It was strange, but lovely to walk out of Siena with just a few people wandering about – some wheelies off to their next holiday destination; 5-10 others going somewhere; delivery trucks miraculously finding a millimetre between the shops and parked trucks; a deli opened; and 1 bar with very loud rock music – that was for us! This is peak season so the day before, we just went where we were pushed.

Out through Porta Romana, onto the long white tracks over the curved ridges of mostly carved-up rolling brown fields, and only a few green fields of winter crops. We stopped at a bar 8km out and re-met Stephanie, a young Italian woman on honeymoon with her English husband whom we had met earlier. He, Daniel, had a fever, so was bus-ing it while she walked. We chatted, laughed about past experiences and moved on as a French Canadian and Phillipino couple arrived.

She soon passed us and I watched her ahead, crouching down and taking a photo of some giant plowed bits of earth. Later, as we passed her I asked about the very uninteresting photo. She said she was an artist and soil in this area was used by the medieval monks for colouring paint. When we sat down for lunch I decided to look at the paint colouring soil – closely – and noticed the wonderful different soil colours.

On this near-shadeless long walk we passed philosopher Basil from Belgium going from Roma to Santiago in Spain. He also studied to become an artisan chocolate maker, and quipped that he might add a philosophic booklet to his chocolates – I’m sure you’ve heard of the famous Belgium delights.

We arrived at our B&B “affittacamere” (a place that rents out rooms with breakfast, like a chamber d’hote in France, except without dinner) situated right next to a large Roman bridge. We are, of course, in Ponte d’Arbia.

We heard from our Italian friend Marco who was to walk with us a little, but a family illness has put that on hold. Sabina and Bertrand write daily and give us news of what lies ahead. As tomorrow is too long, and impossible to break, our host Sergio has offered to drive us a few kms out of town so we can actually make it – phew.