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.