Distance: 32.6 km – Elevation +870 m -530 m
Weather: Sunny. Temperature: High 30 degrees
Today was going to be a tough day, both long in distance and in elevation, so it was another early start. Dawn was just breaking as I left San Quirico and just before I reached Vignoni Alto Castle there was the most beautiful sunrise above the distant horizon which lit up the sky in a glorious mellow orange, it was God’s creation in all its glory and I thought no one would see how I saw the sunrise at that moment. From the 12th century Vignoni Alto Castle the descent to Bagno Vignoni and its thermal waters, and with the sunrise and the low lying mist in the valley below, the descent was magical. Arriving in Bagno Vignoni I took time to walk around the main piazza with the thermal pool in its centre. There has been a thermal pool or bath here since Roman times and I sat thinking of all those pilgrims, since medieval times, that have passed this way on their way to Rome and perhaps Jerusalem too, to rest here and take advantage of the healing waters of these hot springs. It was still just 7.30 am as I left the village admiring the wonderful views of the Val d’Orcia. On the other side of the valley, I could see the medieval castle, Rocca di Tentennano, in Castiglione d’Orcia as it sat high on the hill above the valley knowing that my descent into the valley would be followed by a tough ascent to the castle. From the valley floor, I started the climb to Castiglione d’Orcia following the road, and about halfway up I saw a group of walkers sitting on steps in an adjacent side road. It was Fabio and my Italian friends, Ilaria had damaged her back and was unable to continue and they were arranging a taxi to take her and Anna to Radicofani. I offered my assistance but they were well organised and clear in their intentions so I continued the climb to the town. The Via Francigena path diverts around the town outskirts but I decided to leave the path to continue into the town for breakfast where I devoured two cream croissants, enjoyed with a very welcome coffee. Refreshed and rejoined the path which continued on with ups and downs through the beautiful and enchanting Val d’Orcia. Around midday I came to a sign which read “Welcome – Radicofani 8 Km” which was the start of one of the longest climbs on the Italian Via Francigena and this having already walked an up and down 24 kilometres! It was a gentle slow climb at first but it was continuous and tiring in the heat of the day. About 2 kilometres from the top I found my Italian friends sitting by the road, they were waiting for Fabio who had stayed behind to help Ilaria and Anna with the taxi. I found those final two kilometres, the steepest part of the climb, very tough going. I met Anna coming down to meet Fabio and the rest of the group to walk with them the remainder of the path to Radicofani and she told me Ilaria was safe and well in Radicofani. I arrived in the village centre at 2.30 pm and immediately found a bar where I sat enjoying a cold beer and recovered from a long hilly walk of 35 kilometres, especially on a hot summer’s day. I had not pre-booked a bed for the night in the hope I would find one in the Municipal Refuge – A.Gestri, but alas when I tried I was told it was full and there was no other available accommodation in the village. Apparently, the large group of walkers I met on the path to San Quirico had prebooked every available bed in town. So I retired to the bar and looked for accommodation further ahead and I found and booked an Agriturismo in Collomici which was about 5 kilometres further along the road. Just as I was about to leave the manager of the hostel came over to me and said a friend had a bed available in a small property in the village which I readily accepted. I shared the small village house with three other pilgrims two of whom slept on the floor. I saw Fabio later and he invited me to join him and the others for a home-cooked meal – they had rented a house for the group and were having a self catering evening. I cannot thank them enough for the kindness and hospitality they have shown to me these past few days.
Vignoni Alto Castle
Bagno Vignoni Thermal Pool
Radicofani in the distance