Day 9 (21 October) Chilling Out In Orvieto

What a relief not to re-pack our bags for transport. I got up much later than usual but we had breakfast at our usual 8 AM time. We were out the hotel door by 9:20. We were some of the first to enter the Duomo.

I will repeat what many others have said — the Orvieto cathedral is one of the treasures of Italian art and architecture. The photos below give a small sampling of the beauty of the building, its contents and size.

Facade (Detail): Creation and Temptation
of Adam and Eve

Sanctuary and Main Alter
Dante
Scale of Interior
Side of Duomo

We took advantage of ticket that included admission to the Emilio Greco Museum. EG designed the bronze doors that replaced the wooden ones of the Duomo. The collection includes a bronze door of Pope John XXIII, various sculptures and drawings. Don’t miss this museum as many seem to have. We saw very few in the museum versus those we saw in the Duomo.

John XXIII Door
Greco Bronze Sculpture

Behind the Duomo is another museum containing monumental religious art from the 14-16th Centuries. Also, a reading room attached to the Duomo with frescoes of famous writers. We also toured the small area beneath the Duomo open to the public. We viewed tools used to construct and repair the Duomo as well as pieces that had been damaged and removed from the building. Reserve at least two hours to visit the entire Duomo complex.

Homer and Virgil in the Reading Room
A Studious Figure in the Reading Room
Discarded Elements From the Duomo

An essential item on an Orvieto tour is to view its place within its surroundings. Orvieto is built on a high plateau that is its most prominent feature. From its ramparts, we viewed the valley below. One can see the mountains in the distance and the railways and highway that whisks people along the corridor between Rome and Florence. Orvieto is unique for its size and placement on this topographical feature.

Rich From the Ramparts
The Valley Below

It was time to search for lunch. During our quest, I spotted another Rhubie cousin. I am developing a collection of her look alikes. Now, an Italian relative.

Rhubie’s Italian Cousin

Lunch was had at the Folk Osteria up the hill on the Via Cavour — simple but tasty. Rich chose one of the specials of the day — pasta with porcinis. I had the lamb’s liver stewed with artichokes. We were satisfied. While window shopping on our way back to our hotel, we walked in Federico Badia’s, a shoemaker’s shop. A pair of custom made shoes cost 3000 euros. He makes only 15 pairs a year. His wife creates belts and bags for sale. The leather was fine and smooth. The aroma was intoxicating. Check out his website. After putting our heads into a few more shops, we decided to relax for the afternoon after having our copettas of gelato.

Pasta With Porcini
Liver Stew With Carciofi
Custom Shoemaker’s Lasts and Tools
3000 Euro Custom Shoes

Dinner at La Palombo met our high expectations. The two dining rooms were filled — locals and tourists alike — by 8 PM. The wait staff was buzzing around with purpose. We sat next to the bread bin. It seemed that a server was cutting bread on the minute. Even with this level of activity, we were never rushed when ordering, dining, or completing our meal. The staff was seamlessly doing their jobs like a chamber group without a conductor.

Bread Box
At the Table
Spritz Served Here

We ordered the mixed antipasti plate, and two types of pasta. Rich had the spaghetti carbonara with black truffles on top. He exclaimed — the best pasta on this trip. The key ingredient? Not the black truffles. The bacon. He vowed to replicate the dish; he said that we will bring out his pasta maker from retirement. I had the Umbrichelli pasta (similar but thinner than its Tuscan cousin, pici) topped with black truffles which was on almost every menu in Tuscany and in Orvieto. They were shaved onto the pasta at our table.

Antipasti
Shaving Black Truffles
Rich’s Carbonara

An Orvieto Classico Superior 2021 was our wine. The taste began like a smooth white Burgundy but ended with a dry flinty finish like a Sancerre. What a delight to taste a wine that subtly changed from the first to the last moment. Twenty Euros. The wine list included another fifteen Orvietos to choose from.

Orvieto Classico 2021

We went separate ways for our dessert. The photo of Rich’s chocolate topped ice cream says it all. I chose an Umbrian cow’s milk cheese. I am taken with how humans differ in making choices. Although so different, thumbs up for the dessert course.

