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  • Writer's picturekristina jacobsen

Day 3: Via francigena-San Miniato to Gambassi Terme

Good morning from Gambassi Terme! As I've been walking the Via Francigena I have been reading Rebecca Solnit’s beautiful book, Wanderlust.


Solnit talks about why people walk and the work that walking does. Personally I find that the deepest work for me usually happens after I'm done walking out during it. The first time I walked the Camino de Santiago I expected a big brilliant light bulb to go off in the middle of my walk. I was frustrated when it didn't happen but when I got back to the US that walk really started working on me and I was so grateful for the community of pilgrims in Albuquerque that held space for the importance of that walk for me and for themselves. So now I'm a little more comfortable just walking and not thinking about what the walking will mean or assigning meanings to it in advance.

Quince flowers along the root for yesterday’s walk

I also love what Solnit has to say here about artists and walking and itinerant lives, something which resonates deeply with me at my particular life juncture: “Whether or not the Sophists were virtuous, they were often mobile, as are many of those whose first loyalty is to ideas. It may be that loyalty is something as immaterial as ideas, sets thinkers apart from those whose loyalty is tied to people on locale. For the loyalty that ties down the latter will often drive the former from place to place. It is an attachment that requires detachment to ideas, which are not as reliable or popular a crop as a corn and those who cultivate them often must keep moving in pursuit of support as well as truth. Many professions in many cultures from musicians to medics have been nomadic, possessed of a kind of diplomatic immunity to the strife between communities that keeps others local.” Solnit, Wanderlust, pp 16-17.

Yesterday’s lunch along the trail:focaccia seasoned with olive oil and salt, thinly sliced in half, and stuffed with fresh fennel, salami, and aged pecorino

And so today, I am finally in Gambassi Terme, a small village with a hot springs. Yesterday was by far the hardest day, around 16 miles of steep hills and up and downs without any flat plains from about 7 AM to 3 PM. I arrived hot, tired and pretty dehydrated to the Hostel, ostello sigerico, which was a huge breath of fresh air: Lavender gardens, rosemary bushes, and a huge cloister garden with picnic tables and stunning view of the countryside. We had a delicious dinner at a long table with folks from Germany, France, Argentina, and Mexico.


So far, although the food has been exquisite, this has been a much more mixed Camino than my Spanish one. I mean this in the sense that some Tuscan hosts are welcoming and open their arms like the woman who offered me the hot, crusty piece of focaccia at her bar outside of San Miniato Basso, and the two Sicilian fruitsellers who gave me free nectarines as I walked on a beautiful morning by the river. And there is Giovanni the Ostello owner, who has been writing and checking in on me every day since I started. But for others, running in ostello is a business just like any other, and the folks who check you in can be dismissive and impatient. people on the road often drive fast and sometimes even put pilgrims in danger with the speed of their driving and how close they drive to you. And there seems to be less curiosity about why these people with backpacks are showing up in their town. But this is also why comparisons are often unproductive and unhelpful. Each is its own camino.


‘Ginestra’ flower, so sweet smelling and lining many of Yesterdays paths

So perhaps overall, I would say the hospitality culture of this piece of the Italian Camino is not present in the same way that I've encountered in Spain. But I think it also makes a difference that the Spanish government has invested in the Camino at the national level, providing cars that drive up and down hot, dusty portions of the path so that pilgrims know that there's a larger fabric and network that is supporting them. And God forbid if something goes wrong including the level of hospitals and health care, as we learned when our friend Henrik got sick in Spain and was completely taken care of, the Spanish government has agreed to cover those expenses within reason. 


The “songs of Santiago” sticker on the Via Francigena

As I head to the Hot Springs for a celebratory day off, I’ll leave you with another one of my favorite Solnit insights: “When you give yourself to places that give you yourself back. The more one comes to know them, the more one seeds them with the invisible crop of memories and associations that will be waiting for you when you come back. While new places offer up new thoughts new possibilities. exploring the world is one of the best ways of exploring the mind and walking travels both terrains.” 


-Rebecca Solnit, p. 14-


Number of kilometers to ROME
Yesterday’s lunch along the trail was a simpler affair. Focaccia seasoned with salt and olive oil with a fresh seasoned salami with fresh fennel and sheep cheese in the middle.

If you are a walker, why do you walk? What does walking give to you as artist observer of the world and human in the world? I’d love to hear your thoughts.


disclaimer: All posts written on the camino are written from my cell phone, and therefore have very minimal editing. They are meant to be a snapshot and a representation of daily life while walking, rather than a polished publication. Please take that into account when reading.

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Debi Peterson
Debi Peterson
10 jun.

Thank you for all of your thoughts and experience and sharing of each day and thanks for Henrik’s sharings. For me walking is the best way to experience a place because of all the sensory intake and especially in more natural settings. I want to marinate in all of your sharings for as long as I like and I appreciate Henrik’s zen reminder, that everything is empty and yet we are so fortunate to be able to feel it all and then to let it go. And at the same time all of this can take us back to revisit experiences and to open us to invent and create and imagine what where who and how we might want …

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Debi Peterson
Debi Peterson
10 jun.
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Thanks so much, Kristina. I actually don’t think I have many editing brain cells so I love seeing less edited text. It makes me feel like I’m in good company even if it’s not your usual since you are clearly a word Smith and a song Smith.. And also wanted to say I won’t be offended if you don’t respond because I know you’re really busy out there having this amazing experience so I’m good just to make comments and not hear back💙

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Henrik Nielsen
Henrik Nielsen
10 jun.

Hi Kristina!

It's always fascinating to follow someone's personal experiences, as we all have different preferences that can change throughout our lives. It would be quite unnatural to have the same thoughts!

When I go for long walks, I try to enter a state of naturalness that allows me to understand and be in reality. It's not always successful, because it's far from always easy to be in a mental void filled with thoughts, but that's just how the brain works... it's designed to think based on our 5 senses. The trick is to understand that these thoughts are just reflections of experiences, and are empty, like everything in this universe, of an inherent independent identity. There is…


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kristina jacobsen
kristina jacobsen
10 jun.
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henrik-thank you for sharing!!!! i love these insights. see you on week 30 in Silkeborg-can’t wait!!!

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