Waterfall river lake walk

Mist rises from the falls just after the flood gates are opened.

Day Six: Arrone to Piediluco– 18km (11.2 miles)

The Marmore Waterfall always refreshes me, and today was no different. Our pilgrims started from the bottom, walked up, and then feasted at a friendly and efficient restaurant at the top. Afterward we walked along the river and then the lake before settling into our lakeside hotel near a spot where St Francis preached.

Lovers’ Tunnel is very wet.

Luke and I pose for the camera.

View back toward Arrone.

Walk along the dike.

Panorama at the lakefront.

Everything seems better in clean clothes

Derelict church in upper Macenano

Day five: Ceselli to Arrone — 17 km (10.6 miles)

We walked from our lovely hotel today through Macenano and then out the Nera Valley to Ferentillo and Arrone. Who would ever guess that Arrone’s central piazza would include an ultramodern laundromat? The couple of hours spent cleaning clothes will make life much more pleasant, I’m sure.

Group pic at the start of the day in front of Abbazia San Pietro, our hotel.

Quiet times for the local Communist Party.

The Nera Valley.

Who would guess that this little Italian hill town would have….

…a state of the art laundromat right in the main piazza?

Short and Beautiful Walk Leads to Happy Reunion

May 20, 2013 — Arrone to Piediluco

20130520-153439.jpgViews toward Arrone as we left town after breakfast and shopping

Our morning started with a breakfast of coffee and “biscotti,” which sounds promising to an American used to the Starbucks variety of biscotti, but which in Italy seems to mean a sugary pastry preserved forever in a plastic Twinkie┬« bag. Still, smothered in jam or Nutella these biscotti give ample, sweet calories for a day’s walk. We lingered over breakfast, then lingered some more after breakfast, to give ample time for our clothes to dry in the morning sun.

After buying apples, checking my weight at a crowded pharmacy (down 3 pounds), buying toothpaste, and clarifying directions with a helpful member of the local polizia we left Arrone under partly cloudy skies, in shirtsleeve temps on a level track through the valley behind the town.

20130520-153535.jpgOne of the many fisherman along the accompanying river out of Arrone

By the topographical chart we knew we had level ground as far as the Marmare Waterfall, but at that point we’d climb about 400 feet to the Marmare viewpoint. We were excited about seeing a beautiful waterfall, even if it meant a steep climb to get to the top.

The climb ended up being quite steep — like a stairway without the steps. Sebastian led the way up, up and up to the large park above the falls that includes a museum, food kiosks, ballfields and a campground. The steep climb had prepared us for a bite of lunch, which we took at one of the kiosks near the ticket office. We asked about the cost of tickets and learned they would go on sale “when they turn on the waterfall.” Seems the beautiful falls do double duty as a power generator and part of the day the water is diverted to make electricity for nearby towns.

Rather than wait a couple of hours for the waterworks we headed on toward our goal of Piediluco which was just 7k ahead. About two-thirds of this track was on tranquil, gravel road next to a wide canal, but unfortunately the other one-third was on the edge of a busy two-lane highway. So we made our way into Piediluco alternately in either sun-splashed bliss or barely controlled terror.

20130520-153622.jpgStepping off the path to watch a visiting painter

By 3:00 we were in the lakeside town and a kind man directed us to the only open hotel in town, a renovated monastery above the famous Church of San Francesco from the 13th century. We settled into our room, showered and headed to the terrace, just above the church’s tile roof, to write in our blogs and diaries. As we wrote we were charmed by various local cats and by the hotel owner, too, who brought us bread, cheese and a couple of tiny pizza slices for a snack.

Even though we’d seen some beautiful scenery, the big event of the day was the arrival of our 2011 camino friend, Andreas of Finland. We long ago knew he’d be able to join us starting on May 20, but it wasn’t clear until a couple of days ago that our rendezvous would be here in Piediluco.

20130520-182133.jpgFisherman among the boats at Lake Piediluco, a place also popular with Italy’s competitive rowing teams

Andreas is much-loved in our 2011 pilgrim family. I appreciated especially his jokes, skits, and comedy sketches. He’s a faithful Lutheran and a student of theology and journalism.

