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Magna Via Francigena - April 2024

jungleboy

Spirit of the Camino (Nick)
Time of past OR future Camino
Some in the past; more in the future!
Today I arrived in one of my favourite cities in Italy, Palermo, ready to start a solo walk across Sicily on the Magna Via Francigena tomorrow! It’s a ~185km trail from Palermo to Agrigento that I aim to complete in 8-9 days. The MVF is the most well-known of the four ‘Vie Francigine di Sicilia’ routes.

I’ve been to the start and end points twice before, but love them both and I’m already wondering how finishing at the ancient Greek temples in Agrigento might offer a different perspective as a conclusion to a pilgrimage.

As for the start point, we could probably learn a thing or two in our own time from the fusion of three different religious cultures - Arab-Norman-Byzantine - that produced the splendour of 12th-century Palermo. More than 800 years later, the resulting architectural and artistic legacy is simply astounding.

49420109633_ebcc5de584_o.jpeg
The striking exterior of the Palermo Cathedral, begun in AD 1185 and featuring a hodgepodge of architectural styles.

49420108763_0d190553a0_o.jpeg
The dazzling interior of the Palace Chapel in the AD 1130 Palace of the Normans, completely covered with Byzantine mosaics.

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The austere but beautiful Crusader-like interior of the AD 1160 Norman church of San Cataldo.
 
A selection of Camino Jewellery
Today I arrived in one of my favourite cities in Italy, Palermo, ready to start a solo walk across Sicily on the Magna Via Francigena tomorrow! It’s a ~185km trail from Palermo to Agrigento that I aim to complete in 8-9 days. The MVF is the most well-known of the four ‘Vie Francigine di Sicilia’ routes.

I’ve been to the start and end points twice before, but love them both and I’m already wondering how finishing at the ancient Greek temples in Agrigento might offer a different perspective as a conclusion to a pilgrimage.

As for the start point, we could probably learn a thing or two in our own time from the fusion of three different religious cultures - Arab-Norman-Byzantine - that produced the splendour of 12th-century Palermo. More than 800 years later, the resulting architectural and artistic legacy is simply astounding.

View attachment 168229
The striking exterior of the Palermo Cathedral, begun in AD 1185 and featuring a hodgepodge of architectural styles.

View attachment 168228
The dazzling interior of the Palace Chapel in the AD 1130 Palace of the Normans, completely covered with Byzantine mosaics.

View attachment 168227
The austere but beautiful Crusader-like interior of the AD 1160 Norman church of San Cataldo.
Hi Nick, Hope you keep posting! My wife and I are 3 days behind you, and your posts in the past, like on the Rota Vicentina, have always been so informative and helpful to us. Buon Cammino!
 
Hi Nick, Hope you keep posting! My wife and I are 3 days behind you, and your posts in the past, like on the Rota Vicentina, have always been so informative and helpful to us. Buon Cammino!
What a coincidence! Thank you for your kind comments and yes, hopefully I will keep posting.

Buon cammino anche a voi!
 
Technical backpack for day trips with backpack cover and internal compartment for the hydration bladder. Ideal daypack for excursions where we need a medium capacity backpack. The back with Air Flow System creates large air channels that will keep our back as cool as possible.

€83,-
How wonderful you're on the trail again Nick...& taking us with you (a weight you bear well 😆)!
As always your photos are stunning & with descriptives such as 'striking', 'dazzling' & 'austere'...well, we're in for another treat.
A visually spectacular beginning but I think the glory of that blue sky also deserves a mention!
Safe & happy walking. 🤗
👣🌏
 
Day 1: Palermo to Santa Cristina Gela — 24km

I set out shortly after dawn and head to Palermo’s cathedral, where the sun’s first rays are lighting up the towers and domes. As I’m taking photos alone, a garbage collector empties a nearby bin and says ‘Buongiorno’ to me — not quite ‘Buon cammino’, but I’ll take it, and with that, it’s time to begin my journey.

IMG_7382.jpeg

From Palermo it’s an arrow-less but arrow-straight road with a slight incline as far as the eye can see and then some, almost all the way to Monreale, nearly 7km away. The official guide suggests taking the bus to cut out city walking, but it occurs to me that I’ve already taken that bus to Monreale twice before. As I remember this, I’m struck by the fact that the first of those occasions was in 2002, which is now half my life ago, on my first backpacking trip with Wendy.

This time I walk instead because that’s why I’m here. I go through a 17th-century arch and out of the centro storico as the city begins to wake up. Flower sellers and fruit vendors are setting up their stalls, and soon enough, the city peters out and I start to see orange and lemon groves and olive trees, those horticultural symbols of the Mediterranean.

As Monreale approaches, the path becomes steeper and the town’s raison d’être appears in the distance: the 12th-century duomo, the crown jewel of the Norman kingdom of Sicily. A grander version of the Palace Chapel in Palermo, its walls are entirely covered with shimmering Byzantine mosaics, all the way up to the Arabesque ceiling. Twenty-two years after my first visit, it’s still one of the most amazing churches I’ve ever seen.

49420810772_facbb865de_o.jpeg

After the familiarity of Palermo and Monreale, I press on and enter what is, for me at least, unchartered territory. A descent to the valley floor and then up steeply to Altofonte, perched on the hillside, and then more climbing for good measure. At the mountain pass that marks the highest point of the stage after 1000m of ascent, I take a final glance back past the olive trees towards the urban sprawl of Palermo in the distance, and the Mediterranean Sea beyond. Then, onwards and downwards, towards the interior of the island — and into the unknown.

IMG_7405.jpeg

Some practicalities:

Waymarking signage: it wasn’t great. I didn’t see an official sign until 12km in, although there are red and white paint splashes at some other points before and after that. After Altofonte there were red arrows with a green stripe that went my way, but I later saw that these are for Il Cammino dei Mille and apparently not the MVF. In summary, it’s definitely worth having tracks.

Trail: unfortunately it was almost all asphalt, and I’m feeling it now! Hopefully there will be less asphalt in the coming days as the camino becomes more rural. The least pleasant part was just after Monreale, on a narrow road with lots of traffic. After that there was a lot less traffic.

Monreale: entrance to the duomo is free if you show your credential, a saving of €10-13. There’s also a stamp. Unfortunately there is some work/scaffolding in the interior at the moment (the photo above is from a previous visit), but it’s still extremely impressive.

Water: there are fountains at Monreale, Altofonte and behind the sanctuary above Altofonte, so carrying 1L was enough for me even though I filled two 1L bottles just in case. Despite being a sunny day, it was also a bit windy and only reached about 16 degrees Celsius.

Food: there’s a Conad supermarket on the camino in the valley after the descent from Monreale. In Altofonte, there are some basic stores in and around the piazza, including an excellent bakery, where I bought bread for lunch. In Santa Cristina Gela, there seem to be two restaurants and one pretty basic store.

Accommodation: in Santa Cristina Gela, I’m at B&B da Mercurio for €35/single. I picked it pretty much at random from the list on the official site. The hotel connected to Bar Belvedere has MVF signage at the front (including a CdS shell!), so maybe that would be a good choice.
 
