From Madonna Dei Fornelli (Bo) to Passo Della Futa (Fi).
Via Degli Dei signage
Thursday, June 3, 2021: start of stage three of Via degli Dei.
Today is a big day! Yes, because this stage included theentrance to Tuscany and I didn't even know it!
The awakening was quite traumatic: that morning our alarm was prompted by the sound of the lawnmower, which was supposed to have cleared the lawn in the public garden where we had been allowed to pitch our tents.
Although not too pleasant, it was a good thing: we definitely needed to improve our timing in the morning, which had always been terrible.
And so, like zombies out of the tombs, with half-open eyes and the aches and pains scattered all over our bodies, we slowly began to take down the tents and get ready for the big day.
Just then, a wonderful thing happened.
The meadow where we stayed
Remember in fact that, in case you had forgotten, during my travels I always try to leave my mobile phone behind as much as possible: it helps me connect more with people and nature, and the fact that I used my phone very little was evident that morning.
Just as I was dismantling my little portable house, I lost my mobile phone. I didn't look for it too hard, but I didn't mind wasting too much time on it. So I left without it. I didn't pay too much attention to it because it meant more of an opportunity to disconnect from technology and live in the present.
I only found it again in the evening: I had locked it in the middle of the tent in the sweet company of the night torch. It was wonderful! I realised even more how much I did not need it and, that same day, I savoured every flavour and every colour to the full.
That morning I felt I was in extreme company.
The herbal teas I had shared the night before were a great way to bond with all the travellers and make friends. So, in staggered groups we all left more or less together and I was accompanied by the usual group composed of Elena, Andrea, Simone, Altea and Matteo! Although in reality, I felt part of all the groups.
That stage was set to start with a bang: a few metres of asphalt and then everything quickly turned into a steep climb!
A long, tiring, exhausting and endless "ramp" that tested us right from the start. But not everything was as grey as it might have seemed, in fact I felt extremely grateful because that arduous slope was in the middle of a wonderful forest! It was also an opportunity for dialogue and joking, as every three or four minutes we passed each other after glances of comfort and exasperation.
The beauty of the forest
The forest is a fundamental part of the walk and I adore them! They give me infinite peace and relax me. And that climb had paid off: now a nice flat stretch awaited us in the midst of that thick, lush vegetation. A nice reward!
Soon another magic happened: the first signs of the ancient Roman military flaminia began to appear! I had been told it could be seen along the way and to be able to notice it on the third day was a thrill!
We slithered like snakes in search of prey along the winding paths through the forest: we had a good pace! There was harmony between us and a lot of soul. I really believe that the third day is very important for travellers on Via Degli Dei because it marks the halfway point of the journey and we were beginning to realise this, so there was a certain excitement and we were more ready to absorb all the sensations.
Sometimes, during the steps in the forest, I used to break away from the group: I liked the idea of being able to be alone and breathe silence, peace and express gratitude.
I didn't forget it a single time along the way: a couple of months earlier we were locked in the house for lockdown and I didn't allow my brain to take everything for granted. Those lonely moments were very helpful in reminding me of how good life is and how lucky I was to find myself in that moment right there, with those very people.
And after finding the state of bliss I would reconnect with the group.
I joined Elena and Altea and silently introduced myself to them and their conversation. We got to know each other a little better as we continued on our way until we were joined by Simone and Andrea, with their heartbroken faces and extremely friendly and playful, plus Matteo with his light-heartedness.
It all happened very quickly: through mud, green leaves, giant bushes.. In a matter of hours we found ourselves at a focal point of the walk: we had reached the border with Tuscany! I got the shivers.
Crossing the Emilia Romagna/Tuscany border
In just two and a half days we had reached Tuscany, the destination region!
After the first forty-eight hours of extreme fatigue due to the heaviness of the rucksack, this was a great relief!
But we should not forget that our day, and therefore our stage, had only just begun three hours ago.
Via Degli Dei signage
We climbed, and climbed, and climbed. We continued on our way amidst the bright green of the forest, in the shade of the pine trees.
It was really nice here! There was a fresh air and a brilliant atmosphere. Time was slowing down and we were gliding along like fluids.
The breeze rustled the leaves which, together with our footsteps on the mud, were the only sounds that could be heard amidst the peace of the forest.
