached that point we either had to walk back 2 kms (never, ever!) or climb some fences. We chose the latter, since when do Dutch people listen to rules? 😉
After a bit of industrial territory we followed a small asphalt path to Siena. It had stunning views of both the surroundings and Siena in the distance (with the tower of Piazza del Campo towering above it). It made for a gorgeous spot to eat our lunch.
To the center of Siena was quite a climb. But finally there it, indeed, was beautiful, but also very crowded. Oh my god, how many people fit in a small city. The answer is too many. After a bit of relaxing in the crowd on Piazza del Campo we checked in at the campsite (where we had our own mobile home) before going into town for dinner and getting compression socks for me. It turns out that, on hot and long days, I get a burning red rash on both my legs, including swelling around the ankles. It looks horrible, it feels slightly less horrible, but doesn’t make the hike easier… Hopefully compression socks will help (spoiler alert, they didn’t).
The next day was a shorter day to Monteriggioni, a fortified town up on a hill. The alarm went at 6AM, it’s getting routine. We had breakfast at our porch and made it to the center fo Sienna. We had coffee at Charlie bar which, according to a diploma on the wall, has the world record in most cappuccinos made in an hour. (I remember it to be 322 or something around that number. A quick check on the Guinness world record site, states that the current record holder lives in Australia with a record of 353 cappuccinos, so I guess Charlie bar lost the record.)
A big part of the route today went through forest, with a thick reddish clay ground. A later internet check told us that Tuscany used to be at the bottom of the sea. There are still many fossilized shells to be found, which Anne did a day later. After appearing from the forest and going up a hill, we found ourselves near 2 castles. From then it was an easy and straight dirt road to Monteriggioni. Sytske’s wish for the day was to see a golden oriole. We heard them the whole day, but never saw them. Anne (who apparently knows a lot about birds) said we would have to be very lucky. Normally they don’t show themselves, but it might happen they fly across our road and then we might catch a glimpse. And so it happened. The beautiful bright yellow birds flew past and it made our day (even better).
Monteriggioni was, yet again, a tourist trap with way too many people for the small town it is. We were ignored at all the terraces so we grabbed a quick sandwich before making our way to the 4-star (!!) hotel just outside town where we were staying at that night (great deal at Booking).
The last day with Sytske and Anne was a very long day of over 30kms. My legs couldn’t take that, so I admit I skipped a bit with the bus. Sytske and Anne picked me up about halfway and together we made it to San Gimignano. There had been some rain and we had to cross little streams on our way. Then after two hills or so we saw San Gimignano. Beautifully located up a hill with the towers pointing up at the sky. We checked in a the campsite, where again we had our own mobile home. Jelle, my next fellow hiker arrived and we had a great dinner together. Sytske and Anne, thank you very much, we had a beautiful hike together and I learned so much from you two!
Tomorrow a free day to explore San Gimignano and then we go on again. To Holland.