Ideal sleeping bag liner whether we want to add a thermal plus to our bag, or if we want to use it alone to sleep in shelters or hostels. Thanks to its mummy shape, it adapts perfectly to our body.

€46,-
Day 1: Palermo to Santa Cristina Gela — 24km

I set out shortly after dawn and head to Palermo’s cathedral, where the sun’s first rays are lighting up the towers and domes. As I’m taking photos alone, a garbage collector empties a nearby bin and says ‘Buongiorno’ to me — not quite ‘Buon cammino’, but I’ll take it, and with that, it’s time to begin my journey.

View attachment 168282

From Palermo it’s an arrow-less but arrow-straight road with a slight incline as far as the eye can see and then some, almost all the way to Monreale, nearly 7km away. The official guide suggests taking the bus to cut out city walking, but it occurs to me that I’ve already taken that bus to Monreale twice before. As I remember this, I’m struck by the fact that the first of those occasions was in 2002, which is now half my life ago, on my first backpacking trip with Wendy.

This time I walk instead because that’s why I’m here. I go through a 17th-century arch and out of the centro storico as the city begins to wake up. Flower sellers and fruit vendors are setting up their stalls, and soon enough, the city peters out and I start to see orange and lemon groves and olive trees, those horticultural symbols of the Mediterranean.

As Monreale approaches, the path becomes steeper and the town’s raison d’être appears in the distance: the 12th-century duomo, the crown jewel of the Norman kingdom of Sicily. A grander version of the Palace Chapel in Palermo, its walls are entirely covered with shimmering Byzantine mosaics, all the way up to the Arabesque ceiling. Twenty-two years after my first visit, it’s still one of the most amazing churches I’ve ever seen.

View attachment 168280

After the familiarity of Palermo and Monreale, I press on and enter what is, for me at least, unchartered territory. A descent to the valley floor and then up steeply to Altofonte, perched on the hillside, and then more climbing for good measure. At the mountain pass that marks the highest point of the stage after 1000m of ascent, I take a final glance back past the olive trees towards the urban sprawl of Palermo in the distance, and the Mediterranean Sea beyond. Then, onwards and downwards, towards the interior of the island — and into the unknown.

View attachment 168281

Some practicalities:

Waymarking signage: it wasn’t great. I didn’t see an official sign until 12km in, although there are red and white paint splashes at some other points before and after that. After Altofonte there were red arrows with a green stripe that went my way, but I later saw that these are for Il Cammino dei Mille and apparently not the MVF. In summary, it’s definitely worth having tracks.

Trail: unfortunately it was almost all asphalt, and I’m feeling it now! Hopefully there will be less asphalt in the coming days as the camino becomes more rural. The least pleasant part was just after Monreale, on a narrow road with lots of traffic. After that there was a lot less traffic.

Monreale: entrance to the duomo is free if you show your credential, a saving of €10-13. There’s also a stamp. Unfortunately there is some work/scaffolding in the interior at the moment (the photo above is from a previous visit), but it’s still extremely impressive.

Water: there are fountains at Monreale, Altofonte and behind the sanctuary above Altofonte, so carrying 1L was enough for me even though I filled two 1L bottles just in case. Despite being a sunny day, it was also a bit windy and only reached about 16 degrees Celsius.

Food: there’s a Conad supermarket on the camino in the valley after the descent from Monreale. In Altofonte, there are some basic stores in and around the piazza, including an excellent bakery, where I bought bread for lunch. In Santa Cristina Gela, there seem to be two restaurants and one pretty basic store.

Accommodation: in Santa Cristina Gela, I’m at B&B da Mercurio for €35/single. I picked it pretty much at random from the list on the official site. The hotel connected to Bar Belvedere has MVF signage at the front (including a CdS shell!), so maybe that would be a good choice.
Thanks, Nick (as ever), for your great descriptions and helpful suggestions. We arrived in Palermo yesterday, and have 2 days of sightseeing lined up before heading out Tuesday morning. The Terre di Mezzo guidebook warned us of the slog after Monreale, and you've reinforced our decision to bus out of Palermo to Piana Albanesi and take the alternate, and shorter, route into S. Cristina Gela and a bit beyond on the first day. (We give ourselves the excuse of being settantenni). The tracks downloaded from the Association's website line up exactly with those shown on mapy.cz, so I'm confident we'll stay on track. I look forward to your continuing posts. Andy
 
Day 2: Santa Cristina Gela to Corleone — 24km

Santa Cristina Gela is sleepy when I leave this morning, and it should be, because it’s 7am on a Sunday. But though the village hasn’t woken up yet, the spirit of the camino still manifests itself in the form of several pieces of MVF-themed street art around town that serve to animate a tired pilgrim trying to find his camino rhythm.

IMG_7417.jpeg

It’s cloudy this morning, and the sun comes and goes. When it’s out, the light is soft, as is the trail underfoot — a marked contrast on both fronts from yesterday’s relentless sunshine and asphalt. The urban setting is gone now, replaced by rural scenery that seemingly popped up overnight. But it’s not vineyards and orange groves and the stuff of your Sicilian dreams; instead it’s a rugged landscape of boulders and pine trees and wildflowers. Oh, the wildflowers! They light up the landscape in yellows and purples and that’s the biggest constant of this stage. Sometimes I have to hack my way through them with my hiking poles just to create a path and that makes it feel like an adventure reminiscent of my favourite pilgrimage trail, the Caminho Nascente in Portugal.

IMG_7456.jpeg

There are pilgrims today (I count 11), but no villages, food or water. I eat snacks from my pack for breakfast, second breakfast and lunch, and I’m glad I’m carrying two litres of water instead of my usual one litre, because by late morning the sun is out for good and it’s a shadeless walk from then on. The trail passes two rocky massifs and they’re the visual highlight of the day, along with the neverending flowers. Then the flat paths that have characterised the stage disappear and it’s down, up and down again as I gingerly approach my destination.

IMG_7454.jpeg

And just when I think I’m in the middle of nowhere, looking at wildflowers and craggy mountains in an idyllic rural setting, having not seen a village all day and rather unlikely to stumble onto the town that produced ‘the most violent and ruthless group ever to take control of the Mafia’ (per Wikipedia), that town suddenly appears in front of me: Corleone.



Some practicalities:

Trail: mostly dirt today, at a guess 80 per cent. Long trousers are a good idea because otherwise your lower legs will get scratched on a particular stretch early on (the hacking part).

Shortcut: both the tracks I’m using and the signage direct pilgrims towards a silly-looking extended detour soon after the sanctuary. I tried to see if I could bypass it but there is a barbed-wire fence on the other side of the main road, so I gave it up and went the long way around. But when I came back to that area I saw that there is a gap in the fence just before the road barricade so it’s totally possible to skip this detour and save 15-20 minutes. Follow my green lines here:

IMG_7426.jpeg

Food: none. There is supposed to be food (restaurant?) at the sanctuary about halfway in, but it seemed all closed today, possibly because it’s Sunday, or because I was there too early (around 11:30). There’s not really a decent store that I found in SCG either, so getting extra supplies in Palermo/Monreale/Altofonte would be a good idea.

