Assisi pilgrimage: Day Five (Monday 11th September)

It was not as hot in the morning as I expected. A manageable heat. I packed some things, did a puja, packed away the shrine, and slowly slowly got things ready to go.

This old deserted field is quite the dumping ground – the spot I chose for pitching the tent happened to be probably the one spot in the area without rubbish everywhere.

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Visions of an insect

This remains of some kind of insect was impressive – it’s like a see-through shell, with no insides. There was a long line of ants passing food along – thousands of them, all working together.

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The sea!

I unexpectedly saw the sea (I didn’t realise how close it was – as I’d arrived in the dark).

I walked to the services, had an awkward time buying water (because the shop wasn’t designed for people with backpacks..), and ate my breakfast and was joined by a group of French ladies chatting about their tour.

I began hitching, with caution, from the services. Hitchhiking in Italy on the private motorways is apparently illegal – at services and on peages, and any on-ramps too – but also apparently they don’t enforce it at all. I asked a few people, including a Romanian guy who was very sweet and apologised that he’s not going my way. I met a French couple who agreed after a bit of talking to take me past Genoa. They asked me to look after their car whilst they had coffee, so I sat and played some songs on the uke. Young Romanian guy came over to listen, who really appreciated the music. Lots of Om Namah Shivaya’s in today’s music – and a great feeling from it, too.

Martine and Michelle are on retreat for a little bit, having come from Marseille to a very special place on the coast past Genoa. I had total trust in them the whole journey – they were going to drop me at the right place. Martine asked me a lot about my time at Skanda Vale, and I showed her some photos of it. (For those interested in knowing about Skanda Vale/Somaskanda Ashram, follow these links: Skanda Vale, Wales and Somaskanda Ashram, Fideris, Switzerland).
When they dropped me, and hour or so later, Martine told me that it was really really good to meet me, she gave me €5 ‘for the evening’, and we said our farewells.

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Martine, Michelle and I, on arrival past Genoa

This services is on a short stretch of road between two tunnels. I started hitching (cautiously) from the car park for the restaurant area, and a worker from the services came over. She told me to stand in the shade instead, because the sun is too strong. And then she went over to two younger guys, and they were my hitching audience for a few cars, enthusiastically bemoaning each car that didn’t stop.

It didn’t take too long to get a ride though.

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Marchen and I, in Arezzo (last motorway stop)

Marchen is driving to Roma from Rotterdam. He’s Polish, from Brodnica (I think), but has lived in Netherlands for 10 years. He’s quite a character. We drive pretty darn fast all the way – he’s tired and I guess it keeps him alert to be fast. I’ve had a lot of tired drivers on this journey, but this was the first that I felt the need to stimulate conversation for the sake of keeping the driver alert. So we talked about snowboarding, about Poland, and about Peterborough (there are lots of Polish people in Peterborough – he said his friend runs a shop there). He’s going to Roma to stay with a friend from school.
A funny thing happened on this journey. I had assumed that he’d be going a different route to me, as the most direct route to Roma is down the west coast. But his satnav took us via Florence, which meant passing right by my junction of Arezzo. I found this very funny – and for me it was the divine helping me out on my journey. It meant I definitely would arrive at my destination for the night.

I subtly decided on taking a bus or train from Arezzo. I was done, and I knew it would be cheap (and Martine’s euros would go towards this). But before I could hitch towards Arezzo, I felt very drawn to the village of Battifolle. I think there must be some strong energy lines going through it or something – I felt I needed to get to the other side of the church tower, a specific corner even. I got there, and sat and ate/drank a little.

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Looking out towards the hills of Assisi

From here, there were the sweetest of grapes, and olives everywhere. There was even a pomegranate tree in a guy’s garden. The temperature was nice.

It didn’t take long until a campervan came rolling down the hill, and stopped with my thumb out. I decided not to take the big road into Arezzo – I didn’t get the right vibes from it – so took the small back route, which was calmer. Leonardo is a happy young guy working for his parents’ cleaning products business in Arezzo. He travels a lot in his camper, and was really happy to pick me up. He offered to take me to the station in Arezzo, which I thought about and agreed. I would be able to get picked up from Sansepolcro if I could get there.

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Leonardo and I, arriving at Arezzo train station
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Benigni's town (Arezzo)

Arezzo is a funny place. Roberto Benigni, who I adore, lived in Arezzo and his incredible film ‘Life Is Beautiful’ was shot around the city. But, at least by the station/bus station, it has a darker vibe, an aggressiveness, and I felt a little uneasy being there. I’d found out that there is only a bus towards Sansepolcro, and I bought a ticket to Anghiari (nearer for my hosts), and tried to find my bus. I went from bus to bus arriving in the bus terminal for about 45 minutes until a bus arrived, which I thought wasn’t going to be it again, I asked the driver ‘Anghiari?’ and he nodded.

About halfway, passing through mountain villages, we stopped suddenly to let by some little wild boar. It was a very sweet sight – my first time properly seeing them.

My arrival in Anghiari was splendid – an old walled hill city, all lit up nicely.

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Anghiari, the old walled city host to the 'battle that never happened'

My hosts picked me up, and we connected immediately. Jenny has lived here for 30 years, being pretty much donated a derelict barn by pure chance when she was learning to sculpt. She looked after her mother in her last years until her mother died at 102. Now she tries to get people to come here – she rents out a cottage for holidays – but has found helpx the biggest blessing as it’s much easier and free-flowing.
We talk over soup and bread about lots of things, until late. She tells me things about St Francis having strolled through these parts, in exact details, and I’m excited to hear more. It feels like she’s a bit of a gate-keeper of the area.

Extremely satisfied, I shower and then conduct my puja. Everything has been divinely orchestrated.

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Shrine in my room
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View from my room

I will not update this blog on a daily basis anymore, as I have now arrived in the land of St Francis. I may write about my next pilgrimage, to Somaskanda Ashram next week, but I’ll see if it feels right.

Thank you all for following 🙏

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