Sunday, 30 May 2004


This trip was a great change from the usual ones done in the UK. For a start, my multi day hikes don't normally end in a city. Rome is amazing and I shall go back one day. The weather helped, although the trip overall had its fair share of rain. Italian rain is as wet as UK rain.

There had been a lot of rain in the period before we arrived in Italy. This made camping difficult in places as water was just pouring out of fields on to the roads we were walking along. Camping was often not easy anyway. I was told that the Italian people like their comforts and so do not camp much. Consequently, there weren't many campsites along our way. There tend to be more nearer the coast. Wild camping was not easy either. In the UK, it is usual to find fields with either open gateways or gates to be climbed over. Certainly in the part of Italy we were in, there weren't the same sort of fields. There were many olive and other types of groves and they tended to be securely fenced with high locked gates and notices saying, "Attention de cani". It just wasn't worth the hassle. The hotels we used weren't too expensive and there really wasn't any alternative much of the time.

Italian maps, which I'd bought in the UK, are a joke. I really think that our Ordnance Survey ought to offer its services to the world and earn a lot of money in the process.

All in all though, the trip was memorable. Too much road walking but hey. I just love Italy.

Monday, 17 May 2004

Day 12 Monday

Up early and headed off for the station at 6.30, getting there at 7.30. Bought a book to read as I reckoned it was likely to be a long day - Ernest Hemingway's Farewell to Arms. Just before eight, made my way to platform 17. The train was there with the end destination, Velletri, on the display. I got on. One or two others got on that I saw. I was a bit perturbed that it did not leave for five minutes after the due time, but it was Italy, after all. I was more concerned when the train then appeared to be heading north. After a while, two men came through the compartment and said the train was not going to Velletri and told me to go to the front of the train (they were going the other way). Velletri was the end of the line and we all got off. My fellow passengers and I accosted a guard who directed us across some sidings and over a bridge to another platform where we waited for a train back into Rome. There, we got on the right train and I got off at Champion station. There was a ten minute or so wait for the bus to the airport. I raced in and presented myself breathless at the check in. I was told that the plane was boarding and was too late to go through. I could have gone back into Rome and spent another couple of days there but mentally I was attuned to going home so I went to the ticket desk to make enquiries about another flight. There was a Ryanair flight at one o'clock to Stansted which would cost me €300; the woman then asked if I would prefer to go to Stansted with Easyjet in 45 minutes for €175 - I said yes please. I was able to check in right away and appeared to be the last to do so. My backpack had to go in as hand baggage. It was duly X-rayed and some suspicious things found! My round-ended scissors in my first aid kit were confiscated as scissors are on the prohibited list. My twelve sharp ended tent pegs were carefully examined but as tent pegs were not on the prohibited list, I was able to keep them with me! Crazy.

An uneventful flight to Stansted. Within fifteen minutes of landing I was on the shuttle bus and on the way to Oxford.

Sunday, 16 May 2004

Day 11 Sunday

Sightseeing - I did the real tourist thing. With the street map I bought yesterday was a list of the twelve "must sees" of the Vatican and Rome. Having "done" the Vatican yesterday, this left Rome. I listed the things to see, identified them on the map and then listed them in order so that they could be seen in a broad sweep - they were all in roughly the same area -

Roman Forum
Campidoglio (the Capitol)
Monument to Victor Emmanuel II
Fountain of Trevi
Trinità dei Monti (which I didn't see)
On the way to the Coliseum, I decided to go via Roma Termini to buy a ticket for the train tomorrow morning in order to save time possibly queuing and also identify the platform number - 17. On the way, came across "All Saints Church of England Anglican" church. Thought I might attend the 10.30 morning service (it was then 9.45), but it was not to be as it turned out because it was quite a way from the station and time spent queuing for the ticket made it impracticable.

So headed straight for the Coliseum. Impressive although, I have to say, not as impressive as I'd been expecting. There was scaffolding up inside and visible through the archways. Plenty of touts selling tickets for entry but was not persuaded.
The Forum was quite amazing with its plethora of ruined buildings and columns here and there; the backdrop of other historic buildings added to the incredible sight.