Water: no water either though the same place at the sanctuary would have some if open. Before that, at 7km, Maps.me has a fountain symbol but it’s actually a fairly still creek with bugs in it. To be safe, carrying 2L is a good idea; I drank about 1.5L.

Data network: there was no data for me for a fair bit of the stage (I have Fastweb), especially the first half. Worth keeping in mind if you’re relying on online tracks.

Accommodation: I’m at Chiaro di Luna in Corleone, another B&B type place that I picked from the list on the official website. €30 for a single, nicer than yesterday.
 
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The Terre di Mezzo guidebook warned us of the slog after Monreale, and you've reinforced our decision to bus out of Palermo to Piana Albanesi and take the alternate, and shorter, route into S. Cristina Gela and a bit beyond on the first day.
I met a group of five pilgrims today who did the same thing, so it seems a popular alternative. I enjoyed yesterday’s stage despite the asphalt but I’ve been sore ever since it finished!
 
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Day 3: Corleone to Prizzi — 20km

There’s no easing into the camino this morning; it’s uphill from the very first step through the alleyways of Corleone all the way up to the Saracen Tower that surveys the town from a rocky outcrop. The tower is incorrectly named but still dates from medieval times, and I stop nearby for breakfast while waiting for the sun to come out, which it eventually does, illuminating the tower and the wild fennel plants that grow all around it.

IMG_7479.jpeg

The early part of the stage is less adventurous than yesterday, a fair bit of the walking is on asphalt (though the occasional flower growing out of it makes for an interesting sight), and it seems destined to go down as a pleasant enough but pretty unremarkable day. Then I reach the hamlet of Imbriaca, where one of the population of six gives me and two Italian pilgrims a stamp and an impromptu and interesting little tour of a small church and a room that includes a public phone booth and a concrete bench that once served as a bed for pilgrims.

After one of the Italians’ seemingly random Port Adelaide Football Club hat serves as a topic of introduction (she lived in Adelaide for a time), I walk with them the rest of the way and am glad for the company and grateful for the opportunity to speak Italian at length.

IMG_7488.jpeg

Almost before we know it, Prizzi is in front of us — or more accurately, above us; there’s no escaping the obligatory climb into town — and the stage is over. I eat an excellent lunch at a local restaurant, including the first caponata I’ve had on this trip, and all these little wins add up to the realisation that, in the end, this was a pretty great day.



Some practicalities:

Trail: the walk was rural but often on paved country roads, and shadeless as I’ve come to expect by now. Not as nice surface-wise as yesterday but better than the day before.

Food: none en route but it’s a pretty short stage so you can make it to Prizzi for lunch. The Trattoria del Corso is very good! There are only a couple of restaurants in town so in the end I went back to the same place for dinner and almost all the Italian pellegrini were there, so it was another good opportunity for conversation.

Water: 7km in there is a fountain as part of a nice little stone rest area. There is also water at Imbriaca (the tap may be attached to a hose but you can remove it), so 1L was enough for me today.

Accommodation: La Casa della Bougainville seems to be the popular choice but there were only dorm beds left when I contacted them yesterday. They suggested La Casa di Kokalo for a private room and I have a small apartment for €22, quite a bargain!
 
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Day 3: Corleone to Prizzi — 20km

There’s no easing into the camino this morning; it’s uphill from the very first step through the alleyways of Corleone all the way up to the Saracen Tower that surveys the town from a rocky outcrop. The tower is incorrectly named but still dates from medieval times, and I stop nearby for breakfast while waiting for the sun to come out, which it eventually does, illuminating the tower and the wild fennel plants that grow all around it.

View attachment 168412

The early part of the stage is less adventurous than yesterday, a fair bit of the walking is on asphalt (though the occasional flower growing out of it makes for an interesting sight), and it seems destined to go down as a pleasant enough but pretty unremarkable day. Then I reach the hamlet of Imbriaca, where one of the population of six gives me and two Italian pilgrims a stamp and an impromptu and interesting little tour of a small church and a room that includes a public phone booth and a concrete bench that once served as a bed for pilgrims.

After one of the Italians’ seemingly random Port Adelaide Football Club hat serves as a topic of introduction (she lived in Adelaide for a time), I walk with them the rest of the way and am glad for the company and grateful for the opportunity to speak Italian at length.

View attachment 168411

Almost before we know it, Prizzi is in front of us — or more accurately, above us; there’s no escaping the obligatory climb into town — and the stage is over. I eat an excellent lunch at a local restaurant, including the first caponata I’ve had on this trip, and all these little wins add up to the realisation that, in the end, this was a pretty great day.



Some practicalities:

Trail: the walk was rural but often on paved country roads, and shadeless as I’ve come to expect by now. Not as nice surface-wise as yesterday but better than the day before.

Food: none en route but it’s a pretty short stage so you can make it to Prizzi for lunch. The Trattoria del Corso is very good! There are only a couple of restaurants in town so in the end I went back to the same place for dinner and almost all the Italian pellegrini were there, so it was another good opportunity for conversation.

Water: 7km in there is a fountain as part of a nice little stone rest area. There is also water at Imbriaca (the tap may be attached to a hose but you can remove it), so 1L was enough for me today.

Accommodation: La Casa della Bougainville seems to be the popular choice but there were only dorm beds left when I contacted them yesterday. They suggested La Casa di Kokalo for a private room and I have a small apartment for €22, quite a bargain!
Awesome, Nick! You're getting us so excited. We leave from Piana degli Albanesi in the morning, and are heading for an Agriturismo a few k past S. Cristina. Glad to hear that there are other pilgrims -- we spotted a few obvious ones at the Duomo in Monreale today -- and also that finding a bed doesn't seem to be a problem. I booked most of the walk 2 weeks ago, based on nervous posts on the Facebook page, but didn't bother about the last few stops when it became obvious there was plenty of availability. People have been responding to my WhatsApp inquiries very quickly.
 
Glad to hear that there are other pilgrims -- we spotted a few obvious ones at the Duomo in Monreale today -- and also that finding a bed doesn't seem to be a problem.
Yes on both fronts. There are more pilgrims than I expected but it’s a nice number. And for accommodation I am now just sending messages the evening before and it is working out so far.

Enjoy your first stage today!
 
Yes on both fronts. There are more pilgrims than I expected but it’s a nice number. And for accommodation I am now just sending messages the evening before and it is working out so far.

Enjoy your first stage today!
Thanks. And good to hear on both fronts. Just arrived at our agriturismo, which is gorgeous. I'll post more about the alternative start from Piana degli Albanesi (for those interested) once we get settled.
 
