September 13

Pull a double etape. Great weather. Another volcanic lake. Carmelites keep me hanging on. Sutri is a surprise.

Vaclav is up at 6am and out the door by 6.45; he’s aiming for Vetralla today, where I’ve booked him into a monastery and a haircut in a pet shop.  Might not see him again, but do have his email address. His surname is Smirnoff!

Decide to try the route I heard about yesterday which misses Vetralla altogether and goes to Sutri. I have only a photo of a handrawn map to go by plus of course my apps to verify my location. Leave by 7.30 and feel strong this morning, must be all that pasta I ate yesterday!

Get to the bottom of the road and something is not right with one of my boots. I can feel an unusual rub on a toe. Whip off both boot and sock and find nothing; must have been the tiniest fold of the sock.  After 10 weeks you notice these small things, which, if ignored can result in painful blisters.

On the foot front. The final adjustment to my right insole has worked well and the pain in the balls of my right foot have receded. I am close to losing two toenails, only hope that it’s after I finish!

All I have with me are a handful of the delicious grapes left by Vaclav. Each cafe bar seems teeming with noisy teenagers and it’s not yet 8am. Must be the first day back or something. Odd, the place reminds me of Istanbul. I need to eat and to buy food, as I believe I will pass very few towns on this choice of route.

Find myself walking out of Viterbo with little water, no food, and not having had breakfast. Very poor start for me. It will be three hours of uphill walking which I hadn’t appreciated. Need grub and quick!

Soon pass through Bel Colle which is really just a massive hospital complex. It’s a bit ugly and not the sort of place you want to end up in.  A few kms later along a dangerously narrow SP9, it’s the delightful respite of San Martino de Cimino. It’s a small place with an impressive square lined with shops. Find a bar and eat! A couple of doors down is a wonderful general alimentari store. Buy large bottle of water, fruit, a massive filled roll, and an emergency slice of focaccia! I am a bit over laden and the way out is up and I mean up. I could barely walk up past the church, so as to leave by the southern gate.

Exit town and it’s almost an hour up hill on the SP81, to the suggested path through the extensive woods overlooking lake Vico. I notice an odd looking cat, it had perfectly circular, deepset eyes much like an owl, it was staring but not moving. Makes you wonder whether other mammals actually think in anyway we would detect or understand?

Reach the edge of the wood and it’s uphill for another 30 minutes and then its a long ridge walk through miles of majestic beech. I love this tree even though it has a tendency to lose branches and fall over for no reason. Maybe it’s just clumsy?

The view of the lake to my left is limited as the woodland vegetation is so dense, likewise the valley below on the other side. The lake, like it’s near neighbour, Bolseno, is a volcanic crater, extinct, and then filled up with rain water over thousands of years. It’s a huge attraction for water sports enthusiasts as well as for wildlife.

The woodland path is soft and damp smelling  much like the walks I often took in the Washington Cascades. Reminds me how much I miss my son, Jack, who is struggling to survive in the cut throat world of US retail.

I am out of the woods at noon and seek a spot to sit and eat part 2 of my lunch. The beech have been replaced by oak initially, and then field after field of hazel. It must be the world centre for the nut. The legendary chocolates, Baci, are made just down the road in Perugia, with their distinctive hazel nut centres. Like a loon I’m gathering up fistfulls of those I find in the road, what I plan to do with them is unclear. Finally find a wall which sadly was in the sun but you can’t have everything. I notice three people across the road sitting on the ground eating. I ask whether they’re gathering up nuts, which they confirm. As I leave they ask me questions about where I’m from etc. They have a look of genuine astonishment at my answers, as if I’m a fictional character suddenly come to life before them.

Half an hour later I’m in the marvellous town of Ronciglione. Totally unexpected. Its has an amazing medieval borgo or old town. Absent mindedly wandering through it I find myself deep in a seasonal gully, which of course means that I now have to walk up the other side with all my gear on! Decide on a route but Google maps neglects to show that the road hits an embankment which is only a few metres deep and below the raised main road. Decide to climb through the dense vegetation and soon find myself bleeding from bramble tears.  Soon on the road for the final 6km leg into Sutri.

It’s turning hotter but there’s a decent amount of intermittent shade.  It’s uninspiring except where someone dumped a loo (excuse the pun), a bright spark put up a notice saying 21st C toilet welcome to use. It reminds me of an April fools joke we played on the fire brigade trainees who shared a floor with us, when I was at LWT. There a was an unused drinking fountain which we made look like a bidet replete with towel and standing stool. The look on the faces of the unsuspecting trainees will remain with me. Childish yes, but certainly funny.

As I’m writing this post I can hear that someone near here also has a donkey/ass braying ring tone. Why?

Get to the monastery at 14.40 but it doesn’t open to pilgrims until 3.30 and 4.30 for everyone else.  Wait patiently despite having finished my water and it’s hot. At 3.30 begin ringing buzzer at the third attempt someone tells me they’re not able to take in anyone. Am slightly annoyed but ring a B&B and get a room straight away.  The Seminary B&B is in the main square. Sort myself out and promptly fall asleep. I awake feeling tired and drowsy. Head out for a meander but am just too tired. Go for a pizza and salad in a decent sort of place. The type that exist all over Italy. On the way back I bump into V&G, an effusive pair, who’s company I enjoy. We discuss the mysterious, the as yet, un-named, now returned woman, who’d gone off piste a bit.

Am back inside by 8.45 and zombie-like, must have really overdone it today. Tomorrow is shorter at 24kms down to Campagnano do Roma. It seems to be an orbital town to the capital. It will put me less than 20kms from the Vatican. What on earth will I do with myself then? Take up knitting; breed snails; start gambling, the world is my oystercard!

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