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Umbria in autumn – photo gallery

Autumn brings a beautiful quality of light to the Italian hills and a glowing palette of colours. Peter and Jane Hamilton eventually walked our Umbrian route in October 2021, after having to rebook several times due to Covid, and sent us some fabulous photos from their trip.

Enjoy!

(image above: lakeside Piediluco)

Spoleto Cathedral

 

Setting out from Ferentillo

 

A view across the piazza at Greccio

 

Leaving Greccio

 

Relaxing in Casperia

 

Stunning sky at Greccio, with mist in the valley

The long days of January have at last come to an end and the world looks towards the coming months of the year with renewed hope. Although it’s difficult for those of us experiencing dreary weather and short days, it is so important that we all keep walking so that we’re ready when the time comes to explore further than our back gardens! However, if you need a little inspiration to get outside, we have just the thing…

On Foot’s Local Contacts are very much an extension of the On Foot family and we have been in regular conversation with them over the past few weeks. Normally, they are responsible for looking after our walkers and maintaining the routes but now they would like to share with you what they have been up to as well as offer you a different view of the countries we know so well, but rarely see out of season. Enjoy!


Photographs are listed by country, then by route and Local Contact. Click on the pictures to make them larger.

SPAIN:
Guy Hunter-Watts, Andalucia
“A sprinkling of snow a few days ago in Andalucia. This is Molly who was adopted from a refuge and likes walking almost as much as I do!”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Aznar Fernandez de Pinedo, The Lighthouse Way, Basque Pyrenees, Basque Country, Camino de Santiago
“We had a lot of snow in the city of Madrid. But the interesting thing is that in the high sierra (over 2300m) there was way less snow than in the flatlands. The storm came from the south, and in the famous Toledo there was even more snow than in Madrid! The middle picture below is of the village Cercedilla, in the sierra of Madrid. The picture on the right is the start of Gredos mountains, with lovely chestnut forests.”

 

Jesca Verdon-Smith, Mallorca
“Greetings to you all from Mallorca! The mountains are alive with happy new year [local] hikers. The island residents are keeping fit discovering the hiking trails in the absence of gyms and sport centres being open due to covid restrictions. No tourists to guide through the Serra de Tramontana sadly for almost a year now but I have been busy planning weekend hikes for the family and our other groups of friends with kids this winter. It is wonderful to see the kids enjoying the big outdoors, free of face masks which they have to endure all day at school and all chatting to each other as they go. No phones insight! And all of us marvelling at the wonders of nature. Here I am posting photos of a memorable hike two weeks ago from the town of Soller and a circuit into the stunning Barranc de Biniaraix. This is one of the On Foot hike routes. An ancient pilgrim path to the monastery of Lluc, part of the Gr221 and famous for its thousands of cobbled steps and water cascades after heavy rain. This was the weekend after the snow storm fall on the Tramuntana mountains. Yes it does snow in Mallorca! Bitterly cold day but the views of Soller’s snow capped peaks and sound of rushing water down the Barranc was totally magical. Hot potatoes with bolognese picnic lunch washed down with flasks of hot wine kindly carried up the mountain by the men certainly recharged us at our lunch stop! More hikes planned. Also, the Almond blossom is starting to bloom! Spring on its way! Saludos! Jesca.”

CZECH REPUBLIC:
Petr Hoska, Bohemian Paradise
“Hi everyone, I hope you are all well in these times. Also in the Czech Republic during January, an above-average amount of snow fell. Because the ski resorts are closed, many people have pulled out cross-country skis or bobsleighs. Snow statue of Krakonoš (Lord of the Mountains) – this is a tradition in Jilemnice (a town in the Giant Mountains). Today I made a cross country trip around 2nd highest hill in Bohemian Paradise – Tábor. On Friday it was snowing and this morning was -14°C and sunny all day. Perfect conditions. More circular views to Bohemian Paradise [below]. Trosky castle and Kozákov hill. On the other side Jizerské hory and Krkonoše (Giant Mountains). The cats [on the skis!] are my own in front of our house – their names are Mica (the most typical name for cats) and the cat boy’s name is Mourek (Tabby). They are very curious! Petr”

 

GREECE:
Ariana Masselou, Andros
“Good morning everybody from Greece. In the Aegean in Andros, it seems that winter has not come yet … it feels like spring! These pictures are from a walk I did on Andros yesterday! “Trekky” (my dog) greets you!”

