I found it difficult to get up this morning although many of the aches of last night had gone. The first few days are always like this. Breakfast in the very adequate Hotel Moderno was splendid and although the skies were still grey there was no sign of rain and the locals weren't carrying umbrellas. The guidebook advised that we should take food today as the only bar in Diacceto may not be open. It wasn't but we were able to feast on fabulous sandwiches of prosciutto and tomato we purchased as we set out.
Although the stage today is only 18 kms it has some bite with an overall elevation of 1000 metres. For Scotsmen and experienced walkers at 3280 feet that qualities as a Munro. My first since Shikoku over a year ago.
The thing I often find about these challenging stages is that they are immensely therapeutic. The exertion of walking inexorably uphill over a considerable distance focuses the mind. I find repetitive prayer, like a mantra or the rosary enhances the rhythm of walking and the mind clearing effects. This is brainwashing in the best sense. Today we paced ourselves carefully because we also wanted to enjoy the vast vistas of the beautiful Tuscan countryside which revealed more and more glories as we climbed. The Castello di Nipozzano now a wine factory looked down on us in the first part of the day. Then the guidebook advised: "soon dramatic vistas of the forests and mountains around Pelago become visible and a castle like villa and the pointed yellow tower of Chiesa San Pietro in Ferrano can be seen to the right." We were not disappointed and I stood at the doorway of the church of San Pietro and gazed at the magnificent panorama of the valley below.
Whilst talking about the guidebook let me say that Sandy Brown and Cicerone have done a first class job. Routes and therefore facilities for pilgrims only develop because guidewriters write guides. The section of this route from Florence to Assisi has until now has had few walking pilgrims. Sandy's guidebook and the sheer beauty of the Way guarantee growth in pilgrim numbers. However the route has no coherent system of waymarks thus far. There are red and white GR markings around and a confusing mixture of local signs for walking paths which criss cross the route. This means that Sandy's walking notes are often a description of what he saw in front of him when he wrote the guide. But things change, often quickly, through the cycle of the growing season and things you can see in October might be totally obscured a few months later. Similarly it was apparent several times today that junctions, particularly on forest paths, can change completely when a new track has been driven because of forestry work. So until there are waymarks I'd advise caution in these early stages. Walkers need to keep their wits about them, have a sense of the direction in which they should be going, not be slow to ask directions even for reassurance and also perhaps to carry a GPS. Yesterday and today we had to backtrack a couple of times to get our bearings when the route wasn't clear. The navigation app on my phone helped enormously. Yesterday I wrote at one point "the guidebook failed us" but that was wrong because in the absence of permanent and clear waymarks guidebooks can't forsee every eventuality.
By mid afternoon with a couple of hours to go through the forest the weather broke and we hurriedly donned our raingear. The mist hung low over the trees and the temperature dropped. But we were soon greeted with a welcome shout from Irina at the Pastelería where we had booked rooms. She drove us out of the village to apartments in the woods she let's out. Warm and rustic with great central heating the socks are drying and we'll be ready for 7.30 when she will pick us up to take us to dinner.
Consuma is a small village famous for schiachiatta bread and Irina's father Marcello is a gold star master baker. Irina claims Consuma to be the home of foccacia the flat bread of Italy. Whether true or not dinner consisted of a starter of cold meats, cheese and schiachiatta followed by pasta with spicy sausage and porcine mushrooms. This is mushroom growing territory and they were delicious.
I thought, "here I am up a mountain, with the rain lashing down outside and I'm eating fabulous pasta with homemade bread all washed down with a large Chianti. God is good!"
Tomorrow more climbing. Let's hope it is dry.