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Alternative Stage1: Piana degli Albanesi to Sant Agata agriturismo: For those who want to avoid the asphalt slog on stage 1, outlined by Nick in post #5, there is an alternative route that starts in Piana degli Albanesi rather than Palermo. It's almost entirely on dirt tracks or very quiet road, and it's a good way to ease into the ups and downs of the route without a long and knee-crunching first stage. You don't get to go through Monreale, though, but for my wife and me it was better to visit the Duomo there the day before starting our walk and have several hours to explore it at leisure.

To get to Piana degli Albanesi, you need first to take a bus from Palermo. There's one leaving the bus station at 8 AM and several more throughout the day. Ride is just under an hour. Prestia e Comande is the bus company.

From PDA, it's about 5 k to Santa Cristina Gela, where we picked up sandwiches for lunch. (There is a tiny grocery store there, but it was probably closed and essentially invisible when Nick passed through on a Sunday).

After Santa Cristina Gela, we then continued a further 5 k to Agriturismo Sant Agata, which is a little piece of paradise in the gorgeous middle of nowhere. 72€ for 2. They also serve dinner and breakfast.

Besides making for a thoroughly mellow first day, and avoiding the urban sprawl (which does have its own kind of charm), it also reduces the next stage into Corleone by 5k and about 270 meters of climbing.

One important warning: There are several marked trails leaving from Piana degli Albanesi, including another one into Santa Cristina Gela -- but along a busy road. You won't get lost if you follow the other trail, but to ensure you're on the much quieter and tranquil Magna Via Francigena, it's best to have a gps track. Mapy.cz, which I use everywhere (and it's free!!!) clearly shows the route as a labelled Magna Via Francigena variant.

Buon Cammino, whichever way you go. And Forza! Nick.
 
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Great summary, thanks! If you do this alternative and visit Monreale beforehand, all you miss from the regular route is Altofonte (a nice local village but nothing unmissable) and the views back towards Palermo and the Mediterranean, so it does sound like a good alternative option. Tomorrow’s stage for you has the best scenery that I’ve seen so far — enjoy!
 
Day 4: Prizzi to Castronovo di Sicilia — 24km

An early morning exit from Prizzi gives a perspective unseen during yesterday’s entrance from the other direction: a town clinging to the hillside, half in shadow, waiting for the sun to rise over the mountains.

IMG_7512.jpeg

After that sweeping vista, the stage doesn’t reach great heights. There’s a nature reserve and an abandoned village and some nice views but nothing much new or different from the last two days. The forecast was for a lot of sun but after mid-morning it’s cloudy, windy and chilly. I walk and talk briefly with some Italian pilgrims early on but the second half of the stage is solitary and by lunchtime I find myself ready for it to end.

And just as it’s about to, at the entrance to Castronuovo, something brings a smile to my face: a piece of street art on a door featuring colourful goats with funky horns. In their own way, they’re doing the pilgrimage, too; it’s the second time I’ve seen them in the last three days, and they’ve added a fourth member to their herd since Santa Cristina Gela. Hopefully I see them again before it’s all said and done!

IMG_7525.jpeg

Some practicalities:

Trail: similar to yesterday, a combination of paved country roads and dirt paths.

Food: none again during the stage, and it’s pretty slim pickings at Castronovo too (there doesn’t appear to be a restaurant in town).

Water: plenty today, the most fountains on any stage so far. Carrying 1L is enough.

Accommodation: Casa Paradiso was the first place I tried yesterday but it was booked, so I’m at Le Camere dell’Emiro for €35. Not as good a deal as yesterday but fine. All the places I’ve stayed at are categorised as ‘Ospitalità Diffusa’, which means they’re not hotels but more Airbnb-type places.
 
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Thanks again, Nick. And for the definition of "Ospitalità Diffusa.". That's what we're mostly in, and couldn't figure out what it's supposed to mean. Looking forward to the route to Corleone tomorrow. We're there 2 days to take in the Liberation Day festivities, and to visit the Anti-Mafia Museum.
 
Day 5: Castronovo to Cammarata / San Giovanni Gemini — 12.5km

I consider combining two stages into one and walking 31km today, but given the bleak forecast, I opt for a short stage instead, and am content with that choice — even more so when it starts raining soon after my arrival.

On an overcast and cold day (7 degrees Celsius on departure, reaching a maximum of 9), my thoughts stray from the path and the scenery and focus above all on two unusual topics: Carthaginians and goats.

Regarding the former, a Carthaginian necropolis is on the route and I take the opportunity to re-listen to the History of Rome podcast episodes on the First Punic War between Rome and Carthage over Sicily. There’s not much to see at the site — better described as grottos than a necropolis — but it allows me to reconnect with the island, something I feel has been lacking on the previous three stages. Lemon and orange trees at the grottos, otherwise unseen since the first day, also help in this regard.

IMG_7540.jpeg

As for goats, I see more of them in street art form leaving Castronovo and more again entering Cammarata. Curiosity has by now gotten the better of me, and some cursory research shows that they are depictions of endangered Girgentana goats from the Agrigento area, and that the artist, Domenica Cocchiara, has offered to paint them in every town in the region that will give him a door as a canvas. I love everything about this idea, and finding these goats in each town I pass through has suddenly — and perhaps irrationally — become one of the main objectives of this camino.

Some practicalities:

Not much to report for such a short stage. I haven’t mentioned way marking for a few days but the signage has been a lot better since the first day.

Accommodation: I’m at B&B Due Passi in the San Giovanni Gemini part of town. Perfectly fine for €37.
 
The one from Galicia (the round) and the one from Castilla & Leon. Individually numbered and made by the same people that make the ones you see on your walk.
I’m recovering from a hernia surgery (all well, if a bit painful), and your accounts are a balm for my pilgrim heart. Thank you, thank you!
 
Accommodation note for @andycohn and anyone else coming after us: in Sutera there seem to be only two places to stay and both were full when I tried my day-before booking today. Fortunately Campofranco is only about 3km further and I was able to book a room there at Fontana Di Li Rosi. But just be aware that Sutera is a bit of a bottleneck.
 
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Accommodation note for @andycohn and anyone else coming after us: in Sutera there seem to be only two places to stay and both were full when I tried my day-before booking today. Fortunately Campofranco is only about 3km further and I was able to book a room there at Fontana Di Li Rosi. But just be aware that Sutera is a bit of a bottleneck.
Thanks, Nick, for the heads--up. I do actually have it booked already, so we're set. Incredible mud today. I'll post later about it. And keep those great descriptions coming!
 
Andy & Kate's Day 2: To Corleone: What a difference 3 days make! When Nick came through, (see post #9), the sun was beating down relentlessly, and there was no mention of difficult trail. But for us, rain and temps in the single digits turned one section of the the trail into a quagmire like I've never seen. (And we live in an area of clay soil where winter rains make the trails swampy enough). Literally 6 inches of mud building up on your boots so you couldn't walk. Too cloying often to poke away with a hiking pole. Kate's tracking app showed us doing a kilometer in 12 - 15 minutes in the non-muddy sections. In the mud part it took us 46 minutes. That's approx. 20 meters in a minute.

