Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Day 17: Colle Val d'Elsa - Monteriggioni

16 km
Leaving the monastery of San Francesco
What every walker wants to see in the morning!
Walking along the walls of Colle di Val d'Elsa

On today's walk we were joined by my daughter Sara
We passed a field of late-blooming sunflowers
Castel Petraia
Abbadia a Isola
Abbadia a Isola is an abbey founded by Cistercian monks in 1001 on an "island" of dry land in the middle of what was at that time a swamp. It took the monks centuries to reclaim the land and make it suitable for cultivation. In 1376 the city of Siena fortified the monastery with walls to protect it from bandits.
The abbey declined in importance after 1500, which protected the interior from being covered over with Baroque superfetations.
In July Sara played in a concert in the abbey, and we found one of the posters for the concert!
Fellow pilgrims from Quebec, travelling the Via Francigena by bicycle
Back on the road again, heading for Monteriggioni, visible on the horizon
Approaching Monteriggioni
We were very lucky to occupy the last available beds at the hostel run by the parish of Santa Maria Assunta right in the central square within the walls of Monteriggioni. From our bedroom window we enjoyed a wonderful view of the square. I promptly ruined tourists' photo opportunities by washing my dirty socks and hanging them up to dry in the window.
The hostel bedroom
Upon arrival we discovered that the hostel had a well-equipped kitchen, complete with industrial-sized pots and pans for making large quantities of pasta, and our first thought was to make dinner for all the pilgrims who had been walking with us over the past few days. Domenico did a quick survey of the shops in the old town and reported a total absence of fresh fruit and vegetables, but there were plenty of little shops selling specialty products for tourists and we managed to get together all the ingredients we needed from those - at some expense! All that was missing was an onion. We engaged the gardener at the hospital to provide us with an onion from the kitchens of the restaurant next door, and got cooking!

A great variety of Pecorino cheeses available at the little food shop in Monteriggioni
A pilgrims' dinner party
A complication! As we were clearing up after dinner, Anna Gandolfi, the lady who had checked us into the hostel, came up looking for Sara. She was not only acting as hostel check-in person but holding an exhibition of her own paintings on the ground floor, and some American tourists had come by wanting to buy one, but without knowing any English, she found herself in difficulty. Sara came to the rescue as translator and was rewarded for her efforts with this floral composition.
Beautiful! But.... how to carry it to Siena?
Luckily the two French girls who had checked into the hostel just as we were about to sit down to dinner - of course we invited them to join us - were taking the bus to Siena the next morning, so they took the painting and met up with Sara to deliver it to her in the afternoon, after we had walking the remaining leg of the hike to Siena.
On the same evening, I met Franco Cinti, one of the authors of the guidebook I have been following all the way! He had come to the hostel to meet some visitors from Victoria, B.C. - on the island where I lived as a teenager - whom he had met when visiting Victoria last summer. We had a chat and I asked him to sign the book for me.

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