Biscina to Gubbio

Hi there,

Well sadly this is my last blog post for a little while…. I had planned to show you sumptuous photos of the next phase of my indulgent italian journey…even though I can hardly say the past 8 or 9 days can be described as such!! Maybe ‘ enjoyable torture’ is a better way to describe it…but the Umbrian walk was despite the difficulty at times…really wonderful.

I was planning to show you mouth watering dishes typical to Tuscany, which I had lovingly prepared under the tuition of the chef of the cooking school where I had been going to reside in Tuscany for a week. I had wanted to share with you a few tips on the art of cooking and preparing  gloriously simple Italian food… the differences in olive oils, cheeses and the preparation of homemade pasta…. however sadly my 90 year old father is very ill in hospital and I’m now sitting at Rome airport waiting for a flight to carry me back to Australia, where I can be closer to him and my family.When two of my daughters phoned him this morning , his words were to them…’I’m a bit crook’ and that’s exactly what he is. Time to rally around and help to provide him and my mother, strength.

Maybe St Francis was watching out for us after all on our walk despite all our protests… hardly the way to honour a saint who apparently took poverty and suffering to the extreme : ( ..When  I had word of my fathers illness yesterday we were not far from Gubbio, the last day of our walk….
I was able to make a quick decision to catch the train back to Rome today with Jo, who is heading back to her family in Melbourne tomorrow. I cancelled my travel to Tuscany and easily was able to change my flight. Jo and I had a wonderful afternoon when we arrived this afternoon in Roma…reliving a small portion of the absolute wonder of this incredible city and its history.

Ok yesterday…our walk from Biscina to Gubbio.

We left bright and early as we knew that the day would be long and strenuous. We were laden with food as there were no bars or food stops for the first 6 hours. It had been a very cool night and as we walked out of Biscina the resulting early rising mist was truly beautiful! I’m going to show you a few photos : )

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Again the path was really beautiful…….

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And really tough….. : (

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At one stage, we were besieged by mud once again and luckily those who had been before us had provided ingenious solutions to crossing raging torrents….. well maybe I should say……..swollen streams : )

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Oh, I forgot to show you a few photos of perfectly formed webs laden with dew…. Sparkling in the morning light.

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Gorgeous wild flowers…

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So many beautiful photo opportunities yesterday….I’m finding it hard not to post to many as I’m worried I may bore you a little : (

We arrived in Gubbio in good time..after about 7 1/2 hours…which was just great….. with the addition of food breaks.
Gubbio is another stunning village…full of history and religion but it lacked a soul we thought. Maybe it was the fact that it was a little neglected, or maybe this feeling is emitted from those that inhabit it….or maybe it was just our perception on the day…a long walk, tiredness, worry and plan changes…can all change ones perception.
A few more photos and then Ill have to board my flight!

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The streets of Gubbio.

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Looking down on Gubbio, from a funicular that ran steeply up the side of the hill.

…and finally.. a meal at the end of another truly wonderful experience with my perfect little walking partner buddy : )

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Well my friends, it’s time for me to go now: ) I hope you’ve enjoyed my ramblings once again… and maybe have been inspired… just a little.. to venture out on foot when next you travel. It’s a truly incredible way to bury down beneath the surface and layers of a new country and presents the opportunity to understand it and its people, just a little deeper….. from a more intuitive perspective .

Love to all,

Netia XX

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Posted in Italy....Umbria and Tuscany 2013 | 7 Comments

Il Pioppo to Biscina

Buona sera!…….

Wish I could be saying buona notte…. but it’s going to be a few more hours before those words are uttered from my lips. I’m soooooo tired : (
Please don’t misunderstand me though…I have enjoyed every minute of this little adventure. As with any walk there are always the times when you have to dig deep and rise above your discomforts in order to fully appreciate the wonder… but here we have another little metaphor for life : )

The Umbrian countryside can only be described as big, big ups and steep, steep downs! Despite its strenuous nature….it is very, very beautiful. Each day we have thought, well…. we should be as high as we can possibly climb but the next day just seems to bring more of the same. Im not quite sure whether I explained to you the exact details of our few short days walking in Umbria. In the first few days we walked solely around the Assisi area, taking in the important walking routes and sights peculiar to St. Francis but now we are following the Via Francigena di San Francisco route…however only three days of it. We are now walking against the flow of pilgrim traffic…who all seem to be heading in the direction of Rome, as we are now walking north from Assisi to Gubbio…most other pilgrims are heading south.

