Following 4 days of unbroken sunshine since we arrived in Italy, we woke up to rain on this day. After a fairly basic and somewhat disappointing breakfast in the one 4* hotel of the trip we set off for the day, out in the rain stopping in a tiny local wooden shop to buy some provisions.
Neither Chris or Roza had waterproof covers for their backpacks but they managed to acquire a couple of large plastic bags as we passed through San Miniato.
After walking for about 1.5 miles we stopped at the Bar Alimentari Paninoteca in a hamlet called Calenzano. This was our last opportunity to purchase food or drinks for todays walk as the route would not be taking us through any towns or villages. Together with other pilgrims and some locals we stopped in this small greengrocer/bakery/bar for a coffee and drank this in the garden while sheltering under a canopy.
The next part was along a quiet road before we turned off into a long track through woods and countryside. At the beginning of this track was a picnic bench and water fountain to top up your water bottles if needed.
The rain continued all morning but it was mostly light rain and with such vibrant green landscapes filled with bright colourful wild flowers our spirits did not dampen as we walked through fields and woodland. We saw steam rising in pockets from the warm earth into the cooler air.
As we walked we saw two figures ahead, one carrying a huge backpack with little legs poking out. As we caught up with them we found this to be a French couple who had wild camped their way along the Via Francigena from Switzerland and it was the woman carrying the pack.
A bit further along we saw a sinister looking black caped figure emerge in the distant mist. Grim Reaper who turned out to be the pretty young Italian woman who had taken our group photograph by the lake the previous day!
We also met a group of 10 Australian women who were walking the Via Francigena from Lucca to Rome which is to take them 3 weeks.
By midday we felt in need of a break from the rain and some lunch and came across a couple of old disused barns. Stepping across straw and perching on a stack of wood I ate the second half of left over pizza from the previous night.
The rain eased off in the afternoon and while blue sky would have been preferred to properly showcase the stunning Tuscan landscape the views were still fabulous.
While last year we saw an abundance of bright red poppies, this year much of the route was lined with pretty pink wild flowers.
With a day of rain it was very muddy in places and this was pretty slippery especially when negotiating a downward slope.
We passed through the famous Chianti vineyards. Apparently with the beauty of this location, the Archbishop of Canterbury took his time here staying in Santa Maria a Chianni where there is a parish church with a rustic annex which is now a hostel.
It was a relief to finally arrive in Gambassi Terme. The rain had returned and the last couple of miles were a steep uphill slog next to a road. By now we were soaked to the skin and looking forward to arriving at our accommodation and being dry.
We had booked accommodation called the Casa Del Principe which I thought was a hotel but when we arrived it felt like someones house with nobody in! I phoned the number and the owner said he would meet us in 2 minutes. He turned up with his golden retriever dog and led us around the back of the building, unlocked a door to the empty wine bar where he suggested we could leave our wet jackets i.e. draped over the back of dining chairs.
He showed us to our rooms, Chris and I had a room in an annex on the ground floor and the others had rooms upstairs in the main part of the house.
Later we had a pre dinner drink in a wine bar on the local piazza and sampled a tasty glass of Chianti from the local vineyards we had passed through earlier in the day. We were also given a plate of warm toasted complimentary snacks which was a common occurrence throughout the week.
We had a fabulous meal tonight in the Pinchiorba restaurant. The service was excellent and after our wet day we appreciated the homely cosy environment.
The wet weather made a change and added a different dimension to our week of walking. Firstly it was cooler than previous days and secondly we didn’t need to apply sunscreen. We were still able to enjoy the spectacular Tuscan scenery and the day was rounded off with a lovely meal.