Day 68: Altopascio

Number of kilometres today: 18.1

Total kilometres walked from Canterbury: 1,637.7

Total steps since Canterbury:  2,273,090

Number of kilometres to Rome: 396

This morning I was woken again by creamy golden sunshine streaming into my room and wrapping around the chiffon curtains of my four post bed.  I lay and luxuriated in it for ten minutes before getting up and starting the packing process. I was in no rush to leave and didn't need to as today was a short 5 hour walk day.  I washed my hair and then enjoyed blow drying it. I haven't had access to a hairdryer often on ths trip and it feels good, almost luxurious to start the day feeling groomed even if I am wearing my daggy hiking clothes.  After another slow breakfast, I left my B&B at 10am to walk into and then away from Lucca stopping to buy a panino for lunch on the way.  Without thinking, I ordered mortadella.  I didn't even feel like mortadella.  All I really wanted was caprese.  After I left the almentari, that was all I could think about...where to buy a caprese panino.

I took my first break early after walking for only 75 minutes stopping at a little cafe on the outskirts of Lucca to have a cappuccino and to give my aching feet a break. Unusually, the side of each foot from my little toe to halfway down my foot was throbbing and needed a little rest.

There are bad cappuccinos.  There are good cappuccionos.  There are great cappuccinos and then there are amazing cappuccinos.  Mine was amazing.  The milk foamed to perfection, thick and creamy. The coffee the perfect strength and not too bitter. I  set off towards Altopascio even happier and contented despite the trobbing in my right foot that didn't subside and the dark clouds threatening rain.  They didn't hang around for long.  They soon drifted away leaving

 blue sky, spottings of cloud on the horizon and sunshine.

Walking off the busy Via Romana onto a quiet suburban side street, I soon approached some locals standing out the front of their house chatting and very obviously staring at me.  I still haven't quite figured out how to respond to the staring of people I pass on the street.  When they are in cars I stare back and either mimic them by turning my head to watch as they go and keep an intense stare or I break the stand off and smile and nod my head which usually but not always gets a nod and sometimes a smile in return.  But when I walk towards an Italian walking towards me, they stare at me and they keep staring without looking away.  I usually look at them, glance away, look back to see them still staring, look away again and then as we are about to pass I look back and greet them with "Salve" or "Buongirono."

The funniest stare I had was as I walked up Viale Apua to Pietrasanta from Forte dei Marmi, I passed an old man riding his bicyle along the bike track, and as he appoached me he had his brows wrinkled down, staring 

not at my face but at my hunchbacked body draped in the bright green Kermit.

 I could feel him thinking "Che cosa?"

What the?

  I burst out laughing. 

With all the time I have to ponder the great questions of the world and my life, I have spent a lot of time wondering how to respond to the walking starers and my conclusions is

that I am just meant to stare back at them and keep staring at them until we pass eachother by and see who, if either of us is going to greet the other.

Anyway, this group of people standing on the footpath were very obviously staring at me.  As I came near I smiled and said "Buongiorno."  

"Pellegrina?"one man with thinning white hair asked.

"Si," I responded.

He walked over and told me that he had walked the Via Francigena also with a group in sections over 7 years.  Well that is what I understood him to say. I told him I left Canterbury on 1st September and received the usual response.

"Da sola?" Alone?  He called out to his wife who was chatting to another old woman who had just ridden up on her bicycle.  

"Brava," she raised her eyebrows and nodded. 

"Buon corragio," the bke lady said.

The man I was speaking to then asked if there was anything I needed.  Water?  The bathroom?  Because he knows how hard it is to find a bathroom sometimes. I declined his kind offers and he shook my hand in parting wishing me buon viaggio.

One hundred meters down the road I was stared at and then greeted by a group of three men, two in their 50's, one in his 20's, standing on the footpath chatting. This time I volunteered information about who I am, where I am going and how far I have walked.  I do enjoy their shocked expressions when they learn that I have walked all this way

da sola.

I am grateful to have these interactions today on what was not a very picturesque day walking through residential areas and some industrial sections and along some sections of busy road.  I would like to thank the Black Keys that got me dance walking through the busiest section of the SP23 that I walked as a short cut between Capannori and Porcari in order to save myself 2 kilometres.  I suspect the wine I used to wash down my caprese salad  at lunch may have helped.  Yes my craving for a caprese was realised today.  It was delicious. 

I am now only 396 kilometres from Rome.  It is exciting when one of the big numbers ticks over. Tomorrow I walk to San Miniato which is not only a beautfiul hill top town but  is where my Via Francigena journey started when I walked from San Miniato to Murlo in 2011.  It feels like the completion of a circle and a home-coming and I can't wait to walk there tomorrow.

A good morning to dry the washing in San Donato, Lucca

Piazza Duomo, Lucca.

Porta San Gervasio, Lucca

Porta Elisa, Lucca.

The fortified walls of the town just outside Porta Elisa.

I took a moment to appreciate where I was and how close I am to Rome

Church of San Quirico, Capannori

Playing around as there wasn't anything else to take photos of.

SP23 joy

Just outside Turchetto where I walked through a small patch of woodlands.

Vineyards and what remains of the Abbazia di Badia Pozzeveri

Farm house in Badia Pozzeveri



Sunset view from my hotel room - Cavalier del Tau - got a great deal on

Post sunset view from my hotel