Oooooo!

The graciousness of the owners and staff enhanced our experienced. One of owners who took our reservation when we popped in the previous afternoon took time for a photo. Luckily, we made that reservation because several people were turned away at the door — “completo, full.” La Palombo is a must table for foodies visiting Orvieto. Make your reservation in advance so as not to be disappointed.

Enrica
No Room In The House
Trattoria La Palombo

Day 8 (20 October) Transition

We did not need to hit the road at our usual time. We had a leisurely breakfast. I was able to complete the Day 7 blog without a rush.

We walked to the Buonconvento train station which was two blocks from our hotel. You have seen the train before from a distance in the Day 7 blog. Now, upfront and personal. I wonder how our legs would take sudden shock not walking 10 miles plus in a day.

Chou Buonconvento
Train To Siena

Our train left at 11:02; we arrived in Siena at 11:32 —- thirty minutes to cover the same distance it took us about 13 hours to cover. We saw the fields that we passed; the industrial zone where we stopped for lunch. We did have the satisfaction that we had hiked up and down some significant hills that the train did not have to traverse. We felt pride that we had made the journey.

We transferred twice to reach the bottom of Orvieto’s plateau. We walked across the piazza from the train station to the funicular that took us up to Orvieto proper. A complimentary bus shuttle whisked us to the Piazza de Duomo — the magnificent basilica that dominates the Orvieto skyline. We secured another stamp for our passport even though Orvieto is not on the VF. The stamp will be a reminder that we were here.

Orvieto Duomo

We decided to go to our hotel which is located just off the Piazza Della Repubblica and visit the Duomo tomorrow. Rich was eager to have lunch. We set out on the hunt but we were beyond pranzo time. Heads shook right and left — ristorante and trattorias were closed. However, we did find a salumeria that was opened. Joy! We sat outside of the shop, two Romeos (retired old men eating out) with our paninis of local meat and cheese — one was enhanced with tartufo salsa and the other with pomadori. We have noticed that no shops to this point offered mustard or mayo. Perhaps our hoagie shops at home could expand their offerings.

Pomadori on Panini
Panini With Tartufo Spread
ROMEOs

After our break, we wandered up and down the streets window shopping, stopping in churches, and scoping our possible venues for dinner. Our panini maker suggested La Palomba which turned out to located within 200 meters of our hotel. It was full for the evening but we made a reservation for tomorrow night.

Down the block was the Bistro Miranda whose menu stated to expect the unexpected — it also offered soft jazz as background music. Why not. BTW — we have found that Italian eateries from pizzerias to the high end rarely play music during meal times, and if they do, the volume is low. I could hear Rich converse and with others when the occasion arose. Perhaps our restaurants could learn a lesson from the Italians.

So, Bistro Miranda at 1930 — the standard opening time for dinner. We were al fresco and right next to the street. Simona was our server. She directed us to the more unusual preparations on the menu. We also enjoyed an Orvieto Classico that combined various grapes such as our well known Chardonnay with Grechetto, Procanico, and Vermantino. I would like to see if a Master Somm could identify the DOCC and even more challenging the grape varietals.


Orvieto Classico 2020
Simona Opening Our Wine

I will tantalize you with two dishes. The first was Rich’s duck breast with orange and carmelized figs. The mashed potatoes were smashing and bursting with flavor. No need for added butter or sour cream.

Roasted Duck With Carmelized Figs

My main was Simona’s favorite pasta – Tagliolini with smoked herring butter, crustacean bisque, and shaved black truffles. The aroma, the flavor, and the texture of the pasta was exquisite. The best pasta so far on this trip in my opinion. Try it, you’ll love it. The Orvieto Classico was a perfect complement.

Simona’s Favorite Pasta

We indulged in dessert — Rich said the ice cream one of the best that he has tasted. No wonder, the main flavoring was whisky. The real surprise was the ending — chambellina — a somewhat hard cookie that is dipped in a carbonated red wine. Not to insult Orvietans but this ending reminds me of the Tuscan cantucci.