The most memorable aspect of the Monument to Victor Emmanuel II, apart from the fact that it was built to celebrate the unity of Italy in 1870 was that a few floors down were some very underused loos; apart from these, public loos don't seem to exist; you have to go into a café and buy a drink to use the loo and that means you have to do the same again a little later.

The Pantheon was awesome, totally dominating the piazza it looks on to. Had lunch here, on the steps of a fountain - superb pizza bread with tomato and mozzarella.

Mid-afternoon, I'd had enough and headed back towards the YH. I went via the Anglican church. It was locked but a side entrance was open. The church was being used, as I quickly found out when I couldn't at first understand a word that was being said, by the Filipino church community. I think it was a baptism service, very informal. I stayed about fifteen minutes before moving on.

Saturday, 15 May 2004

Day 10 Saturday

A reasonable night's sleep - at least I wasn't murdered in my bed! Showered and ready for breakfast by 8.30 - a lovely sunny morning. Tom drove me to the station at Cesano (where there is a school for Italian artillery). Only had ten minutes to wait although the train was already at the platform. It only cost €1 for the forty minute journey to Roma S. Pietro. On arrival, I wandered into the nearest old building, the church of St. Maria al Forna. Then I thought I should head for the centre of Rome to a tourist office in order to find a city map. I headed in the wrong direction at first, backtracked and then found myself in St. Peter's Square. Crowds were gathering and there was a fenced-off area where seats had been set out. I later found out that there was a planned beatification of a few notables.
Going on towards the centre, I bought a street map and decided the next thing to do was to secure a bed for the night. With the map I could find the youth hostel so headed back through St. Peter's Square. The youth hostel was the best part of a mile away in a straight line to the north of the city. I thought of 'phoning ahead but instead ploughed on as the weather was good and it was fun discovering a new place. As luck would have it, the YH had vacancies so I booked in, left my kit in the room and went down for a spot of lunch in the restaurant.

After lunch, I walked back down to St. Peter's Square and explored inside the Basilica, the Vatican bookshop and attempted to find the Sistine Chapel. In fact, I was told that it was closed until Monday so that will have to wait for another time.
I then headed off to Castel Sant Angelo but by then it was five o'clock so not worth paying the €5 to go inside. I browsed around the paintings for sale by artists of the S. Angelo bridge and escaped the Senegalese street traders selling fake Vuitton bags, etc.
Back to the YH for dinner. The food there was not very special.

Friday, 14 May 2004

Day 9 Friday

I was packed and off by 10.15am, following the road by Lago di Bracciano. Lovely weather. Wanting to get away from the road, however, I took a white road leading to Lago di Martignano. Following this for about 100m, I came across a sign saying that the road to the lake was now closed. Assuming that it would still be possible on foot, I carried on. I came to a T junction where left went in the wrong direction and right was barred by a high pair of gates with barbed wire everywhere. I asked a couple in a nearby garden who told me it was only possible to get to the lake by permission. There was, of course, no-one to ask and the answer might well have been "no", so I managed to squeeze around the side of the gate and followed a compass bearing in the direction of the lake. Following farm roads and tracks, I kept well out of sight. There was a man on a tractor spraying in a vineyard but he didn't notice me. The track in the lake direction disappeared so I headed northwards across a field and track up to a road (leading from Trevignano to Sette Venne as I later found out - I was surprised to have gone so far north in so short a time). I followed the road eastwards. Shortly before reaching a major junction with the SS2 Cassia was a track to the right. I saw in the distance along the track what I thought could be a person in red sitting or standing on the brow of a hill about 300 yards away. You can just about make out a touch of red in the photo below at the far end of the track.

I thought the track might lead to Campagnano so I went to ask. As I got closer, I saw the person was sitting on a chair, one of those white plastic garden chairs. He or she might be an artist, painting the view. I was wrong. She was no artist! Very black skinned, red hotpants and absolutely gorgeous. She spoke some English but clearly wasn't a local and didn't know where the track went. She was from Nigeria "working" in Italy. I made my excuses and left, as they say. As I went back to the road, an old Opel Astra estate with a fat, sweaty looking man at the wheel was driving up the track and, looking back, I saw it stop by the girl. Who knows what happened then? I passed out of sight. A totally surreal experience.

