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That Time in Italy When a 4 Mile Run Turned Into a 4 Hour Run

While Matt and I were in Italy I took a much needed break from my computer, but I had fun sharing camera phone pictures every once in awhile on my Instagram page. One of those photos was this one, with the caption: “Yesterday a group of us went running in the Italian countryside, got super lost and made it 12 miles instead of 4. Hard to be upset about getting lost with views like this!”

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And so, my friends, this is the story of the 4 mile run that turned into a 4 hour run. :)

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On Friday morning in Italy, a group of us decided to go on a run. Matt, my grad school friend Lauren, and a German guy named Felix who was friends with the groom and I all set out around 11 a.m. to explore the Italian countryside on foot.

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Let me preface this by saying that we were staying more or less in the middle of nowhere for the wedding. Our Italian host at the country home where we were staying gave us vague directions to a trail nearby, and we set off in the car in search of it.

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After about 10 minutes of driving and no trails in sight, we decided to just park and start running on the roads. We were off!

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The views were stunning with vineyards, beautiful vistas, and houses and small towns dotting the landscape.

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After a couple miles, we found a trail and decided to forge a new path, away from the roads.

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The trail got REALLY steep so we decided to transition to hiking vs. running…

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Plus frequent stops for photos. :)

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Before too long, we arrived in an adorable tiny town! A little old Italian man was walking down the street and tried to talk to us in rapid Italian, gesturing wildly with big smiles and saying something along the lines of wanting to invite us beautiful women into his house. Lol! We declined and forged on. :)

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This is where things started to get a little dicey. By this point, we’d covered about 3 miles with a combination of running and walking. Our options were to either head back the same way we came, or to try to figure out how to do a shorter loop back to the car. Felix was using a run tracker with GPS on his phone and the boys decided we should continue on and try to connect the loop vs. retracing our steps. So on we went!

Within a few minutes, we were obviously completely lost. ;)

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What had looked like it might lead to roads was actually just tiny driveways and wooded trails, but we were determined, so on we went. Eventually, we came upon a farm. We tried to take the road by their house but it was a dead end (and also included scary dogs). So we decided to take a route through their field instead that looked on the phone like it would lead right to the road where our car was.

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We decided to cool it on the running and walked instead, following the fence through the field down toward what looked like it would connect to the road.

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But then… the fence path ended, and turned into a field. “The road is RIGHT there on the other side of this!” we all said. “Let’s keep going and see if it connects.” It’s also worth mentioning that at the end of the fence, we discovered that the fence was had been trampled, and the horses all raced down to join us for the walk. We were actually kind of scared – they came RACING towards us! But then ran off, uninterested. Whew!

So then we found ourselves walking through knee high grass.

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We walked and walked and walked… and then discovered that between us and the road, there was a really thick and thorny forest, AND a stream. Epic fail. With no other option but to retrace our steps, we headed back the way we came.

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Even though we were totally lost, the weather was gorgeous and the views were stunning, so we couldn’t complain. :)

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On the walk back up to the farm we went inside the fence, since the horses had busted out. I’m pretty sure they were watching us like: “What are these idiots doing inside our pen when we’re out here, free?”

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We made our way back to the cute town, and Lauren and I were ready to head back the same way we came, since we knew how to go that way. But… then we found an Italian truck driver who swore to us that the road going the other way connected back with the road where we parked, and that it was a lot shorter. Hmmm… what to do?

Clearly, we took the gamble of the shorter path back.

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By this point, we were running again:

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And running, and running, and running…

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And running…

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And then we realized that the truck driver had been totally wrong. We all started walking and surveyed our options. Go back the other way? No, by this point we’d gone way too far. We remembered the name of the town where we parked – Torregentile – we just had no idea at this point where it was or how far. We finally came upon a house and asked them where it was. After some confusion, they said we were close to the turn off for it and that we should continue the way we were going.

So on we went. More walk/running. Somewhere around this point, a car drove by with some German friends of Felix’s who were also in town for the wedding! They were also extremely lost and had a full car, but they said they would tell everyone at the wine tasting where we were supposed to be at that we were alive, and that if we continued on on the road, we’d shortly reach the turn off for the town we were looking for.

About 20 minutes later, just as we were about to give up and turn back, we finally found the turn off. From there, it looked like we were getting closer to the car on the run tracker Felix was using. Fingers crossed.

