Bruce and MR very kindly picked me up from Bibbiene which is pretty close to La Verna. I had caught a train from Rome to Arrezzo then from there I caught a local train to Bibbiene. It was great that they picked me up as I couldn’t negotiate the Italian websites to figure out what time there was a bus from there.
I was very excited to see them and really looking forward to being able to spend about three weeks with them whilst we attempted to trek the Apennine Mountains. MR cooked a great fresh lunch … asparagus with local gorganzola cheese and salad.
We headed up to the sanctuary at La Verna and we were pleasantly surprised to find out that I could stay there the night. It was a strange sort of a place. There were rooms with bathrooms that were spotlessly clean if rather spartan plus a restaurant and bar. We sorted out that MR and Bruce could park the van in their car park so we had dinner together in the van. I had to be back in the sanctuary by 8.30 pm so I was a bit paranoid about getting back in on time. I headed back at 8.15 pm only to find the door locked. Bloody hell … however, I managed to search around the back and get in via a couple of doors.
I had a good nights sleep oblivious to the fact that John was stuck in immigration detention at Stansted Airport, London as for the first time in nearly 15 months they figured out that he had overstayed … by a year! It was the first time that he had gone into England without me. We had been in and out several times recently with no dramas at all. For those who don’t know I now have a British Passport and as long as John had been with me all was ok. However, this time he got caught out. He couldn’t get in touch with me as I had no signal, blissfully sleeping in a catholic sanctuary. Matilda was on alert and had to cancel dinner plans to make sure she was contactable.
In the end, after eight hours and three interviews where he presented copies of my British passport and a few bank statements they let him in with a warning. The thing was he was leaving in a couple of days via ferry to France. He was issued with a Code 3 warning and told to get a visa off my passport. They said the problem wasn’t with England it was their responsibility to pull him up because he had planned to go back to France. As it turned out he entered into France and they didn’t blink an eye. So he is in now and we aren’t going out of the EU until the end of the year when we leave. It could be tricky then but we will see.
Back to the walk … the first day was pretty good … only 13 km I think. Hilly but not too bad. We walked into Pieve Santo Stephano. A pleasant town where I went straight to the pharmacy to buy a knee guard. Lovely pharmacist who helped me out.
The next day we walked 18 km into Viamaggio … which wasn’t really a town and the only accommodation had closed down. So Bruce found a great bed and breakfast about 5 km away and as it was Sunday and they had a restaurant the smells coming out of the place were amazing. There were people everywhere and the restaurant was full. We had dinner there that night and I had quite a nice little room upstairs.
The next day was a doozy and set the difficulty rating for the rest of the walk. It was seriously mountainous …. up, down, up, down! Big ups and big downs. After 24 km I was shattered! We walked down into a lovely little town, which of course was closed for siesta. However, I spotted some plastic tables and chairs behind a plastic chain rope next to a taverna and I said … unless there is a giant dog I am sitting in there. So that is what we did. We had some food but that didn’t make me feel too much better so I lay down on the tiled floor in the fetal position and put my earplugs in my ears and tried to have a sleep. I vaguely heard a few sounds and realised that the owner of the taverna had arrived. She was delightful and made us great coffee and served us homemade cristini … not sure how to spell it but it is a great jam tart.
There wasn’t a lot of English happening but she phoned her son who could speak English and he told MR not to continue over the mountains but to head into Sansepolcro via the road. That was pretty crucial advice for us, so off we went heading down into the town. I was still pretty buggered so we decided to hitch. A lovely farmer picked us up and drove us the last 3 – 4 km to right near the B&B Bruce had booked for.