Day 19 (31 October) The Final Walk — 14 Miles

What final surprises lay ahead today? We knew that we would reach St Peter’s but what will happen in between and after?

After crossing a bridge that spanned the highway encircling Rome, we fast descended into another valley of fields. This area had no homes because it was probably wetlands. We threaded our way along a narrow path for about a mile that then opened up. We had some surprise company on the trail. The shepard with his dogs moved his flock for us to pass.

As was the pattern each day, we climbed a steep hill to reach our first encounter with a Roman neighborhood.

The street seems quiet but it wasn’t. Just a few moments before, a string of vehicles went by, one of them a wide body bus that seem to glide down the street coming within inches of the cars on either side of it. After many twists and turns across streets and a few roundabouts (our eyes were peeled on every sign pole, wall, and fence for VF symbols), we entered the park where we would come upon the lookout where we will have our first glimpse of St Peter’s from afar.

From afar, it was afar. As we gazed across Rome, St Peter’s was the largest structure. But I had imagined that it would fill the panorama. We would see it up close and personal. Many of you have visited Vatican City before and St Peter’s interior. From these perspectives, the church is imposing. But from this hill, it was another feature on the landscape. I was bummed out until Monique reminded me that reaching St Peter’s was not the goal; it was the journey with all of its richness that I had experienced alone and with Rich and her.

We made our way down the hill — 12 hairpin turns to Viale Angelique for the final mile to the piazza that Bernini’s colonnade forms. The area was mobbed. We found the office to secure our final stamp, took in the scene of crowds of tourist roaming the square, and admired again Bernini’s columns. We went off to the subway to find our hotel.

I love subways. Although I had been to Rome several times before, this was my first ride. Our hotel is named Domus Sessoriana, former housing for the clergy at the Basilica of Santa Croce. The front door to the hotel is just to the right of the church. The hotel renovated the inside but kept the original details of the structure. The rooms are basic but 2x or even 3x the size of a typical Roman hotel room.

The concierge recommended a restaurant, Bottega Trattoria De Santis, a few blocks from Santa Croce. We were there by 7:15, the second table, but by 8:30, the restaurant was filled inside and out. Deservedly so. Our dishes were noteworthy: caponata, polpo with a light tomato sauce and homemade maionese (Italian spelling), beef involtini with chicory (olives and raisins as part of the sauce), and pasta of mussels and smoked pecorino. Our wine opened to reveal a richness that our bottle of the same area and style from the night before didn’t have. I also had to include a photo of the bread in the bag and the two brioche piccolo that came with the meal.

Partway through our dinner, a couple sat next to us. Somehow we started to talk. The conversation turned to who we were and was this our first time in Rome. It turned out that the woman was leaving alone in a few days for Burgos to walk the Camino for three weeks. She wanted to know if we had done so and what were our experiences on the Camino and VF. Ask a question, and get a speech. I restrained myself; yes, I did. (Monique chuckled after reading this sentence.) She did most of the talking in Italian. The upshot was that our dining acquaintance was more thrilled to go after our conversation although her husband was hesitant about her impending trip. I hope that we had done our good deed for the day.

Tomorrow will be a transition day. We decided to visit the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art in the morning. Monique will be off to another hotel before her train trip to Switzerland. I will make the short train ride to Fiumincino where I stay overnight for Wednesday’s trip home.

I have enjoyed writing these blogs. I love to share the experiences. Each blog will remind me of the details when they fade away or become melded into a snapshot of this journey. Thanks for reading and commenting about them.

Thanks to Rich and Monique for deepening our friendships and creating lasting memories. Thanks to the many puppies who gave their love along the way. However, I could do without the barking from dogs behind the fences. They certainly woke up the neighbors where we walked.

The VF adventure all began in summer 2019 when Barbara and Steve Diamond suggested that I join them from Orvieto to Rome. I added on San Miniato to Orvieto. We were set to go in April 2020 and then. . . You know the rest.

Thank you Sharon for supporting my three walks, for helping me prepare, and for being an enthusiastic listener about each day on What’s App.

I could not have done the 88, the Camino, and the VF without you all. Thanks again.


PS — a new day dawns. Who knows what lies ahead. This photo was taken this morning, 1 November, from the rooftop of the hotel. The belltower of Santa Croce.

