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Our day seven on the Way of St. Francis from Pietralunga to Gubbio was another long day, full of strenuous ups and downs. It would prove to be a difficult day for us, not physically but emotionally, with some major questions seeping into our hearts. Yet the day's end would be rewarded with the most amazing of Italian medieval cities, Gubbio.
“The heart has its reasons which reason knows nothing of... We know the truth not only by the reason, but by the heart.” ~ Blaise Pascal, 17th C French Mathematician and Physicist
"Your own heart never lies. Ask, what is the right action for this moment? Follow your deepest truth.” ~ Brandon Bays
These above quotes, I chose for this day's writing, as it played deeply into our seventh pilgrimage day. The Pascal quote is one of my life's favorites! As you can see from the elevation profile below, it was not to be an easy day.
Below is our map for the day, as usual, with all the available amenities placed on it. There are not many of them! Aside from a bar, just past the town of Monteleto, almost 19 kilometers into the day, there is not much else! Come prepared for this day, as usual on this Via di Francesco!
Of note, when you get to Gubbio, there are eight donativos to stay in, if you want economy! Gubbio is a town of churches and monasteries, and is a popular tourist destination, as well as a pilgrim's dream. Please look on my map to see them all!
As noted above, this is a strenuous day. There are few options to break it up, and those are pricey.
The 1st climb of about 140 meters (460 feet), over not quite two kilometers, is not so bad. The 2nd climb, the biggest, is 270 meters (886 feet) over just shy of four kilometers. This one you will feel.
And by the 3rd climb of about 110 meters (361 feet) over about two kilometers, I started to get grumpy! Seriously. Then, the final seven kilometers are on a gradual upward grade, on pavement, which while it doesn't look that bad, is quite industrious at the end of a long day.
Each climb by itself is not that bad, but when you look at the total elevation gain/loss for the day, at more than 800 meters for each, it is a significant day!
We started out in the early morning, after having some bars from our packs, in our room at the Rifugio Betania Per i Pellegrini. Rich and I did not even look for an open bar prior to the day's walk, because it is usually a challenge and Nick doesn't drink coffee or eat anything before setting out for the day. I was resigned to the fact that I would not have coffee this morning. But my belly was happy at least.
The day greeted us with an incredible sunrise, so I walked over to the plaza, with its terrace, and snapped this photo below. Gorgeous!
What a wonderful way to start the day!
As we three walked through the piazza, eastward and onto the Via Roma, lo and behold, what did I spy? An open bar on the corner of the plaza at 07:30 in the morning that was serving coffee and pastries! What luck!
While Nick walked on, (I started calling him the "camel" since he seemed to lack the need for early morning food and coffee), we ordered expressos and just drank them as a shot at the counter, in typical European fashion. Wasn't quite as gratifying as a long, slow caffè latte, but it would do in a pinch!
The streets were silent this early, and a few meters onward, along the Via Roma, we passed the B&B Gaigo.
Next, the Via Roma winds through the outskirts of Pietralunga, shown in the photo below, for just shy of one kilometer total from the town square, when it merges with the SP204.
Walking only about 1oo meters on the SP204, it takes a huge bend to the right (south) with a Y-intersection. Just before this Y-intersection, you see the Pietralunga city limits sign (below), and right after it you take the left onto a street called Caipatrignani. This turn is well-signed. You can see the turn in the distance in the photo below.
At this Y-intersection you will see signs for two accommodations, both of which are way off-Camino.
Walk straight on the Caipatrignani, open country road, shown next, for only about 800 meters.
At approximately 1.77 kilometers into the day, you leave the paved country road, and make a right hand turn onto this gravel lane. As you can see, there was a chain across the road, with a precaution sign, a do not enter sign and no pedestrians sign! What?
We stopped and pondered a bit about what to do. I had read on the Via di Francesco forums that the rain through here had been heavy and the runoff so great that many stream crossings were impassable.
Nonetheless that was about six days ago, so we thought we would walk on a bit and take a look. And this is what we saw, below.
There had obviously been a huge wash out through here, but as you can see in the photo, the water now running through was not more than a trickle. We crossed it easily on the concrete spillway and continued.
And just after this stream crossing, the first climb of the day, of 140 meters begins in earnest. Here is a section of the climb.