The beauty of this for us is….we are meeting many pilgrims on the tracks, there’s the opportunity to stop and have a chat about where they have come from and where they are going…..but more importantly it allows us to have a little breather and a REST!!! It’s interesting how many have walked the Camino de Santiago and other routes in Spain…but now feel the desire to walk other spiritual paths. Sadly I have to say…on this little spiritual journey for Jo and I , there has been much blaspheming ….maybe that was why the great St. Francis was surrounding us with mighty rolls of thunder, ominously close by…this afternoon : (
I’m trying to be very, very good…. But sometimes, it’s very, very hard : )

Ok, now it’s time for a few photos…. and then I’m going to do my daily hand washing, have some dinner… then very early night for me…and I think Jo is thinking the same as well. Last night my bed was so tiny, I spent the whole night thinking I was going to fall out and tonight it seems that things will be not much different : ( I may be better off to lay the mattress on the floor and then I’ll have no worries and hopefully just a dreamed filled sleep : )

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Sensational countryside to day… Spellbinding !

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A lovely shady track..

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Perfecto…

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A gorgeous, quaint little church dating back to the 1200’s that we passed….in the middle of nowhere, I might add.

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Part of this beautiful track.

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Looking back down to a magnificent gully andwaterfall.

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The Castello di Biscina in the distance…. close to our bed for the night, at Agriturismo Tenuta di Biscina.

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A lovely lunch stop on a very rickety bench and table… The photo was taken by a German couple walking the trail.

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Beautiful!!

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Deforestation of the Umbrian countryside : (

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Time for me to say goodbye for today….. relaxation and unwinding time…. : )

Love Netia X

Posted in Italy....Umbria and Tuscany 2013 | 5 Comments

Costa di Trex to Il Pioppo

Hello : )

Today was a really lovely day…stunning countryside, beautiful weather and a few little ‘incidences’ along the way … which after a reasonable amount of time spent blogging my walks now, seems to be the norm. With very few exceptions.. the day may start out looking very straightforward but invariably, some little diversion presents itself to change the dynamics…sometimes good and sometimes bad…. but there’s always a story to tell : )

This morning, at our holiday farm where we were staying, we met Petra who is responsible for our maps etc. to explain our concerns about being seriously lost yesterday. Translating instructions from one language to another is always fraught with danger and we felt the need for her to know our concerns..so she maybe could adjust the guides to be a little clearer for English speaking walkers.

This morning we were to walk 6 kms back into Assisi, and then carry on walking the official Via Francigena di San Francisco route for the next 3 days. Normally this route heads in the direction of Rome but we are walking in the opposite direction. As a result we met many groups along the way, allowing us to have opportunities to stop and have a chat… discovering the story of others, from not only Italy but also other parts of Europe. As Petra was heading back into Assisi we decided to catch a lift with her, have a coffee, organise some lunch to take with us and have another look at the Basilica. Perfecto!! This also allowed us to rest our bodies a little after a strenuous past few days : )

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Beautiful Assisi streets.

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This beautiful dove was perched on the side of a wall as we were making our way to have one last look at the Basilica. Once inside this magnificent structure we were drawn to one of the many frescoes adorning its walls. It was a painting of St Francis… surrounded by white doves.
When we left…you’re not going to believe this… we were unable to find the correct way to take, in order to exit the city. After some traipsing about we realised that the corner where the beautiful dove was still sitting was the way we were supposed to go…. It was another of those special moments : )

It was a really beautiful walk today. A little difficult at times but generally good walking with spectacular countryside.. I’ll show you a few photos.

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Looking back as we walk away from Assisi towards Il Pioppo.

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Beautiful fields of poppies and wheat.

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A beautiful wild flower lined path.

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A cute little stream crossing.

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We came across this little heart that someone had formed from the little pods and Jo was certain it was there for her…I’m not so sure though : )

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Jo looking very pensive and we with a face full of food : ( A beautiful lunch spot we found.

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A lovely view looking back down the valley from where we had come. Now, I have little story about my hat : ) If any of you have read my VF blog you may recall that on the last day, in La Storta before our walk into Rome…I lost my very precious hat…I was devastated!! That hat had travelled many, many kms with me…protected me from not only the savage rays of the sun but also at times driving, piercing shards of rain…to me it had been like a best friend.. There to protect and support whenever I needed its offer of assistance. I arrived back in Melbourne feeling a small emptiness that we had parted company. The wonderful thing was though..my hat was manufactured by the Tilley company and they are happy to replace any losses or damages with a 50 per cent refund. I made full use of this opportunity and now I have an exact replacement, which is serving me well : )

Well as usual… a special day always ends with a few surprises.. : ) we had only about an hour of walking to go but we struck MUD…! I’ll emphasise that and say a LOT OF MUD AND VERY DEEP MUD!! Here are some photos as my little iPad is about to run out of battery but I just want to show you what I mean!!!

