After the book launch in London on November 5, Theresa, Madison and I headed to France for a holiday. On the 18th I put them on a plane at Charles DeGaulle airport and headed down to Italy to research updates for The Way of St Francis and check in with Italian friends. As I write, I’m in an Airbnb apartment near Castel Ritaldi, more or less near Trevi, and am nearing the end of my work.
Here are a couple things I’ve learned about the Via di Francesco while here in Italy:
- More pilgrims are walking this trail — Everyone agrees that they’re seeing more pilgrims. Simone Minelli in Gubbio counted over 2,500 helped by his organization this year. Feliciano in Poggio Bustone himself housed over 1,500 pilgrims. That’s great news for the trail. More pilgrims means more infrastructure as people come to recognize it for the delight it is. According to Feliciano, it is mostly German, Dutch, Austrian and French pilgrims. Just a few Americans and no English. Let’s fix that!
- Signage is improving — The Region of Lazio has made an investment in new signs, and according to Gigi Bettin Umbria is not far behind. Today I saw sparkling new signs pointing the way along the Holy Valley of Rieti walk, now being identified by Lazio as part of the “Via Francigena di San Francesco” and “Via di Roma” group. In a couple of days I’ll investigate whether trail maintenance has improved south of Rieti.
My book updates will soon be posted to the Cicerone update site. So far I’ve put together a new and improved description of the approach to Poggio Bustone, recorded the new entry to Piediluco, updated accommodation for Consuma, Santuario della Verna, Sansepolcro, Foligno, Ponticelli, Montelibretti and Monte Sacro.
In between updates I’ve rented a car and explored a bit, something that’s not so easy when you’re on foot as I’ve always been while on pilgrimage. So I’ve now added some Franciscan sites to my repertoire, including Montecasale, Montefalco, Greccio and Fonte Colombo. With those done, I’m pretty sure I’ve now visited all the major St Francis sites in Italy.
It was great to see friends like Alec who hosted me overnight in 2014. I checked in with Chiara, Gigi and Beatrice in Perugia and while there had a chance to visit Comitato Linguistico (my language school) and my house mother, Graziella and her son, Luigi. I really enjoyed meeting Bret and Catia and their two kids in Loreto for an American Thanksgiving dinner.
I also connected with the people of Italy Magazine who’ve agreed to publish a couple of articles from me in the next months. I’m about halfway done with research on two articles and I have an idea for a third, so some writing to do yet.
The best part of this trip, though, has been getting to see some of the friends I’ve made over these couple of years of visiting and writing in Italy. I’ve put together a slideshow below of people and places I’ve seen so far. Just one week left in Italy, then it’s back to Seattle. I love this place, but I miss Theresa, my boys and my home town.