We woke to the sounds of birdsong and argumentative jackdaws. How we miss our rooks at home since they left the trees at the bottom of our garden! We used to have 10-12 nests and lots of noisy activity, but this year the rooks have deserted us. In Sutri the sky this morning was overcast with low cloud despite a good forecast. Tom set out early. Julie reapplied an icepack to her knee before setting off an hour later, still pursuing plan B, the bus.
Tom’s path and Julie’s bus stop were both adjacent to the Roman amphitheatre we missed seeing yesterday, so we both got to see it though separately. It is unusual in being hewn directly out of the volcanic tuff without any additional supporting walls, probably around 300 BC. What an impressive feat of engineering! Today, rather than gladiatorial contests, it is used for theatre and musical performances during the summer.
Just around the corner there are 65 tombs hewn out of the tuff, some used for burials and some for cremations. The necropolis continued in use until the Middle Ages.
Around the next corner is the Mithraeum, a very old church which is thought to have been used previously as a Roman temple, also cut out of the tuff. Because of the difficulty of preserving the frescoes inside, access is limited to appointed times, but they are well worth seeing.
Standing above the Mithraeum and necropolis is the 15th century Villa Savorelli with its Italianate garden and chapel, still in private ownership. A woodland path leading away from the formal garden ends at a viewing point overlooking the amphitheatre, providing another perspective on its size and scale.
Whilst Julie was sight-seeing and negotiating the bus service, Tom was well on his way walking along the Via Francigena.
I passed the amphitheatre some time before it opened but managed a glance and photograph or two through the iron gates. From the amphitheatre it was a fairly stiff climb back onto the plateau and back into walnut growing country again. The route briefly clipped the SS Via Cassia which was busy with fast rush hour traffic.
Only this morning we’d been wondering where are all the cattle which supply the milk for our coffee, yoghourts and other breakfast fare. Not long after the Via Cassia, I found them!
Joking apart, we’ve seen so few cattle that given the amount of milk and other dairy products which are consumed here, we rather wonder if they are kept indoors in sheds. On the same count where are all the pigs to supply the huge volume of prosciutto, salami, and other charcuterie we see?
Further along the route there were good views of the Bracciano Caldera to the west. Albeit hidden from my view, this contains one of the largest of the Lazio caldera lakes. Somewhere on the web I’ve seen a satellite photograph of these calderas. They are most impressive, especially as they were active so recently, geologically speaking.
Approaching Monterosi I met a Frenchman walking in the other direction and stopped for a chat. He is on his way from Rome to Avignon, where he lives. Avignon was, of course, the seat of the other Pope. He knew Salisbury because his daughter is living in England, in Swanley in Kent and working in the city. I explained that I grew up in Kent and we both agreed that it was a lovely part of the world. It felt very relaxing to converse in French, with which I’m rather more familiar than Italian.
I stopped for a rest at a laverie on the outskirts of Monterosi, at the gates of the Centro Golf Nazionale. Here I met two young German chaps who are cycling from Milan to Rome. They anticipated being in Rome this evening. How much quicker this journey must be by bicycle.
Like many of these towns the entrance to Monterosi showed its less attractive side.
I was too early at Monterosi to meet Julie as she hadn’t yet left the amphitheatre at Sutri, so I pressed on. The old centre was very similar to so many of these hilltop towns. I found sanctuary in the Chiesa San Croce and thought of St Cross in Winchester which we’d visited on the second day of this pilgrimage, and where we have sung a number of concerts.
The other similarity with Winchester was the huge area given over to golf with all the buggies, electric propelled golf trollies and Donald Trump-like ball caps. I was reminded of the notice at the Royal Winchester Golf Club which warned users of the public footpath to take “appropriate cover” on hearing the word “fore”! No such warnings here.
The departure route from Monterosi was far from obvious or seemingly safe. It involved taking the motorway slip road, behind the crash barrier and pretending to be a car looping around and then along, the motorway. I was passed by two Americans (or Canadians?) on bikes, who had been equally confused. I was flattered when, on seeing the banner on my rucksack, they remarked that I’d come a long way. I suppose I felt I had.
It was a big relief when at last the path broke away from the motorway and all the associated noise, along a white road as we’ve come to know them (gravel road). However this led through a huge area of large residential plots with fancy houses, big fences and ……dogs! After several kilometres I found a suitable Eucalyptus tree bordering a very grand property, laid down my sack and had some lunch. No sooner had I opened my sandwich than a speeding car passed throwing up volumes of dust, then another and another. I packed my sandwich away and went to sleep for twenty minutes instead.
Further on, once I’d left ‘private property land’ I came upon some real countryside and some more cows, white ones which might have been charolais (Vache qui rit cows).
The route took me some way to the east facing the high mountains of the Apennines. It reminded me of the wonderful time we had crossing them, further to the north back in November.
I crossed the River Treja close the the entrance to the Parco Nazionale di Veio. It looked a lovely river which should have been thick with ranunculus and fish, but sadly neither were to be seen.
A short while later I came across a sorry example of bad farming resulting in huge soil erosion and loss. Sadly we’ve seen so much of this on our pilgrimage, not just in Italy. Where does the soil end up ? In the river!
For some time I was bothered by the noise of a motor racing circuit, the Vallelunge Circuit Pierre Taruffi. The Montegelato Estate through which I was passing seems to try to pride itself of its environmental credentials, but the circuit is a definite negative.
A slow climb up the following valley eventually brought me to the foot of the spur that is Campagno di Roma.
A stiff climb up to the top of the ridge brought me into Campangano di Roma. Like many other hilltop settlements, a long straight road up the crest of the ridge delivered me to the main part of the town and our lodgings for the night where Julie had already arrived and checked in.