Day 6: Lucca to Altopascio — 16 km (10 miles)
Today began like every other day. I awakened in the night with a brilliant idea and by morning I’d forgotten it. So in lieu of having a brilliant idea I decided to share a series of photos that depict today’s stage of the Via Francigena at 1/2 mile intervals, starting at Lucca and ending 16 km (10 miles) later in Altopascio.
That’s what 16 km looked like today.
Before, during and after taking the photos, some other fun things happened.
Before: The other day I realized I had skipped out of Pietrasanta without paying my breakfast tab. I mentioned it to Mora, desk person at Camere con Visto where I stayed in Lucca last night, and she offered to take care of it for me. In Europe it’s very common to transfer money person-to-person (or person to cafe), and since I remembered the name of the cafe, it was easy. I gave Mora 10€; she called and got the IBAN number of the bar and she will transfer the funds for me. Pretty sweet. I can’t really handle the idea that I cheated someone inadvertently, and with Mora’s help I’m making good on my debt via Europe easy bank transfer system. This would be much tougher to accomplish in the US.
During: Along the way I was passed by three Italian pilgrims, who paused just long enough to say ciao before pushing quickly onward. In hare/tortoise fashion I caught up with them during their lunch at a rest stop about an hour later. True to Italian custom, they begged me to sit down with them and share a glass of wine. I obliged and really appreciated their sweet gesture.
After: As I strolled into Altopascio at stage’s end, who should I stumble on but Mary Belden Brown and friends? She and her husband, Lynn, are leading a group of pilgrims on what they call a “luxury tour” of the Via Francigena. I’ve shadowed Mary and several in her group on Facebook for days, and it was fun to meet them and have a few moments to speak in true American English to some folks from back home. I’ve been gone only eight days, but I can’t overestimate how nice it is to speak to someone in my native tongue.
Other things happened, too. For instance, I conquered the Italian shower challenge. For the uninformed, this means I successfully showered in a doccia with no shower stall or shower curtain without flooding the entire bathroom. The secret is to stand in the corner and point the shower wand at yourself, turning the water on and off as needed. The Altopascia hostel, full with about 20 pilgrims, is equipped with one of those amazing and impractical showers, here shared by all the pilgrims of both sexes.
The growing number of pilgrims on the trail are mostly Italian, followed by French. I’ve heard there are Germans about, but I haven’t met them yet. And other than the luxury pilgrims, who are sampling portions of the route and won’t join the long haul to Rome, I’m the only American around.
I admit it. I’m missing home and part of me is ready for the leap back to the U.S. and home, family and friends. But there are miles to go before I leap. Miles to go before I leap.