Italian Hospitality? Molto Gentile. Italian Weather? Rain!

May 23, 2013 — Poggio Bustone to Rieti
20130523-084318.jpgFrom left: Sebastian, Andreas, Jacqueline, our host, Feliciano, me

Today’s weather report called for rain all morning, then sun in the afternoon. This grim forecast convinced our group to hang out in Poggio and hope for a dry 15 km (10 mile) walk after the rain was done. We waited in the “yoga room” of our hostel, La Locanda Francescana, which gave us time for good byes with Michelle, our hostess. Last night we enjoyed the cooking of her partner, Feliciano, at the hostel’s restaurant, and once again, as at Piediluco, we were overwhelmed by the generous hospitality of the local Italians.

Before cooking our meal Feliciano graciously asked for dietary issues within our group. I explained that I don’t eat red meat (a staple of all Italian second courses, it seems) and he kindly secured some “local chicken” for last night’s dinner. It was the first meat of any kind I’ve eaten in several days. On our way out this morning he shared the tender, Italian two-cheek kiss with each of us. The result with his day’s growth of beard was kind and scratchy-sweet. We left with a smile and a promise to come back.
20130523-100419.jpgOur group, this time in the yoga room with Michelle

Yesterday we noticed a barber shop just a few meters from our hotel, so this morning while we waited for the rain to stop Sebastian and I went over to treat ourselves — me to a haircut and Sebi to a straight-razor shave. Sebastian came out looking and smelling like someone ready for a Friday night date. I came out with the shortest haircut of my life — a 2mm razor cut over my entire scalp. My hair was already short, but by the time the barber finished with me his floor was covered with black hair that once had been mine. I shrugged to Sebastian, “Well, I have three weeks to grow it back!”

Before beginning our walk at a disappointingly rainy noon hour we had a bite of lunch next to an intense card game at a bar off the main piazza. Jacqueline was not feeling well and had decided to take the bus to Rieti, so Sebastian, Andreas and I walked down and out of Poggio Bustone in the cold precipitation decked out in rain gear and hoping for the best.

Before reaching the bottom of this lofty hill town we had already lost the waymarks, so we headed onto the shoulderless car road to Rieti, which we daringly followed as far as the turnoff to Cantalice. Here an Italian woman in a grey car spotted us looking at our maps and pulled over to give us directions. Her suggestion was to follow a quiet auto road into Cantalice, rather than take the more direct but busier auto road straight to Rieti. Her advice was wise, but in the one dangerous moment of our walk we met a truck coming uphill on a narrow turn with a bus (Jacqueline’s, it turned out) coming downhill at he same spot. Andreas happened to be on the cliff side of the road while Sebastian and I were on the rock wall side. Traffic stopped in both directions while pilgrims and motor traffic took turns using the narrow road. As the bus passed we waved to Jacqueline and other pilgrims aboard who’d noticed us stopping traffic. We were happy to see Jacqueline, even if it was just with a quick wave from the side of the road.

20130523-224137.jpgCantalice rising above us

The rain and traffic soon subsided and we had our first good look at Cantalice, another Italian hill town, this one seemingly even steeper than each of the others. Our first thought should have been, “How beautiful!” but was actually, “Hope we don’t have to climb that!” We’d been without waymarks since we left Poggio and were delighted and disappointed to find them again at the foot of a steep staircase — this time pointing straight up the steep city streets.

We armed ourselves with cafe lattes from a bar in the lower city and climbed the steps up and farther up toward the church and castle tower at the summit. Someone commented, “I think the grandmothers in this hill town must have buns of steel!”

20130523-224910.jpgChurch of San Felize, in honor of Cantalice’s homegrown saint

We stopped for pictures of decaying doorways and ancient church facades in this mouldering town, then were given helpful directions by a Brit who’d heard sounds of English emanating from the path below. “Follow the road past the bar and keep going!” It worked, and soon we were heading along a ridge at the same level as upper Cantalice, enjoying views back to the town and, when the clouds cleared, as far as Poggio Bustone.

20130523-225738.jpgViews back to Poggio Bustone, today’s starting point, nestled on the mountainside in the distance

The ridge continued in a southeasterly direction, pushing us closer to La Foresta, our final St Francis site of this pilgrimage. We arrived there at about 4:00, finding an empty chapel and shuttered cloisters. That allowed a quick visit and we covered the remainder of the walk to Reiti in a brisk, 40 minute downhill march.

