May 26, 2013 — Rieti to Poggio San Lorenzo
Serendipity in the piazza
Sometimes you see the darnedest things if you pay attention, and today was an example. We awoke, got breakfast, headed out the door, then waited in the sunny piazza of Rieti while Jacqueline ran an errand. While she was gone a large group of food servers suddenly spilled out of a building, assembled a few tables, then gathered for a photo. I jumped in, said “fromaggio!” and snapped a photo of my own, to the surprise of the assembled group. They shouted “Queso!” “Fromaggio!” and “Cheese!” with big smiles. Then as quickly as they appeared they were gone, leaving us wondering what had just happened.
Jacqueline soon returned and we gathered up our things and headed to the supermarket for lunch items, asked directions to get out of town and then were off.
About a kilometer later, just south of town, we saw an important sign by our trail: “100 kilometers (70 miles) to the Tomb of St Peter in Rome.” More important is what was just behind us — the Cottorella bottled water factory which bottles the pure waters of this region and distributes them all over Italy.
As we snapped our photos it began to feel like the beginning of the end of our pilgrimage. Just 4-5 days more and we will be in Rome. Perhaps it was that our goal was looming closer or perhaps it was the threatening clouds ahead –either way we walked ahead crisply, grimly and with unusually few words.
The trail followed the highway for some time, then ducked across the valley to a gravel track beneath a double row of stately trees. To our delight this continued on for several kilometers before the track moved beside the creek at the center of the valley. We followed its burbling sounds for several more long kilometers and then followed the trail through meadows to a quiet road on the west side of the valley. After a couple of kilometers we found a concrete bulkhead next to the road and shared our simple lunch of focaccia bread, cheese and nectarines.
At about 15 kilometers we followed markers to a gravel road that veered off to the right and followed this for several more kilometers. By now we were starting to get weary from our long walk, and we began to notice signs for an agritourismo (rural guest house) near our goal, Poggio San Lorenzo.
The gravel trail ended at a narrow, two-lane road with a hopeful sign: “800 meters ahead” to the agritourismo. The waymarks, though, pointed in exactly the opposite direction. We bravely followed them, ignoring thoughts of beds and showers and food, and walked uphill for 30 minutes until we saw another sign for the same agritourismo: “800 meters ahead.” The deal was sealed — we were staying there.
A quick call to the posted number and our rooms were reserved. A few minutes after that we were comfortably in our rooms, a day closer to Rome, ready for dinner at 7:30. As we waited for our evening meal we hand washed laundry, quietly wrote in our diaries and blogs and noticed from the warmth of our rooms it had started to rain outside.