Our penultimate night on the Via was difficult. Although our apartment was nice, it did not have an air conditioner, which, with the outside temperature climbing back to 90F, left the interior quite warm. When we opened the windows in the evening, in came a mosquito. I take the position that if an apartment does not have air conditioning, it should at least have fans and screens over the windows to keep the night time marauders out.
We were not so lucky. Between the sweat-inducing heat, Sunday night parties in town, and the lurking mosquito, I got very little sleep.
Then, at 2:30 AM, it began to rain. A good soaking rain that was supposed to last throughout the day. We are ending our Via the way we began: rain-drenched.
|Campagno di Roma in the Rain|
The weather forecast for Rome called for afternoon rain, but when we departed Campagno di Roma, the rain was coming down in a steady stream. I have developed a fairly ingenious way of handling the rain: I put my cover over my backpack, and then I allow the rest of my body to simply get wet. After all, after months of shirt-drenching sweat, it is difficult to tell the difference.
The guidebook rated the penultimate stage as “medium” in difficulty. We did begin with a long hill climb out of Campagna, but it seemed much easier than other hills we have climbed. After climbing as many hills as we have climbed, it is difficult to rattle us with yet another steep uphill slope. You simply put one foot in front of the other and keep doing it until you reach the summit.
The rain continued to sheet down. The water running off the brim of my hat was brown. Mother Nature was giving me a good scrubbing before we reached the big city.
Our path led us to the Santuario Madonna del Sorbo, a small church set on a hillside. According to tradition, a swine herd used to work in these woods. He noticed that one of his pigs used to vanish every day. One day he decided to follow the pig, He discovered that the pig had found an icon of the Virgin Mary in the woods. The pig appeared to be praying to the Virgin. When the swineherd approached, Mary commanded him to build a church nearby, and the Santuario was the result.
|Santuario Madonna del Sorbo|
After visiting the church, we continued on through the rain, through a nature park, and then into the only town on today’s stage, Formello. We had hoped to sit for a few minutes at a bar and have a bite to eat, but none of the bars we passed seemed quite right. We walked up the hill to the old part of town, thinking we would find a bar there. Much to our dismay, after passing though some older houses, we were kicked back out into the countryside and sent on our way. It is interesting that often only one approach to a town has a commercial area.
We walked through the countryside, along winding, overgrown trails, ducking under bamboo thickets, dodging blackberry brambles and the occasional stinging nettle. It was as if the Via wanted to replay its greatest hits for us in the last few kilometers.
Ultimately we were brought to a point where we needed to choose between the primary Via Francigena route, and the alternate route that was slightly shorter and went by some archeological areas. I was dubious, as the estimated time for the two routes was roughly the same. I suspected that the alternate route might have some significant bushwhacking involved.
We chose the alternate route. I was right. The trail was overgrown in spots with some kind of weed that sported blue flowers. Our continuous companion, the blackberry bramble took optimistic swipes at our heads and legs as we passed. We did see an Etruscan stone quarry and a place where the Etruscans had carved a watercourse for irrigation.
After fighting the brambles around several farmers’ fields, the alternate course brought us to a lovely waterfall, and then we began the final ascent to town. After a long hill, we reached our evening lodgings in a convent. Tomorrow we shall take our last steps on the Via as we make our way through the suburbs into Rome.
Today’s Distance: 22.7 KM
Total Distance: 1178 KM