The last chapter is done, now for the first twenty-eight

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Interior of my little apartment on Via San Giacomo in Perugia. Note writing futon on right.

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.

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Smooth heel bottoms. On the sides of the heel you can see that the cushioning has compressed over time.

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.

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This is what it looks like to research a pilgrim guidebook. Backpack…. boots….iPhone in left hand for dictation…. GPS in right hand to record the track. Crossing the aqueduct at Spoleto.

12 thoughts on “The last chapter is done, now for the first twenty-eight

  1. Marvelous. It will be a great addition to the pilgrimage and long-distance walk literature. My husband and I will look forward to reading it!

  2. Hello Sandy, and congratulations on your guide book, it sounds wonderful.
    What a shame your guide won’t be available when my 11 friends and I tackle the walk from Assisi to Rome next month. We are a group of Australian women of varying age and fitness. At 64 I think I am the oldest and I have arthritic knees. Our pilgrimage is booked through Camino Ways with daily bed and breakfast and they have provided a pretty detailed guide. We have tried to prepare with regular training but I am concerned about my ability to maintain a demanding pace of 20k almost every day. What can you tell me about the availability of bus or taxi transport between towns? Are there any sections you suggest I avoid? I look forward to your reply!

    • Hi Catherine. There are two major itineraries. Send me your nightly stops and I’ll see if the route is the same one I’m using. If it is, I’m happy to help. Ciao!

  3. Thank you very much Sandy. Nightly stops as follows….
    Foligno via Spello 19.7. Castello Di Campiello via Trevi 21. Spoleto via Eggi 18.6. Ceselli 15.7. Arrone 14.8. Piediluco via Marmore 13. Poggio Bustone 22. Rieti 17.2. Poggio San Lorenzo 7.5. Ponticelli 20. Monterotondo 28.8. Monte Sacro 18. Rome 15.2. The numbers after each name represents the distance as advised by our tour company.
    Please don’t use too much of your precious time on this, I am sure we will be able to work it out for ourselves. However, I find it comforting to get some pointers from someone with as much experience of the journey as you.
    Thanks again, Catherine.

    • Thanks for sharing this, Catherine. Yes, you’re in for some steep ups and downs in almost every day. In most cases there are buses available and if not a taxi a local or someone from the hotel may be available to drive you to the next place. Do start early to beat the heat and make certain you have hiking poles for the climbs and descents. Let me know if you want very specific advice for which are the hardest and I’ll send you details. Buon cammino!

    • Hi Catherine ~

      I’ve been thinking a lot about you since we chatted on my blog site. How is your prep going?

      A couple of things:
      1. I met a travel agent in Rieti last month who specializes in this route. If you get in trouble and need extra help, talk to him and he can arrange pack transport and/or taxi. He is Italian and has great English and can talk with taxi drivers, hotel operators, etc. If you’re interested I will send his contact info.

      2. What guidebook or resource is your group using? The way marks are sometimes missing and it will help to have directions. If your group is interested, I would benefit from having someone take my draft descriptions along and use them as a walking guide. If you’re interested, we could talk. Also, if someone in your group knows how to use GPS I have downloadable tracks that can walk you step by step so you don’t get lost.

      3. Do you already have reservations for lodging? Some people think this camino is like Santiago where you just choose the next albergue when you get tired. Here you need reservations and there are a few places where the choices are limited.

      Hoping for a great time for you and the gang! –Sandy

  4. …do you think you deserve that wonderful flat that you have found in Perugia? How did you find it anyway? By the way, I hope your Guidebook’s designer will have a wide gutter for letting your masterpiece set flat without having pages fall apart at its spine–if you know what I mean! God bless you…

    • No, I don’t deserve this great flat at all, but I’m sure enjoying it. The kind people at my language school helped find it for me, Jay. Good point about the pages laying flat. I’ll have to explore that with Cicerone Press. Have a super day!

      • Do you know what “Cicerone” means by any chance?

        If you need a proofreader, do let me know. I will be very happy to oblige in any way I can…

  5. I think you owe it to your potential readers of your “guidebook-to-be” to mention a brief history of the area where you have walked. Please, try to get to the Biblioteca Pubblica of Perugia whereby you could talk with the wonderful Paola–alas, I cannot remember her surname; sorry–about what Caesar Octavian Augustus did to Umbria in general, and Perugia in particular. Very bloody, and ruthless act(s) of genocide–genocidio–to the helpless people of Umbria/Perugia. He burnt down Perugia–if you wanted to know that as well.

    Anyhow, a brief history of the area of your Camino is imperative–imperativo–for the authenticity of your “guidebook”–if you know what I mean.

    God bless you both; and try to stay away from Nutella–if you can!

    Ciao…

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