Climbing up the gravel road on day seven of the Way of St. Francis from Pietralunga to Gubbio, we saw lovely views of Pietralunga when we looked back.
At about 2.73 kilometers into the day, we heard what we thought was a stream, but it turned out to be a fountain. It is to the left of the white building in the photo below. We always walk with a water bladder so we moved onward.
The top of the first climb is at 3.1 kilometers into the day, and is at the intersection shown in the photo below.
The Way of St. Francis sign says we have 21.3 kilometers to go to Gubbio. I was suspicious of these numbers, which would prove to be not quite correct! Gubbio was still at least 23 kilometers away, by my calculations!
At the top of the hill, at the T-intersection, you take a right hand turn to join the pavement, and then immediately drop steeply on the other side, to join the SP205 in about 50 meters.
Note, there is a sign at the top of the hill to the Agriturismo Borgo San Benedetto. It lies about 3/4 kilometer in the opposite direction, if you want to stay there.
When the Via di Francesco intersects with the SP205, you take a left turn to walk on low-trafficked pavement, shown in the photo below.
You are now descending on the SP205 towards the next major landmark, the Abbey of San Benedetto Vecchio.
When you come to a wooden cross in a clearing, just beyond the views shown in the photo above, you know you are very close to the Abbey.
And you will see a cluster of buildings of the Abbadia di San Benedetto Vecchio as it is referred to in Italian, at about 3.8 kilometers total for the day.
Unfortunately, the church was closed up tight as a drum when we arrived and not a soul was milling about, nor were there any signs posted to call anyone.
All there was to see, other than the outside, is a placard describing a bit about the monastery, with its earliest recorded history on record as of June of 1191. Most likely it is much older, according to this information.
Continuing down the hill on the SP205, the sun shone and the views were lovely.
At approximately 5.35 kilometers into day seven, you will reach the bottom of the first climb at this bridge, on the Way of St. Francis from Pietralunga to Gubbio.
After crossing the bridge, the SP205 takes a sharp bend to the right, but the Via di Francesco takes a turn to the left on a gravel lane. The lane is to the left of the sign shown below.
Again, you can see the damage done by the heavy rain that had come through here and the wash out that ensued. The sign says that Gubbio is 18.8 kilometers away, once again a few kilometers shy of reality!
The onward lane is a wonderful entrance to the second and highest climb on day seven of the Way of St. Francis from Pietralunga to Gubbio!
The first part of the second climb starts off nice enough! Looks sedate, doesn't it?
At about 7.0 kilometers total you will pass this wonderful old abandoned farm, not quite halfway up the second climb.
The Lane quickly gets steep and more rugged, just before you reach an area marked as the Alto di Chiascio at a bit more than eight kilometers. However, there were cars making this ascent as we walked, somewhat bravely, I might add.
There is not much here at the "top" but a single building and signage of a map of the area, that in my opinion was not very helpful. Here is Rich at the Alto di Chiascio.
Apparently, there is a park here and a system of hiking trails, hence the cars.
I am not sure why this is called the top, because we still had some climbing to do and more than a kilometer to reach the ultimate altitude top of the second climb of the day.
At the sign above, you entered a huge hairpin turn as you climbed that took you in the exact opposite direction. You will notice it very prominently on the map above.
And after the hairpin turn, the Way steepens at first, then evens out and becomes more beautiful.
At about 9.32 kilometers, you will come to another hairpin turn on the road you have been walking, but the Way heads to the right, shown in the photo below. Just beyond this intersection is the second altitude top of the day, at 782 meters in altitude.
For the next three kilometers, the descent off the second hill is quite pronounced! Get ready and get out your poles!
By 10.3 kilometers, come to an intersection, where you take a left turn, to walk extremely steeply down this hill, pictured next. It was OK in dry weather, but in wet conditions, it could be very interesting. Plus there are deep ruts in the road, so caution is required. Poles may be very helpful here!
Here is how the steep and loose descent appeared from the top. The photo just doesn't do the perspective justice, but it does give credence to the amazing views!
After about 150 meters down the steep hill, at the bottom, come to a T-intersection with another road, and turn right.
In several hundred meters more, pass by this farm.
Walk through more buildings at about 11.9 kilometers.
By approximately 12.2 kilometers, take a left hand turn onto a much nicer gravel road on day seven of the Way of St. Francis from Pietralunga to Gubbio.
