To Bolsena - Jan 28

Gracious hostesses!

Mt. Amiata and Radicofani from Aquapendente.
Mt. Amiata and Radicofani (the two peaks) from Aquapendente as we leave.

Today starts with a beautiful panoramic view of Radicofani and Mt. Amiata on the horizon. The view repeats itself several times through the morning. When you drive you seldom see yesterday's starting point as you start out in the morning. But that happens often when you walk, especially in a hilly countryside like this one. As I look at this picture now, as we stand on this hill 28 January looking north in the cold morning air, I can see where I started out the day before. I can see how far I can walk in a day. Oh, I can walk farther. That was only about 12 miles (19 km) but you get the idea. When you walk, distances are much more tactile. In fact, Abbadia S. Salvatore is also in this picture though you cannot directly see it unless you know exactly where it is. It is on the side of Mt. Amiata towards us. The day before we walked into the valley and across up to Radicofani.

We don't know it as we walk but this morning marks the beginning of the second half of this San Gimignano-Rome stage of our pilgrimage. As we leave town we a visit to a church designed to look like the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem. It stands on the edge of Acquapendente as a place for pilgrims who cannot make it all the way to Jerusalem, whither because of health or lack of funds. No one is there. Severely damaged during the war and since partially rebuilt, the church seems to lack "churchness." Huge paintings line the nave walls from floor to ceiling. The crypt below has what one might say looks like the Holy Sepulcher: a manger setting and several chapels.

A new Via Francigena sign.
Now that we are in Lazio we begin to see this big new Via Francigena sign.

Today we walk through two distinct ecosystems: fairly flat farmland south of Acquapendente and the crater lake walls of Lake Bolsena from S. Lorenzo Nuovo south. The expansive farmland includes the remains of cornfields, the first we have seen since at least before Lucca. The grain fields have been almost exclusively winter wheat.

Lake Bolsena
Lake Bolsena.

As we came over the hill north of S. Lorenzo, Lake Bolsena stretches out beautifully blue in front of us. A wall of hills lie south and west. The lake is clearly a crater lake, a collapsed caldera. We stop at a bar-restaurant on the entrance to S. Lorenzo and wait basking in the sun for half an hour for the dining room to open for lunch. Their pasta and mushrooms is a delight to my taste. Afterwards we walk down through town and then up along the crater walls of Mt. Volsini, a beautiful walk through fields and forests along little used paths until we finally arrive in Bolsena.

Walking above Lake Bolsena
Walking above Lake Bolsena.

Bamboo and sheep
Bamboo and sheep.

Hunters are out in large numbers today, shooting at quite close range sometimes. Twice we shout out just to make sure they knew we are here. Once I wave and shout to one particularly close. He waves back. As we walk down one back-road path, several four-wheel drives pass us. Then we see twenty or so parked around a complex of houses and barns. As we approach several are standing around three large, clearly dead, long-haired, wild pigs, a celebration of the day's kill.

Winter wheat and olives on Lake Bolsena.
Winter wheat and olives on Lake Bolsena in the late afternoon sun.

In the evening we receive a wonderfully warm welcome from the sisters at the pilgrim convent of the Sisters of SS. Sacrament. One sister makes us tea while a second asks us about our walk and the third stands by listening and asking a question now and then. All three short ladies stand in a stair-step row smiling broadly. They have a fine, warm double room for us in their private quarters. The normal pilgrim quarters are not heated. This has turned out to be a benefit of walking in the winter in several places--though not so in others (like the last two). We have our first shower in four days. Heaven. Then we go out for one of the best pizzas (tuna) we have had in Italy, or many other places for that matter.

We stay an extra day in Bolsena for a rest. But we cannot avoid walking a bit so we head out for the lake. A beautiful tree-lined street leads from the main city square to the lake. We walk accompanied by a following-leading lame little dog. The weather is as it has been most of the walk when it is not raining. The sun shins in a sparsely clouded sky. The temperatures are in the mid-50s F. (10-15 C.).

Before walking to the lake, we do our washing. But the few clouds of the morning close in as the day goes on and then rain comes. The clothes are not dry until the next morning.

Back from the lake we go into the church for Mass and a view of the its bloody stone. During the middle ages a miracle is said to have happened during a Mass when the Host bled after the Consecration. The bloody stone is on view in a chapel altar here.

Later I buy a new pair of gloves that prove to be a lot better than my old ones. I lost one of them the other day. It has been a bit too cold in the mornings and late afternoons not to have the gloves. But the days ahead will prove to be warmer and the gloves will not be so necessary. Nice to have them though. And they surely will be handy in colder Germany.

We eat our big meal in mid-afternoon so we do not have a heavy meal on our stomachs when we go to bed. We like to do that in Italy because, like Spain, they eat so late here. Most restaurants don't open till 7:30 or so in the evening and the customers don't arrive in numbers till 8:30. It is not unusual for us to arrive to an empty restaurant at 7:45 only to have it packed by the time we leave at nine.

The rest of the day we actually rest. We wander around the town a bit, spend an hour on the Internet, and just take it easy.

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