Fortunately, it's only 2 kilometers, and the overall stage is gorgeous. The swampy part begins shortly after you cross the SS38 following the descent from Rocca Argenteria, and continues until a little before you hit the SS38 again Here's a screenshot. It's the part where you see the label Magna Via Francigena. If it's rainy, I'd highly advise staying on the SS38 through here.:
 

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Continuing from above:

For the rest of this section, Nick's suggestions are spot on, and his descriptions can't be matched. Specifically:

1. His means of avoiding the long detour when you first encounter the SS38 is perfect. Saved us, two Germans, and 3 Italians more than a k. of useless detour.

2. Signage is getting better, but I still went off-track 3 times when there were conflicting or missing signs. GPS is essential. If you're technophobic and can't figure out how to download tracks, just download free Mapy.cz app. Magna Via Francigena and every other hiking trail / camino Is already on it. Above screenshot taken from it.

I don't mean to discourage anyone with these comments, only to smooth the way. Echoing Nick, the trail is unique, and spectacularly different, and you can't beat Italian hospitality and food. Other pilgrims to share the adventure with, but not too many. Accommodation is plentiful, and very inexpensive.

Staying over in Corleone today. Liberation Day (from Nazi tyranny) and a visit to Anti-Mafia Museum lined up
 
The 2024 Camino guides will be coming out little by little. Here is a collection of the ones that are out so far.
Andy & Kate's Day 2: To Corleone: What a difference 3 days make! When Nick came through, (see post #9), the sun was beating down relentlessly, and there was no mention of difficult trail. But for us, rain and temps in the single digits turned one section of the the trail into a quagmire like I've never seen. (And we live in an area of clay soil where winter rains make the trails swampy enough). Literally 6 inches of mud building up on your boots so you couldn't walk. Too cloying often to poke away with a hiking pole. Kate's tracking app showed us doing a kilometer in 12 - 15 minutes in the non-muddy sections. In the mud part it took us 46 minutes. That's approx. 20 meters in a minute.
Oh gosh, what a difference indeed. I remember very small amounts of mud that day but nothing remotely similar to what you described so it must have really poured in the interim. That second day was definitely the ‘wildest’ trail and the one most susceptible to mud that I’ve seen so far, so hopefully you won’t have to deal with that again.

Incidentally after yesterday’s rains I had more mud today than on any other stage so far, but it was still a walk in the park compared with your experience!
 
Oh gosh, what a difference indeed. I remember very small amounts of mud that day but nothing remotely similar to what you described so it must have really poured in the interim. That second day was definitely the ‘wildest’ trail and the one most susceptible to mud that I’ve seen so far, so hopefully you won’t have to deal with that again.

Incidentally after yesterday’s rains I had more mud today than on any other stage so far, but it was still a walk in the park compared with your experience!
Oddly enough, it never rained very hard while we were walking, but locals here in Corleone say it poured the entire night before. But I did notice on the MVF Facebook page that others had previously commented on this section. One person said she had to be hosed off by a friendly (and laughing) gas station attendant when she reached town.

Sometimes it feels like we're in the middle of climate chaos as much as climate change

Anti-Mafia Museum in Corleone didn't go into as much depth as I had hoped, but you couldn't escape the grizzly parts.

Otherwise, Corleone shut up tight for Liberation Day. Not like the celebrations in the north.
 
Day 6: San Giovanni Gemini to Campofranco — 22km

I wake up (unintentionally) at 5:30am and by dawn, 45 minutes later, I’m out the door. The sky is clear in the early morning, there’s an empty path ahead of me, and my spirits are high even though it’s only 4 degrees Celsius. I’m now out of sync with the other pilgrims from earlier on this cammino; after seeing only one yesterday I don’t see any today, except for footprints in the mud.

Today the land feels more like the Sicily I know: two-thirds of the Mediterranean triad (🫒 and 🌾) are in abundance, and I also see an orange grove. The ups and downs are gentle, the mountains are more dramatic than they have been lately, and, following on from yesterday, the soundtrack to my walk is once again Mike Duncan’s The History of Rome podcast. The narrative has moved on from Sicily now, but that means Hannibal has entered the story and it’s compelling listening even for the umpteenth time.

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I pass through Acquaviva Platani soon after stopping for breakfast and reach the usual end-of-stage destination, Sutera, by midday. Having enquired last night and found both accommodation options in town to be full, I keep walking the extra few kilometres to Campofranco.

Including San Giovanni Gemini, that makes four villages today, a high number by MVF standards, where there are typically no settlements between the start and end points of each stage. But despite all these villages, I don’t see a single street art goat, and that’s about the only thing wrong with my day.

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Some practicalities:

Dogs: there were two aggressive, barking and loose dogs soon after San Giovanni Gemeni, the first time I have encountered that combination on the MVF. Luckily they didn’t bite but they did cause my heart rate to rise a fair bit!

Trail: largely dirt today which meant a bit of mud after yesterday’s rains. It was pretty dry mud, so no quagmire but mud-caking instead, ultimately a pretty minor annoyance.

Water: plenty of fountains on this stage, including both entering and exiting Acquaviva Platani and entering Sutera.

Food: I stocked up at Conad in SGG last night, given the public holiday today. Acquaviva Platani has a bakery (not sure what else) and Sutera has at least one restaurant, but I wasn’t really on the lookout for food on the trail today.

Accommodation: Sutera (one of the ‘borgi più belli d’Italia’) is surely a nicer town than Campofranco, but it was all full. In CF, I’m at Fontana Di Li Rosi which is good value at €25.
 
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Day 6: San Giovanni Gemini to Campofranco — 22km

I wake up (unintentionally) at 5:30am and by dawn, 45 minutes later, I’m out the door. The sky is clear in the early morning, there’s an empty path ahead of me, and my spirits are high even though it’s only 4 degrees Celsius. I’m now out of sync with the other pilgrims from earlier on this cammino; after seeing only one yesterday I don’t see any today, except for footprints in the mud.

Today the land feels more like the Sicily I know: two-thirds of the Mediterranean triad (🫒 and 🌾) are in abundance, and I also see an orange grove. The ups and downs are gentle, the mountains are more dramatic than they have been lately, and, following on from yesterday, the soundtrack to my walk is once again Mike Duncan’s The History of Rome podcast. The narrative has moved on from Sicily now, but that means Hannibal has entered the story and it’s compelling listening even for the umpteenth time.

View attachment 168676

I pass through Acquaviva Platani soon after stopping for breakfast and reach the usual end-of-stage destination, Sutera, by midday. Having enquired last night and found both accommodation options in town to be full, I keep walking the extra few kilometres to Campofranco.

Including San Giovanni Gemini, that makes four villages today, a high number by MVF standards, where there are typically no settlements between the start and end points of each stage. But despite all these villages, I don’t see a single street art goat, and that’s about the only thing wrong with my day.

View attachment 168677

Some practicalities:

Dogs: there were two aggressive, barking and loose dogs soon after San Giovanni Gemeni, the first time I have encountered that combination on the MVF. Luckily they didn’t bite but they did cause my heart rate to rise a fair bit!