The magical atmosphere of the forest
The mood that day was much more positive and energetic! We were beginning to get over the aches and pains of the first stage and we were beginning to get used to the distance (don't get me wrong, you could still feel the fatigue!)
We reached an altitude of 1,000 metres after a couple of additional hours of walking and enjoyed a short break enriched by a good handful of dried fruit kindly offered by Andrea and Simone who, in the meantime, continued the "Osteo Dolor" medical shop to help passing travellers.
It was now official: that ointment had become the mascot and official sponsor of the walk.
Breathtaking scenery along the trail
The height difference had slowly worn us down and although we'd had a slight respite as we passed through a beautiful big green valley, we now felt our appetites rising (or perhaps it was more of an excuse to stop for another break).
The immense and beautiful valley
At the end the day was going great: few breaks had been taken up to that point and we were keeping up a pretty brisk pace! Well, by the standards at least. So we decided to treat ourselves with a tasty meal under the shade of the pine trees in the middle of the forest!
Along the way, we came across a few signs saying "picnic area 500 metres away".
It didn't take us long to realise that five hundred metres would make a difference, even though it may not seem much over a distance of more than one hundred and fifty kilometres.
And so we opted for the first clearing visible to our eyes: it was a large "circle" with benches made of tree trunks: it was perfect!
"Menu of the day?" – I asked.
"Pull out everything you've got" – Andrea answered.
We burst into general laughter and decided to incorporate all the food we had left, so I offered my tins of chickpeas and canned tuna and we cooked them together with Andrea and Simone's white rice. In the end they had to get rid of a kilo and a half, so we were only doing them a favour.
Cooking in the middle of the forest
We sat impatiently waiting for our starred food to cook, and as "poor" as it looked, I can assure you it was delicious. And this is a great lesson I learnt on Via Degli Dei: we lived on very little, with tinned food and no shower at the end of the day but, when you live in these conditions, you realise the importance of the little things and learn to give them a different value.
Food was a great example of this!
We treasured that fantastic lunch and slurped it up in a matter of minutes. We were now recharged, refreshed and ready to go again (so to speak). We would have been happy to lie on the muddy ground and rest for the whole day.
But our stage was waiting for us and we slowly got back on the road.
We continued through the fascinating forest for hours and hours, which was a pleasure!
We ended up at a place to visit that was mentioned in the guidebook of the Via Degli Dei: the Germanic cemetery.
It was a place where all the German soldiers who fell during the Second World War were buried. It was a small diversion that we gladly made.
Visit to the Germanic cemetery
It was also an opportunity to slow down, have a little fun and discover some history, as well as an opportunity for reflection. Moreover, at the "top" there was a beautiful view of the surroundings.
We spent about twenty minutes in that cemetery, devoid of people (I mean travellers, of course), and set off towards the last few kilometres that would take us to our stage destination: Passo Della Futa.
The last few kilometres went by much faster than expected and I remember the third stage with pleasure as it was much softer.
We talked it over as our soles treaded the ground and, amidst laughter and jokes, we began to think about dinner (yes, food was always on our minds).
And of course, I would say, we had to reward ourselves in some way after all that effort!
The last few kilometres were not too impressive in terms of scenery, but at that point it didn't really matter. The most important thing at the end of each stage was to get there as quickly as possible and finally take off our shoes and relax!
And so, with dinner on our minds, we continued undaunted at a rapid pace and in just over an hour we finally arrived at Passo Della Futa, the destination of stage three!
The feeling of joy at seeing the arrival campsite, at the end of each stage, was always a unique emotion.
Arrival at Passo Della Futa
We were thrilled and more excited than usual given the slightly lighter stage. But the first thing we did was to throw our rucksacks to the ground, take off our shoes and order the pilgrim's drink: beer. Lots of beer!
We savoured it sweetly surrounded by a magical air, at the sight of several pilgrims coming towards our campsite.
We met Tania and Lorenzo, a super nice young couple we had met on the first stage, also in tents.
They arrived before us (obviously) and had already set up their tent. They saw us and, perhaps out of melancholy or perhaps out of simple kindness, they joined us, offering us a few more mugs of beer.
