We were on our way by 8:30 for our anticipated longest day. The morning air was fresh and cool as we left Vetrella on what turned out to be the cycling route. We thought that eventually the walking and cycling routes would merge as they had many times before. But, they didn’t. After two miles, we consulted Google Maps. Think of the apex of a triangle. We went down one side while the VF walking route went the other. We were going in the right direction — south— but needed to figure out how to connect.
We made a left turn at the next T. We followed the road for a mile, crossed a railroad track, and walked on a heavily trafficked road in La Botte. We found the walking route but not before an unpleasant encounter with a driver. In La Botte, a driver sharply turned right in front of Monique to park his car in front of a store. As she passed the car, she told the driver that the maneuver was dangerous and not friendly. He gave her the upward five finger gesture. So goes Italian hospitality. We wanted out of La Botte as quickly as we could.
After negotiating a very busy roundabout, we followed a road that led us to a T. Which way to go. We asked a passerby and he explained how the road to right would put us on the VF. From that point onward, the day turned extraordinary.
We walked through fields of hazelnut trees. If you ever wondered where the main ingredient of Nutella comes from, here you are — miles upon miles of groves. The noci also adds crunch and flavor to chocolate bars.
Around noon and after ten miles of walking, we decided to rest at the Torre dei Orlando (The Towers of Roland). Ahem. We unpacked our lunches that the locanda had made. Monique got into her usual relaxed lunch position. A few minutes later, a pair of what looked like older Italian hippies passed us by joyously waving and wishing us Buon Camino. We would see them later at a bar in Capranica and then in Sutri where we will pick up their story.
After lunch, we continued towards Capranico. Lamborghini anyone? I don’t think you’ll make 60 mph in 3 seconds with this model. Pines of Rome? Respighi would be pleased with this stately row.
Eventually, we entered Capranica. Refreshments were in order. One of our servers greeted us in Japanese. After trying to decipher Italian during this trip, it took me several seconds to realize that we were conversing in Japanese. Back to Italian, he revealed that he had worked in the Shinjuku section of Tokyo for six months. Smiles abounded. Besides the drinks, I was welcomed to use their outlet to recharge my iPhone. Google Maps had consumed a considerable amount of power. Over at another table were the Italian hippies.
Capranica turned out to be a wonderful find. After entering the centro storico, we found a charming town that had the flavor of a miniature Siena but without its hoards of tourists. The town seemed untouched over the centuries except for the occasional art displays. I even photographed my first policeman in a foreign land, up close and personal. He was putting up special No Parking signs for the 31 October, Halloween Parade. Really.
According to the map, we still had a deep gorge to traverse. As the Italian hippies passed us outside of Capranica, they asked Monique how old she was. Sixty-eight and a granny of five. They responded with a stronger version of madai meaning come on.
We descended at least 100 meters into a dark rain forest. The light was above us and we felt the coolness and humidity as we walked along a stream. We were in a primeval forest. The guide warns not to enter the gorge during rains. We understood because even after two weeks of no rain, the trail was damp and in some places muddy.
We re-entered the real world at Sutri, the endpoint of this stage. Again, what a surprise! After entering one of city gates, we encountered two charming boys who could have been tour guides, cicerone, so named after Cicero. The way it was pronounced, I thought we were talking about those crispy Caribbean delights, chicerrones. They told Monique in Italian, of course, how to get to this and that piazza and what to see and do. We went to the Piazza Communale where it seemed like all of the people of the town passes through.
We met again the young French couple, the walker from Munich, and allora, the Italian hippies. The pair invited us to join them for drinks. They had already started and were smoking, one with a cigar. It turns out that they are brothers and had made other walks like the Camino di Santiago. Joe, the white haired fellow is 64 and Bob is 60. Both are retired private bankers from Vicenza. They were on their way to Rome to attend Sunday services led by the pope. Since it was Friday, they were catching a bus tomorrow — no way could they walk from Sutri to Rome and be on time. What a hoot.
Sundown was fast approaching. We made the call to our Agriturismo for a lift. We got there at 6:30, almost dark. We left Sutri behind wishing that our accommodations could have been in the centro storico. Joe and Bob were staying at a nunnery.