In less than one hundred meters, cross a creek, which also showed evidence of a washout. You have reached the bottom of the second hill climb at this creek. Here is how the road looked by the creek when we walked through.
Immediately after the creek, the third climb of the day begins! While we had not yet completed half of the day, I felt tired already, and was losing some of my motivation. But I carried on!
The gravel road eventually improves to pavement along this climb, which extends for about two full kilometers.
It was along this third climb that I started my deeper reflection process, that I recorded in my voice journal, regarding this particular pilgrimages and how we felt about the experience. I have already documented our feelings in my introduction to the Way of St. Francis, so I won't repeat them here. Suffice it to say, we were in the process of making a decision, whether or not to carry on after Assisi.
At 14.3 kilometers, you reach the top of the third climb. This is just before the church, the Chiesa Madonna di Montecchi, pictured below. When you arrive at this church, the heavy climbing for day seven is finished, on the Way of St. Francis from Pietralunga to Gubbio.
As you head down the hill, expansive views of the plains below appear. Gubbio lies in that plain ahead.
Walk by the attractive B&B di Valle at 15.4 kilometers. If you stay here, bring your translator, because the owner speaks no English.
A few meters past the B&B, there is a bridge over a creek crossing, where we encountered another do not enter barrier, even for foot traffic! There is an intense spillway to the left, at the split in the cliff, where the guys are standing, but not visible in the photo below.
This was yet another wash out, but again we decided to go through, and what we saw (not pictured) was astonishing. Half of the roadway had collapsed into the creek below with a very steep fall off, but it was safe for foot travel, so we continued on through, towards the next destination, the town of Loreto.
Just after entering Loreto, you come to the parish church, the Chiesa San Giovanni. It is surrounded by shady trees, a terrace with a view to the plain below, and a non-functioning tap on its fountain. We stopped here for a quick break at 16 kilometers into the day.
In front of the church the Way is to the right, or south onto the Località Loreto Basso as it meanders its way through town and its environs.
At 17.2 kilometers, come to a T-intersection with the SP207 and turn to the left. Join the SP207 for only a few meters, taking an immediate, first right hand turn, as seen in the photo below.
After the right turn off the SP207, there are some incredible villas in this area, and you will also walk by the turnoff to the I Casali di Villa Benveduti, at a Y-intersection, a possible accommodation if you do not want to continue onward to Gubbio. You would have logged in a respectable 17.2 kilometers.
Next, the Way bends to the right at the Y-intersection in the direction of the next town of Monteleto. Enroute, catch lovely views of vineyards and the plain.
At 17.8 kilometers enter the town of Monteleto and its uninspiring, landmark church.
Walking along the Località Monteleto through town was uninspiring as well.
And after the walk through town, the intersection with the SS219 is ahead, and its sight filled us with hope.
Why? There is a bar, just to the right of the intersection, the Bar Tabacchi Vineria Bomboletti. And we were thrilled to find it open at 18.7 kilometers into our day seven on the Way of St. Francis from Pietralunga to Gubbio.
We had a beer, a caffè latte, some food we had stowed in our packs and ice cream! We sat outside, took off our shoes and enjoyed a longer rest! Nick, the camel, continued onward. I wondered what it would be like to not desire coffee and/or beer?? While we had had breaks along the way, there is absolutely nothing in my world, like a long coffee break. And the ice cream was the icing on the cake. No holding back for us!
After our lovely break, we returned to the route, that crosses over the SS219 and continues down the hill, taking the first, immediate right hand turn.
A few meters later the Way turns to the left and onto a gravel lane at this large stone house.
It is just past this turn that the Way reaches the bottom of the long third climb. For the next seven kilometers into the center of Gubbio, it is a long, straight, open and hot road, with a gradual climb. It can be monotonous. It was for us.
You follow this gravel lane for about 1/3 kilometer, then turn right onto a paved road.
About 600 meters later, we stumbled into Nick, having a picnic at this lovely rest area with benches, a fountain and a metal St. Francis sculpture. Maybe his rest stop was better after all!
Continue on the paved road through the plain, with views of mountains to your left with long rows of olive trees ascending the slopes! If you follow the mountain chain, you can just make out the Basilica of Sant'Ubaldo above Gubbio. So keep your eye out!
