Thursday 20 November.
We had a great start to the day covering the first 5.5 km to Buonconvento in an hour and a quarter. There was a heavy mist when we left and it was cold but dry. We expected the mist to clear when the sun got up. It was a wide gravel track all the way and it was firm, no mud. We made our way through the town, up to the old part and then out under an archway in the ancient walls.
There was a waymark on the other side of the 'porta' which led to the busy SR2 with a sign saying 'Roma 201 km'. We carefully made our way along the side of the road expecting to see an arrow directing off to a more pilgrim friendly track. But nothing, we crossed a level crossing, came to road works but not a sign of a waymark. The traffic was getting worse and we decided we had gone wrong and headed back towards the town. At the point where we saw the last waymark we looked along a lane next to it and about 100 metres down was a VF stone plaque. We were back on track or so we thought. We followed waymarks but they seemed to be pointing on the wrong direction, back the way we had come. We continued and the track narrowed to a path through woods, there were old faded red and white blazes on a few trees which we confidently hoped were still applicable. Eventually we reached a t-junction with a gravel track next to a farmhouse with a tractor outside and there was nothing to indicated which way to go. The farm seemed to be abandoned so no help there. Cicerone wasn't any help either as I couldn't figure out what route it was describing. We walked in one direction but the sun, which was beginning to show through the early mist, was at our backs and we should be heading towards it. We turned and tried the other direction but it was very muddy and we returned from there as well.
The plan now as to return to Buonconvento investigate the way out and probably have to spend the night there. Just as we were preparing to return a van arrived, it was the farmer with a mechanic to repair the tractor that was sitting there. I showed him my list of places we should pass through today and pointed to next place Torrenieri and he indicated in the direction of the muddy section of track and to turn right at the first junction. We headed that way, the mud wasn't so bad and we reached the junction and turned right as instructed. At another farm I spotted the farmer and asked him, he said it was the way to Torrenieri but we had to go through Buonconvento first. Now thoroughly confused and no idea where we were there was no option but to carry on. Eventually houses appeared and then we recognised a junction we had passed earlier, we had come full circle and were back where we started at the busy SR2. The waymarks which we had followed earlier seemed now to be directing us back to town and appeared to have been an alternative route into Buonconvento. We continued to follow them in this direction and they led through the archway in the town walls and down through the old town. At a junction we had passed earlier coming through the town there was a big sign pointing that way, how we had missed it is a mystery. Now we had found the correct route we made the decision to continue. It was only 10:30 am and we had 19 km to our finishing point for the day in San Quirico d'Orcia. We didn't bother with our mid-morning break and planned to walk until mid-day and have an early lunch.
The route now tied in with the one in Cicerone and the waymarks were back to normal. After it left the streets it was on a gravel track and earthen path until we dropped down to a road at the exit signs for Buonconvento. There was a fairly new footpath that ran beside the road but the waymarks were still on road, we were quite a bit away and hoped that we were still following them. When we came to a cross roads there were plenty of signs and waymarks as the route turned left, there was even an arrow with Torrenieri on it. It was now a wide earthen track that was dry and firm. It made its way between fields of vines and vineyards offering wines to taste and for sale. One had a sign with a pilgrim offer; a glass of wine, a bottle of water and a sandwich for €6, not much of a bargain, pilgrims expect a glass of wine free. We stopped for lunch as planned at mid-day and had to sit at the side of the road on a grass embankment. It was all right and the mist that was still hanging about was at last starting to lift. We just had a half an hour break and we were off again.
The track was on a ridge but steadily climbing all the same. Moira was worried that we were going to be late getting finished and it would be dark, so I set a good pace. The track was still very good but we couldn't see where it was heading. Over to our right we could pick out towers and steeples on a hill and thought that was where we were going but the track veered in the other direction and all we could see was rolling hills. The mist had now cleared or we were above it, low cloud was settled below in the valleys. The sky was blue, the sun was out and it had become a perfect day. If we hadn't got lost and now rushing it would have been a most wonderful walk with fabulous scenery. At last houses and a town appeared on the other side of the valley, it looked close but to get there meant a long loop around the ridge before coming round to climb to yet another hilltop town. Fortunately we didn't have to climb to the top of Torrenieri, the church was at the bottom and that was where the VF was headed. After such a hectic pace we deserved a rest and had 5 minutes at a bench in front of a shop. I had expected to reach the town at 2:15 pm we manage it 15 minutes earlier.
From Torrenieri to San Quirico it was 7 km on the quiet SP 137 road. It climbed at first for 3 km then at the top we could see our final destination on a hill at the other side of a valley. It didn't look far but the descent was twisting and winding before we started to climb again. Our shoes were nicely clean and dry after walking on the road but there was a deviation from the road to cut a corner near the end that took us over what turned out to be a muddy earth track, they were wet and filthy again. Sooner than expected we were in the town of San Quirico d'Orcia and looking for a place to stay.
A couple of days ago Moira had emailed the priest in charge of the hostel here but he replied to say that the hostel was closed. He recommended a cheap B&B and that was where we were heading. At the entrance to the town we found the Tourist Info and it was open; there we got a map and directions to 'Il Cedro' which was only a few minutes away. There were no problems and we were soon in a small room with attached toilet and shower. It only cost €36 for the night. We showered, lovely hot water to relieve the aches and pains of a very long day in the hills. Afterwards Moira went out to find a supermarket, she was successful and came back loaded with dinner.
We had roast chicken, sweet corn and tomato and a bag of crisps. There was wine and a beer with fruit to follow. Much better than eating out. I calculated that we had taken an extra 2 hours for our excursions along busy roads and into the hills on a circular tour this morning which would be at least 6 km. Added to the 24.5 km for the section meant over 30 km for the day. So we were very tired and it wasn't long before we both went off to sleep. Tomorrow is a long day as well with much climbing so we needed our rest.