Last night we had a pow wow and this morn ing we made the final exec u tive deci sion to skip ahead a day on our sched ule. Look ing to our planned route we real ized, from our errors in the Alps, that we had not bud geted enough time for the Apen nines. We fig ured it was bet ter to lose one day of farm land and sidewalk-less town edges to gain more time in the moun tains. Plus the extra day means that next week we can break up a planned day of 42 km (!!). We thought way back when that it would be good to do a day as Luther did it. Now that seems rather less appeal ing, and we did man age 39 km one day early on).
Roger also pointed out that our route is much less direct than the one that Luther fol lowed, since the Via Fran ci gena tries to avoid main roads that are almost always the most direct route (and even then we find our selves run ning across clover leaf inter sec tions lead ing on and off the “super strada”). And, in yet another one of those strange con trasts between then and now, Luther wouldn’t have crossed the Apen nines but gone all the way around them through Bologna to the east. We decided to forego that attempt at his tor ical re-creation because there’s just plain nowhere to walk. We’ll meet up with his foot steps again in Florence.
Though this was, we think, a good deci sion, it did not pay off imme di ately into a good day. I’ve found long-forgotten com fort recently in that Sun day School song “This is the Day,” but hon estly it was hard to rejoice and be glad in it today. For one thing, there was rain, lots of it, all day long. It wasn’t as cold as in Bavaria in August, but it was every bit as wet. Plus the clouds sat so low on the ground that the first beau ti ful views we should have been see ing in the foothills were shrouded in mist, which can be beau ti ful but doesn’t offer a lot of variety.
Then there was the mud. It was thick, clay-ey, and gluey. It usu ally appeared on the uphill tracks (mak ing us regret, for the very first time, that we weren’t walk ing on asphalt) and so much would stick to our shoes that it would start climb ing up the sides of our feet, catch ing twigs and weeds and peb bles, and adding about a pound of weight to each foot. We couldn’t even knock or smear it off—we ended up using the ends of our poles basi cally to peel it off. Need less to say it both slowed us down and was pretty gross to deal with.
The minor high lights of the day were chiefly smells. We had lunch in a huge hay shel ter with a cleared space in the mid dle, out of the rain, and hay always smells won der ful. Once we walked along a lit tle stream and I smelled the mint grow ing, then found it and picked some of the leaves to sniff (not to be con fused, how ever, with net tles, which look a lot like mint and have, unfor tu nately, fig ured out how to cross the Alps, along with slugs). There was some kind of cypress trees that had a pow er ful cit rusy scent like tan ger ines, and I did take a moment once to stop and smell the roses, also very lovely.
The only par tic u larly pilgrim-y expe ri ence of the day was walk ing past a huge lone tree in a field and noticing a note book in a plas tic case tied to it with a rosary. It was labelled “Wandering’s Book” and invited pilgrims to leave a mes sage. We were only the sec ond peo ple to do so (the book started in Sep tem ber of this year).
We slogged in to Siviz zano around 7 p.m. this evening, weary and foot sore (pruney around the toes, too, after hav ing wet feet all day). Roger and Ginny had a big pan of spaghetti with meat sauce ready for us, which we just about inhaled, and then we drove on a few km to a camp ground in Bar done. Tomor row we’ll get up quite early and get dropped off again in Sivizzano—we have under 30 km to go, but about 1150 m to climb.