Rainy days and Sundays, always going down

Contrasts — blackened trees from a previous forest fire grow in the rainy mist.

Day Seven: Santuario Della Verna to Pieve Santo Stefano — 15km (9.3 miles)

We woke up this morning to a “gully washer,” which in Northwest parlance means a torrential downpour of rain. I couldn’t imagine walking down the steep hill — or even being outside for more than a few minutes– but by 9:00 the rain had settled into a steady drizzle. Several of our group opted to take the van downhill, while the rest (ok, Gary and me) braved the elements and walked the 600m (1800 ft) descent. Those who were driven downhill had the added treat of touring the nearby birthplace of Michelangelo. After the descent I scouted out a track revision for tomorrow and posted the update on my blog and in our Facebook group. Tomorrow’s weather looks to be sunny and mild.

Gary poses by the La Verna statue of the Saint and the dove seller.

Today the paths did double duty as creeks.

Misty, autumnal pathways in the high forests.

Views opened up as we dipped below cloud level.

Soon we saw Pieve Santo Stefano below.

Views toward Caprese Michelangelo and La Rocca.

Pieve Santo Stefano decked out for a festival.

Gary and I pose for a selfie as we arrive — safe, sound and soaked — at our hotel.

Athletic climb to a holy place

One of the few downhill stretches in this uphill day.

Day Six: Badia Prataglia to Santuario della Verna — 17.3 km (10.8 miles)

A very vertical day. Our group split in two, with four starting partway through and five walking the whole thing. The distance is deceiving — this is one of the very hardest days on any Camino I’ve ever walked. Two major mountains with around 3500 feet elevation gain — but we all did fine. Have now met total of 14 other pilgrims — today five Americans and three Brits.

These are our mountain trails.

Happy uphill pilgrims: Beth, Kim, Donna, Sue.

The view, ten minutes after leaving Rimbocchi.

Our lofty goal: Santuario Della Verna atop Monte Penna.

Gary walking through the fairytale forest.

And suddenly there is a convent atop the mountain.

Four hundred floors and 5000 calories later we arrive in one of Italy’s most holy places.