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We literally took off our boots to wade through it….there was no other option : (
On that note .. even though I have a definite aversion to mud and its insidious nature…once lulled into its web… I quite enjoyed the the intimacy of it as it squished through my toes : ) : )

On that note, I think I better go and have dinner.

Love Netia X

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Nocera to Costa di Trex

Hi there!

Where do I start……. such a big day… !!!

I have, without a doubt… suddenly realised why St Francis died at the tender age of 26… HEART ATTACK !!, Such a strenuous route we followed today and it was one of the great Francisco’s regular paths

Besides being another day of up,up,up…we also got lost and had to be rescued : ) It was a day full of surprises….but in saying that, maybe not. More often than not I find on walks such as this..a twist usually appears to how you expect the outcome to be each day. And today was no exception : )

I’ll start from the beginning….

We left Nocera this morning at 7.45. We had decided that we wouldn’t have breakfast at the ‘delightful’ Hotel Europa which was our home for the night, as our rooms were filthy and we didn’t want to risk food poisoning….. As it turned out on surveying the breakfast that was laid out for us..we would have had the opportunity to consume warm tubs of yoghurt, stale white bread and jam and coffee from a automatic machine.. : (

Instead we sat and had a delicious coffee at a nearby bar, then about an hour down the track we visited another bar for coffee and had a sumptuous breakfast of foods I had purchased the day before…. creamy cheese, mouth watering tomatoes, succulent ham, perfect greens and crisp fresh bread….all washed down with the most perfect coffee : ) On the coffee subject… We have the ordering down to a fine art! We ask firstly for a cafe americano, which usually is delivered as a shot of coffee in a large cup. The trick …for us…is to then ask for latte caldo and aqua calda seperado ( I know separado is Spanish but it always works) We then have the opportunity to mix our coffee to just the way we like it! Perfecto!!

I just want to show you a photo looking back on Nocera as we started our walk today. Last night In my blog post I neglected to mention that in 1997 this area was hit by major earthquakes : (
As a result the stunning old town of Nocera is under major restoration and reconstruction…and this has led to Nocera Centro being pretty much a ghost town….only in a very few parts of this impressive town are there signs of inhabitants… There is still so much to do…even though it is 16 years on but the costs of the restoration works must be phenomenal!!

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Looking at this photo you will see a newer area in front of the majestic old town of Nacero. This is where we stayed the night.

Well…our day : )

We left the little bar about an hour out of Nocera, after consuming a very satisfying breakfast…feeling good : ) The morning was again simply stunning, the air was crisp and clear and the random fragrances of honeysuckle and wild herbs saturated our senses …very beautiful. When allowed to wander in these circumstances the mind a tunes itself to the smallest of details. It’s really a very wonderful state to be in….every bug, leaf, blade of grass and sound is bought into sharp focus.
A couple of pictures from this morning.

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All was good and very beautiful… until we started to go UP again!! We began to climb up steep, shaley tracks…feeling buoyant in the beginning ….but we kept going up and up and up and the mood shifted….a little. It’s so important to maintain the focus when walking long distances and in difficult conditions and that’s always my primary aim. Life is never easy but the experience that you ultimately expect as an an outcome from it…is generally how it will become : )

A few photos from the up and up track …

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In the beginning it was a little strenuous but absolutely fine.. However the conditions changed…..

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It started to get a little tough…..

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This is the offending…beautiful little gateway which led us to being lost..! Our Italian instruction manual which supposedly was meant to guide us peacefully along our route…..but then was obviously translated into very bad English, just didn’t cut it!!! We got VERY badly lost : (

At this stage our manual became totally ambiguous … There were two possible routes we could have followed. The more obvious we did for about 600 metres but this led us to a large dam with two paths leading around it. Which one would we choose? ….very confusing as the dam was not mentioned at all in our manual. We decided that we were totally on the wrong path and decided to head back to the offending gate and approach the whole walk from a different angle : ) The long and the short of our very long afternoon of being lost and tired was that we arrived at a beautiful Agriturismo, in the middle of nowhere….where we were offered the most delicious homemade beer, had a lovely lunch…then organised the owner of Il Castello, where we are staying tonight…to come and rescue us! Perfecto!!

