Back on the trail again this morning! With yesterday being tough and with a long day ahead we were feeling a little jaded as we set off after breakfast and some of our fellow pilgrims had decided to take a bus for this section of the walk. But, although this was another long 22.8 km this turned out to be a brilliant day of hiking!
The four of us set off and were soon leaving the suburbs of Campagnano di Roma with its luxury villas and pools nestled in the countryside behind.
We entered lovely open countryside with shade and quiet roads.
Interestingly we came across a convent tucked away a few meters from the Via Francigena route and decided to pay a visit. We entered the church and were able to stamp our pilgrim passports ourselves.
We were also able to sit at a bench and tables at the convent to have a drink and a snack while looking out towards their beautifully kept gardens and grounds. As we left the convent we bumped into the Danish couple who, following our recommendation also decided to have a look in the convent.
Continuing on our way…
Next we passed through the Parco Di Veio, a large wooded recreation area with a stream and small waterfall which was popular with a handful of locals who were walking their dogs and enjoying the parkland.
As we came into another little town, Formello, we passed some caves. We had seen these on the edges of other towns and these were previously used as prison cells!
Formello had another historic gate as the entrance to its old town and this old town was just as enchanting as the others. We had found a modern coffee shop just before the gate where we sat in much welcomed air conditioning enjoying a coffee, freshly squeezed orange juice and an apricot tart (all for under £5 each). We noticed that blackcurrent and apricot tarts are a strong feature of Italian breakfasts – almost all of the accommodations provided these.
We passed through the historic centre of Formello, briefly stopping in the little square to tuck into some refreshing fresh cherries (not me – I’m allergic to cherries 😦 )
The Via Francigena continued from Formello and we spent the next couple of hours undulating up and down through tracks and paths.
At 1 pm it was time for a lunch break. We were in the middle of nowhere so went slightly off the path into a wooded clearing… well, it wasn’t really cleared – we sat in some long grass that we flattened down to make a comfy picnic spot! And feasted on left-over pizza from the previous night.
Thankfully there were no snakes! Russell, who was often in the lead, had seen a couple of snakes during the past week as they quickly slithered away as we approached.
On our way after lunch…
Through the woods…
We crossed this bridge into what was perhaps the most attractive part of this section of the entire 6 day walk so far…
The wooden fence gently wove its way around pretty fields with gorgeous poppies, buttercups and other wild flowers so we kept stopping to take photographs!
We walked slowly along this path, enjoying and taking in such beautiful surroundings… today was such a pleasant change from the long un-shaded never-ending dusty roads of yesterday…
We found a small hidden opening down to the stream where again we were able to take a cooling paddle… above is a hydraulic tunnel carved out of the rocks and designed by the Etruscans hundreds if not thousands of years ago to provide drainage and/or irrigation.
We also found some little hot springs allowing the warm water to flow into the cooler stream.
From the woods we emerged into a clearing and continued towards La Storta. From the guide books we had realised that as a suburb of Rome, La Storta wasn’t going to be a quaint historical town like the ones we had been travelling through.
When we reached La Storta we had to walk along the pavement of the busy Via Cassia. Via Cassia is a historic Roman road first build in the 2nd century BC which stretches from northern Italy, through Tuscany and ends in Rome. Now this section of it is a duel carriageway. Above is the modern Sacro Cuore church, the official end of today’s section of the Via Francigena so now it was off to find our accommodation.
We continued along the Via Cassia with its heavy traffic and walked to the edge of La Storta. Tranquility soon returned as we turned off this main road and walked towards the I Casali del Pino and the rustic organic farm we were to stay in. We walked for about 15 minutes along the shaded driveway until we reached the farm buildings.
I Casali del Pino is located on a working farm so we walked past sheep and farm animals. They are also a conference and wedding venue and have a highly recommended restaurant but unfortunately this is closed on Thursdays.
The rooms in this accommodation were fabulous and we all appreciated the relaxing and chilled environment in which we were staying. In the early evening, Chris and I enjoyed a celebration glass of Prosecco in the lovely gardens which overlooked open countryside.
Later in the evening we met up with Roza and Russell and the 4 of us walked back for 15 minutes along the driveway to a small cluster of restaurants. These were popular and we had a great evening tucking into burgers and chips in a lively Scottish pub called the Tam O’Shanter!