Before Anna left Italy we decided to go for another spontaneous trip, this time walking the Way of St. Benedict, which stretches from Norcia to Monte Cassino, cutting Italy in two halves. The first day of our Camino we did only 12 km. We started around midday, as we spent the morning reaching Norcia and visiting the ruins and the slow resurgence of the town after the earthquake in 2016. We thought to cover the 18 km to Cascia, as the official guide suggests. But... on the way we found a place that was just perfect for the tent. A picnic area with tables, drinking fountain, even a grill. We stopped to refill the bottles, ready to continue, when the thought came – why don't we stop here? Still 6 km to our daily goal, still relatively early, we both felt we should push more, we couldn't stop. On the other hand, in town we would never find such perfect conditions for a tent. Our plan was to pitch it in some affiliated agritourism, paying less than for a room, but still have access to water and reducing contact with other tourists. Yet, here, in a gorgeous place, we could have everything we needed. Finally, we decided to stay, but it took us an hour of discussion to wash away the kind of guilty feeling. It was an important lesson and a significant shift from the need of pushing further and further to the ability of stopping, looking around and using the opportunities the world provides us. As with our trip through Apulia, we keep training spontaneous traveling, without overplanning, following the moment. It's not easy. Inspired by the GPS which drove us to Norcia, we decided to "recalculate" more often. The GPS doesn't get upset if we take a different road than the one it suggests, it simply recalculates and finds a new route. We want to learn to recalculate as well, without spending too much energy on it, without those feelings of guilt, disappointment, without the inner urge to keep going just because we have already set the goal.
We reached Cascia the day after by breakfast, so we enjoyed a good coffee before continuing the way. Which turned out a little complicated, as part of it was closed. At the Info Point they suggested to go out of town through the main road, but then we got lost and as we asked locals they said they use the closed trail, it is not that dangerous, but officially it was never reopened. Encouraged, we continued the old Camino and after 5 km, we reached Roccaporena, the hamlet where Saint Rita was born. Towering over the place there is a beautiful small building, which protects the rock the Saint used to pray and meditate. Saint Rita became a symbol of devotion and peaceful resolution of conflicts, a sort of medieval female Gandhi. That day we thought to sleep in Monteleone, but we didn't manage to find a place for the tent in the few open agritourisms. Normally it's easier to find camping spaces, donativo options, churches with hosting facilities, but due to the Covid situation lots of them are closed. 40 euro per night in a B&B is out of our budget for the moment, so we decided to continue and find some place for the tent on the way. It wasn't easy, after few kilometres we finally found a fountain with water, sort of outside the town, and after washing ourselves we just put the tent on the edge of somebody's wheat field, fairly hidden from the main road. Impossible as it sounds, somebody decided to drive around this field in the middle of the night, probably looking for something they left there during a day. Good they saw our tent and didn't drive over us...
Mountain time! On the third day on the way we reached Terminillo, known as "the mountain of Rome" because it's the main massif around the Italian capital and an important mountain resort. Which meant also that the path started to go up. We thought to reach Poggio Bustone that day, the place where St. Francis received forgiveness for his sins from the Archangel Gabriel. We were aiming at some proper accommodation for the night, but again fate decided differently. Few km before the town we found a small paradise in the middle of the mountains, with a fountain, water streams and the good company of many cows and horses. Not much thinking this time, we just put down our bags and explore the place. As the sun was going down fast we decided to wash first, both ourselves and some of our clothes. Anna managed without problems, but Andrea had to queue, waiting for a couple of dozens of thirsty cows.
Rieti, our goal for the fourth day was the biggest city on the way, in which different caminos meet. We reached it quite exhausted - although the distance itself was not that big - and determined to finally take a room, as after four days we needed to charge our phones, camera and power bank. Anna was also supposed to have Italian lesson online. Taking it all into consideration we called the first place suggested in the website of St. Francis Way (which also crossed the city) and got a room (or rather a mini - apartament with our own terrace) for 45 euro. The owner welcomed us with great energy, preparing coffee and sharing delicious homemade cakes, fruits and yogurt as afternoon snack. What a treat after a day walking! The landlady is not only managing the place and being one of the main figures in the cultural life of the city, but above all is a pilgrim herself, with great passion and a big heart. If you are in Rieti, we definitely recommend this place, La Terrazza FioRita. It was good to meet other pilgrims as well. Beside the first day, we didn't see other "colleagues", and sharing experiences with others is definitely an important part of every Way. We also enjoyed access to the kitchen, so we ate something hot finally, and a huge watermelon, perfect for this weather.
Usually a crisis comes around the third day of walking, in this case apparently it was moved in time and came only the fifth day. It could be connected with us running across the mountain in search for a phone signal good enough to do an online coaching session. It helped us to cover more km in the morning, but it got paid back with pain and tiredness in the afternoon, which forced us to stop earlier than we thought. Our plan was to reach Turano lake and find some nice spot there, instead we just stopped at the first fountain we found, few hundred meters before Posticciola. As we discovered the day after – along the lake (an artificial lake formed by a dam built in 1939) there was no place to really camp or have a bath, but within 1 km we could have found two gorgeous spots to pitch the tent. Also the next day we were not that lucky. For the first time we couldn't find any place with water and finally we stopped on the top of a mountain, using wet tissues to refresh ourselves. The world balanced out in the last day, by making us cross a beautiful water stream forming a small waterfall and a pool. Just few seconds of hesitation and in we went. Very refreshing... or rather freezing cold.