Day 18 (30 October) The Unexpected — 17 Miles

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.

Day 17 (29 October). Carciofi — 15 Miles

The land in this part of Lazio is pretty flat. Hazelnut groves were almost all we saw for most of the day. However, given the proximity to Rome with its wealth and population, we passed three golf facilities that were adjacent to one another. One caught my eye, the National Golf School of Italy. We could not see into the facility. The best I could do was to included a photo of one of private courses.

We continued through the small town of Monterosi and walked along a narrow path next to SR2. The traffic was fierce and thankfully we soon turned onto a gravel road. Regardless of where we had been on this journey, gravel roads were a hazard because of the dust that was sent airborne as a car passed us by. I decided to present a picture of how hazy the road may be after a car passed or approached us.

The most pleasant part of the stage was our brief walk through the Parco Regional Valle del Treja. We saw families, and adults walking in groups. Many stopped at the only restaurant in the park. We did too. I also add that Halloween is big here too. The restaurant is hosting a special dinner that night.

We were soon joined by the young French couple, Angelique and Herve, whom we had met five times before. They are psychologists who left their jobs in eastern France two months ago. They will relocate to Brittany to be close to their parents. Before they do, they decided to walk the VF starting in Besancon, France. They said that the most trying part of their walk was through the Po Valley seeing rice fields for days on end. I’ll stop talking about the hazelnut groves.

We had 6 km to go and it was easy to cover the distance quickly because the terrain was flat until we reach Campagnano. The final climb was straight up about 300 meters. We entered another hill town similar to Capranica. We walked through — about a half mile — to an archway to the newer part of the town. Our hotel was within two blocks and we hurried to find it for a most welcomed shower and nap.

Without a cicerone, we walked back into the centro storico before dinner. We saw what we think is the HQ of the local police— an imposing building in the Venetian style. The city gate was lit as we headed back out to our restaurant.

Our antipasti for dinner inspired the title for this blog. Osteria Pizzeria dal Micione had no written menu. Our young server spoke to us about each item for the night. His first item was carciofi. We stopped him there. We both ordered it. Superb. They were brought to the table hot as they would in a first class tempura bar in Japan. The coating was crispy and light in appearance and texture. On a previous visit to Rome, Sharon and I tasted carciofi four times but never had it served this way.

Our primi piatti was pasta fagioli— my second of this trip and made differently from the one in Orvieto. We loved this version too. The pasta was al dente and the beans were slightly firm not mushy. I would order this dish once a week if I lived in this town. We ended with sautéed chicory. The veggie was firm and the garlic and oil sauce was piquant. Simple and delicious. A vegetarian meal from beginning to end.

The osteria’s name includes pizzeria. We did not try it because we were satisfied. Pasta fagioli is filling. We asked the chef and our young server to pose for a photograph. Here they are with a well deserved thanks from us.

For the first time on trip, I was in bed by 9:15 PM. Yes!

Day 16 (28 October) An Extraordinary Day — 17 Miles

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.

Day 15 (27 October) The Invisible Hand — 13 Miles

Our breakfast this morning was more typical of what Italians eat — pastry and coffee. Add in Kellogg’s Corn Flakes, yogurt, and fruit and there you have it. Although I did not eat a cookie, one can appreciate the variety of offerings and how meticulously they were displayed. If you look hard enough, you will see an empty space in the covered try. That was where my chocolate croissant once was.

As we left, I took a photo of our hotel. You will see a wooden door in the lower middle background. That’s the entrance. The hotel was next to a covered fountain where back in the day neighborhood women washed clothes.

We were excited about taking the Monumentale route. The route was well marked as Mauro said. We went through the Porta Romana, up a very steep hill on a paved road until we reached a forest. Monique was in the lead; you can see her on the right side of the photo and the VF trail marker on the left. In the middle of this part of the walk, we came up workers thinning out the forest. No clear cutting but selective harvesting of wood. It seemed brutal to see and hear the machines working. The sounds were like whining animals out for kill.

