Distance from Rome: 283km
It was a truly memorable evening in the restaurant chatting to the various Pilgrims, each one of us extolling the adventures we had had along the way. At one point Claire tried to relieve a Canadian pilgrim from his very scrummy looking cheesecake, but he was quick off the mark and bravely fought her off.
Despite the main road being below the bedroom window we all had a good nights sleep and before the cockerel had a chance to wake up and crow, most of us were up and dressed and the first troop leaving before the sunrise. We soon followed and we were in the bar before 7am ordering breakfast. Before we left, other Pilgrims were heading in to order their breakfast and that was when Claire and I learnt a new Italian word...........Krapfen. Yes it sounds very German but it actually means doughnut.
With supplies bought before the supermarket had officially opened we were leaving Pont-d'Arbia behind and heading across the fields to join the direction of the railway. The morning was nippy with a crisp air, Claire was dressed in all her warm clothing, including hat and gloves. Carlo was repeating the word allora again a lot and commenting on how cold it was. I on the other hand was still wearing shorts, t-shirt and warm top, just pootling along. The sun was very low in the sky and the hills masked the early morning rays so for a few hours we were walking in the shade. We passed two dogs running wild in a field and Carlo mentioned that today was another hunting day. I'm not sure what they were hunting or looking for because there was absolutely nothing to be seen.
Initially the way was easy going as we followed the railway line along stony white tracks. We walked through Quinciano with the strange sided Cappella Pieri Nerli dominating the hill as we approached the village. Our journey took us close the edge of Monteroni d'Arbia and from the many high points of the journey we looked down upon it.
The Via Francigena has now many unofficial routes and it can be quite frustrating when the path just circumnavigates a carpark instead of going straight ahead - in the village of Cuna one such detour now exists. From both directions of the VF path there are signs that pass the village by. This is a huge shame as in the village there is the Cuna Grange, now sadly encased in scaffolding but it is one of the best preserved medieval fortified farms. Fortified to safeguard the storing of grain and other cereals. In the 12th century the site was a "Spedale", lodgings that assisted Pilgrims and merchants travelling along the Via Francigena.
15km into the day we came across a bar and decided to take a quick break. The day had become a bit of a route march as Carlo had a bus to catch in Sienna to connect with a train in Florence that would take him home. Everyone was tired and it was a warm and humid day. We found a table outside and quickly unloaded some food and ate it without too much chatter while Carlo had a coffee and a quick pee.
In no time at all we were back on track..........or so we thought. I recalled this section from last time but with new signage it was decided to follow that. In no time at all we were walking between allotments and to a dead end. Carlo asked a local the way and he just waved in the opposite direction. We retraced our steps and now I was guiding people the correct way but Carlo was sure in his mind that the route was on the other side of the track and set off that way. I stopped with Claire, checked the map and the GPS and yes I was correct, there was an underpass at the station. We called Carlo back and explained the direction of travel and off we went again, chomping away.
After passing under the railway line we came to a road and once again the signs disappeared, we went this way, then that way and then stopped and Claire re-enacted the route South. Eventually we on the right course and once again we stomped our way forward, mindful now that time was not on our side for Carlo. We followed the main road across a new pathway for 3km before resuming across fields at the edge of Sienna.
I had mentioned the details of the terrain and whether there were many hills before we set off and everyone was aware that the final 5km was to be an uphill climb to the city. What I had not mentioned was it was uphill all the way on a small Tarmac road that was a short cut to the main road below us. Effectively it was like walking on a race track, with us dodging the traffic and switching from one side of the road to the other to keep visible to the traffic.
By now Carlo was late in arriving, Siena was in our sights but not appearing to get any closer so with bus stops on the road, he sought advice from some of the locals on whether he could get a bus from here. I don't think it was made very clear but when a bus did arrive, he moved closer to the middle of the road and waved at the driver..................the bus slowed down and then carried on ignoring Carlo. Well Claire and I were not surprised................we were in Italy.
Eventually we walked through the main gateway of Porta Romana and bid farewell to Carlo. Yes, he made the bus on time and yes he managed to get his train home.
Carlo will join me in 2018 as we walk along the South of France to Arles, I look forward to his company once more.