trip report by site editor Rick McCharles
In Rome I bought Lonely Planet Hiking in Italy, difficult to find, actually.
(… later I wished I’d bought Lonely Planet Cycling in Italy, instead.)
Of the Tuscany hikes listed in LP, I chose the Tuscan Hill Crests out of gorgeous San Gimignano.
loop, 7hrs, easy, 20km (12.4mi)
Low rolling hills, fields full of barley, elegant cypresses and silvery green olives, vines ripening in the late summer sun, an old ruined monastery, a priest careering downhill in a rusty Fiat 500, potted geraniums, cyclists in multi-coloured jerseys, a rustic farmhouse reborn as an agriturismo …
Not my usual wilderness adventure, … but any excuse to travel to Tuscany. Right?
Departing Porta San Giovanni:
This is a “hike”?
I love Lonely Planet trail descriptions: terse. But in a populated region like Tuscany, landmarks change often. By about half way round the circuit — entirely on roads — I was lost.
I relaxed snacking on both white and red grapes fresh off the vine …
October is grape harvest.
… I pondered my options. Should I backtrack?
Happily I stumbled upon this monk:
He’s the icon of the Via Francigena, a pilgrims path from Canterbury, UK to Rome.
… one of three great medieval pilgrims’ routes (the others were the Camino de Santiago in Northern Spain and the long route East to Jerusalem) …
The good monk led me back to San Gimignano on small footpaths over private property. This is the kind of hiking I wanted in Tuscany.
I soothed my disappointment in not finishing my intended hike with a Gorgonzola gelato in the Piazza Duomo.
Next day I rented a bike (5EU cheap) and rode about 70km on mostly paved roads between Sienna and Gaiole in Chianti, a much better way to see the gorgeous countryside.
… But I’ll do a little more research on the Via Francigena. Sections of that might certainly be one of the best hikes in Europe.