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On we went. And on and on. Were we going the right way? It was too late to turn back, so we might as well keep going. By this point, it was after 3 p.m. – we had been gone for over 4 hours. We were glad we saw some people to let the others know we were fine and just on an accidental adventure!

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And then, finally – TORREGENTILE!!!!!!!!!!

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We made it!!!!

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From here, it was about another 20 minutes back to the car – by the time we finally reached the car Felix’s GPS tracker said we had run/walked 12 miles. Wow! So much for a short 30 minute run, right? We hopped in the car and headed straight to the wine tasting, arriving sweaty, covered in scratches from our grass/field adventures, thirsty, and triumphant.

All in all, a pretty fun way to spend a beautiful day in Italy! Although I think next time I’d vote we just go back the same way we came… ;)

Have you ever set out for a run or hike and gotten really lost? Any good stories to share?

Comments

  1. 1

    Wow-my boyfriend’s mother is Italian and his parents have a home in the Italian Alps near France. Last summer we went for a hike on a mountain bordering Italy and France. It was gorgeous, but we took a wrong way on our way back. His Italian cousin was *sure* he knew the right way to go and we were gone all day! Glad you made it back and had a wine tasting to follow the experience!

  2. 3

    This is just gorgeous! No better way to experience a new place than by running — you saw so much! Ending with wine is a brilliant idea. :)

    I’ve definitely planned runs to go one way and end up running twice as long once I get in the groove. The best was the weekend of the [cancelled] NYC Marathon last fall, just post-Hurricane Sandy, when I went for what was supposed to be a three-miler in the park and ended up running 10 miles with a huge pack of ‘we’re-doing-the-course-anyways’ marathoners. We ran through the bleachers and finish line as though we’d actually run the marathon — it was pretty powerful! The running zone is the best.

    Enjoy your travels!

  3. 5

    Wow, that’s hilarious! But looks like an amazing adventure. Glad you all made it back safely!

  4. 6

    Ah, how I’d love to get lost in Italy as long as it ends safely, haha. Pictures are beautiful!

  5. 7

    That’s one story you will NEVER forget! So cool you had your camera to tell it :)

  6. 8

    Hilarious! You’ll never forget that one! You all must have been starved and massively dehydrated after it all!

    • 9

      We were lucky it wasn’t hot out or else we would have gotten ourselves in trouble with no water! But yeah, we were pretty hungry and thirsty after it all. :)

  7. 10

    That is crazy!! I have never gotten that lost on a run but can totally see how it happens, especially in an unfamiliar place. And Italy at that! At least you had good weather and gorgeous scenery.

  8. 11

    That’s quite a place to get lost at least – what views! How stunning. That’s certainly a story you’ll never forget, and hopefully you won’t ever forget those views either! Gorgeous!

  9. 12

    My first day in Italy, I went on a walk of the town. It was surrounded by a huge wall, so I figured I wouldn’t get to lost. I some how walked outside the gate and didn’t notice and walked really far away from town before I realized what I’d done. My 20 minute walk before dinner turned into over an hour.

    You know have a great story to tell :)

  10. 13

    Aside from getting lost, looks like you had a great time “exploring!” Plus, it’s kind of a fun story to tell. :)

  11. 14
    Katie @ cooklaughmove says:

    Wow, what a great tour :)

    My sister and I started a run together, but I cut it short and she was going to keep going for a couple more miles. It had been an hour and a half since I’d been home and she still hadn’t showed up. I started freaking out and got in the car to look for her (almost called the police). Finally I found her about a mile from home, she took a wrong turn. Would she accept a ride? Nope, she was determined to finish what she started and ended up going 16 miles instead of 6 that day!!

    • 15

      Ha, good for her! We debated trying to get a ride from the truckers we met in the town but ended up deciding it was our mission to finish out the adventure! :)

  12. 16

    Wow, what a crazy adventure! You got to see a ton of beautiful Italian countryside!

  13. 17

    I lol’d at that photo of Matt hugging the sign! I’ve had this same experience so many times (though not in Italy, unfortunately!). Anytime someone is like, “Well, there *is* this shorter way around…” I’m like, “Great!” Only to find myself retracing my steps an hour later!