We exited the forest and reached the town of San Martino Al Cimino that contains an abbey complex that a pope built for his lover, Doria Pamphilj. Mauro had pointed this place out for us on the map we were carrying. We were studying the tourist map of the town next to the archway leading to the church when Mauro appeared on his bicycle. To say the least, we were more than surprised. Was is merely coincidence that put him there at this time? Or, was it the invisible hand giving us a sign that we were being guided and protected along the route? Maybe Kobo Daishi from the ohenro. Mauro looked the part of an Italian cyclist. I told Monique that my sunglass frames though made in Italy were not as cool as Mauro’s. Perhaps I need to look into finding another frame to take on the Italian persona. Ya sure.

The church was the prominent feature of the town. Its interior was as large as many of the Gothic churches of the 12-15th Centuries. But this one was austere befitting an abbey.

The VF yields new treasures everyday. This stage had its share. We passed the entrance to a villa with several small signs. We liked two of them. The one above loosely translated says, Don’t miss joy even for an hour. You will never experienced it again. How true. The other was shalom. We ignored the cani signs.

We went by Miss Italy 1960 — she seemed well preserved for her age. We were amused by a most welcoming warning on the entrance to a property. That warning was hollow to me. I could not test the hypothesis because I could never get over the gate!

At this point, we peaked after 10 miles of uphill climbing. We took time for a brief lunch and then plunged into another forest. We literally raced down this hill because the mosquitos and flies swirled around us buzzing and biting. We reached the village of Tre Croci before walking the final two miles to our hotel. We were bedraggled. Although not long in the grand scheme of the multi-day walks, we were very tired because of the lengthy climb and quick descent. We also agreed that we had not slept well the night before. Getting good rest is critical on these walks.

Dinner lifted our spirits. Our risotto of asparagus and porcini mushrooms was superb — the rice was firm and the sauce blended perfectly with the rice. The other outstanding dish was the pork chops in an olive sauce. The chops were sliced into smaller pieces and had been seared to make a nice crust. The backbone of the sauce were anchovies. I could not see them but they were clearly there. We asked to see the chef to thank him and to take his photo. Onesto, a Filipino had migrated to Italy years ago. The woman was the hostess/owner of the locanda, Nonna. This pair reminded me of Cino’s, our go to neighborhood when Sharon and I lived in Brooklyn. The place was packed every night. The owner was Italian and the chef, Puerto Rican.

We retired early because tomorrow will be the longest walk of our/my VF. The Diamonds warned me about this stage, the guide as well. We decided to start early. So, early to bed, early to rise. Onward to Sutri.

Day 14 (26 October) Living History —13 Miles

When we checked out, Monique asked me for 1,50 euros to pay her hotel city tax; she had only a 50 euro bill. I put down 3,00 euros for the two of us but the clerk said that I did not have to pay. Perche? Because I was male? No, because in Montefiascone, guests over 70 do not have to pay the tax. Another fringe benefit for those in the 70+ club.

We re-traced our steps up to the Rocca and then down the opposite side to resume the VF. We gazed out at the nebbia that blanketed Lake Bolsena. At that spot was a cut out sculpture portraying VF pilgrims. The following quote was at its base, “Forget the steps that you have taken, remember the marks that you have left.” As much as the VF have given us, I hope that we have left goodwill in return.

Pilgrims In Metal

We sauntered down the hill from Montefiascone. We said our goodbyes. We walked on gravel roads and paved ones for a few miles until we reached the Roman road, Antica Cassia Romana. According to the VF guide, we will encounter this road off and on as we continue to Rome. The road is impressive. Still over 3 meters wide in places. We walked st least a mile on the stones. The road was built in the 4th century BCE. Almost 2,500 years ago.

Unfortunately, our run of idyllic moments came to a close. We were approaching Viterbo, once the residence of popes, now a densely populated city with an interesting centro comprising of medieval structures juxtaposed with Art Deco buildings. You will see Monique walking down with either nebbia (fog) or smog in the distance. The transition from the rural countryside to the city was abrupt. Here is the VF approaching a Burger King next to a roundabout and traffic on a major street. I guess that’s progress.

This traffic was the worst since I started the VF. However, Viterbo offered its own version of rewarding experiences. As we approached our hotel, Palazzo Riario, using Google Maps, a man popped out of nowhere and asked us our names. We were startled. Quite frankly, I can’t remember what was saying but we were taken before a wooden door, handed a thin plastic piece smaller than a credit card and told to insert it into a slot. The wooden opened. We repeated the operation again inside on the door with our hotel name and again at our room doors.