At 21.1 kilometers, the Via di Francesco takes you to a right turn to go up and over the SS219 on a bridge, pictured next.
After crossing the bridge, take the next left and soon you will arrive at the next, lovely rest area, honoring St. Francis at 21.5 kilometers. It also has benches, a fountain and a San Damiano cross. (This cross you will soon become familiar with, as it is a replica of the famous cross from the San Damiano Sanctuary in Assisi, where St. Francis heard the voice of God tell him to "Build my church.")
About four kilometers away from Gubbio, through the trees you can see the slopes of Mount Ingino more clearly, upon which Gubbio was built and you can begin to make out the city.
At 23.9 kilometers, we crossed up and over the SS219 once again! From the top of this bridge, you can really see views of Gubbio ahead.
After crossing the bridge, take the first right onto the Via dell' Arboreto and you are in the city proper. Continue straight at this intersection pictured below.
Continue on the Via dell' Arboreto for about 800 meters total. At about 24.8 kilometers come to a large roundabout, with clear views of the Basilica of Sant'Ubaldo above you! Turn to the right onto the Viale Leonardo da Vinci.
Follow the Viale Leonardo da Vinci for about 350 meters, when it ends at a T-intersection. You will see a huge park across the street and your first view of the Teatro Romano, the Theater of Iguvium as it was known in Roman times.
Follow the walking path through the park. We walked over to the theater for a close-up. It is nicely preserved, but you could not enter it.
After walking eastward across the park, the path bends to the north, and eventually comes out at a primary road, aptly named the Viale Teatro Romano, shown below. Turn right and head into the city center.
Walking on the Viale Teatro Romano, only about 130 meters, you will come to the Romanesque gate, the Porta degli Ortacci. This gate is right by the Chiesa di San Francesco, the St. Francis Church and the monument to the Wolf of Gubbio in the front.
The street now becomes the Via Giacomo Matteotti by the gate, shown below, as the Way continues onward, however, day seven of the Way of S.t Francis from Pietralunga to Gubbio ends here by the St. Francis Church.
We arrived early enough to have a bit of a tour of the town, and we stayed in this very comfortable and friendly B&B, the Residenza Le Logge.
There are so very many places to stay in Gubbio, you can start your search on booking.com here. For the more economical accommodations like the Residenza Le Logge, refer to my interactive map above, for locations and prices.
As I stated earlier, there are eight donativos, as Gubbio is a city of monasteries. They are too numerous to list here, but please go to the interactive map above and click on all the accommodations. There is one in orange, the Convento di San Marziale (+39 075 922 0693, email: email@example.com) that comes highly recommended by my Italian friend. It is close to the base of the funicular. Again, refer to my map.
Gubbio is an incredibly preserved medieval town, second only to Assisi, in my opinion and we could have spent a much longer time here than we did. For more information about it, click here to see my article on what to see and do. Here is a teaser:
And the icing on the cake was the lovely meal we had in an historic wine cellar-turned-restaurant, the Stinco&Stappo NorcinVineria. Here is a photo of Rich and I, taken by Nick, one of the few we have together. I don't remember what we had to eat, but I remember the ambiance very well!
If not for the amazing town of Gubbio, I would state that day seven's walk was uninspiring. Along the Way there were only a few moments of great beauty, and not much else to see in between.
As my reflections in my journal show, I was growing less content with this experience. It was so very different from any Camino de Santiago. There were no pilgrims, no comradery, no community dinners. For me, this is the spirit of the pilgrimage.
The truth is that one could spend hours trying to determine the best decision for them in the moment. At some point, you just need to follow your heart and move on. And so, this is what we held in our hearts. A decision was yet to come.
May your own Way of St. Francis from Pietralunga to Gubbio be a day where you follow your own heart's leanings, however that may look to you. And may Gubbio inspire you to linger and savor the beauty and the history of this place! Ultreia!
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Need suggestions on what to pack for your next pilgrimage? Click Here or on the photo below!
Carbon fiber construction ( not aluminum) in a trekking pole makes them ultra lightweight. We like the Z-Pole style from Black Diamond so we can hide our poles in our pack from potential thieves before getting to our albergue! There are many to choose from! ( See more of our gear recommendations! )
Gregory BackPack - My Favorite Brand
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