Day 15: Radicofani to Acquapendente — 24km (14.9 miles)
This morning I was in no hurry to get out of bed. It had been a long day yesterday and the hostel bunk was warm. I suspected my hand washed clothes would not yet be dry, and worse, I figured today it would rain. So with just 24 km on the day’s program, I left the hostel at a luxurious 8:00.
Last out of the building, I closed the hostel’s ancient door, made sure it was locked behind me, and headed across the tiny piazza in a light drizzle toward the welcoming cafe. Peter, a pilgrim from Luxembourg, happened in after a bit, and he bought me a second cappuccino as we lingered in the cafe during a sudden rain squall. He left when the rain stopped and I was out the door not long after, dressed in all my rain gear for what promised to be a wet day.
The first 10 km out of Radicofani are a long descent on a quiet and picturesque gravel road. As I plodded along I noticed a woman ahead searching with a stick in the undergrowth beside the road. I asked her if she was looking for mushrooms and she replied no, using a word I didn’t know. I asked if I could see in her bag and she said, “Sí.” Inside were 30 or forty good-sized, wiggly, moist snails.
Hmmm, I thought.
The sun soon made an appearance, and I peeled off my rain jacket. The clouds parted and I took off my sweater. The sun began to get warmer and I took off my hat. I looked around and saw rain clouds in the distance, otherwise I would’ve stopped, peeled down to my skivvies, and replaced my blazingly hot rain pants with my much cooler hiking shorts.
As I continued down the long gravel road, I met a man searching with a stick in the undergrowth. I asked him what he was looking for and he said that same Italian word as the woman had before. But he offered this additional insight: We soak them for 10 days and then cook them in a wood-fired stove.“And you eat them?” I asked, gulping.
As I continued on, my mind was filled with a mixture of thoughts. What would be left of a snail after 10 days of soaking and then cooking in the oven? What would it taste like? Would I dare to try one myself?
Anyway, I guess when I would use the words “gross, “disgusting,” or “yucky” a local Italian might say, Buon Appetito!
After the gravel road ended it was back onto and off of the modern version of the Via Cassia, the historic highway to Rome. I dodged cars for a bit, then was glad to turn off the highway for the last four kilometers onto a quiet stretch of the Old Via Cassia. I looked ahead at the climb and thought for the umpteenth time how much I’d like to get out of my torturously hot rain pants.
Before I knew it, there was Acquapendente across a canyon to the left.
I ambled into town and found dozens of people in the central piazza preparing for this weekend’s famous flower festival. I think it’s fair to say that the US has nothing like this, a festival that has happened here for hundreds of years and attracts villagers as well as local residents from the entire region to play their part in the festivities.
As I checked in to a little B&B for the night my host pointed out that this is the town’s annual festival — the infiorata festival — in which the streets are covered in flower petal mosaics. What a great weekend to happen into town.
As for me, I’m walking strongly, feeling good, losing a little weight, becoming darker on everything exposed to sun, and contending with only one annoying blister. I’ve so much to be thankful for as I start the last week of my walk to Rome.
In France, we often eat snails (called in italian lumaca or chiocciola ) with butter, parsley and garlic. You have to try them. Don’t be shy !
Enjoy the Way ! In Latium, I particularly liked Bolsena.
Mi spanish wife often spoke about the time when she was child, that her father was going to collect grapewine snails (escargots) Befor cooking he put them in a recipient for a week, without food, to drain his bowel. In the tradicional watering canals in their fields also he collected frogs, to eat them.
It’s amazing to read your blog. Im not onely learning new english words. I’m able to understand your thaugts as pilgrim, which opened me so much the view.
Buen Camino Sandy,
Perhaps the most evocative photo here is the one of the rock cairns on the bridge. My daughter and I walked from Siena to Rome in June-July, and we contributed our own little rockpiles to a couple of the bridges we passed, one at (I think) Ponte a Rigo. However, I didn’t take any photos of the bridge rails, and seeing yours makes me regret that: adding our cairns was a small but very important gesture somehow, participation in a great communal experience with other pilgrims we never met. Buon camino!