Old pilgrim ways don’t exist anymore? - Day 4 of Via Francigena in Italy from Altopascio to Fucecchio
It was the 4th day of Via Francigena trail when we hiked around 17 kms from the town Altopascio to Fucecchio.
Watch the full video here: https://youtu.be/Jto7qbq8NAI
We spent the night wild camping in the little forest in the fields of Tuscany that turned out to be quite a calm place. It was raining during all day before and a bit that night but then it stopped in the early morning. We gathered all our things in the backpacks and were out on the field to have our breakfast that were the leftovers of the rice cooked from previous night.
We started the day at 9am and the sun was already up on the sky and quite hot. The rain the day before helped to cool down the temperature and the ground a bit so we were enjoying the fresh wind all day long.
We were really unhappy to know that the first few kms of official Via Francigena trail were going on the fast car road which seemed almost a highway sometimes with the plenty of big trucks passing by. We thought that we skipped all the bad roads already by train but unfortunately it wasn't the case. And at first there wasn't even space for pedestrians to walk and it was really dangerous. Then there was a narrow sidewalk, which was much better, and we feel like it has to be on every difficult part like this.
We already learnt with the Camino so it wasn't a discovery for us that nowadays most of the long trails are like this. They're inevitably crossing the car roads and there are just parts of it that go on some old quiet forest paths away from the traffic. That's just the reality of it at least in Europe. And for us there's nothing wrong with taking public transport and skipping really bad parts as we like to discover the most natural places and don't want to waste time rubbing our soles on the pavement car roads.
Then the trail turned away from traffic and we appeared to be on the quiet and green forest path, which nowadays you see mostly in some fantasy movies and cartoons only. We even have spotted a baby hare that wasn't really afraid of us and was pasturing quietly eating the grass in front of us. Probably he was living in the dense bushes down the trail that we saw. Also there was some man on an old cart riding a horse which we don't really know was for some work or just entertainment. We met some half-ruined old bridge and many old rocks that were serving as signs of the road number and direction back in time.
We would have loved to continue walking solely on this path but after 1km we were out on some village car road again back to civilization. We filled out water bottles with a water from drinking fountain (which there were quite a lot of them around and the water was always good) and fortunately the trail turned back to the forest again.
This part was around 8 kms long and was a bit boring going very straight along the young pine trees that weren't giving much shadow at all. But it was so much better of course than the car roads so we were happy about it anyway. Also on the way we met some quite big pond with water lilies and some birds and fish living there. We had a little break there in the shadow having our snack and continued on.
We passed by the village Ponte a Cappiano where was located an old bridge over the river that served as a fortress at one time as well. From that point we started to see the typical Tuscany landscape that you would expect from seeing many photos on social media with the green hills and big masons on top of them, cyprus trees and yellow fields around them. That is mostly why the people are attracted to these places to see this unusual type of picture.
The trail continued going along the river very straight and easy. On one of the electric columns or poles we spotted some perfect circular nest and some big birds sitting there. From a far it looked like some monument and not alive but coming closer we saw that it was actually a stork staying on the guard and two baby storks sitting in the nest. The circular structure was so perfect because the metal base was man made probably knowing that the storks love nesting on such structures. We are sure that they would prefer an old dry tall tree in a natural environment but close to people nowadays, it was the only option for them. We were fascinated to see them as it was our first time and we were lucky to see them nesting. We would love to spend several days there observing their life if we could.
So we had our lunch there in the shadow on the field close to their nest and continued walking a bit more to the town Fucecchio that was located on top of the hill.
It was quite a big village with a huge hypermarket in it. It’s funny how you don't expect from such places to be that big and they kind of look as a countryside but the amount of traffic and huge supermarkets tell you the opposite.
So we bought some food for the next dinner and breakfast there and headed towards the fields to search for the camp spot.
There were no campsites around so we knew we were going to wild camp this night. We headed towards direction of the forest sign that we saw on our map and it was obvious that we have to go uphill.
So we wandered around the streets and private houses and had to turn away from the Via Francigena for around 3 kms. We were getting close to that forest and all we were seeing were the high metal gates with the private houses deep inside. Then we passed a bit further and hoped to find some place in the fields. And wandering around the area on every corner we stumbled upon the sign that the access is forbidden and it's a private property. We didn't really know was it just for the cars or for people as well but we had no other option rather than just pass through the sign and go straight to the little forest between the fields. We were lucky to find some spot between the trees and not in the open field. So we stopped there and as it was already getting late and dark we didn't really had any dinner and went to sleep right away.
What do you think can be done to reduce the bad influence of the car roads on the old hiking trails?