"It's such a long time to be gone and a short time to be there"
It's only fitting that we start off this trip with one of my favorite Grateful Dead songs. We ended last year's trip with Truckin by the Grateful Dead. What a band. We were unsuccessful in obtaining tickets for their 50th anniversary farewell show in Chicago in early July, so will just have to listen to lots of Dead songs on this trip.
This is year 3 of the Mike and Linda hiking series. Just to refresh, in May/June 2013, we hiked over 500 miles on the Camino de Santiago across northern Spain. Emboldened by our success on that trip, we decided to up our game, and in May/June 2014, we hiked 650 miles over 50 days from Lausanne, Switzerland to Rome. In September 2014, we also tucked in a 5 day hike through the high back country of Yosemite. For 2015, we will return to Italy for 37 days, and also undertake another 5 days in Yosemite in September. Finally, we will end up in Barcelona in October for a wedding and hopefully some more Spanish hiking.
This year's Italy trip looks to be a doozy. I'm calling it a symphony in four parts:
1. Part one starts out with a two day visit to Florence, followed by a 17 day hike from Florence to Foligno (just past Assissi) on the St Francis way. We will hike about 240 miles here, with much of it through the very mountainess Umbria countryside.
2. We then take a 2 hour train ride to a farmhouse about 50 miles south of Rome, where we will attend a one week Italian cooking school.
3. Next, we take a one week hike around the Amalfi coast, including a couple of days on the magical island of Capri.
4. Finally, we will travel to Lake Como for 4 days of hiking and exploring. I didn't do a great job of planning all the logistics for this trip, and we will have to take about a 7 hour train trip to get to Lake Como.
In previous years, I had arranged all of our itinerary, hotels, etc by myself. For this year, I arranged the St Francis walk through the help of a touring company called caminoways.com. Although the St Francis trail dates back to the times of Francis of Assissi, it is not a popular walking path and not always well marked. While we will be hiking alone again (ie we are not part of a group), we will rely on the touring company to help with the maps, hotel arrangements, etc.
Years ago, we visited Assissi with my brother Bruce and his family and have very fond memories of that trip. That may have something to do with the massive quantities of wine that we consumed on that trip...but mostly it was how much our families enjoyed being together and the always fantastic Italians.
The cooking school was arranged through another touring company that specializes in food holidays called epicureanways.com. What a world we live in, where everything can be arranged on the Internet through highly specialized companies! Linda and I are very excited about this portion of the trip. We will stay at an old farmhouse in the Etruscan countryside. Everyday will be a mixture of Italian cooking classes and visits to local markets, wineries, olive oil factories, restaurants, etc. There will be something like 8-10 people at this cooking school, so it should be a lot of fun.
I scheduled the Amalfi coast portion of the trip myself, booking hotels online. I'm hopeful that the hotels are relatively near the hiking trails! Based on several videos that I have watched on YouTube, the hiking on the Amalfi coast appears to be spectacular, and we are really excited visiting this part of Italy. We will also take a ferry to Capri for a couple of days of hiking and visiting the Blue Lagoon.
Finally, we will end up at Lake Como. We have visited portions of the Italian Lakes region in the past, but never made it to Lake Como. We are hoping for a combination of excellent hiking and touring in this beautiful part of Italy. Of course, we hope to see our good friend George Clooney when viviting Bellagio on Lake Como... Based on the headlines of the magazines at the grocery store, George is either a. Deeply in love and his wife is pregnant or b. Heading for a divorce. We will let you all know the truth after our visit.....
We leave on May 13. I plan to post daily, starting on May 17 when we begin our hike. To paraphrase Jerry Garcia, while 37 days is a long time to be gone, it really is a short time to visit spectacular Italy!