Dear Princess ‘Ishka,
This summer I decided to join a couple of friends for an alternative holiday. At the end of my last semester, I was very stressed by the university and I asked S to participate to whatever journey she was planning with S, without even knowing what it was about. It turned out to be a trip on the road, the so-called “Francesco’s way”.
The Francesco’s way is a long walk in central Italy, following the steps of Saint Francis, the famous founder of the Mendicant Order of the Franciscans, as he moved from town to town, spreading his teachings of poverty and the love for nature. We changed our train in Rome, heading to Rieti, where we started our adventure.
From the beginning, my two girls realized how hard it was to move on the Appennines, but I was trained on the Alps. Apart from the burning sun of late august, I found the trip lovely and the landscapes breathtaking. Getting lost on the mountains of the northern border of Lazio was exciting for me, less for S and S. However, by the time we reached the lake of Piediluco, we all had time for deserved relief.
The day after, we learned the story of the “Marmore waterfalls” and of how in ancient times, the Romans were used to regulate their stream and eventually flood the populations in the valleys below, before conquering them in later times.
We moved on, walking along the Nerina Valley, called after the river Nera, through the lands that were once covered by the waters. You still can see the myriad of lake-fortresses, roosted on high rocks in the dry land of today, inhabited by few old people, fewer tourists and many cats.
By the time we had to cross more mountains to get to Spoleto, my friends decided to take a bus, whereas I continued on foot. The path was challenging and I enjoyed it a lot, especially when I had a short break in the ghost town of Sensati, hidden in the mountain forest, or later, when I walked through the sacred wood of Monteluco.
Finally, the gigantic Roman bridge of Spoleto was ready for me to be crossed, but it had been very unfortunately closed due to investigations after the last Italian earthquakes. Even more unfortunately, I had no time to walk around the whole valley and climb the mountains on the other side. So, with a little prayer on my elbows under the fences, I found myself suddenly and surprisingly in Spoleto.
The journey proceeded quietly the next day to Poreta, where we had dinner and slept in the town’s castle, under a red moonlight. We woke up early, departing from our beloved waiter Alessandro, who should be listed in the highlights of the region Umbria for how a masterpiece of Italian culture he represents.
S had a hard time walking through the olive groves that day. I even offered my help to carry her rucksack for a short stretch. She refused and carried on, filling me with admiration.
We continued our journey in the Umbrian countryside, which is a georgic dream come true, full of interesting places enriched by nature, art and architecture.
The final stage went from Spello to Assisi and we got separated again: the girls would have walked the low path in the valley; I would have taken the middle one across the woods of the mountains. The receptionist of our hotel warned us one last time against the summer heat and told me in particular to watch out for “beasts”. “You have to be a goat to climb those mountains” she told me, even if I reassured her that I wasn’t going to take the highest path.
Carefully observing the guide, after a couple of hours of marching, I found myself back at the starting point. I was also a little annoyed by the labyrinth of tracked paths on the mountains before Assisi. I took my decision: “Goats gotta be goats, I’ll climb to the top and get things straight”. So I did, and the view from the bald edge of the mount was spectacular. From that height, you could neatly distinguish all the houses, churches and bastions of Assisi, like a Medieval cartographer.
I got a little emotional as I reached my destination and I even found an Austrian biker studying in Vienna, with whom I had a talk about the respective journeys. Europe is becoming more and more manageable, my princess. You are in the vast world I can’t wait to explore.