We were in no rush as we started off around 8:30 for our destination of Isola Farnese which according to guide was to be a easy day through the rolling hills near Rome. Out of our hotel, we turned left and then another left and we’re going up a hill when we realized that we had not seen any VF signs. We turned around after a half a mile. We should have gone right—right. Add one mile. It was morning and we were fresh. No big deal.
The first hill was remarkably long and steep. At the top, we discovered a cross that turned out to be the start of the stations of the cross leading to a Santuario Del Sorbo. As we followed the stations, we were first on a ridge and then on a severe downhill towards the fourth station followed by a long stretch of flatlands until we approached the Santuario Del Sorbo. On multi-day hikes, you understand that descents are as hard on your body as ascents. This one was the first of several.
We did not stop at the Santuario because we wanted to reach our destination by early afternoon. After another hill, we entered the first of a series of connected regional parks. It is remarkable how much open space there is this close to Rome. I took a photo of the landscape at the top of a hill — still pretty green even after three weeks of no rain. Looks relatively flat, no? Don’t be fooled. Those little bumps in the photo used up plenty of our energy especially in 80 plus degrees. Where was fall in Europe? But we were still smiling after seeing the km marker showing the distance to Rome. Was it the distance to the city limits or to the Vatican? As you know, I have questioned the published distances on the Camino and VF based on the mileage we (Laird, Rich, and I) have recorded on our GPS devices.
We soon hiked across the middle of a huge plowed field and descended into a deep gorge where a series of waterfalls were the main attractions for tourists. We had a serious climb ahead to reach Isola Farnese.
When we reached the road at the top, we had a choice to either go to Isola Farnese or to our hotel that was further down the road towards Rome. It was 4 PM, the sun was fading, and Google Maps showed that we were still another hour and eight minutes away from the hotel.
What we did not expect was the long final uphill that awaited us. When we got to the top, Monique called time for a break at a bar across the street. We were both bushed. My friend, Eddie Rodriguez, who does long distance bike rides, once said that your body will know what it needs. I needed two bottles of regular Coke. I could feel the jolt after I drank them.
I still could not figure out why at 4:45 we were confronting ending our walk in the dark. The sun had set the night before around 6:45. Ah so, said Monique. Europe went back to standard time this morning. Sharon confirmed later that the US is still on daylight time. Dah. So there we were with an hour to go and the sun setting.
The task ahead was not easy. We were now on the Via Cassia, a main artery into Rome. Remember the stone road, Antica Cassia Romana, back a few days as we walked to Viterbo. Here was its modern version on steroids. We walked along the narrow sidewalk that often disappeared and reappeared from time to time.
We also stopped once to admire and take photos of another row of the Pines of Rome. Admiring beauty has its moments even under time pressures.
At last, we reached our hotel in darkness – 5:30 – 17 miles for what we thought was a 13 mile or so walk. To top it off, we were told that the “Resort” La Rochetta does not serve dinner. The clerk said that the closest restaurant was about a half mile down the road. What choice did we have? We decided to meet at 7 to walk the road to dinner.
By then, the Via Cassia was even busier with cars streaming along on both sides of the street. When we were opposite the restaurant, we had to cross VC. We were at a crosswalk but without any overhead or stop lights. We waited for a break in the action but no luck. We couldn’t just stand there; we were famished. I took off my red jacket and waved it at oncoming traffic. After four cars went by, the fifth stopped and luckily at that moment, no traffic on the other lane. Monique commented that the driver who stopped was animatedly talking to his passenger with his hands. I wondered whether he was saying, “Uppa US.” The drivers behind him must have been saying, “What’s happening,” or something to that effect.
The Antica Osteria da Pietro was excellent — venue, offerings, and hospitality. The chef/owner is the namesake’s son. His wife and daughter worked this evening. Monique ordered the cacio e pepe and I, the lasagne of porcini mushrooms. The chef gave us a small complimentary portion of mezze maniche, a shorten version of rigatoni with sauce that included small bits of pork cheeks. All rated five yums.
For our seconds, we both ordered carciofi Jewish style (fried whole) and shared the carciofi Romana (steamed and topped with a garlic and oil sauce). Comparing these two with the carciofi tempura from the previous night, we voted the carciofi Jewish style the best because one fully tasted the artichoke flavor and felt the differing textures of the heart and leaves. Bravo!
We ended with tartufo. The usual version in the US is a hard shell of dark chocolate covering vanilla ice cream. Pietro’s version was chocolate ice cream with a smidgen of vanilla covered with fine chocolate powder. In this version, the chocolate covering stays on the ice cream. Complementing this dinner was a local Lazio red wine.
The walk back to the hotel was not as exciting as before, no jacket waving necessary because the traffic had died down. Thank goodness.
Breakfast a bit later tomorrow, 8:30. We had already walked 2.5 miles of what is to be the walk to St Peter’s.