Walking, Day Two: The Forced March


Bar Moderno in Buonconvento

After two nights in the embrace of Podere Caprili, we didn’t want to leave.  But, given that our next night’s lodging was in Montalcino, we didn’t have much choice in the matter.  The route description for day 2 reads:

From Buonconvento, the Crete becomes wide-open and sunny, stretching out towards the hill-top profile of Montalcino with Monte Amiata as a backdrop.  A gentle but long walk through pretty rolling farmland with sunflowers leads to this famous wine-growing country where vineyards and olive groves extend in all directions.  There is a steep but rewarding ascent at the end of the walk that leads you directly into the medieval streets of this magnificently set walled town.

The length of the walk: 19 kilometers; the estimated time to complete: 6 hours.

Here are a few exerpts from the walking notes:

  1.  Follow this road . . . until you reach a waymarked  white road on your left saying “551 – Direttrice 5 – Castiglione Bosco – Buonconvento.”  Okay, we saw a waymarked white road but the sign didn’t quite say what the notes said, so we passed it by.  About a kilometer later, we decided that we must have misread the sign and walked back.  We had misread the sign.  Add 2 additional kilometers to the walk. No problem we think since this is the beginning of the day and we are still relatively rested and cool.
  2. Continue along field track for 300 meters, then turn right up a grassy slope on a         faint path:  the waymarked pole “5” to indicate this easily missed turn is currently missing or may be laying on the ground.  Go steeply uphill for a few meters on this faint-overgrown path.  Okay, we did miss this turn even though we were being extremely vigilant.  Instead, we kept walking until we knew we had to have missed it and then just headed uphill over a harvested but unplowed field where we did join a road that we (correctly) determined was the road we were supposed to be on.
  3. Take this field access and head SW along pathless section (alongside hedge if not already felled).  Stick with this pathless section alongside ploughed up field for 350 meters to pass through a gap in a row of trees (possibly felled).  Okay, we were now getting used to the directions and were able to negotiate this part of the walk with ease.

After walking for hours through beautiful scenery under an unfortunately baking sun in which the only shade to be found was that cast by our hats, we stumbled onto a y-junction where there were several cypress trees bunched together in such a way as to provide just enough shade for a picnic lunch stop.  Appropriately, there was a shrine on the spot.  Although he hasn’t been to church for years, it wouldn’t surprise me if Michael didn’t say a quick prayer for deliverance at this point.

After gnawing our way through very substantial panini, we continued our trek.  The sun was even hotter, the temperature was in excess of 90 degrees, the shade was even scarcer and the “gentle but long walk” was turning into something out of Dante’s Inferno.  We pressed ever on and in remarkably good, if sweat soaked, spirits.

The “steep but rewarding ascent” mentioned in the general route description turned into these walking notes:

  1. The main marked route makes a direct hit up to Montalcino, ascending very steeply for the final 2.5 kilometers (with 20% gradient in places!).
  2. Keep with the main . . .and ascend steadily for 700 meters.
  3. Continue for 250 meters . . . where the gradient now intensifies.
  4. Stick with this . . .  as it winds uphill for 750 meters.
  5. Turn left and continue uphill.

We were almost on our hands and knees for the last part of the “walk.”  It was extremely difficult but WE MADE IT.  Inntravel wisely lodges those who choose to do this itinerary at the Hotel Dei Capitani, which just happens to be the very first hotel you encounter after passing through the town gate.

The lessons to be learned from this day’s jaunt:

  1.  If you are foolish enough to do this walk in 90+ degrees heat take at least 3 liters of water per person (our 2 liters per person was not adequate).
  2. Do not make any mistakes in your navigation because an extra couple of kilometers in the morning will come back to bite you in the butt in the afternoon.
  3. They are called hill towns for a reason.

Showers, swimming and dinner at a festival concluded one very long but rewarding day.


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