Distance: 19.3 km – Elevation +330 m -180 m
Weather: Sunny. Temperature: High 32 degrees
Our walking group had agreed for an early start and we all met outside the Abbey at 6.00 am. Monteriggioni, our first stop was clearly visible seated on its hilltop. Its surrounding valley was shrouded in an early morning mist as we walked and climbed the 4 kilometres to reach its centre. We stopped for coffee in the only bar open. I needed to buy a few items for lunch and said I would catch up with the group later. I eventually saw them in the distance as I quickened my pace but then lost sight of them. I was deep in thought and found myself following a road and realised I had missed the Via Francigena path. So I followed the road to Siena and sent a message to Laura and told her I would see them all in Siena later. It was their last day and I wanted to say my goodbyes. It was a shorter route by as much as 6 kilometres so I arrived in Siena well before the others. I sat at one of the restaurants that surround the Piazza del Campo and ordered lunch. The Piazza was still surrounded by the sand track created for the famous Siena horse race – the Palio di Siena. Suddenly and with very little warning a ferocious storm arrived in the piazza with high winds and heavy torrential rain, it was like a whirlwind and it took with it most of the table umbrellas in every restaurant and we had to retreat to the interior of the restaurant. It lasted just twenty minutes but the havoc it left behind was extraordinary – the race track had become a sea of mud. Later planks were placed across the track to allow pedestrians to cross. It was an extraordinary moment. I had booked into a small hotel not too far from the piazza and as the sun returned I made my way to the hotel and prepared myself for the following day. I received a message from Laura inviting me to a farewell dinner the group had arranged. Later that evening I met up with them all and we enjoyed a wonderful dinner together and I was able to say goodbye to my new Italian friends.