Chambellina
The Red Wine

We shared this experience with Peggy and Paul who were seated at the next table. Retired with interesting professional careers. Peggy was with Harvard’s School of Education and Paul was a blues guitarist in his youth and if I have it right over 30 years as music producer/promoter. His brother and his wife have lived in Vicenza during the fall for over 25 years. What a small world.

Peggy and Paul

We ended our evening with a photo that Simona requested to be taken. Bistro Miranda is busy on the weekends until Sunday evening. We were fortunate to be there when it was quiet because we had time to learn about the food and wine from Simona. Bistro Miranda — as the menu states, “The restaurant you don’t expect.”

Simona, Rich, and Ron


Day 7 (19 October) Waltzing to Buonconvento — 10 Miles

Today, we were fortunate that 95% of our walk was in the fog. Or, was it that our heads were in the fog and we were hallucinating about the coolness? It was a relief to walk in cool weather. Mayes overrated the blessings of the Tuscan sun especially when you walk under it for hours. I wondered whether he ever walked the VF in the afternoon?

We completed breakfast at our usual time around 8:30. As requested, Paolo had saved the leftover Florentine beef from last night’s dinner. I haven’t had steak for breakfast in years. The meat just melted in my mouth. No beef gets left behind.

Borgo Antico Breakfast Room
Beef in the Morning

The shorter distance of today’s walk and the foggy atmosphere led us to waltz along. We did not need to hurry. We just took the morning as it came. We passed fields of varying colors and textures. We met sheep and a donkey on our VF path. We saw the train that would take us to Siena for the transfer to Orvieto.

Fields of Colors
Talking With Sheep
Donkey on the Road
Local Railroad

Gateway

By 1:30, we were in Buonconvento, a small town with a well preserved Main Street (darn autocorrect) through its centro historico. Given the time, we stopped for lunch at the Cafe Roma and returned there for dinner with a couple from from Santa Barbara, CA who had recently retired, Sheldon and Kathy. They were touring Italy for two months.


Buonconvento Main Gate
At the Cafe Roma
Fellow Diners
Bacon and Beans On Toast
Nettles and Ricotta Ravioli
Pasta With Scampi Essence
Fried Porcini
Birra Alla Spinna Media
The Usual Afternoon Treat

Now for dinner. Imagine that three of us ordered the anchovies. What were the odds? Who ordered the bruschetta? We were all good and the sea bass was the wonderful change from our Tuscan meat diet.

Anchovies!
Sea Bass Al Forno
Kathy, Sheldon, Rich, and Ron
Friuli Wine

My walk with Rich has ended. We will spend a few days in Orvieto before he leaves on Saturday for Rome and home.

Another chapter awaits for my walk to Rome when Monique Karrer from Switzerland will join me. I met Monique during my 88 Temple walk in March 2019. She was taking Japanese language classes for four years before her walk. She is very seasoned. To my knowledge, she completed the VF sections in Switzerland and most recently the Robert Lois Stevenson circuit in France. I am sure that she has completed many more multi-day walks. Blogs will continue about Orvieto and the next segments of the VF until 2 November when we reach Rome. Thanks for sharing this journey with us.

Day 6 (18 October) We Found the Beef — 17 Miles

We headed south after leaving the Campo. We passed the Philadelphia Bar on the Via Roma. Was it a good omen for what will happen to the Phillies and Eagles? We had no sightings of any other US city name in Tuscany or the often seen Yankee logo on caps.

Omen?

We left Siena Centro by the Porta Roma; like the Via Roma, an obvious name given that we were headed in that direction. We soon left Siena’s city limits and could look back on this beautiful historic city. We could see Siena in the distance for almost our entire walk.

Porta Roma
Siena City Limits
Siena Looking North

Our walk took us by a fellow who was harvesting as well as pruning one of his olive trees. We had seen the green netting underneath olive trees before. It is used to catch the olives as they fall from the trees. As we were turning a bend in the road, we met four cyclists who were heading to Siena — an older couple from Switzerland and the other couple from Germany. We had an animated conversation about current affairs in Switzerland, the UK, and the US in that order. The couples were not related. They had met at their last lodging. One never knows with whom one will share this journey.