  14. 18

    Haha, what an adventure! When I was a kid, my parents took us hiking in NH at Mount Monadnock. We had hiked many mountains in NH, most of which had trails that connected to each other so you could see something different than you saw on the way up. We were TOLD that was true of Monadnock… so up one side we went, and down another trail that allegedly connected… allegedly being the operative word! Instead of ending up back at our car, we wound up on the other side of the mountain – 2 adults and 4 cranky kids in (how I remember it) 90* heat. Instead of hiking back up, we started to walk on the road… eventually a police car stopped and asked us what the heck we were doing… my dad explained our dilemma. The officer couldn’t fit all of us in the cruiser, so he drove my dad to our car, and then dad circled back to get the rest of us from the side of the road. Needless to say, I haven’t been back to Monadnock… HA!

  15. 20

    Haha! At least you got to see some great scenery. I once went on a road trip with friends from southern France to Andorra. We realized at one point that we’d gone the wrong way and needed to turn around, and we had to do so in the middle of some reasonably busy road. The girl who was driving pulled off to the side of the road, then realized that she didn’t know how to put the rental car in reverse (it was a standard, but there was a button you had to push in before you could push the gearshift that way)…so that was kind of an ordeal as a bunch of French people drove around us and we tried to figure out how to turn the car around. We also tried to drive through a tunnel in Andorra until some guy came running through waving his arms frantically, and we realized that we couldn’t drive through said tunnel at the time because a herd of cows was coming through from the other side and we had to turn around quite quickly. Good thing we’d already figured out how to put the car in reverse!

    • 21

      Omg Matt and I had THE hardest time figuring out how to put our rental car into reverse! You had to lift up the actual gear stick in a specific way – the first day until we figured it out we just had to rely on gravity to turn around, lol!

  16. 22

    Wow – what a fun story and adventure! If you’re going to get lost, might as well be in the Italian countryside. I’m sure it will make for a highly memorable trip.

  17. 23

    I love “adventures” that end well. My mother and I got lost/had an “adventure” outside of Rome about 10 years ago. We wound up meeting some German tourists who were also having “an adventure”. It was so beautiful and fun that nobody minded that we had gotten completely lost. Your photographs make me long to return to Italy and have more “adventures”.

  18. 24

    I’m speechless! You guys are great sports. I would’ve been terrified :) #NeuroticMuch?

    What beautiful scenery, though. Can’t think of a better place to be lost.

  19. 25
    Pat Elsberry says:

    What a great place to get lost … and what a great story you will tell your children someday!! Beautiful scenery and great pictures!

  20. 26

    It may not have been the run y’all originally planned on, but it looks beautiful! And a great way to see parts of the country you most likely wouldn’t have seen… Makes for a great story :)

  21. 27

    Haha sounds like quite the adventure! On the bright side, you probably burned enough calories to fully indulge in some Italian food!

  22. 28

    Those Italians are too funny. They’re such nice people, but I definitely had some experiences like you did with that older man when I was there! ;-)
    At least you got some great pictures out of the run/walk – and a great story! I’m glad you made it back safely either way.

  23. 29

    I’m actually in Rome for work at the moment, and am excited for my morning run! I’m aiming to complete six miles, but I don’t exactly have a planned route. However, this whole getting lost in Italy business is making me rethink my “plan.” =)

  24. 31

    This was such a fun post to read! What an adventure! I love it when unexpected things like that happen. You didn’t set out for an adventure quite like that, but made the most of it and had a great time.

  25. 32
    marlene kort says:

    As Lauren’s mother, I loved reading how you and Lauren voted to return by “the way you came”…since you knew that route! However, makes for a better adventure to explore new possibilities. Have had many mountain experiences with lost wanderings. One of the best was traveling hut-to-hut on backcountry skis and skins carrying 40lbs of gear. After 8 hrs, 3 high altitude mt pass crossings and lots of deep snow, we were down to a few minutes of remaining twilight to find the next hut. As we were about to set up our little tent and spend the night trying to stay warm in 17 degree temps, through the trees we spotted lights flick on from the solar panels of our destination hut. Yippee, wood-burning stove, foam mattresses, and a log cabin. The challenges make the memory of being there all the more sweet. Such it is in life. Thanks for the story and pictures.

  26. 34

    I’m glad you all made it back safely and enjoyed your adventure! How lucky that you saw your German friends so they were able to let everyone know you guys were safe!

