Friday, October 2, 2020

Cammino verso Assisi (Cammino di San Jacopo in Toscana) Day 19 Calenzano - Firenze!

My hosts at Casa Matta took me back down to the spot where I stopped walking yesterday, and I started the day with a steep climb to the castle of Calenzano, and then a descent to the modern part of Calenzano, followed by another climb to the church of San Donato. After crossing under the motorway and through the industrial district of Settimello, the trail went uphill through the woods to Via delle Cappelle, a panoramic and little-travelled road where I caught my first glimpse of the dome of Florence Cathedral. 

Gregory at La Casa Matta

Gate to Calenzano Castello

Calenzano Castello

Calenzano Castello

San Donato

View of Florence 

A long straight stretch on narrow paved lanes with stone walls on either side took me to a stone bridge over a stream, built in 1390.

I then passed by a series of Medici villas, including Villa Reale di Castello, now home to the Accademia della Crusca, the institution entrusted with the protection of the Italian language, with the authority to make decisions on what is and ain't proper grammar. 

The last of the three villas was home to a healthcare facility, and there began the hospital district of Florence. I walked around a great variety of medical institutions, and waited until I was through them before stopping for some lunch and a rest break before heading into the historic heart of the city of Florence. 

The Cammino di San Jacopo in Toscana enters (or exits) the city of Florence via the botanical gardens, passing a surreal giant serpent sculpture somewhat reminiscent of the one by Gaudí in Barcelona, a Florentine Crystal Palace built in 1880, and a horticultural market selling flowers and potted plants. 

I entered the city centre through Porta San Gallo and proceeded along Via San Gallo, a street once lined with pilgrim hostels, now apparently a trendy neighbourhood with plenty of interesting shops, bars and restaurants - to be investigated at a later date! I passed the Basilica di San Lorenzo and suddenly found myself in front of the Cathedral! 

Porta San Gallo, old city gate, 
now stranded in the middle of a traffic circle

There was a line-up to get into the Cathedral, but it was short compared to non-Covid times, so I went in. However there was no-one in the sacristy to stamp my pilgrim passport - the priest must have been out to lunch - so I went on to Santa Croce and had it stamped there. 

After visiting a couple of other major sights in Florence, I decided I'd had enough of walking for the time being, and took the train home! 

Calenzano - Firenze 21 km

Cammino di San Jacopo in Toscana Lucca - Firenze 129 km in 5 days

Chiavari - Firenze total 414 km, in 19 days

Thursday, October 1, 2020

Cammino verso Assisi (Cammino di San Jacopo in Toscana) Day 18: Rocca di Montemurlo - Calenzano

Borgo della Rocca is a lovely B&B, and I was the only one staying there so I had the whole place to myself. Only one problem: Ristorante della Rocca, the only place to eat at the top of the hill, is closed on Wednesdays! So rather than walk all the way all the way back down to the new town below, I dined on dried fruit and nuts and herbal tea. The owners said I could take something from the breakfast supplies, but due to Covid restrictions all they can serve at the moment is pre-packaged croissants and melba toast with individually packaged portions of jam. With the addition of these items, I made my meagre supper, and then went to bed. I woke up hungry before dawn, breakfasted on another pre-packaged croissant and more melba toast, and headed back onto the trail.

A winding country lane took me through the trees and around the back of an abandoned Medici villa known as the Casa del Barone. It became a gravel road and then a path through the woods, taking me around a reservoir then up to the crest of the hill, passing more abandoned farmhouses on the way. 

The trail carried on downhill to Figline, emerging by the beautiful fresco of the tabernacle of St. Anna painted on the wall of a home by Agnolo Gaddi in 1390!

After stopping at the bar in Figline for cappuccino and a real, fresh croissant, bursting with jam, I walked along the road towards Prato, switching to a pedestrian and cycling path along the bank of the Bisenzio river. I walked over the bridge and through the city gate, still hung with giant wooden doors, and made my way to the cathedral square. 

The great treasure of Prato Cathedral is a belt said to have belonged to the Virgin Mary, who handed it to St. Thomas immediately before her ascension and said here, hold my belt and watch this! 

The marble pulpit on the corner of the building, designed by Donatello and Michelozzo, was added for the ostentation of this treasured relic, and buildings were knocked down to enlarge the square in front of the cathedral to permit the crowds to come and see it. It is now displayed only a few times a year, and kept locked away the rest of the time in an altar also designed by Donatello and Michelozzo in its own chapel in the cathedral. 

But the cathedral is best known today for the chapels behind the altar frescoed by Paolo Uccello, Andrea di Giusto and Filippo Lippi. 

I continued my whirlwind tour of Prato, stopping for a slice of pizza and to climb up to the ramparts of the castle. 

Palazzo Pretorio

Eventually I had to leave Prato, and continue along the cycling path along the river. When the cycling path ended, the trail climbed part way up the hill and continued, hugging the hillside, above an abandoned old cement mill, as well as more modern industries, busy roads and railroad tracks. It came down to the valley floor again to follow an embankment and cross an old stone bridge before coming to the outskirts of Calenzano. Here I had an appointment to meet one of the inhabitants of Casa Matta, a farmhouse high up above the town which rents out rooms for the night. Luckily, I didn't have to walk all the way up here! 

And, luckily, they can also provide dinner! 

Casa Matta

Rocca di Montemurlo - Calenzano 22.5 km