Monday 27 April 2009
The fact that Salvatore and I are not seasoned walkers becomes immediately apparent when we spend half an hour sorting out our retractable walking sticks amid muffled curses.
We assemble outside the Hotel Giardini with our fellow walkers and leader Clive.
“C’mon, let’s begin our easy day’s walking”, said Clive, clapping his hands with fervour.
This is when I realise I should have pickled my feet in Meths for at least a month to toughen them up for such an eventuality. Yet, despite aching feet and bouts of vertigo, the scenery is breathtaking from San Marcello. We crunch golden leaves in dappled woods with stunning views of Libro Aperto; meander through the flowered meadows of Migliorini; sip cool water from the stone bull fountain at Aia della Fontana and slip and slide our way from Agriturismo Alberaccio, Piteglio to Ponte di Castruccio – a romantic, craggy bridge built in 1713.
After a picnic lunch of filled rolls and dazzling red apples (reminiscent of Cézanne) on the Ponte di Castruccio it’s once more unto the breach.
Clive claps his hands and says to the delight of the flagging walkers that the village of Popiglio – and chilled Peronis – are a mere 12 minutes walk away up an old mule track.
Clive’s 12 minutes are arguably the longest in the history of man. As we clamber, pant, heave and claw our way up the rocky track he spurs us on repeatedly by saying soothingly, “It’s just around the next corner now” but, the corners seem interminable.
As we band of bedraggled walkers finally arrive at Popiglio and its welcoming Bar Circolo, Clive suddenly falls silent and points sheepishly to a sign which reads “CLOSED ON MONDAYS” – I think an urgent bus is needed to ferry the “walking wounded” back to San Marcello!
One happens to be passing and before it can squeal to a stop, we eagerly clamber on board. En route, Salvatore chats to the driver in his own lingo and somehow succeeds in getting the ride free for us all – without a single euro crossing a palm!
Had we the energy, we should gladly have garlanded both the driver and Salvatore and carried them shoulder high in triumph through the sun drenched streets of San Marcello.