Rain today, right from the very start. We had a late start today because we wanted to visit the Basilica of Santa Maria Assunta in San Gimignano and it only opened at 10am. Maree and I were the first in the ticket office when it opened and also the first into the Basilica. The frescos in the Basilica are simply breathtaking. Even given that many have been restored due to damage in WW2 it is still amazing how detailed these 14th century frescos are. Both walls of the church are lined with multiple 'comic strip' style stories from the Old and New Testaments painted by a variety of artists from the Sienese School. There is also a chapel dedicated to the patron saint of San Gimignano, the 15 year old virgin Saint Fina, who reputedly was very ill but insisted on sleeping on a wooden plank for the last 5 years of her life. She said that this was nothing compared to the suffering of Jesus. When she died some magical violets grew out of her wooden bed planks. There is a reliquary which holds her body under the altar. The chapel has magnificent paintings and sculptures by Florentine artists Giuliano de Maiano, Benedetto de Maiano and Domenico Ghirlandaio.
We had arranged with Salvatore that we would meet him outside the Basilica at 10:45 to start our walk. Maree and I. We were there on time but our Canadian friends didn't get to the church on time and we waited until after 11 for them to come out. Our walk for the day started with a gentle stroll along a made road but is wasn't long before we turned right onto a gravel track leading downhill. All the while a steady, gently rain fell and this continued for the rest of the day. The track gradually became wetter and muddier and we started to slip and slide as we proceeded downhill to a creek crossing. On the other side the track deteriorated even more and our fairly brisk pace of earlier became much slower. At times we had to walk very gingerly to avoid sliding into a puddle. Up and down we went in typical Tuscan fashion. The scenery actually looked quite good with deep green hills and fields against the grey sky.
Part of the way along we were overtaken by a young man walking alone. We wished him a 'Buon Camino' and discovered that he was from Glasgow. He had been working for a local electoral office on the Scottish Independence ticket. After the vote where independence was narrowly defeated he chucked in his job and set off on a pilgrimage. He has been walking from Glasgow for the past 100 days and hopes to eventually make it to Jerusalem. Good luck!!
More slithering, slipping and sliding ensued for the next couple of hours. At one stage we crossed a creek where there were some large flat stones laid to assist the crossing. Probably laid by some enterprising Roman or Etruscan. By this time both Maree and I were cold, tired and hungry. I had discovered that my waterproof jacket actually wasn't after more than two hours in steady rain. Eventually we arrived at the cemetery for the town of Colle de Val d'Elsa where it had originally been intended that we would have our picnic lunch. Instead, due to the weather, Salvatore took us to a flash restaurant, where they were a bit put out by our wet and muddy appearance, for a hearty farro soup.
After lunch a pre-booked taxi drove us to the Fattoria San Donato where they produce wine and olive oil. We met the owner who told us that he names his wine varieties after the women in his life; mother, wife and daughters. He showed us around the cellar, talked about his wines and oils. Apparently the olive harvest is due to start in just a couple of weeks. After the chat we got to taste some of his extra virgin oil and to compare the taste with similar stuff from the supermarket and from the mediterranean. His oil was the lightest and, to me, the best. The stuff from the supermarket, a blend, had an awful aftertaste. I reckon he put something in it to make it taste so bad. We also had a sample of one of his white wines and a Chianti.
A short taxi ride back and were in the hotel, La Cisterna, for a warm shower and to dry off. It was still raining so we took the opprtunity to relax before dinner at the hotel. This was tasty but nothing special to write about. Tomorrow will be our longest walking day 5 hours and 20 kilometres. We are all hoping that the rain goes away as promised.