Mud and dried riverbeds

(This post is from the evening of October 24th)

When I left Gubbio in the morning, I had no trouble finding my way out of the populated area because of the great number of different signs pointing to Assisi.  The walk was largely uninteresting, following small country roads along hills on the way to Valfabbrica.  Eventually, I reached the point in my journey where my guide suggested turning off the road to walk along the river in the bottom of the valley.  According to the guide, going this way would save some walking distance and was the old line of communication that Francis would have actually followed.

Soon after descending into the valley, I regretted my decision.  The path was not very well established, and it was incredibly muddy from the rain of a few days ago.  I struggled through some thick brush and up steep, slippery paths—even though my guide said everything was downhill.  Looking down at the trickle of a river at the very bottom of the valley, I could see a cracked and dry landscape on either side.  Dead trees, empty of leaves, made for a beautiful sight with the cracks in the dried up ground, but I was nevertheless upset about having been duped into taking this path.  My feet were really beginning to hurt and I had to make an extremely steep climb—up again to the level of the road—in front of a giant damn that blocked what remained of the river.  Once on the road, I saw no cars, and the overgrown brush creeping onto the tarmac itself gave a very end-of-the-world feel to the whole place.

I reached the outskirts of Valfabbrica, and walked by some farm houses whose grape vines still had some fruit left on them.  I think the people had given up on the thought that the vines would produce anything good, because most of the bunches were completely dried up.  I picked some of the larger specimens, and they were actually edible, providing me a nice snack after the difficulties of walking through the mud.  I got to Valfabbrica, and found the town smaller than I expected.  At the bottom of the hill, there was a small soccer stadium, and outside there was a small group of what looked like miniature turkey wandering around.  A girl who had jogged past me on the entrance to town had stopped to take photos of the strangely clucking animals, and the birds had become frightened and began to run away as fast as they could—not very fast.  The birds were so stupid that a portion of them actually cut themselves off from escape by walking into the corner of a chain link fence.  When they discovered that they were trapped, they became hysterical, clucking and flapping their wings wildly.  The girl backed off allowing them to escape and rejoin their brethren who had managed to make it to the other side of the road.

I walked toward the center of town, not knowing where I was supposed to go to find the refuge, but a sign—“Ostello Francescano”—answered my question.  I followed it off the main square for a few blocks and reached a normal looking apartment building with the same sign over its door.  I rang the bell, and a young woman opened the door.  “Hello, Pilgrim!”—it sounds less like a John Wayne movie in Italian.  “I’m glad to have a pilgrim,” she continued.  “There haven’t been many recently.  Do you want to eat with us?”  “Yes, please,” I replied.  “Good, we’ll eat around 7:30.”  I went upstairs to a room full of bunk beds used for pilgrims and rested before dinner.

At 7:30, I went downstairs and found a group of three men already eating at a large table in the corner of the small dining room of the restaurant.  I was directed to sit at a different table by myself, however—not exactly what I had thought when my host asked if I would eat with them this evening.  I was brought a bowl of spaghetti and tomato sauce that could have been from America, except the sauce was better.  After I had finished that, a plate of roasted chicken came out of the kitchen, as well as a bowl full of quartered tomatoes.  As the men behind me finished, they began to ask for chestnuts for dessert.  A woman who I had not seen before came out of the kitchen and started fusing at them saying that chestnuts were too expensive to make for their dinner.  “Why don’t you just go out and find them,” inquired one of the men.  “There are no chestnut trees in Valfabbrica, you idiot!” she replied.  “Really?”  “No, you have to go far away to get them.  They are too expensive.”

With that, dinner was over and I headed back upstairs for bed.  Tomorrow would be the last day of the pilgrimage, and I was already getting a bit sentimental.  When you start something like this and know exactly what you’re going to be doing every day for two weeks—walking—and suddenly it all comes to an end, you’re faced with thoughts like “What’s next?”.  I guess it’s sort of like approaching retirement.  Of course, I know nothing about that, but the idea’s the same.  You’ve been doing something for a long time, and then it all suddenly changes.  I was looking forward to seeing Assisi, but sort of sad that my journey was ending.

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~ by pminnig on November 23, 2011.

One Response to “Mud and dried riverbeds”

  1. Dang, your blog is awesome. How do you get the pics into blocks like that? I am going to follow your blog. You descibe things very vividly!!

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