It was Renato, the owner of the hotel. After getting our luggage inside, he took my passport and Monique’s Swiss ID card. He told us to come to his restaurant where he is the chef and then left. I never had an experience like this.

The hotel was a former home to a wealthy family. It has six rooms. Here is Monique’s room. Mine had a simple king bed, no four posters.

We were soon walking the twisted streets to find the VF office where we could our credentials stamped. We found Via Cavour and walked to the Piazza del Plebiscito. No office there but a women told us to go down the road to our right and we might find something. Alora, the VF office was within 200 meters. We had our credentials stamped. Mauro, a volunteer from the VF organization, posed with Monique inside the office and with me outside.

We had little time to tour any site. We decided to wander around the centro storico to get a feel for the city. Here are some photos of our walk that ended at the Magic Bar in Piazza Verdi with our Aperol and Campari spritz. Note how the peanuts are served. You will see the current opera house in the background in the second photo.

La Chimera was just around the corner in a stone building constructed around 1200. The place had three rooms with curved ceilings. A really cool setting.

No pasta tonight for a change. We both had the veal served in small chunks in a light sage sauce with Carciofi followed by an insalata mista for Monique and fagioli in olive oil for me. We opted for a plate of the local cheese. Our wine was Viterbo local — no date — imagine a nouveau Beaujolais like wine with a syrah flavor palette. Never before had I such a wine. We were more than satisfied. We can attest that the other tables were filled with smiling diners. A go to place when in Viterbo.

Mauro suggested that we take an alternative route tomorrow — hills but more scenic than the route in the guide. It is a few kilometers longer. He gave us a map and assured us that the path was well marked. We will start from the Porta Roma near our hotel. We shall see.


Day 13 (25 October) Poste Italianie — 12 miles

The day started with breakfast as usual. But sitting by the doorway was this cat. Could it be? How did she get to Italy? As some of you know, our cat, Musa, passed on while we were in Bucharest in June. Though she was real, she was also a mirage that brought wonderful memories to mind.

Musa Mirage

The Agriturismo Le Vigne offered us a spectacular view of Lake Bolsena and much personal attention. The owner, Stefania, made sure that were stocked with our lunch from the many breakfast offerings. We were good to go.


We soon reached the border between Bolsena and Montefiascone, the town that was the 100km point to Roma. With that stamp, one was officially on the road to receive a certificate of completion.

Bolsena Border
Montefiascone Welcome Sign

We experienced different scenes. What the photos do not give you are sounds as when acorns hit the ground or the wind rustle the leaves. Our moment of the day came when Caterina pulled up alongside in her Poste Italianie car and asked if we needed help. None needed then but could she recommend restaurants in Montefiascone? Of course, why not? She gave us two and we went to one of them.

In the Forest
Sheep Grazing
Zucchini Blossom
Farmer Tilling

Eventually, we spotted Montefiascone across the valley. An hour and much hill climbing later, we reached our hotel. It was located on the VF on the main street of the centro storico.

So Near But So Far

After doing some laundry, we ventured up (note the up) to the cathedral which has the third largest dome in Italy. The interior is circular like the Berliner Dom. Perhaps the usual rectangle design could not fit on this hill. Below the main church was a modern Santuario dedicated to Santa Lucia who started a cottage industry of cloth weaving to employ young girls and women. At the top of the hill was the Rocca di Papi, a residence for the popes during their battles with the Holy Roman Emperors. Today, we can enjoy the view of Lake Bolsena in peace. I also included a VF sign from the Rocca. We will be there tomorrow at the beginning of the next leg.

Gate To Upper Town
Inside the Cathedral
The Cathedral
350th Anniversary of S Lucia’s Birth
Lake Bolsena From The Rocca
The Highest Point On The VF In Montefiascone

Enough touring. Aperitivo time. We chose to sit at the Art Deco bar located in a building that was constructed in 1931. What a contrast to the other buildings on and off the piazza.

The Millioni

Soon, it was dinner and down the hill we went to Da Pancino meaning little potbelly, masculine of course. We were 15 minutes ahead of opening but the waiter let us in. We were warned that we had to wait for food but could start with drinks. We ordered a bottle of Lazio syrah 2020– a bright young red that developed deeper flavors as the dinner went on – 16 euros.