    I lived in an industrial part of China for a year, and would often try to get away from the machines and smog by riding my bike outside the city. One evening I went out for a ride and got totally lost. At first it was pretty, green, and rural, but then I stumbled upon the weirdest thing…it was a development that looked exactly like American suburbia!! There were billboards in English, covered bus stops, and buildings that looked like an American residential apartment complex. On top of that, it was totally abandoned – like a ghost town. It was eerie. At this point, I was getting really worried that I would never make it home. Finally, I spotted a lone person (a Chinese man) and asked him for directions back to my town, and thanks to him I finally made it back home – several hours after I intended. After that, I tried a few times to ride back that anomalous pocket of America in China, but I was never able to locate it again! So I don’t know if I experienced some kind of weird sci-fi spatial wormhole or if I was dehydrated, homesick, and hallucinating, but that is probably my most memorable getting-lost story!

    • 35

      Omg that is SO crazy!!! Something out of a movie! Maybe it was an old military post or something?! How bizarre and cool. I think it’s even more exciting that you were never able to find it again or confirm whether it was real… the mystery lives on! :)

  27. 36

    Wow what a fun run and great adventure! I love all those photos the scenery is so beautiful it makes me want to go!

  28. 37

    unexpected adventures are the best! sometimes we’ll drive out to new trails and just walk until we somehow find our car again…i bet it’s even better in italy!!

  29. 38

    Hahahah oh my! That is such a funny story! Had I been there, I would have totally been stressing out about being lost. You certainly earned your wine;)

  30. 39

    At least you had great views while you were lost! I like the way you turned what could have been a frustrating, disheartening spirit into an adventure you embraced. Good thing it didn’t happen the day of the wedding :)

  31. 41

    That’s quite an adventure! During my semester abroad in Spain my friends and I would travel all over the country every weekend. Near Valencia we took a bus that was supposed to get us to our hostel outside the city. Well, the bus only went so far and then we had to walk with our gear for quite a while to finally get where we needed to be. Have also had similar ‘adventures’ driving in Europe and getting completely lost!!

  32. 42
    Paula Sparkle says:

    wow, you really know write, Anne -I was feeling the tension for you guys – glad you made it back safe!

    My parents got lost one night after they landed in Sorrento (think it was)a few years ago – they landed with a tour group, forgot to look at the hotel’s name, walked out to dinner, strolled down the streets and got completely lost! A very kind cab driver drove them around to the major hotels until they recognized their entry way – Their lesson? Check out your hotel name before you run around in a foreign country!

  33. 44
    Roadrunner says:

    Wonderful post/story! Great fun…

    And yes, got lost worse than last year’s Easter egg one time on a run in Hannover, Germany, during which we couldn’t remember the name of the hotel in which we were staying! We finally stumbled across it…

  34. 45

    Glad you got lost in the beautiful Italian countryside. The one time I got lost wasn’t nearly as scenic. I was in running in Forest Park in St. Louis, and I was going to make a loop around the park. I ended up running out of the park and heading in the opposite direction that I wanted to go. I ended up in a REALLY scary neighborhood, with a bunch of boarded up houses, and I was near panicking. I told myself to calm down, go back the way I came from and go to the one street that sounded familiar. I ended up at The Grove, a restaurant/bar area that I’ve been to once, and considered my options. By that point, I was about 7 miles from home/campus, and I had never ran that much before. I ended up calling my University’s police, and they gave me a ride back. I was so relieved, that I started crying in the car.

  35. 47

    This story is hilarious. Totally worth waiting for. Were there any “I told you so’s” going on between the guys and the girls? Seems like you were all fairly happy through the ordeal – glad to hear it:-) I’d probably have been whining at the back of the pack “guys…we should go back…c’mon guys!”.

    • 48

      Haha there was a little bit of “I told you so” later on but we were all just enjoying the adventure and laughing about it. :)

  36. 49

    I love it! What better way to get lost. I can’t imagine being in Italy and running and walking and hiking and getting lost and finding your way back. Sounds like a good adventure.

  37. 50

    Wow, what an adventure. Sometimes the best stories come out of mishaps. :) We would never have got to see that beautiful countryside if you guys hadn’t gotten lost.

  38. 51

    I’ve definitely gotten lost on runs before but never 4 hours! But of all places to get lost, this doesn’t look to shabby ;)

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