Day 18: Viterbo to Sutri — 29.4 km (18.3 miles)
As I was walking into Viterbo the other day I was stopped by a pilgrim returning from his walk to Rome. He had an important message to share with me as we looked out toward a view of Viterbo, some 10 km away. “Don’t take the shortcut over the mountain behind Viterbo,” he said as he pointed to the tall mountain behind Viterbo. “If you do, you’ll discover there’s an 800 meter climb.”
His words were very much on my mind today as I climbed the mountain behind Viterbo.
As I reviewed the guidebook it was like looking at a triangle. The official route follows the two smaller sides of the triangle, walking along the plain below the mountain. The shortcut, though, follows the hypotenuse. It is straighter and shorter from Point A (Viterbo) to Point B (Sutri). The only problem being there is a mountain in the way.
I don’t mean to sound overconfident or arrogant, but after walking over 600 kilometers in the last weeks, I wasn’t going to let a mountain get in the way of saving a whole day’s walking.
Breakfast was set for 7:30 this morning at the B&B Orchard where I stayed, but since I was up at 6:00 I decided to head out anyway for an early start. By 7:00 I had already had breakfast at a nearby cafe, but when I returned for my things Matteo, my host, insisted I let him make me a sack lunch with the fresh bread he’d just picked up from the bakery. So armed with a cheese panino and apple, I set out for Sutri at 7:15.
The first kilometers were on pavement, followed by a narrow path, then pavement again to the little, walled village of San Martino al Cimino. Did I mention that was all uphill? After that it was up an asphalt road, then very steeply up a wide forest path, followed by moderately steeply up the wide forest path. The guidebook promised vistas of Lago di Vico below, which finally appeared some 8 km into the uphill path.
The forested path ended at a narrow asphalt road leading to the small town of Ronciglione, where I stopped for coffee and met a trio of Italian pilgrims from Padua.
Then it was a long downhill to Sutri, where I found my room and headed for a cafe to catch a quick panino before my shower.
In all it was 30 km over a mountain, eight hours of walking that were very much worth it since I’ll get to Rome a day earlier. Right now the plan calls for me to walk into St Peter’s Square on Saturday morning. But who knows. Maybe there’s another shortcut out there.