Harvesting Olives
Meeting Other Pilgrims

We were in high spirits until we entered into an industrial zone a few minutes after our meeting with the cyclists. As with my other walks, you encounter highs and lows. We walked by an auto wrecking facility and what appeared to be a dumping ground for used recycling bins (ironic, no)? Shortly, we were on the equivalent of the Lehigh Street auto mile — Nissan, Peugeot – dealerships along with service areas. What topped it all was this cylinder shaped structure that stood out for miles around. We later found out that it was built as a fruit crushing facility with the promise of bringing financial prosperity to the area. It operated for only six months and has become an eyesore on an otherwise bucolic setting.

Auto Wreaking Company
Recycling Dumping Grounds
Nissan on the Auto Mile
The Eyesore

Putting the crushing machine in our rear view mirror, we continued along the VF meeting a friendly local and her dog, and walking up and down the Tuscan fields growing alfalfa or laying fallow until we reached our hotel, the Borgo Antico in village of Monteroni d’Arbia.

Out Walking the Dog
Tuscan Fields
Green Hills

Borgo Antico is a family affair — Paolo, father; Sandra, mother; and Leonardo, the son. The hotel is impeccably designed. That’s my Campari Spritz and Rich’s beer on the bar top. The openness of the dining room creates an atmosphere of anticipation of the dinner to come.



In addition to a split portion of Pici in tomato sauce, we decided to experience the universally praised Florentine steak. We had not to this point because we were maintaining portion control. Leonardo convinced us that he would cut the smallest piece possible containing the required t-bone — still a bit more than 1.4 kilos. You can view the sequence of our dinner below including Leonardo and his mother in the kitchen. We had three people pieces of steak left which we reserved for tomorrow’s breakfast; I really should say I did. To pair with the king of Florentine cuisine, Paolo chose a Brunello de Montalcino for our wine. We completed our dinner with a cheesecake in glass for Rich and semifreddo for me. We found the beef!


Pici in Tomato Sauce
Cheesecake in Glass
Semifreddo
The Brunello

Day 5 (17 October) Until the Final Hill – 14 Miles

The morning was cool and fresh when we left Borgo Gallinaio. We backtracked to the VF. The beginning of this trek had a few gently sloping hills as the VF wound its way towards Siena. We crossed fields. The light brown path to the left of center is the VF that had just walked. When we looked back, we could feel a sense of accomplishment.

Borgo Gallinaio
Returning to the VF
Looking Back

We eventually met an asphalt road that took us to a village that included the Castello fella Chiocciola. Someone must live there because a chain was strung across the entrance with a sign stating, “Privat.” A few moments later, we met Marcelo who has welcomed pilgrims for years and has offered them refreshments. For a small donation, Rich had the Italian version of Cola and I had another cappuccino (it was just before 11 AM and acceptable to order). Marcelo is an avid gardener; he grows his vegetables in bathtubs. One can also visit with his dog who was high alert. After we thanked Marcelo for his hospitality, a couple down the road bade us a good Camino as we left the village.

Castelo Della Chiocciola
Marcelo
Bathtub Garden
Marcelo’s Guard Dog
Buon Camino

Onward we pushed along roads with speeding cars, gravel roads with seemingly hidden VF signs, and a sign with an incorrect distance. It had 2 km Siena written on it. We got excited that Siena was close. Alas, we were still 8 km away.

Hidden Sign
Deceptive Sign

We finally reached the Siena city limits although we had one final long hill to climb before we saw the skyline of the Campo’s and the Duomo’s towers. Check the angle that we had to negotiate to reach what Rich proclaimed was the “cresta.” This hill would be a challenge for anyone.

Siena City Limits
Final Climb

A mile or so down the road, we walked through the Porta Camollia, the northern gate to the city. After checking into our hotel, we were off exploring Siena. I was last here in 1980. I remembered the vastness of the Campo and the immensity of the Duomo. What I had forgotten was how steep the streets were. At the Campo, we made a beeline for the gelato shop and leisurely nibbled the gelato in our copetta while admiring the Campo. We walked to the Duomo and then searched for a restaurant. We chose a pizza restaurant because we could start dinner at 6:30 instead of the usual 7:30. You will not believe our pizzeria offered over 100 different combinations of Neapolitan, Sienese, and Poggibonsi styles. We chose the Poggibonsi style — no tomato base. It was eggplant crème base topped with yellow tomatoes, artichokes, and yellow peppers. We topped it off with biere Viola — a red medium hopped Italian beer. Never heard of it before but it would make the cut with our beer loving friends.