Lazio Red

All of the dishes were good. The bruschetta of different spreads (already divided — sorry, asleep at the wheel again) and the grilled zucchini and eggplant were excellent. The night had turned chilly. The walk up the hill was welcomed before a good night’s sleep.

Bruschetta Mista
Grilled Veggies

Day 12 (24 October) The Bear Went Over the Mountain — 14 Miles

We walked through the main city gate that allows car traffic into centro Orvieto. Down a hill, through a roundabout, we started our climb up a formidable hill. When we reached a ridge, we walked until we had an unobstructed view of Orvieto. The fog had enveloped it. Only the tops of buildings were outlined. The city seemed to rise out of the mist. What a scene to behold.

At the City Gate
Orvieto Rising

We went over the mountain and saw more than the other side. A dog assisted us along the road. Some locals pointed us in the direction where we would find the VF. They said — You will pass the Madonnina, will go over a bridge, and will find the road to Bolsena on your right. It all came to pass.

Our Guide Dog
The Madonnina
The VF Sign

At the point, we were using the U Tracks provided details of the path. Very few VF signs or blazed were seen because the Orvieto route is not part of the main line. Thank goodness we did because we could have been lost. We went about a half mile after going right when we should have gone left. One of the landmarks during this segment was two isolated pine trees. They certainly stood out.

Twin Pines

As we weaved though a grove of trees, we came upon a Roman road. Imagine walking on footsteps at least 2,000 years old. It was in relatively good shape. We were glad that it was not raining because the stone would have been slippery and dangerous even for the most cautious hikers.

On the Roman Road

We eventually made it to Bolsena which is located on a large lake. The grade from the top of the old town to the lakeshore was steeper than any in San Francisco and with interesting views.

VF Blaze and Lake Bolsena
Toboggan Run
Cable Service Anyone?

We walked through the town and up to our Agriturismo Le Vigne. After freshening up, we relaxed and enjoyed our aperativo overlooking sunset on the lake.

Life of a Pilgrim

Dinner time. Our host recommended La Toscana in town. In the menu, the restaurant presented its philosophy of choosing the freshest ingredients and promoting the products from the region. We shared the Fantasia of Lake Fish; both of us chose the pasta vongole; and we ended with Monique having the insalata mista and me, the Fagioli Purgatorio (beans named after the town where they are grown). I’ll take those beans anytime (I love beans) to avoid the down under. We agreed that every dish was excellent with the pasta vongole — the best we had ever eaten.

Our wine was a Orvieto Superior that tasted more like a traditional Orvietan white. The one that Rich and I enjoyed last week contained some Chardonnay which rounded out the taste. Please note the label — organic and vegan. Aren’t all wines vegan? It’s like labeling olive oils cholesterol free.

Fantasia of Lake Fish
Pasta Vongole
Fagioli Purgatorio
Organic and Vegan

I finally noticed an interesting feature of Italian dining in the region. Bread is presented in a paper bag as often as in a basket. Okay, so? At least in Toscana, Umbria, and Lazio, no butter, a few times, olive oil is on the table. Monique explained that bread is not to be eaten alone. It is as a base for spreads, and to mop up sauces or salad dressings if desired. I can hear Laird saying — where’s the mantiquilla? Change that to burro. Another variation in dining.

Bread in Bag
Chef in Black

Well, the bear did find new adventures and continues to learn more Italian from Monique who was a language teacher. A domani.

Day 11 (23 October) Another Day In Orvieto

One advantage an overnight stay is that one can walk a town before the tourists arrive in the morning. I walked to the west from our hotel, looped north along the rim of the city, and then criss crossed Via Cavour along the narrow streets and back ways of Orvieto. The first photo in this set, Two Roads Diverge, will be at the start of our VF walk. I took the path to the right this morning; tomorrow the left and out of Orvieto to Rome. So, this one traveler will have done both.

Two Roads Diverge
Orvieto View West
Halloween Scene Orvieto
Street In Olmo Quarter

When I returned to the hotel. I could not resist photographing the hotel cat named Coos. Very friendly and we had a love session.

The Concierge
The Boss

The morning turned into the afternoon. It was time to meet Monique who was arriving from Florence. Her train was almost on time. I played guide showing the way to the funicular, the bus to the Duomo, and finally the walk to the hotel.