Trail: largely dirt today which meant a bit of mud after yesterday’s rains. It was pretty dry mud, so no quagmire but mud-caking instead, ultimately a pretty minor annoyance.

Water: plenty of fountains on this stage, including both entering and exiting Acquaviva Platani and entering Sutera.

Food: I stocked up at Conad in SGG last night, given the public holiday today. Acquaviva Platani has a bakery (not sure what else) and Sutera has at least one restaurant, but I wasn’t really on the lookout for food on the trail today.

Accommodation: Sutera (one of the ‘borgi più belli d’Italia’) is surely a nicer town than Campofranco, but it was all full. In CF, I’m at Fontana Di Li Rosi which is good value at €25.
Sounds great! I'm not at the stage yet where the scenery has become monotonous, but variation is always welcome. These seem like pretty utilitarian towns so far (but interesting to me because they don't pretend otherwise) but I certainly won't reject a bel paese.
 
I'm not at the stage yet where the scenery has become monotonous, but variation is always welcome.
The thing that I struggled with a bit on my days 3-5 wasn’t monotony, but what I’ve been calling ‘a lack of connection to the land’. The scenery was pleasant enough but I felt I could have been anywhere and that there wasn’t anything that distinguished it as Sicily or even Italy. Thankfully that has now changed over the last couple of days.

These seem like pretty utilitarian towns so far (but interesting to me because they don't pretend otherwise) but I certainly won't reject a bel paese.
I have found most of the towns to be less interesting than I had expected to be honest, but Racalmuto is an exception as there are historic churches, a castle etc.
 
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Day 7: Campofranco to Racalmuto — 17km

A dawn descent from Campofranco plunges me into the fog for the first time on this cammino. The rocky massifs on my right are almost close enough to touch, but I can barely make them out. Forty-five minutes into the stage, I reach a river with no bridge and have no choice but to ford it, nearly knee-deep. I’m wet, muddy and cold, but I know that a nice day is out there somewhere, so I make haste to try to find it.

After two hours, the sun pierces through the fog to reveal the most evocative landscape of the Magna Via Francigena so far. Wildflowers and the Mediterranean triad (🫒🌾🍇) dominate the countryside, with comfortably more vineyards today than in the previous six days combined. The wheat stalks on the side of the trail are mostly green but occasionally golden brown, and I brush them with the tips of my fingers and feel like Maximus.

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With the fog gone, there’s barely a cloud in the sky until late morning. Walking is easy now, with the soreness of the first few days having disappeared. I don’t see any pilgrims again today but I greet locals and feel a connection to the land that seemed to be missing two or three days ago. To top it off, Racalmuto is the most interesting town since Monreale and this — all of this — is what I came here for.

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Some practicalities:

The river fording: it’s the Fiume Gallo d’Oro (Golden Rooster River!). Earlier, shortly after Campofranco, there’s a fork in the road clearly marked as one way if there’s been rain and another way (the actual trail) if there hasn’t. Since there had only been a small amount of rain one time in my week on the MVF, I took the regular route. Maybe in late summer if there’s been no rain for months the whole thing dries up, but at this time of year I imagine you have to wade through it regardless of recent rain. For @andycohn I’d suggest the alternative trail. Here’s a video I shot showing the amount of water today:

View attachment IMG_7586.mov

Dogs: there were a few loose, barking dogs entering Racalmuto, but they didn’t approach me in the end.

Water: there’s a fountain where the alternative route rejoins the regular one early in the stage, a good chance to clean yourself up after the river crossing. I didn’t see any fountains around Milena but I took a short-cut through the town so maybe I missed one. In any case, a 1L bottle was enough for me today.

Accommodation: I’m at Affittacamere Da Nanà, good value at €25.
 
€2,-/day will present your project to thousands of visitors each day. All interested in the Camino de Santiago.
Day 7: Campofranco to Racalmuto — 17km

A dawn descent from Campofranco plunges me into the fog for the first time on this cammino. The rocky massifs on my right are almost close enough to touch, but I can barely make them out. Forty-five minutes into the stage, I reach a river with no bridge and have no choice but to ford it, nearly knee-deep. I’m wet, muddy and cold, but I know that a nice day is out there somewhere, so I make haste to try to find it.

After two hours, the sun pierces through the fog to reveal the most evocative landscape of the Magna Via Francigena so far. Wildflowers and the Mediterranean triad (🫒🌾🍇) dominate the countryside, with comfortably more vineyards today than in the previous six days combined. The wheat stalks on the side of the trail are mostly green but occasionally golden brown, and I brush them with the tips of my fingers and feel like Maximus.

View attachment 168760

With the fog gone, there’s barely a cloud in the sky until late morning. Walking is easy now, with the soreness of the first few days having disappeared. I don’t see any pilgrims again today but I greet locals and feel a connection to the land that seemed to be missing two or three days ago. To top it off, Racalmuto is the most interesting town since Monreale and this — all of this — is what I came here for.

View attachment 168759

Some practicalities:

The river fording: it’s the Fiume Gallo d’Oro (Golden Rooster River!). Earlier, shortly after Campofranco, there’s a fork in the road clearly marked as one way if there’s been rain and another way (the actual trail) if there hasn’t. Since there had only been a small amount of rain one time in my week on the MVF, I took the regular route. Maybe in late summer if there’s been no rain for months the whole thing dries up, but at this time of year I imagine you have to wade through it regardless of recent rain. For @andycohn I’d suggest the alternative trail. Here’s a video I shot showing the amount of water today:

View attachment 168758

Dogs: there were a few loose, barking dogs entering Racalmuto, but they didn’t approach me in the end.

Water: there’s a fountain where the alternative route rejoins the regular one early in the stage, a good chance to clean yourself up after the river crossing. I didn’t see any fountains around Milena but I took a short-cut through the town so maybe I missed one. In any case, a 1L bottle was enough for me today.

Accommodation: I’m at Affittacamere Da Nanà, good value at €25.
Thanks, Nick (yet again) for the heads--ups and the fantastic descriptions. A good walk for us today to Prizzi. Even with the kick-ass ascents, it felt like a piece of cake after the mud into Corleone. Almost a dozen pilgrims tonight at dinner. And we also had great lunch companions at Casa Imbriaca. Though they weren't too obedient when I asked them to pose for us:
 

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@jungleboy Nick, I have only just now noticed your "mystery camino" in Sicily you mentioned before. It looks to be another fabulous, stellar write-up with photos and can't wait to read it all tonight after getting settled "somewhere" in Requejo.🙄 We will be leaving Pueblo de Sanabria in a few minutes.🚶
As an aside, I notice you began your Camino on my birthday!🙂
 
Day 7: Campofranco to Racalmuto — 17km

....Forty-five minutes into the stage, I reach a river with no bridge and have no choice but to ford it, nearly knee-deep. I’m wet, muddy and cold, but I know that a nice day is out there somewhere, so I make haste to try to find it.

