Considering the sun that had set, beautifully red, the night before, the misty drizzle that greeted us when we arose was a definite letdown. Fortunately Emma's breakfast was as lavish as her dinner, with all sorts of tasty morsels to nibble on. I'm afraid we didn't do it the justice it deserved, but one can only eat so much in the space of 12 hours.
In any case, after eating we donned our rain gear, I opened my umbrella, and we set out for Pontassieve, a 28-km walk. Considering that it was all down hill I would have expected it to be easier, but for me it was the toughest day of the trip, and I found myself going a slow, steady pace while everyone else pulled inexorably away. Tried going faster several times, but slowed down after a hundred yards or so each time, and finally simply walked along, while the rain stopped, allowing me to close my umbrella and start taking pictures of this and that, the mountains, the spillway of a mill, a guy riding his bicycle (a weird one) lying down, and so on. It was quiet, the sound of my shoes on the road and the occasional whoosh of a car, and after a while I reached Dicomano, about when everyone else was setting out from Dicomano (after a meeting with the authorities) along the stream -- Leonardo said it was muddy, and I decided to stick to the road.
Rufina is a lot farther from Dicomano than I had realized, and the miles passed with excruciating slowness, also because the river had grown enough that the valley was flatter, while the road was straight -- much less opportunity to discover something neat around the bend.
In the meantime the clouds broke up and the sun came out. Beautiful skies and vistas, and as I was entering Rufina I came to one of those "you are now going" meters, which was flashing at people going way above the speed limit. As I neared, it started jumping between 3 and 4 km, and I kicked myself for not thinking to take a picture before another car whooshed by.
The nice thing about Rufina's being far from Dicomano is that it's close to Pontassieve, and shortly before reaching to town I left SS67, the route we had followed, to take an older much less trafficked road along the river. Pontassieve owes its name to its being the site of a bridge (ponte) over the Sieve river, and while the bridge I crossed is new, the ones a little upstream of me are much older and quite pretty.
This evening we were the guests of fellow pilgrim Stefano Fassineti, the only professional cook among us, who has a Locanda in the old part of town called Toscani da Sempre. It took us a bit longer than it had other days to get showered and cleaned up, and then we went to meet the local authorities -- a several people dressed in Renaissance garb, including the bearer of Pontassieve's standard, and the Assessore alla Cultura, who escorted us into the town hall while people looked and TV cameras rolled. Speeches inside, a diploma for each of us, and then we went back to Stefano's for some bubbly before dinner.
Good bubbly, and we were decidedly merry by the time we squeezed into our table (with Artusi's descendents and their wives). Dinner was very nice; we began with baccalà Montebianco, creamy baccalà with crusty bread, followed by passatelli in broth and pappardelle (broad tagliatelle) with rabbit sauce, then stewed castrato (castrated lamb) with beans and baked eggplant, and then latte alla portoghese, a delicate crème caramel, and Artusian biscotti. All washed down with wines from Chianti Rufina (while Leonardo read aloud from Artusi), because all the Sangiovese di Romagna we had been given was gone, and when we were winding down Stefano brought out two threatening looking bottles, one filled with a creamy yellow liquid with orange threads, and the other with just creamy yellow liquid.
It turns out Stefano is fanatical when it comes to hot peppers, growing all sorts of kinds (and worrying lest a kid who comes to the restaurant eat one during the summer), and uses the habaneras and other central American varieties to make the shot-with-read liqueur, which he advised those who are hesitant about heat try. The other is instead made with naga and ghost peppers, and it was something. A touch of sweetness followed by a blast of napalm, and then an electrical zing as the endorphins kicked in. Most impressive, the sort of thing to sip a teaspoon of, by the drop.
It was the perfect close to a delightful evening.
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