After a great month of Italian language study followed by another month of walking the Via di Francesco from Florence to Rome I’ve now started writing my pilgrimage guidebook: The Way of St. Francis: From Florence to Assisi to Rome. In fact, today I finished the final chapter. I just need to finish the first twenty-eight and I’ll be done.
Last spring as I planned the Italian research phase of my project I knew I’d stay in Italy for three-ish months. In the first month I would study Italian, in the second month I’d walk the pilgrimage route, and in the third month I’d catch up on anything I’d missed, including walking the route a second time if necessary. When I finished walking the route for the first time last week — with the amazing Theresa Elliott — I also finalized my plan for my last month. I decided to rent an apartment in Perugia, which is very central to all locations on the walk, and from here I can start writing while catching up on any missing pieces.
There are plenty of missing pieces. Although I’ve walked 626km (388 miles) I missed or was rained out on three stages (Stia to Camaldoli, Assisi to Spello, Trevi to Spoleto). I got lost in one stage so I need to repeat that (La Verna to Pieve Santo Stefano), and I messed up on a portion of another stage, so I’ll need to repeat that one, too (Pieve Santo Stefano to Sansepolcro). Also, in talking with a local pilgrimage expert I’ve discovered an alternate track for the first two days (Firenze to Pontassieve and Pontassieve to Consuma). This track solves some problems and may be worth including, so I’ll explore it as well. This adds up to about six more days of walking before I’m truly done with the walking/research phase.
One problem with the upcoming days of walking is that my beloved Treksta Assault GTX hiking boots finally bit the dust. As I walked the last couple of weeks I felt the bottoms become slippery on downhills, and the boots have hardened over the many miles I’ve used them. As I think back, I realize I walked 700km with them in 2012 on the Camino del Norte and 626km here. They’ve done well over 1300km (800 miles) and I’ll replace them when I’m briefly in Florence this weekend. I hope I can find a pair that’s half as good. These have been excellent boots — few blisters and very comfortable — perfect for the long haul.
So during August, in between walking trips, I’ll be writing. Editing, really. As I’ve walked each stage I’ve dictated the walking directions into a program on my iPhone. Each night after I’ve walked I’ve transcribed my dictation onto my laptop — creating twenty-four separate documents. Just today I compiled all the transcriptions into a single file entitled “Manuscript” and made a startling discovery. I’m already 3,000 words over my 40,000 word limit! This means I’ll have to edit and smooth the text of the central chapters, bringing them down to about 35,000 words to make room for the Introduction and the text boxes in each chapter that describe important sites. My goal is to have the twenty-nine core chapters of the book finished when I step on the plane to Seattle around Labor Day. Then back in Seattle I’ll choose from among my 1,400 photos, compile the elevation profiles, create the maps, and then groom it all into a final submission to the publisher by year’s end.
If you should happen by Via San Giacomo in Perugia you may find me sitting on the futon in the living room of my tiny apartment on this ancient street below the Porta Eburnea, typing into my laptop. If I’m not there I’m likely walking a leftover stage between towns not far away. I’m learning to stay cool in the hot Italian summer, and enjoying this odd and productive moment in my life while I prepare what I hope will be a blessing to pilgrims who someday walk along this way.