I then walked a few hundred yards down the hard shoulder of the busy SS2 and off a turning towards Campagnano.

In the town, I took a brief excursion through an archway and down a fascinating old shop-lined street, probably the main street of the small town. I called into a pizzeria, partly because I was very hungry and partly because I wanted to break into the €100 note Nigel had lent me. I had some of the best pizza ever and a large beer. Being then fully restored, I left Campagnano on the road towards Sacrofano, turning off south to Formello.

There, I was accosted by an elderly man interested to know where I was going. I said to Rome and was looking for somewhere to camp. He asked if he could buy me a coffee and that the camping could wait. We adjourned to a café over the road. He was a retired doctor living nearby, Tomaso Andreoli. During his working life, he had specialised in tropical diseases and gastric ailments. He offered a bed for the night at his home. He looked the genuine article so I agreed with thanks. We went off to his car, a beaten up Ford Escort estate. He carefully removed the electric drill from the front seat and off we went. It was only a short drive to his home along a well-to-do country road. His house was a rambling place and he gave me a guided tour of the downstairs, showing me his family's coat of arms, paintings and Roman and Etruscan relics. His son and daughter lived in annexes to the house with their families but were not around at that point. He showed me to my room with and entrance from the side of the house; it was a self-contained bedroom with en-suite bathroom, lined with books many of which would have belonged to his children years before. One of the first things I did was to 'phone home and tell my wife where I was in case I was never heard of again! After showering, we went for a drive to the nearby Sorbo country park, leaving the car to walk up to the Restoration of Santuario of St. Maria del Sorbo - a former Byzantine church which was undergoing restoration. We met with a youngish fellow and two old men who were there. The young man seemed to be an authority on the work and was clearly involved in it. He had with him a small ladder and we climbed over the barrier fence and into the building. He gave us a guided tour and the work in progress.

We returned to the house. We drank campari and soda on the terrace looking out towards the setting sun and a magnificent view across hills to the west. I was introduced to his son, Giorgio, daughter-in-law Sabina and their children. Tom's wife returned from her short stay in Rome where they have a house. We had a meal together cooked by Sabina, the best spaghetti a la carbonara I've ever tasted, slices of cured spek, Italian cheeses I'd never come across before and a salad of green leaves (with, I think, olive oil and salt) - and wine, of course. A really special evening.

Over supper, we discussed the walk into Rome. I must say, I was not really looking forward to it, a long walk largely through the outskirts of the city heading towards the centre along busy roads and not at all interesting. I would arrive at the centre probably late the following evening and might find it difficult to find accommodation. I was given directions to a campsite north of the city centre that was believed to exist but in the end Tom offered to drive me to the nearest railway station the following morning so that I could catch a train to St. Peter's station in the Vatican. First thing next morning, I took some photos of his garden and views from the house. A lovely place. The chance meeting with the doctor confirmed my view that adventures such as this only happen to someone travelling alone.

Thursday, 13 May 2004

Day 8 Thursday

Weather much improved. Away at 10am and headed into Ronciglione where I searched in vain for a shop that might sell me a walking map. I stocked up with food and bought some more meths. Leaving the town, it was then a pleasant road walk to Sutri, another nice old town. I assumed that I would be looking for somewhere out of sight to camp that night but at the turn for Lago di Bracciano there was a camping sign for camping by the lake, several miles away. Then, after a short distance, there was a VF sign on a pole, followed by another about a mile on which took the VF off to the left. A brief pause for a decision – follow the VF or carry on to the lake where I knew there was camping. The lake it was. It was a good road for walking, not much traffic. On the way, I was hailed by a passing Dutch cyclist. He was on his way from the Netherlands to Rome. His guide book showed two campsites at Trevignano, by the lake; three were signposted when I got there at 5pm but one was then signed as being 6km further on! It turned out that this one was the nearest! I stopped for a drink on a bench overlooking the lake – quite idyllic, but I had to push on. I arrived at the site at 6.30pm. the weather was really good and so was the site, by the lakeside. Supper of ravioli and quattroformaggio sauce.