The outskirts of even the prettiest towns seem to be a maze of parking lots and strip malls, Reiti being no exception. But after passing through the gate of the city’s medieval walls we were in another world. The quiet streets were filled with workers heading home, grandmothers on errands, Italian soldiers in uniform fatigues chatting by fountains and cheerful teenagers enjoying dripping cones of colorful gelato.

Jacqueline, who’d arrived hours before, had found a room for herself and a triple room for us. We settled in, showered, dressed in clean clothes, and headed out with Jacqueline among us again, this time to enjoy the now dry and sunny weather as well as the sights and sounds of a beautiful, Italian town.

The evening’s meal was filled with good food, wine and laughter, plus the hospitality of a kind restaurant proprietor who opened his establishment 15 minutes early to accommodate a few tired and hungry pilgrims who had just finished their rainy day’s journey by foot or bus.

20130523-231025.jpgLooking toward the tower of Reiti’s cathedral

7 thoughts on “Italian Hospitality? Molto Gentile. Italian Weather? Rain!

  1. Would it be possible to have you share with us your expense list(s) that you have hopefully been keeping, please? I thank you in advance. Wishing all of you the best.

    • Hi Antonio —
      Not sure my expenses would be the same as others, since I’ve been sharing rooms with 3-4 pilgrims. Our experience has been 30E per person for room and breakfast and commonly 20E+ for a restaurant dinner of 2-3 courses. Hope that helps.

      • Thank you for your prompt response–which I did not expect! You made my day! I am further wondering if you would be kind enough to share with us what you finally decided to take along for this journey; and which rucksack you have been utilising thus far. I offer you my gratitude, and appreciation there-of. Right now I am trying to return back to the Planet Earth as I finished a week ago my walk from Le Puy-en-Velay in France all the way to Santiago. Warmest regards…

      • I’ve used the Osprey Stratos 37L rucksack which has been perfect. Basically I packed the same kit as for Santiago without the sleeping bag. I did bring my bag liner but so far have not used it. I’m using light hiking boots but wish I had something with more aggressive tread for the occasional slippery downhill slope (it’s rained a fair amount). But in general I’m pretty happy with my choices. Are you planning a Cammino San Francesco soon?

  2. …your kind, and timely responses have greatly inspired me–to say the least. Again I offer you my profound gratitude for taking your time answering my questions there-of. Having had no blisters whatsoever during my walk from Le Puy-en-Velay all the way to Santiago, and your kind responses thus far, have much inspired me to plan the Camino Portugués, and the Camino San Francesco for later on this year–provided that my poor Financial Empire will not get completely wiped out in the process! I live in Limoges, France which is a bonus–no long-distance air tickets, and no aeroports to deal with as well–thank God! Anyhow, the only problem–or pain in the neck, pun intended–that I have found with the Osprey packs has always been that they are all top-loading, instead of front-loading, like a suit case–which I have come to prefer in the long run. You may disagree! Furthermore, I am really keen to find out what feature sets attracted you to use the Stratos model, rather than your already, and properly seasoned Atmos one? Now, as far as the shoes are concerned, I think having Vibram threads is a must for the long haul–if you know what I mean. Comparing the Camino Francés with the Le Chemin du Puy–that begins from Genève, in Suisse, and goes deep in the woods through Le Puy-en-Velay, in France–which is another 739 km to begin with, was anti-climax as far as my feet, and I were concerned! The Camino Francés was a piece of cake really–to say the least! For the most part I were alone on the Chemin du Puy–which was a good/bad thing at the same time! However, in the Camino Francés, alas, I saw some very ugly, and horribly mutilated feet/toes–simply because people were using the wrong types of shoes to begin with! Can you possibly fathom that they were using “runners!” Why? I kept asking myself the sane question(s) all the time! In closing, I sincerely hope that you have kept–and will keep all the way to Roma–a list of places that you had/will over-night along your way that eventually you would be kind enough to share that list with all of us who are planning to do the same Camino somehow/someday. I wished I were walking with all of you at this point in time; and as always, I shall remain with all the best wishes for everyone in your group. My thoughts are with you…

    • Yes, I agree with you on Vibram or similar soles, as well as the sad state of pilgrim feet that are shod only in trainers.

      I’m feeling good about my Osprey Stratos 37L pack. It is lighter than the Atmos 50 and the smaller size allows me to distribute my smaller kit a little more strategically inside. It has an integral rain cover and, unlike many Ospreys actually does have a front panel that allows access to the main pouch. I agree with you about the usefulness of front access, so it’s nice to see his feature in the Osprey brand.

      Sounds like you have a full plate of camino adventures ahead of you! I’ll look forward to reading about them on you blog. Buen camino from Italy!

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