The European Francigena Marathon 2018 took place this year on Sunday, 27th May. I felt proud to be one of 2000 pilgrims clad in bright orange t-shirts winding our way through the ancient streets of Acquapendente in Italy. And especially as we made our way past the Holy Sepulchre Cathedral, and into the countryside. Our bright orange t-shirts blended with the spring flowers as we wound our way through the fields.
San Lorenzo Nuovo
We walked 11.3 km to San Lorenzo Nuovo through fields filled with red poppies and freshly tilled soil. Then, we stopped and rested and had our pilgrim passports stamped. It was a pleasure to sit and rest the feet, eating bananas and cake whilst gazing at the scenic panorama of Lake Bolsena.
The walk to Bolsena began in a cool forest lit up with flashes of bright orange as we snaked our way towards Lake Bolsena. After a while we were again in flower filled fields surrounded by views of Lake Bolsena. The colourful fields, surrounding forests, and white paths ensured a pleasant walk to Bolsena.
After walking a rather long 23.5 km, Bolsena Castle in its lakeside setting greeted us. And with a sigh of relief, we sat down to eat a bowl of pasta! It was a pleasure to walk through the ancient, medieval streets of Bolsena, with the remarkable profile of its castle outlined against the lake. Another highlight of Bolsena is the Basilica of Santa Cristina, the place of the Eucharistic Miracle.
Leaving Bolsena a Via Francigena sign reminded me that there was still 4.5 hours of walking to go. And I knew the long, steep ascent to Montefiascone would be a challenge, especially in the midday heat. Those of us who had walked from Acquapendente began to feel a little weary compared with those just starting at Bolsena. But the sense of unity and community spirit kept us going. Eventually we reached the cool shade of Turona National Park with its natural spring water and I rested for a while. But, I was very disappointed to develop a sore knee 35 km into the walk and had to admit defeat. With a mix of relief and disappointment I accepted transport to Montefiascone.
It was indeed a privilege and a pleasure to be part of the bright orange crowd of pilgrims treading this ancient path. I am very grateful to Sergio Pieri for his excellent organisation of this event. And, I look forward to the challenge of making it to the end next year on 2nd June 2019. Please visit the official Via Francigena website to read about my adventures in this marathon as well as other events.