Wednesday, 12 May 2004

Day 7 Wednesday

We weren't disturbed during the night and were up at 4.30am to be out of the way before any workmen arrived. Nigel apparently hadn't slept a wink. On the road at 5.30am and walked for 1.5 hours into Montfiascone. Nigel's blisters finally got the better of him and he went off to phone Pat to tell of his decision to catch a bus or train into Rome. We had a cappuccino and a cheese & prosciutto pizza sandwich in an excellent café and then parted company, Nigel to find a hotel or similar just to get his head down and catch up on his sleep.

I took the Rome road out of Montfiascone - there was no VF sign and I only had a road map. I took what I thought was the right road off this but it wasn't - I weaved in and out of some back streets and eventually found what I thought was the right lane , at least heading in the right direction. It shortly became a green lane and then a cart track through olive groves and between fields.

I then crossed the railway and then continued, eventually meeting up with the NW-SE road I wanted as the Rome road to Viterbo was just too busy. I walked for maybe three or four miles (with a couple of long boring straights) until I met with a junction with a less major road to Viterbo but that was also too busy for my liking so I took a lane to the left after a shortish distance – much better. This went by some subterranean falls, marked on the map as Acquarossa. I stopped for lunch at 12.15 by the roadside – bread, pecorino and proscuito, washed down with water – good, simple fare. Continued on, passing over a motorway, to east of Viterbo and then headed into the town. I arrived in the centre of Viterbo at 2.30pm and the tourist information centre was closed until 3.30. I stretched out along a wall by a small public garden near the bus station. It clouded over quite quickly and then came on to rain heavily with a real ding dong of a thunder storm.

The helpful girl at the TIC could find no hotel for less than 65€!! There were no campsites nearby so I relieved her of various local maps and leaflets and walked out of the town towards S. Martino al Cimino. I came across a board with a crude painted map of Lago di Vico to the south, where I was heading. This indicated the presence of a campsite on the eastern side; would it be open? It was still some miles away. A little later I met with a dead end sign, having obviously taken a wrong turn. I stopped to study the map. I was then hailed by a fellow calling to me from a window of an old building nearby, some sort of apartment conversion. He was shouting in English – how did he know? He seemed to want to help so I went into the grounds and he came down to meet me. He and his companion said that the dead end only applied to vehicles and that he was sure there was a path through to Lago di Vico but did not know how far the lake was or how long it would take; his friend wasn’t so sure that there was a path at all.

I pressed on, entering woodland and following a stony climbing path. It came on to rain again. The way was quite muddy. The path seemed endless although just as I was beginning to wonder if it was going the way I wanted I espied a painted red F on a tree which was a relief – someone had decided this was the route of the Via Francigena – further occasional waymarking followed. The path was almost non-existent at times, passing through rough featureless woodland; without the waymarks it would have been impossible to discern a route. I eventually reached a road. There was a red F pointing to the right although I really wanted to go to the left where the campsite seemed to be. I followed the F, reckoning that there would be a path off which would take me down towards the lake as I was quite high above it at that point. The rain continued. I must have walked along the road for at least two miles with no sign of a path. Light was beginning to fade. It was about 6.30pm and I was several miles from the campsite – not good. A car went by and some yobs yelled Italian abuse at me. A few minutes later, a car pulled up by me and a young lad offered me a lift to the campsite! I didn’t argue and threw my pack and umbrella into the back of his car. He didn’t really speak more than a smattering of English and I didn’t even catch his name. He was on his way to meet his girlfriend. We stopped at a hotel/restaurant with a nearby bar which we went into; he insisted on buying me a cappuccino and off he went. The campsite was actually a few hundred yards further along the road, which I think he hadn’t realised. Still, the site was a welcome sight indeed; it was still raining and I got the tarp up in record time, impressing the folk in a nearby caravan, who had probably never even seen a tarp before. I was none too pleased when I trod in some dog poo a few feet away. That dealt with, I cooked a quick meal, had a shower and turned in early after a 23 mile day, the longest yet.