Fu un piacevolissimo momento di condivisione e di spensieratezza. Amidst laughter and chatter we thought it would be nice to have dinner together and proceeded to book a table at the local restaurant.
Cheerful and relaxed after all that beer, we thought that the time had come: although we didn't want to, we had to set up the tent before the sun went down but the ping pong table caught our attention and was another good opportunity to waste some time.
In the end we were having a slow trip, so we were playing it great all round!
Altea challenged me and I accepted the challenge (I let her win, of course). And then below Andrea and Simone, then Elena and Matteo. We had a lot of fun: I don't know if it was the beer or the beautiful moment we were sharing together, but we breathed a wonderful air and the smile was never missing from our faces!
But by now it was getting really late and it was time to assemble our "little houses".
We proceeded with the same eagerness that you have when you have to go to work and, once we had finished, we went to wash up.
Our night location
Beautiful, perfumed and with our hair still wet we ran to the restaurant because our timing, as you can deduce, had never been our strong point and indeed, with the days it got worse!
Here we are in full: me, Elena, Simone, Andrea, Altea, Matteo, Tania and Lorenzo. We were hungry but above all we hadn't had enough beer.
And so away with appetizers, cheeses, cold cuts.... Then pizzas, beers galore and to finish delicious desserts!
I loved that dinner.
The evening meal is a good time of day for me; dusk generally brings excitement and that was a really good time. It was a good opportunity to get to know each other better, while Altea was giving Andrea a lesson in diction.
We knew that there were only two stages left and already, as far as I was concerned, the melancholy was beginning to make itself felt! Ma non era momento di piangersi addosso, piuttosto di godersi il momento e sorridere. Così fu e la cena fu splendida.
After the meal we went back to our lawn where we had pitched our tents.
We said goodnight to Lorenzo and Tania, and Andrea and I exchanged a look: "Look, I want herbal tea tonight too" – Andrea told me.
I was dead tired but I recognised that it was a nice moment of sharing and, after the sign I was carrying, I couldn't back out. So we all stood in a circle in front of our tents: I boiled water for everyone and distributed copious amounts to each one. It was special to say the least.
Night was falling over us, the stars were overhead and it was quiet. Everyone had gone to sleep and we found ourselves whispering sweet nothings to each other so as not to wake the other travellers.
I fell in love with that moment and was grateful to have shared herbal teas with them once again.
Again I wanted to slow down time because I was enjoying this moment of magic too much, but of course the minutes kept ticking away.
The next day was going to be the longest of all the stages and we expected to wake up quite early because of it, so we decided it was better if we went to sleep.
I rinsed the glasses and the pot in which I prepared the herbal teas and put everything back in my rucksack.
I wasn't ready to fall asleep. I could see Simone and Andrea's lighted tent where Simone was reading a book; a little further on instead there was Elena who had started writing, outside her tent while admiring the stars. I also wanted to enjoy the moment a little longer and, this time, I wanted to savour it alone.
I put on a heavy jumper and left the tent. I walked around the campsite aimlessly, without time. I looked for a place without lights, so that I could admire the stars. While I was walking I passed by the toilets where there was a radio that was playing the song "Forever Young" by Alphaville at that very moment. I love that song, it gave me an absolute melancholy. A pleasant melancholy.
It made me reflect on the carefree nature of my years, at that moment there was nothing else but that magical moment. I drew inspiration to sit on a meadow at the foot of a huge tree and smiled. I lay back and admired the stars and felt my heart lighten, humming the chorus of the song "I wanna be, forever young."
There were many exciting moments on Via Degli Dei, but that was one of my favourites.
I spent a few minutes in that state of well-being and infinite carefreeness, enjoying it to the fullest until I realised that the next morning I would have to deal with the alarm clock if I didn't get to sleep soon. In the end, it was already late at night.
So, with an extremely slow and sluggish pace, I made my way back to my tent, not taking my eyes off the stars and not letting the smile that marked my face drop even half a millimetre.
Now I felt ready for sleep: I took one last sweet look at the sky and locked myself in my tent.
With the pleasant sound of the crickets singing in the meadow around us, I let myself be lulled into a pleasant sleep, the best I had had so far on the journey.
I was more grateful every day for what was happening to me and for what I was doing.
I felt embraced by life and I felt full of energy.
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