Let’s play a game. Let’s imagine to step back into the year 1000, and decide that time has come to venture outside the walls of our village. Curiosity is strong. The only information available comes from the priest, or some troubadour who stops at the village and tells most likely fanciful and fictitious stories – or some merchant; and pilgrims, obviously. They spark a greater curiosity as their reasons for wandering are a result of their faith. They impress humble people at times with their reputation for holiness or their picaresque characters, of which to be wary. Taking to the road to a holy place that holds the relics of a saint, if not an Apostle may also be a good opportunity for leaving behind any strait, even cultural, of a village life. A quite exciting plan.
Getting ready for the journey, it means wearing a short garment, no doubt of rough, undyed wool, a wide-brimmed hat to protect from sun and rain, very plain boots or sandals, a sturdy bent cane called staff to help in difficult sections and also useful to keep animals, prowlers and the devil away. A water flask hanging from the belt, often consisting of a small empty pumpkin, and a haversack, made of leather or other animal skin to be carried open as a proof that it does not contain anything harmful, complement a pilgrim’s outfit.
From the Versilia region, the way heads for Pistoia to visit the relics of San Giacomo (Saint James). At Camaiore, the so-called six miles area starts and leads all the way to Lucca and its sturdy walls. The way continues into the countryside, over hills and through ancient villages.
Nowadays, a great deal has changed, however much is still in place. You will be easily feel contemporary with el Cid Campeador (1043-1099), the Spanish leader who fought for reconquering Spain from the Arabs. Or with Goffredo di Buglione, a Frankish knight and among the leaders in the First Crusade (1096-1099). It can be fun and certainly relaxing to give up our technological tools for a few days, and seek sobriety and essentiality of that age. We will be grateful for a soup and a piece of bread whilst spending the night in a hospital with few comforts provided by the local parish. The Knights of the Tau, or the Knights Hospitallers, if not the Templars will keep our route safe from dangers and risks. When we reach our holy grail, we will be gifted with the changes experienced during our journey.