Wild Plums and Tame Peaches

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A fierce wind blew through last night, washing away the pitter-patter of raindrops on the roof of the camper. We woke up actually able to see the scenery around us—and it was gorgeous! We are up in the Apennines now with great valleys beneath us and little tiny stone villages.

We got dropped off again in Sivizzano and worked our way back up the hills again, along a not-too-sticky path through the fields, fording a couple of streams and crossing one a real bridge. Before long we were away from towns and fields altogether, following forest paths. It was truly lovely. Sometimes old stone walls lined the way, sprouting purple harebells and rosebushes bare of everything but the brilliant red rose hips. We found some ripe blackberries and tiny wild plums only the size of a blueberry. One mountaintop was all pines, with soft needles underfoot and that whooshing sound you get only in all-evergreen forests. A villager chatted with us (insofar as we chat in our strange pidgin of Italian, French, and Spanish) and gave us peaches off his tree.

The path was also unusually well-market, not only with stickers but with stone posts in the ground each sporting a ceramic frieze of Sigeric the Serious. Between the off-road scenery and the marking, our faith in the Via Francigena has been restored. It’s amazing what a difference it makes to get away from cars and cities—and even the few times we were on the roads, there were hardly any cars to speak of. Altogether it’s amazing to me how much the difficulty of transportation-by-foot has come to dominate our pilgrimage experience. Luther certainly wouldn’t want to have avoided many roads and large towns! To us they’re the bane of our existence.

It was quite a lot uphill—and quite a lot downhill, which is even slower going when it’s steep and slippery—but it made us that nice kind of tired from fresh air and challenging exercise, not the manic exhaustation of battling city traffic and breathing the smoggy air. And it was no small matter that there was no rain today!

Tonight we are staying in a pilgrim hostel occupying an unused seminary, back from the days when every diocese was required to have its own school for training priests. The facility is quite enormous; we’re just staying on one edge of it. Tomorrow it’s another 900 m up and even more down over 28 km, so it’s time for another solid 8½ hours of sleep to gear us up for the day ahead.

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