 

ITALY:
Daniele Cavazzoni, Tuscany
“We had a lot of snow a couple of weeks ago..which has covered most of our mountains. Last Thursday I did a snowshoes hike on Monte Amiata! That’s the extinct volcano which overlook most of our Tuscany route. Not that high (1700 m) but so imposing compared to the gentle hills of Val d’Orcia around it…”

 

Beatrice Bariletta, Lake Maggiore
“Hi from Italy, Ossola Valley, Alps of Piedmont! Here spring is still very far…just a dream… but we have wonderful snow despite we are not so free to move to enjoy it! Nice snowshoes hikes, but temperatures very cold, – 9 C !”

Isabelle Johnson, Dolomites
“There’s been lots of snow for snowshoeing and cross country skiing in the Dolomites too!”

 

Greta Coperchini, Ligurian Hills
“Hello everyone! Watch this fantastic video of Monte Chiappo, on the path of the Ligurian hills, third stage. Here we are in Varzi near Milan in northern Italy!”

PORTUGAL
Paul Burton, Northern Portugal
“Hi everyone! Here in N. Portugal we have had heavy snow during early January but now it has gone really warm and humid. The picture shows the Serra Amarela and, almost invisible, the village of Germil, on the walking route. Stay safe everyone! Best wishes, Paul.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

ENGLAND:
Caroline Evans, Devon.
“No snow here in Devon, warm and a bit damp, but the early Spring flowers are just beginning to show their faces. I’m off for a walk along the coast not far from here this afternoon – the waves were huge after an Atlantic storm came through yesterday. However this is a view of a quieter moment last week. The picture on the right is of my family walking in Dartmoor.”

 

We hope you have enjoyed looking through the photos and reading about what the Local Contacts have been doing. All the photos here have been taken by our Local Contacts and the messages are their own words. Do send us your own updates of where you have been wandering as we love hearing from all of our walkers!

All the very best,

The On Foot Team.

Celebrating around Europe

The 2020 festive season is certainly going to be different this year. Sadly, many of the traditional activities that we look forward to every year will not be happening, or may be replaced by a clever online alternative. We’ve been chatting with some of our local contacts around Europe to find out what’s going to be different, and what’s going to be the same as it has always been.

The Twelve Grapes of Luck

Aznar (our local contact in northern Spain) tells us of a Spanish tradition for New Year: On 31st December people join together to celebrate the end of one year and start of the next. When the clock of the Puerta del Sol in Madrid rings out at midnight, people at home eat one grape for each strike of the bells and wish for a year of luck and prosperity, followed by a toast with champagne or cava. It’s a tradition dating to the late 19th century, and popularised by grape growers following a bumper harvest in 1909!

Gifts are traditionally given at Epiphany on 6th January, but the appearance of “Papa Noel” on 24th or 25th December has become common. In the Basque region it is often “Olentzero” who brings the gifts. There are many legends around this ancient character, who may have been a giant, or a charcoal burner or an old blind man, and is often recreated in the clothing of a Basque farmer. The one element of the Olentzero story that is common to celebrations in many cultures is the giving of presents and consumption of lots of good food.

