The big light had the sky all to itself today and painted the few whispers of cloud with those fiery colours only it can do. Along the ubiquitous gravel tracks deep down in eroded earth we trod; through gated pathways we went; up short eroded and rocky hills we strode, down loose rock roads we danced, but carefully.

Along this morning’s Via Francigena we were alone, and experienced similar feelings to our first few days. All experiences of walking for us (Corrie and I have talked about them), have been a mixture of good and not so good. The good parts of walking alone for us have been: a chance to contemplate, stop when we want, listen to nature, observe and walk at our pace. Even walking alone, there is always the farmer’s greeting, the 12 touring bike riders’ nods, the well wishes of the lone girl riding the track as we walk it, and the friendly waves from the camper vans.

So it was special to hear the tumbling of the water under a small wooden bridge – only a few noisy waterways have crossed our paths. We delighted in hearing the little birds that conversation can exclude; passing through so few wooden areas has meant fewer of them. The silence probably allowed the greenish-black snake to slither across the track in front of us; and our tired bodies may never have been accommodated by those well shaped rocks, that broad based tree, and that just right-in-size crash barrier.

The different greens – of new grass that gives the olive trees a renewed glow, of freshly sown winter crops that flow out to the edges of the raw soil, and of the long bent bamboo trees that fold together above our track, of the pines, firs and fruit trees that have graciously decorated large farm estates for many decades past – all these provide a spring freshness, even though the patient winter hovers close by.

We arrived at our Albergo – yes, on the toooop of the hill, and did those things we always do that you know about. Wandering through the isolated streets looking for a pizza (it’s been a while) we found a shop with freshly cooked ones, but we really wanted a seat in this unusually seatless shop. After asking if I could take the one chair outside, she brought out one from her dining room, and, a table, and set them up on the cobbled footpath next to her broken sign.

After this special treat we did some more exploring and went home. As we walked in other guests had arrived – the Swiss couple whom we had some fun with a few days back – being fast walkers we thought they had moved on. However his knee had refused to even get out of bed one morning so they had to wait for it to revive, which it did. When I asked him how it was for him to have this knee uncertainty now he’s so close to the finish line, he said: “At my age I am happy just to wake up in the morning” – I agreed.