Back home we aim high – for a ridge or a peak on most of our hikes. In Italy, we aim for castles, perched on commanding summits. This one looked so easy.
One mile on a farmer’s road, one mile on a trail – no problem, right? The sun blasted, hot for nine in the morning, as we strode down the rocky road, past the four-wheel drive tractor cutting hay on a steep hillside field and the second farmer putting round bales in a hay shed.
As we came to the end of the road we looked around, puzzled. There was a gated road up to the farmer’s home, another tractor track leading off in the wrong direction – but no trail.
We studied the map again. It should be right where the plowed field led down to the creek, but could we walk across it without raising the ire of owner?
Putt, putt, putt – the tractor approached.
“Buon giorno,” we yelled with big smiles.
The farmer turned off the engine.
“Dove sentiero Citivella D’Agliano?”
Off he went, waving arms in the direction of where the trail should be.
“Poco Italiano,” I admitted sheepishly.
He stopped and started speaking again, slowly at first and then picking up speed.
Finally we just asked if we could go. He shrugged his shoulders as if to say it was up to us, fired up the tractor and left.
Down through the field we went, loose volcanic soil crunching and crumbling beneath our hiking shoes. After much criss-crossing and map-consulting we eventually found the path – an overgrown road. And that was as good as it got.
Grasses turned to brambles that pulled at our clothes and exposed skin. Water started running down the route, filling muddy pockets hidden by leafy vegetation. We discovered that stinging nettles really do sting and that there are biting insects the size of horses… no make that Clydesdales. Sweat poured down our backs.
Just when I’m ready to say enough is enough, the path clears a bit and a then a road appears.
Civilization from the medieval era, complete with fortified tower.
If you go:
We stumbled across the map of the hiking trails while visiting Civita de Bagnoregio (near Orvieto, Italy).
Ask at the information centre for a map and be sure to wear zip-off pants or carry a big stick to whack down the stinging nettles for sections of the trail.