Porta Camollia
The Campo
The Duomo
Pizza Poggibonsi Style
Greek Salad
Viola Rossa Beer

I’ll end with some night images of this beautiful city. We were certainly rewarded for climbing that last hill.

San Dominico
Inside Santuario
The Duomo

Day 4 (16 October) Easy Peasy Really — 12 Miles

Include eating a copetta of gelato in my daily activities. — Rich Gorton

As we were finishing breakfast, Rich decided to talk bikes with the moto club. He was quickly initiated into the group. I even got the high fives from Anna, the unofficial First Lady. The club members mostly drove BMWs. I was taken by the color and sleek design of the Moto Guzzi, my first ever sighting.

New Member of the Moto Club
Moto Club Members
Anna and Ron
The Moto Guzzi

We were out by 9:20 on what was to be a leisurely walk. Other walkers and bikers passed us throughout the morning including the two Irish women we met two days before. We didn’t care because we had only 12 miles to cover. No need to rush.

We walked through fields, saw a most unusual cross with tools attached to the cross bar, and looked into backyards until …..we came to our first sighting of Montereggioni, a completely walled town. MR was visible for most of the remaining part of our walk. It was like a beacon from which we could gauge how many more km were before us.

Cross of Tools
Local Backyard
Montereggioni

As we entered the stretch to climb the hill upon which the castle was located, we passed a restaurant named the Bar Orso. It was 12:30 and Rich made the call for lunch.

We were timely because most of the tables were filled and within a few minutes lines formed. We divided an antipasti of Tuscan meats and cheese and both of us chose Casio e Pepe (Cheese and Pepper) pasta — Rich with penne and I with pici, a Tuscan style thick noodle. Delicious. We also loved the vibe. Italians at Sunday dinner and we were amongst them.


Tuscan Antipasti
Rich and Tuscan Ham
Pici Pasta
Inside Bar Dell’Orso

Fortified, we made the climb to Montereggioni — the walled city. Its area is very small about four small city block plus a fairly spacious piazza. After touring and tasting the local gelato, we made our way for another 2 miles down the VF to our farm manor in the hills, Borgo Gallinaio.

Guarding Hotel Montereggioni
Sunset at Borgo Gallinaio

Dinner was at the Borgo. I kept up the beer tradition at the start as I did at lunch. One needs to keep hydrated, yes? The brand was new to me. Maddalena, our server, said that it was brewed in northern Italy. It was a lager and had a similar taste to Pilsner Urquell.

A Pilsner Urquell Cousin

Because we had a heavy lunch, we ordered light. We had an insalata misto with ingredients from the Borgo’s garden. We followed up with a melanzane parm for Rich and the evening’s special of lasagna for me. Did I say light? We agreed that they were the one of the best renditions of each dish. The eggplant was cut so thin and the pasta layers in the lasagna were almost like phyllo. The sauces were rich and deep. We savored every mouthful. Rich said several times that he may buy a mandolin. For those who do not know Rich, he is a skilled cook.

Insalata Misto
Eggplant Parm

We passed on dessert but Maddalena brought us homemade cookies to try, Siena style with an almond base. They were firm and soft at the same time. No preservatives in these cookies. What a treat.

We thanked the chef — Mario who is Maddalena’s husband. With only four other diners for the evening (Canadians met on the VF), we had such a personalized experience. The Borgo may be in our future for a return visit.

Maddalena and Mario

I added two photos of the property. Out in the country, it is dark and quiet. Perfect for a good night’s sleep for weary travelers even if it was an easy peasy day.

Lobby Area on First Floor
Courtyard at Night

Day 3 (15 October) Into the Woods – 15 miles

Daily life is: Rising, packing, eating, walking, talking, unpacking, doing laundry, eating, drinking, calling home, and sleeping. —— Rich Gorton

We started at 9 AM and the bus tours were already coming to SG. We said goodbye from the outskirts of town before we started our trek into the woods.

