Saturday, 7 March 2020

Way of St. Francis: Florence to Assisi

Dramatic view from La Verna
As was to be expected in February my hike started in the rain. Luckily temperatures were rather mild. Right from the start the trail took me up into the mountains on paths and unpaved roads. This was very nice for hiking but I was soon covered in mud and looked like a pig after a mud bath. At this time of the year there are hardly any tourists. I was all alone in the hermitage of Camaldoli where I took a long break in the chapel. It was even more surprising that I was all alone in La Verna, a major tourist attraction - but the Cafeteria was open. Lunch was a bit disappointing though. The threatening clouds turned into a short hail storm when I left.

Due to short day light hours I  hiked well into the night on most days. When I was following a country in the dark a car with blinding lights came towards me - and not seeing anything I stumbled into the ditch and made a face plant. My pants ripped and most of my food flew out of the mesh pockets of my backpack … Luckily I didn't injure myself and could continue hiking and looking for a campsite. I ended up camping behind a pile of woods … Days became very sunny which resulted in nights getting colder and colder. I was never freezing in my warm winter quilt with a specific balaclava but I woke up to frozen tent several times and had to eat granola with ice cubes for breakfast because my water bottles had frozen over night ...

For the last night before Assisi a severe storm was forecasted for Germany. While I read about life threating weather conditions in my home country on the internet the forecast for Italy was only predicting a windy day. I took extra care in finding a sheltered campsite and was lucky to find the perfect spot right at sunset. Luckily the forecast was right and I slept through a windstill night. Then a last 30 km hiking day and I arrived in Assisi where I had planned to take the one and only rest day of this short trip. I arrived just at sunset and got this perfect shot of the famous basilica of Saint Francis.

Like in Florence I had booked myself into a monastery which turned out to be quite international. With 30 nuns from all corners of the world this was a lively house whereas most other monasteries in Italy I stayed in had problems attracting new recruits. Assisi is a wonderfully spiritual place and a tourist trap at the same time. I spent hours in the magical basilica listening to the singing of the monks but was put off by the dozens of souvenir shops. (I had rather preferred supermarkets to buy some food ...) To wash clothes or go grocery shopping you have to leave the old town. I spent my rest day visiting the hermitage of Carceres which was very peaceful - until two bus loads of teenage school kids appeared …

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