The river fording: it’s the Fiume Gallo d’Oro (Golden Rooster River!). Earlier, shortly after Campofranco, there’s a fork in the road clearly marked as one way if there’s been rain and another way (the actual trail) if there hasn’t. Since there had only been a small amount of rain one time in my week on the MVF, I took the regular route. Maybe in late summer if there’s been no rain for months the whole thing dries up, but at this time of year I imagine you have to wade through it regardless of recent rain. For @andycohn I’d suggest the alternative trail. Here’s a video I shot showing the amount of water today:

View attachment 168758
Did you bare-foot 🦶it across the river Nick?...or boots 🥾 & all?
👣🌏
 
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Nick, I am in the chilly muni albergue in Requejo with an extra blanket, and trying to catch up on your awesome detailed write-ups with lovely photos. They are certain to help others who attempt this Camino. As for me, unfortunately I am not as adventurous as you are...possibly a bus tour alternative for me?🚌 🤔😅
I am on post #21 with those beautiful, colorful goats! They made me smile, too!
 
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Belated happy birthday and lucky for you I didn’t gift you the 24km of asphalt that I walked that day! 🎁

Thank you as always for your kind words and buen camino on the Sanabrés!
Thank you, Nick!
I will keep reading your posts until I finish. Since I am not sitting on my sofa back home in retirement twiddling my thumbs, it's taking me a little longer to keep up, but I am enjoying your journey. My grandparents on my father's side came to America from Sicily. If they were still alive I would ask them many questions, although their English was not very good, but still much better than my Spanish.😅
 
As for goats, I see more of them in street art form leaving Castronovo and more again entering Cammarata. Curiosity has by now gotten the better of me, and some cursory research shows that they are depictions of endangered Girgentana goats from the Agrigento area, and that the artist, Domenica Cocchiara, has offered to paint them in every town in the region that will give him a door as a canvas. I love everything about this idea, and finding these goats in each town I pass through has suddenly — and perhaps irrationally — become one of the main objectives of this camino.
I'm with you on that artist's goat idea and would be captured in the same way as you are! It would be a fun little goal to watch and wonder when the next one will appear as you walk...like a little prize each time you see one.🐐 I assume they are all a little different. I know you will have pictures of each one. I would love to see them all if possible...no pressure. How many have you found?
 
Day 8: Racalmuto to Agrigento — 33km

It’s supposed to be two stages to Agrigento, but the ‘arrival anticipation adrenaline’ kicks in early this morning and I decide to try to make it to the end in one day. The evocative landscapes, more interesting towns and deep blue sky of recent stages all continue early on today, while in Comitini I see two things that I haven’t sighted for days: pilgrims and street art goats.

IMG_7628.jpeg

After the enjoyable early part of the stage, it’s a long, hot and shadeless slog to Agrigento in the afternoon. I shorten the walk a bit by skipping Joppolo Giancaxio entirely, leading me onto adventurous and occasionally theoretical alternative paths (and I have the scrapes to show for it). For the final act, one befitting this camino, the entry into Agrigento is a relentless climb right at the point when my energy reserves are failing.

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Eventually I make it to the top, sort of — there are more steps to negotiate to reach the Duomo. It’s the first time I’ve been to the town of Agrigento for over 20 years, and it’s fantastic to be back. Although the town itself is not quite the end of my camino, I’m too exhausted to continue to my real objective today. But since it has survived for 2,500 years, it will hopefully still be there tomorrow.

Some practicalities:

Trail: from the wind turbines to Comitini it’s a fair descent and all asphalt, so it’s not great on the knees. Later, coming into Agrigento, the waymarking signs differ from the tracks I have. I followed the signs but it’s definitely the long way around. In this screenshot, the tracks are in red and my drawing in green approximates where the arrows took me:

IMG_7642.jpeg

Water: none after Joppolo Giancaxio. I don’t remember seeing any fountains all day but you pass several towns so you can fill up at bars etc if nowhere else.

Testimonium: you can request it at the Mudia diocese museum near the cathedral. It costs €5 but this also gets you a ticket to three places (including the museum). The Testimonium says I did this pilgrimage for the love of God and the Madonna or for the love of myself!
 
The 2024 Camino guides will be coming out little by little. Here is a collection of the ones that are out so far.
I'm with you on that artist's goat idea and would be captured in the same way as you are! It would be a fun little goal to watch and wonder when the next one will appear as you walk...like a little prize each time you see one.🐐
Yes, exactly!

I assume they are all a little different. I know you will have pictures of each one. I would love to see them all if possible...no pressure. How many have you found?
I have found six, all directly on the camino in villages. Maybe there were more in other villages that I missed, as I didn’t do as much post-walk exploring as I usually do. They are individually numbered up to over 50, so there are plenty more to be discovered! My favourite one is the second one here, No.41, because of the background. Meanwhile No.51 and 52 are just a couple of doors away from each other on the same street. Here are the thumbnails (click/tap to enlarge).

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Yes, exactly!


I have found six, all directly on the camino in villages. Maybe there were more in other villages that I missed, as I didn’t do as much post-walk exploring as I usually do. They are individually numbered up to over 50, so there are plenty more to be discovered! My favourite one is the second one here, No.41, because of the background. Meanwhile No.51 and 52 are just a couple of doors away from each other on the same street. Here are the thumbnails (click/tap to enlarge).

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Nick, these are awesome! Thanks for indulging my request! I think I like #41 the best,because it is so vibrant. That said, I love natural aged wood with muted worn paint, so the others are special, too. I like the little goats peeking around the corner.
I am only on your Day 6 and am off to bed now, but I will "carry on" tomorrow.👍
 
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Nick: A great big "Grazie". for all your terrific descriptions and helpful "practicalities.". (I always use "logistics" to sum up the nitty-gritty, but "practicalities" is surely a better word, so I'm going to steal it hereafter).

Every morning before starting out I re-read your posts for a preview of coming attractions. We're at San Giovanni Gemini now, and have programmed 5 more stages after this, so we're proceeding at a far more leisurely pace than you. I use age as my excuse.

Congratulations on your arrival, and I'm sure you'll have a great time exploring the temples.
 
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I somehow managed to walk 18km on my rest day in Agrigento! I went to the Valley of the Temples in the late afternoon and even though it’s the third time I’ve been there, it is still a breathtaking place, and I got to experience sunset there for the first time.

I’ll put some photos behind spoilers to not ruin the surprise for Andy or anyone else coming after us if they prefer not to see photos in advance.

The Temple of Concordia, circa 430 BC, possibly the best-preserved Greek temple anywhere.

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Sunset behind the Temple of Juno. I decided in advance that this would be the best spot for sunset and I think I might have been right!

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A fantastic surprise considering some of the discussion upthread!

IMG_7672.jpeg
 
Nick: A great big "Grazie". for all your terrific descriptions and helpful "practicalities.".
Thank you, glad they have been useful!

We're at San Giovanni Gemini now, and have programmed 5 more stages after this, so we're proceeding at a far more leisurely pace than you.
I guess you went to Sutera next? I would have liked to stay there but it was full. The setting is so dramatic and for the next two days you can still see the rock formation that rises above town.

Congratulations on your arrival, and I'm sure you'll have a great time exploring the temples.
Thank you, I did!