After a brief rest, we went on tour. Our first stop was La Musa, named after the owners and coincidentally one of our girl cats. The shop has a gelato flavor of elderberries with chocolate chips named Musa. That was my choice. This shop had flavors beyond the usual. It reminded me of Nuts About Ice Cream on Linden Street and its saffron flavor. Musa will do for this trip.

In Honor Of Our Musa

Monique’s internal clock was ticking to an Italian rhythm. 4:30 — aperitivo time. We stopped at a bar on Via Cavour. We toasted the start of our trip to Rome. Laird — note the beer?

The Start

Because La Palombo where Rich and I dined last Friday is literally a stone’s throw away from our hotel, we ducked in to make a reservation. A good practice in securing a table at this place. We were the first diners at 7:30. We each had a pasta. Monique chose the umbricelli with porcini; I went with Rich’s dish from Friday, the spaghetti carbonara with grated black truffles. For the secondi piatti, Monique ordered the piccata limone while I went with the Trippa Umbrian style. I was asleep at the wheel because I missed photographing the Trippa. Too bad because it was colorful and delicious. We asked for the check around 9:30 because breakfast will be 7:30 tomorrow with 8:30 being the tee off time.

Umbricelli With Porcini Mushrooms

My friend Cheryl from Lehigh commented how good the food is in Italy. I have contended that food in Europe is so much better than in the US — fresher because the providers are nearby — the classic farm to table. The wine lists are longer and with local wines that we don’t see because they are not exported. Thus, a carafe of very good house wine can be had for under 10 euros and a vintage wine at 20 euros. Our dinner last night of pasta (reasonable portions), second piatti, a half carafe of red wine, mixed salad, and an aqua frizzante (both Rich and Monique like the sparkling water, yes!), tax, and tip came to 40 euros each. With current exchange rates, just under $40. Where can you find this quality meal for the price in the US? Finally, one needs to ask for the check. No matter how busy, the diners have the table.

We start tomorrow. Barbara and Steve Diamond warned me about the long climb just after leaving Orvieto. From the ramparts during my morning walk, I could see the hill. But just like the others before, this bear will see the other side with the opportunity to experience more beauty as we walk to Rome.

Day 10 (22 October) Wait of 40 Years Fulfilled

Rich was off to the Rome Airport this morning. By 8 PM, he had sent me images of a fisherman on an inlet of the Med by his hotel as well as his dinner. Bon Viaggio, mio amico. We’ll have to do another walk someday.

Taking the Inter-City To Rome

I went in the opposite direction to Arezzo about an hour twenty minutes ride up the line. Why there? Forty years ago I took an art course that presented three great fresco artists who were key figures in the transition of Italian art from Byzantine style iconography to the Renaissance style. I had experienced two of the three: Giotto’s Scrovegni Chapel in Padova in 2000 and Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel in 1980. Now, Piero Della Francesca’s Legend of the True Cross at the Basilica di Francesco in Arezzo. I lucked out in getting one of the limited timed tickets for 2:30. The photos do not do justice to the scale of the frescos as they don’t with Giotto and Michelangelo. Here are a few and the cross and alter behind which are the frescos.

Basilica Di Francesco Alter
The Annunciation
Left Lowest Panel
Detail of Panel

I walked to other areas of Arezzo — the Piazza Grande, the Duomo, and San Domenico (Chiambue’s Crucifix – 1268). Arezzo’s Centro Storico is very compact but like most Tuscan towns, hilly. You can see the tilt in the photo of Piazza Grande.

Piazza Grande
Arezzo Duomo
Chiambue’s Crucifix — San Domenico

I returned to Orvieto by 7:30 in time for dinner. I chose the Antica Cantina at Via Cavour, 212 for its simple menu and location on a very small piazza. The chalkboard menu showed carciofi and pasta fagioli. Sharon and I once tasted four different versions of carciofi on our last visit to Rome. I ended with a plate of five local goat cheeses tasting them starting clockwise from the one below the cup holding a homemade jelly. That was not quite the ending though. A glass of grappa put a glow on me. I include photos of the hostess and the three cuocas. A serendipitous find but one that I would highly recommend if you come to Orvieto.

View From My Table
Menu Board
Pasta Fagioli
Goat Cheese Plate
My Gentle Hostess Cecilia
Three Cuocas: Ludmila, Shega, and Giacomo