Against our better judgment we decided to do a 20km hike around San Gimignano in Tuscany. We’d been leading quite the sedentary lifestyle so were relying on our youthful vigour to pull us through. I happily anticipated a gentle pastoral stroll through a relatively flat landscape. In the end it was more the marked lack of alternative transport back to Nettle that saw us through to the end.
We started out by wandering yet another mediaeval town. My expectations were perhaps a mite high after hearing of it’s popularity and the reception I received at mentioning we were going there on Facebook. As with most major tourist attractions we’ve visited on the trip we were left wondering why this town out of all the mediaeval towns in Italy is so obscenely popular. Location, location, location – it’s within a day-trip from both Siena and Florence. As with any major tourist attraction the maxim “the act of observing changes that which is being observed” – or perhaps more to the point “tourism changes that which is toured” – was evident in San Gimignano. Luckily tourists are extremely easy creatures to be rid of – just walk in any direction they’re not going in, which is pretty much every direction bar one and then like magic you have the place to yourself. So we wandered the back streets a little bit.
It was a beautifully sunny day when we began our hike through the pastural landscape of olive groves and vineyards.
And we were feeling both youthful and vigorous
We came across an interesting, seemingly completely purposeless structure built into the ground that reminded me of something from a fantasy novel or the Amazon jungle.
As the day wore on, the sun that had originally made the day so cheerful, sapped us of our will to go on when it continued uninterrupted by shade and unrelieved by a breeze the whole day long. Like seemingly everything else in Nettle, our water bladder had fallen victim to mould, which had left us with one small bottle of water between the two of us. Of course, we could have bought another water bottle in San Gimignano but every now and then we seem to make these inexplicably stupid decisions, which in hindsight leave us questioning our mental capacities. I think we thought we’d find places to fill up along the way. I’ve definitely come to associate Italy as a place abundant in water fountains, which is great if you’re in a town and not hiking through the countryside where they don’t tend to build public facilities. After running out of water somewhere near the half-way mark of our hike we decided to walk a little bit out of our way to get to the nearest town. We asked the first person we saw for some l’acqua – a middle-aged man picking olives out the front of a property. Of course, he happily obliged. However, it still wasn’t enough water for the two of us and we decided to beef it up with some electrolytes (we didn’t bring enough water but we did bring a full first aid kit) and ration out what was left.
We noticed the following strange phenomenon and wondered if the “anti-light” would show up in a photograph or whether it was just our confused brains telling us the rays of light are dark:
Nope, not an illusion. Anti-light, baby.
We walked back to the point from which we’d diverted from the Lonely Planet directions and took the trail they described (“Buona passaggio“, from a well-wishing olive-picker we passed). Only it wasn’t the trail as it was a dead-end. So we took the only other trail that matched that description, which was also a dead end. We went back and walked along the road a bit further and came to the only other road it could have been. It didn’t match the description in the Lonely Planet guide at all but sure enough that was the one they meant. It turned out to be a short-cut to the very place we had just walked to get water. Having successfully added a few kilometres onto our hike by walking in circles we set off in the right direction for the first time in a good long while.
Stumbling and half-limping, zombie-like, we trudged the rest of the way along the decidedly un-scenic highway back to Nettle. One of our dreams for our travels in Europe is to hike the Alps. Given that we just had our asses kicked by the gentle, rolling hills of Tuscany I think we might have a bit of work to do.