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I’m smiling now….6 hours later….very good day : )

I’m going to sleep well tonight without a doubt…..hope you do too…: )

Love Netia x

Posted in Italy....Umbria and Tuscany 2013 | 4 Comments

Vescia to Nocera

Hi there : )

Today was a big day….. possibly not so big in kilometres…21 in total but the hugeness of it was the continuous UP for around 3 hours of walking. now when I say UP…I mean UP! However, that’s Umbria…. breathtaking scenery and many ranges to traverse….gorgeous! My body is very tired now…and so is Jo’s : ( We both hope to be asleep early and I plan to dream of bowls of fresh pasta, laden with rich vine ripened tomato sauce sprinkled with picked basil and grated Parmesan…. My absolute favourite!!

Last night we stayed at BB Il Borgo del Fattore in Vescia… very clean and comfortable : ) It’s always lovely to stay in these family run places where your needs are catered for as a traveller but the mood is more of a family guest than a visitor : )

We were gone by 8am after both purchasing a small bottle of olive oil distilled on the property. Under the main building was a mini factory where the oil was produced…fascinating! After walking through this area today we were quick to realise how important it is for the olive industry. Olive groves stretched as far as the eye could see.. : ) Such an amazingly huge business for Italy…Of
course we all know that, however when you see those groves endlessly spilled in front of you, with orchards of vastly different ages, the true reality of the olive economy starts to be realised.

Italy for walkers at this stage of the year.. is about to spring into the country of abundance!
Last year.. a tiny bit later when Jo and I walked together on the VF , we were treated to fresh fruits galore…directly plucked from any trees presented in our path : ) Perfecto!! Figs, cherries, apricots…on many occasions we had no need to purchase any food in a day : )
Now, maybe due to the slow start to summer..not sure, everything seems to be maturing a little later. .Those of you who are planning to walk in a month or so, it will be a treat..I promise you!!

Jo is very diligent when spotting cherry trees in particular. I tend to be in a different zone while walking…we both notice different things : ) Today she excelled, as most trees at this time..seem to be not quite ready to produce ripe fruit but she found one!!! We completely over indulged : )

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The cherry thief in action!

It was a really beautiful walk today! The scenery was spellbinding, despite the strenuous climbs. Although my body at this time is not accepting all the good about the day… I think tomorrow it’s going to be happy…just needs a little adjusting : ) My mind wouldn’t want to miss this experience…. It just needs to slap the body into action : )

Now I’m going to show you a few photos and I’m off to bed.. : )

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A beautiful old olive grove.

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Look closely and see the incredible drive to the property on the hill….. I love the pencil pines!

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A very beautiful chapel we discovered !

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Lunch time…. Perfect for a rest : )

I’m off to bed now…..very tired.

Love Netia x

Posted in Italy....Umbria and Tuscany 2013 | 2 Comments

Assisi to Vescia…via Spello

Hello!

What a great day we’ve had…beautiful countryside, delicious food, perfect walking weather…overshadowed a little with threatening skies this afternoon and…. we even saved an old man along the way…. : )

My body was mildly protesting yesterday..after many hours of up hills and down but today it’s screaming profanities at me to take a rest and smell the roses…..St Francis will be turning in his tomb….. : ( However this is not really my style though, so it will have to adjust to the increased activity and savour the moment : )

Here, I’m going to give a very short lecture on the importance of been adequately prepared for long distance walking. In order to enjoy the whole experience to the utmost, there are a few very basic rules which I think are important to follow. Correct fitting footwear is top of the list. In my opinion, it should be thick soled, gortex lined, 1/2 to 1 size bigger than what you would normally wear..the excess can be padded out with nice thick wool sox. This allows for swelling of your feet…you definitely need excess room in your boots. Boots should feel comfortable when you first try them on in the shop!! Wear clothes that are breathable and quick drying! Make sure your backpack has a frame and a good thick waist belt so the weight is taken off your shoulders. Its so important if you plan to do a really long walk, to break in your boots and train with a fully loaded pack. I tend to train with everything I plan to take in my pack for at least a month before I intend to leave..this way my body has adjusted to the stresses, blisters are avoided and to a large degree also…aches and pains and stress injuries… Not sure now on saying this last little bit that I have completely followed my own advice : (

This morning we set out at 8.45 and the morning was stunning…simply beautiful. We were very lucky to find a beautiful, spring fed fountain not long after we left Assisi where we greedily drank the crystal clear water and filled our water bottles to overflowing.

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It was a very lovely walk to Spello..where we stopped for lunch. A few photos for you : )

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A little grumpy old man : ) Cute!!