SG from the South
Into the Woods

After a steep descent, we forded two creeks, one of which began a long ascent out of a valley. Below is Rich crossing one of the creeks.

Crossing the Creek

After several miles in the woods, we were on a plain with trees to our sides. We passed serious amateur mountain bikers who appeared to be racing. We stood by the side of the path like Tour de France spectators. We encountered them many times careening down rutted paths in the woods as well.

We also filled up our water bottles at a tap. Every segment has had a watering station about every 5 km. We needed such stations because the temperatures by noon are in the high 70’s or low 80’s.

Tour Della Toscana?
Taking Water
Flatlands

Back in the woods, we were walking off trail to take photos of mushrooms. We stopped to admire the beauty of an open field, a farmer tilling a vineyard, and geese swimming down a creek besides our path. In Quartaia, we stopped for lunch and engaged in an animated conversation, hands flying, with Anna (a Polish emigrate of 41 years) and Daniela, a proud Toscana as she put it. We ended our walk with yes, another climb, to our hotel located just off the VF where we will start tomorrow.

Mushrooms
Tuscan Field
Quartaia Church
Anna and Daniela
Farmer Tilling
Gliding Downstream

Of course, we had dinner of “real food” — artichoke pie, ravioli Tartufo (Rich), pasta with zucchini (Ron), and pane cotta with limone. We complemented them with a superb Vernaccia. The V we import into the US must be leftovers. Another day completed. More stories tomorrow.

Vernaccia SG

Day 2 (14 October) Strolling — 12 Miles

We had mixed feelings leaving Paridiso. The breakfast was bountiful and the staff gave us such a friendly send off. But we had to go.

Breakfast at Tenuta Sant’Ilario
Sendoff

We made our way up to the centro storico of Gabassi Terme – a small quaint medieval town. We turned to the right, then left, and every other combination until we found the road south covered in fog, nebbio. We saw no hills but the fog created its own mood. As the Irish say, we were having a soft day.

On the Path South of Gambassi Terme
Chianti Vineyard

We walked for about four miles when the fog lifted. We were surprised when two people came out of the woods. They were mushrooms hunters. They had found porcini mushrooms and another kind that we had never seen. The fellow showed us with his hands how was going to cut the mushrooms and sauté them with oil, wine, and then finish the dish with butter. Darn, we still had walking to do.

Mushroom Hunters

I titled this blog as strolling because that is how the guidebook labeled it. An easy peasy day. Really? Here’s Rich hiking up one of the easy hills. In the far left background on the horizon is Gambassi Terme. Rich also told me to include another image of him walking under a home with cats lying in a window and in a flower box.

Easy Peasy
Under the Archway
Cats Relaxing

As we neared the top of the next hill, I was amused by the VF sign next to a US Postmaster General approved box. We export our movies and music to Europe. Why not mailboxes.

Postmaster General Approved

After a break to rest our feet and eat a small snack, we resumed climbing to the highest point on this segment of the hike. We saw a group of Italian women taking photos at a bend in the road. There it was – San Gigminano. As we came down the hill, bikers and other walkers (we talked with a group of twenty French men and women) were taking more photos of SG. We pushed on to finish our final climb to centro where the Albergo Cisterna is located. Tourists galore.

SG
Tourists on the Road

We joined the crowds after settling into our rooms and walked the town. An impressive World Heritage site. Buildings from the 13th Century and several earlier.

Around the Cisterna
Towers!

After a brief rest, it was time for dinner. We were off to San Martino 26. We ordered the seven course menu. I’ll show a few of the dishes – faux red olives (tuna with herbs), duck liver with green apples, cuttlefish pasta, risotto with cuttlefish (must use everything, no?), and dessert of creamy lemon. Our wine was a Collio even though we were in Veranaccia land. We had a quiet, leisurely walk back to the hotel passing the Duomo. Where were the tourists?

Faux Olives
Pate With Green Apples
Cuttlefish Pasta
Risotto In Ink
Lemon Two Ways
Collio
Duomo at Night

Day 1 (13 October) The Challenge — 18 Miles

This tour moves one piece of luggage to the next accommodation. We weren’t the only ones walking the VF. Like Laird during our Camino, Rich asked me if our luggage will be at our next destination. The answer is, I don’t know. But as these things go, they were in our rooms when we arrived.

