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.

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