Electricity supply cables outside our room in Acquapendente!

Today’s walk was going to be relatively long at 23kms so we rose early and went down to the square for breakfast with our rucksacks packed. It was very quiet and there was hardly anyone around this early on a Sunday morning. After breakfast we wound our way through cobbled streets and found another cafe that was offering both sandwiches and stamps for pilgrim passports. There were a couple of intriguing pieces of street art painted onto the houses along our route. The dog is typical – though more usually seen barking in our experience! – and we assume the man with shovel over his shoulder represents the dependence on agriculture in this area. Both pictures made a pleasant change from the usual graffiti.

As we were passing the duomo (it isn’t actually a duomo any more as the bishopric has changed) a man sitting in a car outside told us it was about to open so we waited a few minutes for the door to be unlocked and went inside. It turned out that he was waiting whilst his wife unlocked the church. The Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre is essentially 12th century romanesque building with much later west facade.

The chancel was raised to accommodate the crypt below

Just up the road the pharmacy was open and the elasticated knee support in Julie’s size had arrived in the overnight stock delivery, so she swapped it for the compression bandage she’d been making do with since San Quirico, and it was much more comfortable. Next door the supermarket produced an orange for our lunch, and then we got on our way. We were quickly into countryside, winding our way along flat tracks around fields bounded by hedges and small stands of trees. It was easy walking, if a little uninteresting except for the other pilgrims we met.

After about an hour the Swiss woman from Lausanne who had been in the restaurant at our lodgings last night caught up with us. We chatted a while. She is a nurse and was sympathetic with Julie’s knee issue and offered valuable advice. She went on ahead of us so we didn’t see her again as she is much faster than us.

At our next rest stop the young German woman, Charlotte, who we’d first seen in San Quirico also caught up with us. She too had had an awful time with the rally drivers on the track out of Radicofani on Friday, and said they had been very rude to her. After a torrid time with them she’d stopped at the Ostello at Ponte a Rigo which was how she had ended up behind us.

Moments later we were joined by a Czech man who we had seen but not previously talked to back at Monteriggioni. He said he knew all about us after finding our blog on the internet while doing research for his walk.. He and his wife have recently moved to Florence for a year whilst she pursues postgraduate training as a paediatric neurologist. He said he goes off walking for a few days at a time, and had walked 42kms yesterday!

Looking back northwards from the only higher ground for miles

Our pilgrim friends walked on ahead as they are much quicker than us. After going around three sides of a field we ascended the only high ground around. It wasn’t very high but it did give some perspective over where we had just come from, showing a panorama of fields, hedges, and light industrial buildings. We worked out that the small sheds dotted around the fields are probably housing the pumps which manage the field irrigation system. We also noticed that artificial fertilisers are being used liberally here as there were small dumps of the stuff on the track and the crops were a bright nitrogen green.

As we headed towards the road into San Lorenzo Nuovo a cat came trotting along the track towards Tom and repeatedly brushed against his legs and walking poles, seeking attention and almost tripping him up. What a pleasant contrast with aggressive barking dogs – Tom was almost converted! No ways (T)!

In San Lorenzo Nuovo we went into the first cafe we came to, hoping for a warm drink, but they were out of milk and offering only neat coffee. Instead, we shared a pizza and were sad to see that at 1.30pm on a Sunday we were the only customers. Life must be very tough for these small family businesses, and we hope they do good trade once the season gets going after Easter. Further along the road there were several more cafes and restaurants all vying for pilgrim trade, though there is still little of it this early in the year.

At this point we were on the crater rim of an old volcano which last erupted in about 100 BC. Subsequently the magmatic cap collapsed allowing the formation of Lake Bolsena, which was just coming into view…or would have been coming into view but for low cloud merging land and sky today. For now our path took us into woodland on the side of the collapsed caldera, winding along the hillside towards Bolsena.

Unfortunately this didn’t last, and as we passed from one area of land ownership to another we walked through a huge area where almost every tree had been felled. The devastation was quite shocking, the more so when we came upon the relatively small piles of logs created from all those lovely trees.

A bit further along the track we came upon another plaque commemorating the 500th anniversary of the Swiss Guard in 2006. We wondered how it had been decided where these commemorative plaques should be placed as they seemed a bit random to us.

By late afternoon we were descending towards the lake, which eventually came into view as the clouds lifted slightly. We tried to imagine what the view might have been like on a clear sunny day. Today the lake seemed rather mysterious.

Lake Bolsena beginning to emerge from the murk
At last – a proper view of the lake!

Once we had come down closer to the lake we thought we were almost there, but no! There was still another couple of hours walking to go, with Julie getting slower and slower as her knee complained that it had had enough for the day. We eventually got into Bolsena as it was getting dark, the impressive castello lit up against a darkening sky. The path took us down through the cobbled streets and steps of the old town, emerging at the bottom of the hill into the newer part of Bolsena.

We eventually stumbled into our hotel at 1845, very tired and glad to be able to put down our heavy packs put our feet up, and drink a cold beer!

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