Tomorrow we head into “real” St. Francis territory as we cross from Umbria into Lazio and overnight at Poggio Bostone, a place closely associated with St. Francis’ life and spiritual development.

20130520-215140.jpgFrim left: me, Sevastian, our host restaurateur/hotelier, Jacqueline, and new arrival Andreas

Pentecost, with 250 Well-Dressed Italians

May 19, 2013 — Ceselli to Arrone

Today ended up being about clothes — clean pilgrim utilitarian, dirty pilgrim utilitarian, and fancy Italian festival.

After we awoke in our Ceselli “agritourismo” (rural guest house) our first task was to check whether our hand-washed clothes had dried overnight. No luck, they were still damp. We’d managed to wash a load of laundry back in Spello, but by now all 2-3 changes of all our clothes were dirty. Our hopes for a washer and dryer at Ceselli were quashed by our host, who told us (standing in his immaculate outfit) that the nearest laundromat is in Trevi, 20 miles away. So we’d washed a few things and set them out to dry overnight, hoping for better luck at tonight’s lodging in Arrone.

Even as we checked our clothes we noticed it was raining outside, so we put off our departure until 9:45, when the rain had let up a bit.
20130519-191433.jpgDeparting under cloudy skies

We knew today’s track would be quite flat, so we began our walk in good spirits, in spite of the fact we were each wearing dirty clothes. The path followed a quiet gravel road alongside the river all morning,

Along the way we met our first fellow pilgrim in two days — Johann of Holland. He is a well-traveled, older man, walking from somewhere before Assisi, like us to Rome. We said goodbye when the sun became too warm for our raingear and we had to stop for a change of clothes mid-path.

We enjoyed a quick coffee at 11:00 at a small cafe staffed by three older women and then an elegant luncheon (with cloth napkins) at 12:30 in Ferentillo.

20130519-191946.jpgA plate of gnocchi and mozzarella with pomodoro at Ferentillo

20130519-192456.jpgFerentillo and castle above

I asked our lunch host if the twin ruins opposite each other on the high walls of the gorge were churches or castles. “Castles,” he answered in Italian. “One on each side so people walking through would have to pay taxes.”

As we continued our walk, we came across two Italian pilgrims walking toward us, older women who’d already been to Rome. The phone of the one wearing a parka rang just then and, busy with the distraction they left in a chorus of “Ciao!” and “Arrivederci!” In about 250 meters we found a new women’s North Face baseball cap lying in the path and were certain it belonged to the Italian women, who by now were too far away for us to find easily. So, Jacqueline now has a nice, new hat — a pilgrim blessing.

20130519-214312.jpgPoppies basking in the sun

The valley broadened out as we walked and it was clear the mountains on either side were receding. We knew we would soon be in Arrone, our goal for tonight. We arrived at the upper piazza, where we were directed to an agritourismo below. At the reception desk we were offered a huge, three bedroom, two bath suite for 27 Euros each — the “pilgrim price.” We quickly accepted, then asked the day’s important question: do you have a washing machine? To our delight, the answer was “Yes!” (emphasis mine).

We’d noticed the posting for a Pentecost Sunday evening service at the church in the upper city, so our next question was, “Which dirty clothes shall we wear to church while our other clothes are being washed?” We chose various odd pieces, with and without underwear, and headed to services.

Under the 15th century frescoes of this smallish church were 250 well-dressed Italians enjoying confirmation, with the local bishop presiding in his finest regalia. Several of the men were dressed in the finest Armani. Most women were dressed, made-up and coiffed to kill. Even the kids were scrubbed clean and fitted out in the newest fashions their proud parents could afford.

20130519-215547.jpg

We in our grimy gear had only the solace of knowing that, like St. Francis whom we were following, we were living a simple life of patience and humility.

Sadly, we learned after our dinner of pizza and profiteroles that the spin cycle of the agritourismo’s washer wasn’t working just right, and our clothes came out of the early evening wash quite wet. Will they be dry in the morning? Let’s hope.

20130519-220044.jpgPilgrim pizza in dirty clothes near a church full of clean and well dressed Italians