The Sibil-la concert in Mallorca

Our local contact in Mallorca, Jesca, tells us about one of the most beautiful traditions on the island:

“On 24th December many attend the Midnight Mass, which includes the ‘Sibil·la concert’, a tradition dating to the 10th century and brought to Mallorca by King Jaime I the “Conquistador” in the 13th century. It is a magical moment where the arrival of the ‘Final Judgement’ is announced: in Palma’s cathedral (La Seu) and in every church on the island a child dressed in medieval clothes carrying a sword recites a song. So ancient is the song, which has a Gregorian melody and is sung without instrumental accompaniment, that in 2010 it was declared an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO. Afterwards, it is a must to go with your family and enjoy a cup of steaming hot chocolate with an ensaïmada, a traditional Mallorquin pastry – equally delicious at the end of a winter hike along On Foot’s Mallorca hiking trail!”

This year a limited number of people will be able at attend the Mass, which will be held earlier in the evening to allow for the island’s current curfew. Get a sneak preview in the video below from an earlier Christmas Eve in Palma cathedral.

 

A modern tradition in Slovenia

As in many places around the world, Christmas traditions in Slovenia are focused on religious ceremonies, spending time with family, and lots of food and drink. Miha (our man in Slovenia) says that Potica makes any celebration special – this delicious treat is baked in a ring-shaped mould and filled with something tasty such as walnut, hazelnut, chocolate, or even tarragon. Why not give it a try?!

At Postojna, very close to the start of our Slovenian walking route, a modern tradition has developed in the last 30 years. Visitors to the cave (in a normal year, anyway) can walk the 5km path through an illuminated wonderland in the magnificent cave complex, with scenes from the nativity story enacted along the way. 150 local people join professional musicians to enact the story. There’s stiff competition for the roles of the angels.

 

St Nikolaus spotted near the Rhine!

One of the favourite places of Bea, who looks after our walkers in Germany, is the section of On Foot’s Castles of the Rhine holiday between St Goarshausen and Kamp-Bornhofen. She recently spotted St Nikolaus there, and also told us how families will be celebrating at home this year.

“On Christmas Eve families come together to wait for the Christkind (a girl with long hair who is, crucially, invisible), while eating Weihnachtsstollen and Weihnachtsplätzchen. The room with the Christmas tree is locked and when it gets dark, suddenly you can hear a bell ring – the sign that the Christkind has passed. Everyone rushes into the room where the tree is decorated with balls and lighted candles. Under the tree are many, many presents, but before opening them we sing Christmas carols like “Stille Nacht, Heilige Nacht” and we are listening to the Christmas Story. Christmas is very traditional in Germany. Normally we go to mass at midnight, but this year with the Covid restrictions not many people will do so. But most important we are allowed to celebrate Christmas with our family and I think this will be a Christmas we will never forget.”

 

 

Nociata – a sweet treat from Umbria

Elisabeth has sent us this recipe from her home in the Umbrian hills. It’s a walnut honey brittle which is eaten by peeling back the bay leaves slightly, allowing their aroma to mingle with the sweetness of the walnuts. Afterwards, the leaves are thrown in the fire for a tiny firework display.

Nociata (50 pieces)
2/3 cup honey
225g finely chopped walnuts
100 fresh bay leaves

Put the honey in a pan over medium heat and cook until it’s very runny. Stir in the walnuts and cook until the walnuts are toasted, the honey begins to caramelize and the mixture pulls away from the sides of the pan, 8 to 10 minutes. Keep on stirring the whole time!

Lightly dampen a baking sheet with water and pour the walnut mixture onto it. Dampen a spatula with water and spread the mixture out. Lightly push down on the mixture to flatten it evenly into a rectangle, 0.5 cm thick.

With a sharp knife, cut into diamonds (4 cm long x 2 cm wide). Using the offset spatula, lift up one of the diamonds and put it on the inner side of a bay leaf, so the points of the diamond are facing the points of the leaf. Top with the inner side of another bay leaf and press the leaves together to adhere to the walnut brittle. Continue with the remaining pieces.

Refrigerate for at least 8 hours and up to overnight. These keep well in the fridge, but rarely last long in our house.

 

Wherever you are, and however you celebrate at this time of year, we wish you joy, peace and health. Keep walking!
From all of us at On Foot Holidays

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