Oct 21, 2014

All Roads Lead to Rome?!?

Well, maybe not all, even on the Via Francigena.

I hope it's only the Aosta Valley region, but so far the waymarking in Italy has occasionally been... less than helpful. Today was a very good day, as I hit and maintained my Camino pace ‎of 5 km/h for extended periods, but even today saw me stranded on a rock outcropping wondering why neither of the two paths I'd tried led to anything other than a dead end. After backtracking, I learned that the waymarking was perfectly located for someone walking from Rome. (Note to self: when in doubt, do a full 360 sweep before continuing in any direction. Maybe even unsling the pack, have some chocolate and a swig of water.)

Then there is the waymarking which leads you out of your way. After my wonderful stay in Champagne, I set out early full of vim and vigour. After an hour of following the marked trail, I found myself less than 500 metres from where I'd started‎. The official VF trail had led me up the hill a few hundred metres (and that's altitude, not distance!) and then back down again in a giant horseshoe. You know, as opposed to a giant U shape, where at least you haven't moved closer to the starting point.

My first day out of Aosta, I'd noticed the official trail branching off uphill from the road, only to cross it heading downhill again a few hundred metres later. And then crossing the road again, heading uphill. To say that shook my confidence in the official markings is an understatement. I'd started ignoring the trail markings, relying instead on the GPS app on my phone. 

Thanks to the Alison Raju guidebook, I have discovered that the older trail markings are actually pretty sensible. The trick is to know which set of markings to ignore.‎ When I did the Camino de Santiago several years ago, there was none of this. Neither was there any of this nonsense less than a week ago in Switzerland.

Today‎ was a very good day. Using my guidebook to identify destinations along the way and my common sense and GPS to get me there, I only wasted about 45 minutes backtracking today, and at no point was I genuinely lost. I had a great night's sleep last night, an early-ish start, and was taking my boots off by 4:30 PM. Here's hoping tomorrow goes as well! The forecast says 60% chance of rain with temperatures hitting a high of 17 Celsius. For the first time since leaving Switzerland, I may actually be at a comfortable temperature the whole day! :) (Not that I'm exactly complaining about my tanned forearms or having to wear sunglasses...)

So, after a marvellous meal at Il Casello B&B in Verrès (www.ilcaselloverres.com), I'm about ready to say my prayers and collapse. The rate for a pilgrim in a dorm is €25, which includes breakfast. The showers pumped out plenty of hot water at good pressure‎ without having to constantly push a button. I could have gone into town to the laundromat, but they offered to wash and dry for less than I'd have paid at a lavanderia. Likewise, I might have been able to find a restaurant on my own, but instead I ate what the owners and their kids did. And it was goooood!!! (Photos tomorrow, probably.) The only drawback is the set of train tracks that run the length of the property. If I hadn't packed earplugs, I probably would've found somewhere else to stay. As it is, I know I'm good to go!

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