Distance: 13.7 km – Elevation +320 m -260 m
Weather: Sunny. Temperature: High 30 degrees
The Ostello Sigerico is excellent, so friendly and well run. I shared my room last night with 3 other pilgrims including a young couple an Italian man and an English woman. They had started in Lucca and were walking to Rome. He was keeping a journal of those pilgrims he meets along the way and quizzed me about my pilgrimage from Canterbury. It was 6.00 am as I left the Ostello, the sun just beginning to rise above the horizon. The Ostello is situated about 1000 metres below the town centre and as I was making the initial climb I heard “David” being called from behind me, turning I saw it was Laura and Michela and from there we walked together for the rest of the day. They told me that Barbara had found a room in the town centre and was going to spend the day reorganising her walking gear, rucksack, and shoes, and would join us later in San Gimignano. The streets of Gambassi Termi were deserted as we walked through and started a gentle descent passing olive groves and vineyards to reach a very colourful Agricola Casanuova, a wine producer specialising in Chianti. The building displays directional signs – Roma 279 kilometres and Canterbury 2036 kilometres. It is too early in the morning to partake in the refreshments they offer to passing pilgrims. The surrounding landscape is beautiful and typically Tuscan as we began the first climb of the day, passing vineyards and olive groves and walking through avenues of poplars to reach the Marian Sanctuary, the Sanctuary of Mary Most Holy Mother of Divine Providence. It is a revered sanctuary and built on the spot of a shrine where the 15th-century painter, Pier Francesco Fiorentino had painted the image of the Virgin nursing the Child Jesus. The sanctuary, now rebuilt, was almost completely destroyed by the retreating German army in 1944. Close to the sanctuary, there is an underground grotto with life-sized statues of the birth of Jesus. I felt a great sense of peace as I rested in the sanctuary of the church and sheltered from the morning sun. Leaving Pancole we continued to climb and at a distance of 5 kilometres, we glimpsed our first sighting of San Gimignano with its imposing towers. Shortly after we arrived at the Monastero di Bose with its extraordinary views of the wide Tuscan landscape below. I sat quietly in the chapel reflecting on my pilgrimage. After another tough climb, we arrived in a very busy San Gimignano and after visiting the magnificent cathedral we found a small restaurant away from the crowds and enjoyed a light lunch. I decided to stay the night in San Gimignano, seeking shelter in the Convento Sant’Agostino. Laura and Michela still had 3 kilometres to walk to reach their prearranged beds for the night in Santa Lucia. You cannot prebook a bed in the Convent and to be allowed to stay you have to prove you are a true pilgrim. Awaiting pilgrims are interviewed by one of the monks. Eventually, the available places were filled and nine pilgrims were selected to stay, including myself and a revitalised Barbara. Prior to a communal dinner, we were all invited to a foot washing ceremony and after a convivial meal, we all went for a stroll and a last drink before retiring for the night.