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We were so close to stealing these cherries but the owner drove up just as we were formulating
the plan : (

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Morning tea stop : )

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Stunning Spello

We arrived in Spello after about 3 hours walking and were delighted to find a small terrace restaurant overlooking the most beautiful valley and mountain view. To top things off the food was simply delicious!! A few more photos for you : )

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Such a lovely place for lunch! Look at the view!!

And a little more of Spello…..

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The walk this afternoon was still very beautiful but our bodies were tired. Along with this there was electricity in the skies…which threatened us I must admit! Luckily, all that was delivered were a few spots of rain and some loud rolling thunder.

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Beautiful stormy skies!

Now, did I mention saving someone? Well yes… that’s just what we did today : )
We were happily walking, now both steeped in our own thoughts, when looking up I noticed an elderly man on a raised embankment, lying on the ground under an olive tree. We were about to pass him by and I asked very basically in bad Italian..Como estai?… thinking that he was just having a little lie around under his trees…..what was I thinking !!!
His response was a flurry of Italian which I had no understanding of at all but through my basic Spanish I understood the word mano, which means hand. I then realised that he needed help and Jo and I scrambled up the embankment….with a vast amount of difficulty I might add..and HEAVED this man onto his very shaky feet and then positioned him onto a nearby chair. The poor thing had a sodden shirt and we feel had been lying there for quite a while. All this time he was speaking rapidly to us in Italian…none of which we understood! We then frantically tried to find help from nearby residents but no- one was around. We couldn’t leave him as I suspect he may have suffered a stroke but we had no way of getting him into his house and contacting help. Fortunately , just as we were feeling despair as to what to do, members of his family arrived to visit him!! Everyone was so happy with the outcome..and we were free to complete our days journey.

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The man we saved and his happy family : )

Bedtime!!

Tomorrows another day : )

Love Netia X

Posted in Italy....Umbria and Tuscany 2013 | 5 Comments

Assisi…day 2

Hi there : )

Well here we are…spending a second day in Assisi before we head off tomorrow. This is an amazingly special town! Apart from being very, very beautiful and of course…. very much like so many of Italy’s villages and towns….steeped in the most incredible history, as I said yesterday the spiritual aspect is very real : ) I’m feeling that the two days that I’ve spent here hasn’t done Assisi justice in my estimation…there is so much more I want to learn about and discover of the history… but I guess now, that’s the job of google : )

I have been fascinated and emotionally touched when talking to the locals, by their absolute devotion to the religious entities embodied here..and the pride that is emitted. I have strengthened my understanding while being here.. for just a few short days, that having some sort of system of belief that gives you a perspective of a higher self, is very important for our purpose as human beings : )

The morning started with a cup of tea… Jo has a kettle which she bought in Paris last week when she was there with her daughter. All was fine there apparently..worked like a charm : ) We both have tea bags with us, so the prospect of a cuppa in bed worked well for both of us! Apparently the night before I arrived Jo shorted her room…due to plugging in the kettle : ( We tried my room but the same thing happened : ( However, we’ve worked out how to beat the system! We plug in and when all the power shuts off in the room we go directly to the hotels switchboard and just adjust the offending power switch : ) Perfecto!

Today was a lot of very steep uphills…. which fortunately led to a wonderful sanctuary. We walked to the Hermitage, where St Francis apparently visited often in prayer…. a very small church but incredibly powerful…an area steeped in deep mysticism . There was an amazing sense of calm and stillness here… It was really very special!

A very welcome sign we saw along the way connecting our route with the Camino de Santiago

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It was such a very steep climb to the hermitage! Very hard!

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The path went up and up and up, seemingly with no end…. but the subsequent views were very beautiful. Now at the end of the day, my calves are screaming at me : )

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A gaggle of nuns…. just a little ahead of us, silently making their way to pay homage to St Francis at the Hermitage.

And just a few photos of when we arrived….

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Having a little lie down…

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One of the beautiful little areas at this place designated for groups of individuals to sit quietly in silence and thought…

Well… I’m publishing this blog, the morning after! Last night when I was busily tapping away on my trusty little iPad… I fell asleep : ) We walked many kms yesterday and saw many of the beautiful sights Assisi has to offer…..and my poor body had decided to turn in for the day! Probably a mixture or jet lag and exhaustion but I’ve woken refreshed.

Today we are walking approximately 5-6 hours and spending the night in Vescia.

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A view looking back on the beautiful town of Assisi.

That’s all from me…I need to get up and prepare for another exciting day!

Love Netia

Posted in Italy....Umbria and Tuscany 2013 | 3 Comments