“The road was slick and wet and hot and we were tired. There was only one objective: home. There were no words: only feelings, emotions, and onommoepiea like “ahhhhhhhh” , “oooooeee”, “eeiiiiii”. What else is there to say? As we trudged along the unforgiving road, we looked up and saw the tower – Siena, which we call home. We lost men that day, and left some for dead along the Via Francigena. But, wow, that was good!”
This dramatization was not by Hemingway, as you may have thought, but by our own Nick D’Agostino, and for good reason: our Siena stay has ended with another adventure.
Since our first weekend was a hit, hiking on the Via Francigena, we decided to end our last weekend on the trail again. This time we were to set out from the opposite direction, hiking into Siena from Porta Romana. And so we organized: on Sunday morning we took an early train to Monterroni D’Arbia, intent on hiking back to Siena before mid afternoon, water and snacks in hand.
Arriving in Monterroni D’Arbia I had to admit that not only did I have no idea how to find the Via Francigena, but I hadn’t even thought to figure that out beforehand. And here is where I have to hand it to Nick: who asked a passerby for directions to the trail, who led us to her son, who was working an Misericordia ambulance corps fundraiser with his friend, Bruno, who insisted he knew the way to the trail. Bruno and his friend, who’s name we never quite figured out due to a strong Sienese accent, led us on a hilarious walk to a dead end, where a kindly old man driving by finally pointed us in the right direction. We reluctantly said goodbye to Bruno & Co., waving as their neon ‘Misericordia’ jumpsuits disappeared in the distance.
The Via Francigena path, once found, was poorly marked compared our first hike. About half of our time was spent searching for the little yellow Hiking Nun sticker, or markered arrows that pointed us in the right direction. After one too many detours, one of which included meeting a very nice Italian cat and his owner, we attempted to ford a river (ie: a minor stream) in search of a road of any sorts. We failed at river forging, but we did succeed in finding the trail, which happened to be just a few meters behind us.
We stopped for lunch atop a hill crowned with a rock cairn and cross, looking out over rolling tuscany – the sort of scene I’d imagine in a novel, but one in which we seemed to have wandered into. As usual we ended our meal with a hilltop game of Ninja, forever playing kids summer camp games but always happy to do so. This time the Via Francigena didn’t take us through vineyards and olive groves, or past rifle toting farmers and dogs, but instead through endless fields and over autumn hills. And no matter where we wandered the Torre del Mangia was in the distance.
We did end up losing the Via Francigena in the end, resorting to hiking along the road into Siena past gas stations and cafes. But don’t take that as defeat: finally trudging through Porta Romana it really felt like returning home. The best ending, to the best semester.
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<div><span style="color: rgb(29, 29, 29); font-family: Arial, Verdana, sans-serif; font-size: 12px; line-height: normal; background-color: rgb(237, 237, 237);">Caeli Smith is a junior at Connecticut College and majors in English and Art with a minor in Italian and is part of an international studies program. She likes nothing more than heading out on a travel adventure - to sightsee, try new food, wander, and get a little bit lost.</span></div>