Awaiting Baggage @ Hotel San Miniato

We had a long journey ahead – 18 miles with plenty of elevation changes. Our final climb was 1400 feet within 1.5 miles – that’s equivalent to six Mountaintops in a row. That is why Day 1 is entitled — gThe Challenge

The VF is well marked with various kinds of signs including the old cement ones that are spotted here and there. Rich was particularly comforted by the sign that directed one to call 112 in cases of emergency. First aid stands were placed at points along the route. Here are some examples of the VF signs and the first aid station.

In San Miniato
Sign Leaving Town
Emergency Number and Procedures
First Aid Station
Old Fashion VF Sign

We loved seeing the bands of hills in front of us. Indeed, what one imagines the hills under the Tuscan sun to be. However, we had to climb those hills! As we came down a hill, we knew that eventually we would have to go up.

Rich On A Hill

We started our walk around 8:45. It was around 4:00 when we were on our final climb. We had to make our destination before sunset. We were dreaming of the bed, hot shower, and dinner that awaited us at Tenuta Sant’Ilsidro — what turned out to be Paradiso beyond our expectations. Below is a photo of my bedroom. Dinner was magnificent – Tuscan meat plate split between us, tartufo ravioli for Rich, Tuscan styled osso buco for me, and fresh tomato salads that were paired with the Tenuta’s own red wine. At the end of the meal, I had cantucci with Vin Santo in the same way that Stanley Tucci presented it on CNN. The night ended with a walk passed the pool.

Bedroom Room #1
Tuscan Meats
Ravioli Tartufo
Osso Bucco Tuscan Style
Tomatoes With Basil Dressing
Tenuta’s Red Vino
Cantucci With Vin Santo
The Pool

The challenge was met. We were rewarded with accommodations any pilgrim would more than appreciate.

Setting Up (12 October)

It was time to head out to San Miniato, our starting point for the VF. Since we were stopping at a minor station, we had to get a ticket in order to be in the queue to purchase our rail tickets. The self-service kiosks are reserved for inter-city travel between five major cities in Italy. The time was 10:40 and our train was scheduled to depart at 10:53. When I got to the window, the clerk said – not to worry. The train is late. She shrugged and said in English – this is Italy.
Indeed, the train was 35 minutes late. When track 6 was posted, we along with many others dashed for the modern two-decker coaches that were waiting. We settled in. I plugged my iPhone charging cord into the outlet below the seat. Within a minute, we were told our train was further down the tracks. Although old, the train was fast moving. Thirty minutes later we were off the train to catch a bus that would take us to San Miniato old town.

It was 12:30 and the bus was scheduled for 1 PM. Another person waiting for the bus told us that we needed to buy tickets at the cafe across the street. Three euros later for the two of us, we were treated to a Formula 1 drive through roundabouts, and curves up the mountain. About three quarters of the way up, we transferred to a smaller bus whose driver took us on another Grand Prix ride – no additional charge, thank you. After looping one side of the town, we arrived at Hotel San Miniato.

After checking in, we walked to the main piazza to find lunch. We settled on Piccola Osteria del Tartufo. We didn’t know that San Miniato is well known for its black and white truffles. Rich chose the plate of cut meats and I, the tartar of manzo (beef), both seasoned with black truffles. We each had a glass of red San Miniato wine. Our server described the wine as strong. I found that it tasted like a young red blend – Sangiovese and Colorino grapes, a first for me. We enjoyed the food, wine, the friendliness of the servers and chef, and the general ambiance of the place. Afterwards we walked around the town reaching the high ground overlooking the duomo built in the 12th Century. A watchtower sits at the corner of the high ground. Frederick Barbarossa helped build it. A glorious past and present are infused in the lifeblood of this community. Before the tourist office closed, we secured our first stamp of the walk.

Local San Miniato Red Wine
Chef and Server
View From The Top
First Stamp

We ended the day with a light supper. We are as prepared as can be to start Day 1 of our VF walk. Stay tuned.