P.S. More importantly, what is your street art goat count so far?
 
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€2,-/day will present your project to thousands of visitors each day. All interested in the Camino de Santiago.
Thank you, glad they have been useful!


I guess you went to Sutera next? I would have liked to stay there but it was full. The setting is so dramatic and for the next two days you can still see the rock formation that rises above town.


Thank you, I did!
No, we're doing a few really leisurely stages. In Acquaviva Platani now -- only 10 k but (yet another) steep climb into town. Now chilling at the fantastic B&B Acquaviva, with no plan for the day other than to sit out on our little balcony and watch the world pass by in the cute little pizza below.

Loving the countryside. More grain and olive orchards and "typical Sicily," as you mentioned.

No sign of the unchained barking dog you encountered leaving San Giovanni. Maybe he (must have been a he) just made a special jailbreak to greet you.

On to Campofranco tomorrow. Booked a place two weeks ago without knowing at the time that Sutera was an official "bel paese." Might have arranged things differently if you had only walked through (and told me) earlier in the month.

As I've been sitting on my balcony, at least a dozen Italian pilgrims have passed through. Since we left pretty late this morning (at 8) and walk much more slowly than anyone else (being 30 - 40 years older than them) it makes me wonder when they all got up.

La Dolce Vita.
 
As I've been sitting on my balcony, at least a dozen Italian pilgrims have passed through. Since we left pretty late this morning (at 8) and walk much more slowly than anyone else (being 30 - 40 years older than them) it makes me wonder when they all got up.
I talked a bit with a group of five Italian pilgrims, probably in their 50s, and they were starting at 9am each day.

Meanwhile you are in the middle of the double-holiday crowd (26 April and 1 May), which I was a few days ahead of, so it’s natural that you’re seeing a few more pilgrims. After not seeing many at all for the last few days, I saw some in Agrigento so it was nice to have a little catch-up at the end.
 
I talked a bit with a group of five Italian pilgrims, probably in their 50s, and they were starting at 9am each day.

Meanwhile you are in the middle of the double-holiday crowd (26 April and 1 May), which I was a few days ahead of, so it’s natural that you’re seeing a few more pilgrims. After not seeing many at all for the last few days, I saw some in Agrigento so it was nice to have a little catch-up at the end.
Definitely. Talked to a few who were doing just that -- taking the week off between the two holidays.
 
The 2024 Camino guides will be coming out little by little. Here is a collection of the ones that are out so far.
Questions for you, Nick:
Was your route from the north south?
Is that the traditional direction?
Was it, perhaps to catch a boat to the Holy Land?
Thanks!
 
Questions for you, Nick:
Was your route from the north south?
Is that the traditional direction?
Yes and yes. It is advertised as ‘one way only’ and waymarking signs are only in that direction.

Was it, perhaps to catch a boat to the Holy Land?
Thanks!
The official site is a bit vague on the pilgrimage purpose of the route. It says the path goes back to the Romans and talks about it being a grand communication artery and that the name Magna Via Francigena is recorded in the 12th century. The Holy Land is not mentioned but during Norman rule there must have been boats going there so maybe there’s a connection with the MVF.
 
@andycohn, how have the last couple of days been? It absolutely poured in Rome today so hopefully it’s drier for you down there!

Meanwhile, I have published an album of my favourite photos from the MVF (many of which I posted here too) on Flickr:

 
Technical backpack for day trips with backpack cover and internal compartment for the hydration bladder. Ideal daypack for excursions where we need a medium capacity backpack. The back with Air Flow System creates large air channels that will keep our back as cool as possible.

€83,-
@andycohn, how have the last couple of days been? It absolutely poured in Rome today so hopefully it’s drier for you down there!

Meanwhile, I have published an album of my favourite photos from the MVF (many of which I posted here too) on Flickr:

Nick, Your pictures are exquisite. Thanks for posting them.

Our last few days have been (mostly) terrific. We avoided the rain yesterday, but it was threatening, so we opted for the alternative you alerted us to out of Campofranco. But once past the deviation point, the signage was very confusing and we wound up by the Ponte Romano anyway, where there was no way to even scale the bank on the far side. So wound up doing a deviation on the deviation. Which involved too much road walking. The result was a long day but great lodgings and dinner in Racalmuto made up for it

We've been off-stage the last few days, so didn't see any other pilgrims, but more today as we get closer to Agrigento. We're in Aragona tonight.

Overall, we've been enjoying this camino immensely. We're really taken by the vastness of the landscape and its wildness, while the wildflowers remind me of the super-bloom we had in California last spring. It's never been boring, even if often arduous. Plus, we've been lucky on the weather.

I also have the feeling that this is what the Spanish caminos must have been like 30 years ago before we pilgrim hordes (and I include myself, of course) descended in the wake of Brierley and The Way. Tiptoing through a countryside where life still goes on as it has for many years. Way different from the rest of Italy, and other walks we've done here, like the Via Francigena or the Via degli Dei.

And the people have been astonishingly welcoming, maybe even more so because we're American and a rarity. (It also helps, of course, that I can get along in Italian). Every day there seems to be a special encounter: the (very old) guy in his beat-to-crap Fiat Panda who pulls over to greet us, and when he finds out we're American, regales us with the strories of his "parenti" who emigrated to New Jersey or some place; the bar owner in Acquaviva who insists on making us dinner because the restaurants are all closed. Last night, in Racalmuto, the would-be hippy head waiter at our restaurant treated us like rock stars when he found out that we had been in Berkeley in the 60's and had even hung out in Haight Asbury "back in the day."

Anyway -- I'm sure this is way more than you expected to hear, but I got on a roll. After this we're heading north to meet friends with whom we walked on the Norte in 2018. We'll probably walk a few days on the Via Francigena with them -- a repeat for us -- and I'm wondering how I'll react to those cute Tuscan towns after some 3 weeks in Sicily.

Thanks so much -- again -- for all your guidance, and I'm looking forward to following you on further adventures.

And I've added the Camino Nascente to the bucket list
 
Fantastic that you’ve enjoyed it so much! And absolutely re: the weather considering what we’ve been hearing about in Spain at the moment. Enjoy the final stretch and especially Agrigento, which is a really fascinating place aside from the temples. If you’d like a fancy but not too wallet-busting celebration meal once you arrive, I thought Sal8 was very nice.
 
Fantastic that you’ve enjoyed it so much! And absolutely re: the weather considering what we’ve been hearing about in Spain at the moment. Enjoy the final stretch and especially Agrigento, which is a really fascinating place aside from the temples. If you’d like a fancy but not too wallet-busting celebration meal once you arrive, I thought Sal8 was very nice.
Thanks -- again -- for the tip. We were in Agrigento in 2016. Really looking forward to exploring it more this time, because we only spent one night in the town itself.
 
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Does anyone know if there’s a direct bus from Lucca to San Miniato? Or is the best option to take the train from Lucca to San Miniato Basso-Fucecchio via Pisa and then bus to San Miniato Alto? Thanks!

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