Saturday 15 November.
When I woke I was expecting it to be raining but it was quite nice when we got away. There was cloud about but it was light and high and broken up. It looked like a nice day for walking. We had our breakfast in the room, yoghurt, bread and jam with a cup of tea. It was 7am when we left and the sun rising. As we walked through the town I was busy talking photographs and so concentrated on the sights that I missed the turning. We had to backtrack, when we ran out of waymarks, to the town centre where we found them again. What with taking pictures and getting lost it was half an hour before we cleared the town.
Cicerone as well as saying it was to be a strenuous day indicated that it would be a ridge walk. On leaving San Miniato it was on the road and it didn't drop much and followed the top of the hill. We thought this was to be the ridge walk but after we past through the village of Calenzano the route left the road and picked up a wide hard earthen track that we stayed on nearly all day. This was a lovely ridge walk, not like the ones on Glencoe or the Lake District which are narrow rough and rugged, but easy going but with outstanding views. It was undulating but not excessively so, just enough to have us use a few different muscles. It was nearly all in open country and we had views on both sides, the landscape below seemingly flat for miles.
After 6 km my notes said we reached Capriano and I was expecting a village of some sort. About the time we should have got there there was a sign saying 'Coiano 3 km' that was the next place on my list, it also had 'Rome 270 km' a bit hopeful, probably by the motorway. All there was at what must have been Capriano was a farmhouse.
Another signpost just before Coiano with the distance shown to a restaurant with a castle like structure was 'Bertini 0.2' but strangely it also gave 'Monaco 285, Oslo 1780, and Tunis 760'. Coiano had a bit more to offer, a couple of houses and a bar. We looked for a seat or bench for our break but ended up sitting on a wall at the road side. We and our tea and a few broken biscuits that was all there was left in the packet.
The lovely walk continued and it was 9 km to the next village of Borgoforte. Our track stayed to the high ground and wound its way around hillsides, going up and down but never long hills and never steep. We were making excellent time and thoroughly absorbed in taking in the glorious scenery. The track crossed the road twice but was always clear of the traffic by using a path at the side until it was time to cross and pick up the track again on the other side. For the final 5 km it changed and this must have been the strenuous bit according to the guide book. It was a relentless climb up through vines and olive groves to a tarred road into Borgoforte.
It was another very small hamlet but it was beside the road now all the way uphill to Gambassi Terme. There was a narrow path behind the crash barrier that we used but it was now tough going, all uphill. We were supposed to go through Pieve Santa Maria a Chianna first but all we saw were signs for a pilgrim hostel that was in that village but next thing on the road were the entrance boards for Gambassi.
We stopped at the Tourist Information just before the town but it was closed. Moira consulted her iPad for the location of the hotel but not only would it not show our location but the electronic pin she had inserted for the hotel's position had disappeared. After some arguing and shouting we carried on and found a signpost for our hotel at the start of the town centre. When we got there it was closed, our instructions were to register between 2:30 and 5 pm. That was an hour's wait. We had another address for the hotel's restaurant in another part of the town and went there. We couldn't find it but a guy from the Central Bar on the same road asked if we wanted accommodation and in a few minutes got us a room in the 'albergo' next door. There wasn't any delay for documentation, we were shown straight to our room, before settling I asked the price, €50, that was OK. The room was small but en suite and looked comfortable enough. There wasn't much of a view from our window just a wall, a contrast to last night at the Convent where we had a panorama of the lights of San Miniato Basso stretched out far below.
The first thing was to have some lunch. I made coffee and we and a boiled egg left each, together with sandwiches. We then showered and relaxed for the afternoon. When we started the climb up the hill to Borgoforte the sky was beginning to look black and rain seemed to be on the way. We had put on our rain gear and covers our bags just in case. But the clouds thinned again and the rain didn't come to anything, until now. As we lay on our bed the rain was now pouring outside we had finished the day on time!
At 4 pm Moira went out to a shop we passed on the way to the hotel. It was still closed and she got soaked in the short time she was out. Later the rain stopped and she went again and it was now open where she stocked up with food for tomorrow, Sunday when everything closes. She also bought a pizza for our dinner which we had in the room. It was another evening of reading and listening to music and hoping that the rain had gone and tomorrow would be another dry day.