Day 70: Gambassi Terme

Number of kilometres today: 24

Total kilometres walked from Canterbury: 1,688.3

Total steps since Canterbury:  2,344,790

Number of kilometres to Rome: 347

Today, I walked the rolling hills of Tuscany, away from the roads busy with traffic.  The loudest sound was the wind rushing the fir trees and roaring past my ears. An eagle cried.  Hidden birds chirped.  Free-range roosters crowed. A cow bellowed from within a barn.  The dogs, locked awaya in their pens, barked as I passed.

Summer jasmine. Rose. Moist earth. The breeze warmly whispered summer. 

Olive trees laden, their fruit ripening green to currant to black, leaves shimmering silver green.  Grapevines dying a yellow death. Brown clumps of freshly ploughed earth. Fluorescent green grass snaking under the wind's forceful breath. Terracotta farmhouses deserted and crumbling. Giant oblong clouds hovering above the hills.

I want to remember today forever, to hold on to the beauty and the peace that was with me at almost every step interrupted only by the thick clay mud clumped to the bottom of my boots that I still haven't made peace with.  There was no rush. No counting kilometres. No constantly checking the guide book.  Just walking through this beautiful landscape and occasionally stopping to scrape the mud off the bottom of my boots.

This morning, I woke early and walked up the Rocca di Federico to watch the sunrise and then stroll around what I expected to be a sleepy San Miniato. However, every weekend in November is the Festa di Tartufo Bianco and there was a lot of activity at 7am; stalls being set up and stocked, rubbish collected, streets cleaned.  

I left San Miniato expecting to re-trace my steps from two years ago and then figure out where I went wrong last time and correct my mistake. For the first few kilometres, the road and the houses and the scenery looked familar but then I didn't recognise it anymore. I thought maybe I just didn't remember but as I stopped to take a photo of the rolling hills, I recognised a ruined farmhouse amongst some trees and the path leading up to it and the broader path it joined below. This was where I almost got lost for the first time two years ago.  I kept walking along the broad path when I should have turned up the hill on the narrow path past the the  farmhouse.  A young man working on his car in the field had whistled to get my attention and pointed up the hill.

Soon after that, I did get lost. I couldn't find the next sign. The guidebook didn't make sense anymore. I walked around in a circle for forty minutes unable to find the way  I gave up on the signs and the book and walked through a field down to the road I could see below and then over to a hilltop village to find a map of the area in the town centre.  There wasn't one.  Nor was there anyone to ask for help because it was post-lunch siesta time and it was a ghost town.  In the end I took a south heading on my compass and walked the roads finding my own way to Gambassi Terme.

Now, the official way has changed. I walked a different way. Today I didn't get lost.  The way is well-signed.

There is so much beauty in Tuscany that calls to all my senses.  I love best how it feels to be here out in those hills. Earthy and peaceful and real. Pausing to rest in the quiet and stillness of nature and humanless open spaces and absorb the beauty.  Blessed.

Sunrise San Miniato

View of San Miniato Alto town at sunrise

San Miniato Basso at sunrise

The tower on Rocca di Federico

Chiesa del Santissimo Crocifisso

A rainbow over San Miniato Basso.  Rain coming,

Setting up for the Festa di Tartufo Bianco.

Impressive doors in San Miniato

And a park gate

Leaving San Miniato behind...

The scene where I almost got lost 2 years ago

Heading into the Tuscan countryside

Walking up the hill to Gambassi Terme as the sun began to set behind the clouds and hill

That is Gambassi Terme in the distance only 1.5 kilometres away.