Actually it’s day 37. I noticed that there are two days numbered Day 22.
New high score in daily kilometres for this walk, and while the app had this listed as three stages, I decided to push on so that the three of us could move on to another adventure! The end of any long walk is one of mixed emotions – not really wanting the journey to end, but at the same time wanting to get it over and done with. I was also frustrated somewhat that the end of this journey is something of a contrived finish. Brindisi and Otranto were important ports in Roman times due to their proximity to modern day Albania. Pilgrims walking to Jerusalem would have crossed from either place and followed the Roman road to Constantinople. From Santa Maria di Leuca the only option is boat through the Greek islands, Crete, and Cyprus. While pilgrims undoubtedly took that route – possibly walking the land sections – it would have been an expensive and perilous undertaking.
The route for the day was the inevitable olive groves, the change being the harsh landscape they grow in. Being in the south, preparations are well under way for harvesting, with nets spread everywhere to catch the olives – or at least this is how the smaller scale farmers do the harvest. Walking the official route was tiring at times due to the nature of the terrain and the fact that the path bobbed and weaved through the small land holdings, all of which are separated by stone walls. With only 18 kilometres to SMdL the trail used a regular road for a while. Realizing that it was not heavily traveled and that it made a bee-line to the lighthouse, I just continued to follow it. I did rejoin the proper path for the last three kilometres, thinking it inappropriate to cross the “finishing line” on the highway.
SMdL is probably a nice place in the summer, but in the off season it had the feel of a deserted English seaside town, complete with eccentric English tourists. I took a quick dip in the ocean just on dusk and shared a celebratory beer with a cloud of mosquitoes on the patio (no other seating option when you are wet shorts). Most restaurants appeared to be closed, and my legs were not up to searching too far from the hotel, so I broke one of my travel rules and ate in the hotel restaurant. I think most people were English, and seemingly on the dinner, bed, and breakfast plan.
And just when you think you have completed the via francigena, I read in the Trenitalia magazine (with the help of Google translate) of a new “viefrancigene Fabaria” across Sicily which opens in 2023. Not sure why they feel the need to use the ‘French way’ nomenclature, but visiting Sicily has always been on my list!😀
PS. The total distance I walked was 842 km, while the app distance is 939km. I was happy not to have those 97km/4 days of walking!