In America, one must be something, but in Italy one can simply be.Pietros Maneos
We’ve left behind the big city of Florence and walked into a different Italy, the Italy of small towns in the mountains connected by quiet forest paths and roads.
An Italy where mushroom hunters prowl the forest paths and bring back baskets of fungi that have unique tastes beyond what we find in American grocery stores.
An Italy where we can walk the grounds of an 11th Century church and smell the aroma of mint—because it is growing wild among the grass on the grounds.
An Italy where the tractors can not only be John Deere, but Lamborghinis.
An Italy where we may walk for hours alone with the silence punctuated only by church bells in distant villages, or cowbells in an adjoining pasture, or dogs who bark as we pass.
An Italy of amazing food. Pasta with boar, pizza made with the aforementioned mushrooms, and red wine from nearby vineyards.
An Italy where a sick pellegrino (pilgrim) from Denmark was not only offered a ride to the next destination by a local, but he picked up a local paramedic to check her out. And then refused payment after delivering her safely.
An Italy where common buildings were erected before Columbus sailed the Atlantic. In the city of Stia we had a chance to talk to Federica who owns a B&B located on the town square. The building used to be the town guard house, hence the name “B&B La Guardia” for guard. Although it’s now a comfortable accommodation in the heart of the town, they’ve preserved bars from the cells in select places, and you can still see marks on the floor from the bunks of the guards.
And although we loved our experience hiking Hadrian’s Wall, it is nice to not be traipsing through cow and sheep pastures. Doing our laundry in the sink is a lot less…messy.
We’ve also met many more fellow pellegrinos. In addition to the couple from Victoria we’ve spent time with a German university student from Hanover, and a German couple from the Frankfurt area. We also encountered a group of thirteen Danes and other pellegrinos making the same trek.
We’ve enjoyed our experiences in great Italian cities like Florence and Venice, but are loving getting to know the towns of the Tuscan hills.
Update: We mentioned in our first post on The Way of St Francis that we were dedicating this walk to my cousin, Will, who is dealing with some serious medical issues. He recently went through several difficult surgeries and things are looking better for him. Prayers would be appreciated.