A circuitous route to Santiago de Compostela, Spain. Stage One beginning in Munich, Germany ending in Jerusalem - traveling through Austria, Italy, Albania, Macedonia, Greece, Turkey, Cyprus and Israel. Second stage from Vienna, through Germany, Czech Republic, Holland, Belgium, France and Spain.
Final destination - Santiago!

Post Script: The changeable situation in Jerusalem has led to a change in plans. The Rome to Jerusalem leg of this journey has been changed to the 'End to End' in the UK, after which the journey will resume as above in Vienna.

Saturday, 30 August 2014

Umbrian hilltop towns

Well, you haven't heard much from me for a number of reasons.  One is spare time and wifi coinciding, and the other is that my knee injury has curtailed walking for a while.

The latter reason has been really disappointing, but we have been following the pilgrimage route by bus and train, and with 2 exceptions, stopping at the same places.  Though we haven't walked we have seen almost all the things that we would have seen had we been walking.  Sadly, there have been a few hermitages we have missed because they are up high and off the beaten track.  This would not be a good scenario for my knee at the present moment!

I have posted a lot of photos of the hilltop villages we have been staying at.  They have been extraordinary to meander through, explore their churches and museums, and just sit in the piazza and watch the world go by!
The path up to Eremo delle Carceri, up Mt Subiaso, was rocky, and relentlessly steep.  We walked the five kilometres up, leaving our packs at the hotel in Assisi, but rather than put pressure on my knee on the descent I successfully approached some tourists for a ride down the hill.
Spello was the first of the hilltop towns, though little did we know that this one was a very gentle one.  As we progressed through the region of Umbria they got higher and steeper.
In Spello we stayed in the convent.  We were directed around to this tiny side door and once admitted, were allocated a room with two beds and our own bathroom, all for the cost of €25 each.
The streets were steep in Spello, but not as narrow  (or steep) as some that were to come in other villages.
Part of the castle.  Note the olive tree growing on the roof!
As a general rule railway stations don't have the best view, often being quite industrial areas, but we were quite content to sit and wait for a train with a view like this!
On the way back from the physio the taxi driver stopped so that I could take a photo of this amazing Umbrian hilltop town - Trevi.
Oil lamps burnt in the street.

We caught the bus up to the town, first going on a scenic tour through villages on the plain.  When we arrived, the bus driver having refused to take our payment, we were met by a fellow pilgrim who must have seen us get off the bus.

Domenico didn't speak one word of English, but somehow we worked out that we were heading to the same accommodation, which we hadn't book.  He took it upon himself to book us in as well as himself and he became our "guide", organising the taxi for me to go to the physio, taking Julie through a beautiful Palazzo (frescoes below), and organising an extra night in the " hotel" for us when he found out that I had to rest.

To say thank you to him I took him to the Church of San Francesco and sang for him.  He was so pleased he rang his wife and I had to sing for her on the phone!  I was really touched by the note he left for us the next morning, which read:-
A me, ricordando il canto avro' nel cuore un alito di gioia. 
Which google translates touchingly as:-
To me, remembering the song I'll have 'a breath of joy in the heart.

The organ in the Church of San Francesco, where I sang for Domenico.
The countryside surrounding Trevi is famous throughout Italy for the quality of the Olive oil.  There are thousands of trees, and apparently the rainfall and the rocky soil combined with the amount of sunshine help give the soil a nuetral ph.
The view from the palazzo garden towards Spoleto, though the town is hidden in the hills.
A final view of Trevi.  The taxi zig zagged its way down the hill for about three kilometres, before depositing us at a bar around the corner from the station.
In Spoleto we stayed in another convent, next to Chiesa di San Ponziano.   This is the entrance gate to it, .......
....... and this is the building itself.
There was a crypt in the Chiesa, next to the convent, with columns so fine they looked as if they could barely support the vaulted ceiling, let alone the massive building above.
Another crypt in a different church, Chiesa di San Gregorio  Maggiore.  By contrast, these columns were straight rather than tapered, .....
.... and the church above had faded frescoes along the walls.
Spoleto, though on a hill, was very spread out.  The castle, the Rocca Albornoziana, had the prominent position, towering above the town.  There were about six escalators going up (you can just see the covers, to the left of the crane in the centre of the picture), and then elevators to go even higher.

For those of you who sing the praises of the Tuscan towns of San Gimignano and Montepulciano let me say that these towns, particularly Trevi and Stroncone, would rival them.  Indeed, I go so far as to say that they are better.  They don't have the towers, but the medieval streets well and truly rival them, especially Stroncone, which has installed a lift for its residents to get up the three stories into the town!
Stroncone was, like Trevi, perched on top of a hill.  If anything the streets were even steeper, windier, and narrower!

The view from the wall at Stroncone.  I think these were the hills we should have climbed!
 It was Fiesta time in Stroncone.  The drums were out, and the guards were changed three times.  The young ones got in some practise too!


I thought I had organised with the lady in the hotel to have our packs transported so that we could walk without me putting too much pressure on my knee.  However, it turned out that I had organised for US and our packs to get a ride.  Our taxi driver was her husband who took us on a wonderful scenic tour, stopping periodically for us to look at things, and for two thirds what a real taxi would have cost, taking two and half hours instead of an half hour!  I also sang for him at the church below, and when he eventually left us, as well as shaking hands, we were kissed on both cheeks!
 The convent San Francesco, at he foot of the wall in Stroncone.
Piedoluco - another church of San Francesco......
........ and one of the frescoes inside.
Lago Piedoluco, where international canoeing events are held.
The sanctuary of Greccio.  This is the place where, just a few years before his death Francis instructed his monks to assemble the first (living) Nativity scene.  There is a display of large and small nativity scenes from all around the world.
Walking up to the Sanctuary of Greccio.
Inside the Sanctuary.
The view from the Sanctusrio, looking out over the Rieti Valley.
The object of all the attention of the well dressed people in the previous photo.

Our hostess at Greccio is a delight.  She has provided us with a wonderful afternoon tea, organised her husband to take us to the bar for dinner, and collect us, and then organised for us to stay at a hostel tomorrow night - all for €50!

Tomorrow I am going to be brave and try walking!  My knee is still tender, but the rest has seen a big improvement, so we shall see what will happen.


  1. Stunning photos Janet- am loving them. Sorry your knee is still causing problems. Hope it decides to improve soon. I realise I am going to Eremo delle Carceri, up Mt Subiaso, and down again- reading your account is very good incentive for me to train heaps on hills!!! I am also passing through Spello which looks stunning. Will have to get up early enough to have time to explore it.

  2. Janet : Your stories, experiences and photos are simply wonderful. It gives me great pleasure just to read about your adventures. I cannot imagine what you are seeing and feeling. I will share your story with the Club on Tuesday.