Augustinians and Capuchins and Sacramentines, Oh My

Posted on Posted in Updates

We thought we had the thickest fog ever two days ago, but we were wrong. Today’s fog was thicker yet. But this time, after a short walk, we were above the fog, on a ridge of land jutting out from the volcanic plug on which Radicófani is perched. It’s a wonderful sensation to be so high up, with little but blue skies above, while the world below is swathed in white cloud. Andrew took a photographer’s unique delight in it. We also noted up so high the smell of sulfur in the air, which we think must be hot springs influenced by volcanic activity far below.

Eventually we descended into the valley and thus into the fog, though it burned off fairly soon. The weather report predicted rain, but we both felt exactly one drop of rain apiece, about ten minutes before we arrived at our hostel—once again, our kind of rainy day. (We’ll see if our luck holds out over the next three days for which rain is predicted.) We were mostly on secondary roads, still on a Saturday except for bird hunters out with their spaniels. A few fields held sheep with bells around their necks, young lambs with pink ears, and zealous sheepdogs staring at us fixedly. We saw lots of very long-needled pines, iridescent navy-blue beetles, sprawling dillweed with dried seedheads, and the occasional scarlet pimpernel. On the few flat stretches we got started on the Paradiso. And somewhere along the line we crossed the border from Tuscany into Lazio.

On the final 3 km uphill to Acquapendente we spotted another hiker up ahead and it turned out to be none other than the exuberant Massimiliano. He was leading a crew of 4 others (more to join them on Monday) on a week-long hike from Proceno, a small town not far before Acquapendente, to Rome. He called to his group and they greeted us like long-lost friends; apparently he had already given them the scoop about us. We were anxious to get on to the family, but said we’d see them later at the hostel.

Not long afterwards Roger called with the news that he’d identified a San Agostino church in town. This always interests us, in case it turns out to be an Augustinian priory with church attached, so we went to take a look. While we were there we realized that the other hikers were staying at a different hostel from ours, and that they were actually staying at San Agostino, and that in fact San Agostino did have a priory attached! The façade is the same as in Luther’s time though the inside burned down and was gutted and replaced in the 18th century. But it seems pretty likely that Luther would have spent the night there, since by this point south of Siena everyone heading to Rome would have taken this path marked out today by the Via Francigena. We were a trifle disappointed to move on to our own hostel, not least of all because it was at the top of another steep hill.

Our disappointment was short-lived. The Casa di Lazzaro is located in a former Capuchin monastery built in 1575, and it doesn’t look like it’s changed much since then inside or out. It’s now occupied by two elderly sisters of the Sacramentines of Bergamo, Suor Livia and Suor Emilia, the former of whom (at roughly 2/3 of my height) showed us in and around the place. It has a tiny cloister with pots of geraniums ranged about and the hostel bedrooms are perfectly medieval-sized: Andrew can’t quite get through the door without ducking his head, the beams are exposed on the ceiling, the walls are thick stone with an almost equally thick layer of centuries of plaster and paint, and the stairs are sloped in the middle from a millennium of footsteps wearing them away. Even though Luther probably didn’t stay here, of all the places we’ve stayed it’s most like the kind of place that would have been perfectly normal and everyday for him. That was worth the walk uphill twice over!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *