Morning Update – Near Death. This is hard to hear because of all the traffic flying by at 100mph
Morning Update Part II. – Near Life.
It was only “near” life because the walk today wore us out. It was longer and more pavement-filled that we expected. But we put yet another 20+mi day in the books.
But we did get to visit a real treasure, the 12th century Abbey of Chiaravalle del Colombo. The abbey is nearly in its original condition and operated well after most monasteries had foundered. Napoleon, after his victories in Italy eventually “closed” the Abbey allowing only 2 monks to remain.
The abbey’s foundation and construction is well documented having been built to exacting plans laid out by none other than Saint Bernard himself.
The rest of the day was a bit of a slog along country roads until we entered Fidenza itself. Here we met again our friend Jacques from France. We met him at work around day 36. He was working this week in Fidenza and we managed to get together for dinner.
Jacques had received a restaurant tip from a co-worker and it was a good one. We only had a single course but it was excellent pasta and even better company. On our way out we swung by the Cathedral which is famous for its statuary. Jacques had had a tour earlier and shared his knowledge of the images. Thanks again Jacques.
After a great sleep in the awesome Templar donativo at Corte San’Andrea and a slow morning we began our short walk to the Po river.
At this same location over 1000 years ago Sigeric also crossed the Po after paying the ferryman his wage. Of course he was going the opposite direction, but still, a ferry crossing is part of the record and we would cross as well.
The Ferryman of the Po (Best watched with the volume down or off).
The ferryman in this case is Danillo.
He has been operating a service for pilgrims for over 30yrs and each pilgrim is dutifully recorded in his walnut backed and leather bound pilgrim book.
It was a treat to be added to his book and to review his records showing the details of each pilgrim. It seems we may have been the first Americans to cross this year and only the 162nd and 163rd for all time.
There are several interesting things at Danillo’s house but my favorite, other than the book itself, was his massive Pilgrim stamp. This thing is huge.
The walk from Danillo’s to Piacenza was pretty but mostly streets. Large open bed trucks full of tomatoes flew pass in a hurry occasionally losing ripe tomatoes along the way.
Crossing the Trebbia “river” was odd. A massive bridge crosses the river, but at this time of year it was completely dry. The Trebbia feeds into the Po at Piacenza, ….well, it would, if there was any water in it.
In Piacenza we viewed the basilica of Sant’Antonio and noted the dedication to Pope Gregory X who was born in the city.
While Allison and I sat on the steps of the Duomo with Jean Yves eating yet another dry tuna sandwich we looked around at others. Jean Yves noted: “you know they are all looking at us saying ‘poor people’. Funny thing is, we were looking at them saying the same thing.
The rest of the day was a blur. Not a blur of excitement, but a monotonous blur of passing cars and trucks as we walked along a very busy highway. It was far from safe and a small misstep could have been really scary. So for over three hours we plowed along at a rapid pace, head down, focusing on our feet and the traffic zooming past us.
For our efforts we logged over 20mi and after tomorrow we will be in Fidenza a day ahead of plan. It wasn’t intentional. It was purely a matter of the spacing of available lodging.
Despite the miles we opted for a very simple dinner (a chicken leg and some mushrooms for me, and a cutlet and fries for Allison). The bed will feel great tonight.
I slept a long time – a very long time. I woke at 6:30am feeling 1000% better. Sleep is good medicine and so is water. Today being an extra short day made it all the better.
Morning Update Day65
There was no rush to leave the pilgrim house but sometimes routines are hard to break. There were four of us in the parochial donativo and we were all up and about by seven. Breakfast was meager but we all shared what we had and there was enough.
Allison and I left first and within a few minutes the rain sprinkles began to arrive and we stopped under a tree to don our rain gear.
This was the first of what was forecasted to be a wet day. However, after this first light rain the clouds broke up and we had a beautiful, dryer, and cooler day. The wind was very strong however and we both had to hold onto our hats at times.
The route took us across the Lambro river and through small towns until we reached Orio Litta. Here Allison and I stopped for a coffee and Allison also treated herself to a gelato. For once I didn’t indulge – I’d had a bigger breakfast.
As we were exiting the town, we passed the large mansion/castle of Litta Carnini. Here we met three family members whose family used to own the place. Some misfortune had taken it from them but the family gathers yearly at the “home place”. Covid had stopped it until this year.
They were very interested in the idea of pilgrimage and we spoke to them for quite a few minutes. One of the sisters wanted to encourage the idea to her children. Pictures were taken.
The last few kms were easy and beautiful. But I was eager to get to this historic stopping point. I’d received a few emails over the past week from a friend from our Camino2014. We’d met our Italian friends, Alessandro and his daughter Lara, about 3/4 of the way through Spain but we had so much in common and we’d tried to keep in touch. Time, however, has a way of ripping people apart.
Knowing we’d be walking through Italy we’d contacted Lara and she’d put us back in touch with Alessandro. He drove 2hrs each way to meet us at this spot and have lunch together. He and his wife Barbara drove us to a nearby town (no open restaurant here) and the kindly invited JeanYves to join along.
What a wonderful treat to meet again and how much it meant to reconnect with Alessandro. I truly hope to make an intentional visit to Italy to get to know them even better. Just good people.
We parted ways and started the whole Pilgrim routine again (shower, laundry, etc). This particular donativo is plush. Amenities include a full kitchen WITH food, a washing machine, dining room, lounge etc. It is decked out. There are only four of us here so far, but it is set up for many more. In fact, as I was typing, a bike pilgrim just showed up. His name is Carlos and he’s walked all the way from Lisbon. Today he walked 50km. That’s nuts.
We ended the evening with Allison and I cooking for everyone – pasta of course. It seemed to be appreciated. Carlos had extra pasta – he’d earned it.
One last entry…I’d swear I’d have gained all weight last in France back with all the pasta we’ve eaten. But this place had a scale and if it is accurate I’ve now lost a total of 17lbs (about 10%). That’s a good number to stick with. Allison wouldn’t want it published so let’s just say the percentage is a few percentage points more. Walking is a great diet plan folks. Stop walking however, and you can’t keep eating like we do undoubtedly. Wouldn’t life be wonderful if you could though.
It was a tough start to a tough day this morning. Last night the sound of traffic well past 4am made sleeping difficult. It didn’t help that I had a really bad headache (likely due to dehydration).
We taped our morning update from the Ponte Coperta (covered bridge) which had been constructed in post war period. The original medieval bridge had been bombed by the allies during WWII.
I was disappointed to have missed touring some of Pavia’s sights (this happens too often due to fatigue and a busy schedule). But today was to be a long day and we didn’t have a place to stay for the evening yet.
Much to our disappointment when we called at 9am, we received the news that our intended place was closed. This left only one viable option – going 20+miles yet again in the hot sun.
Mid day update
As I mentioned, I wasn’t feeling great anyway and this really hurt. My headache continued through the day and the glare and heat made the miles drag on. To make matters worse my back began to ache and for the last 8miles was actually spasming occasionally.
Our only different wildlife sightings were all dead things. Except a very colorful caterpillar. FYI, these are the crawdad guys that I mentioned yesterday.
We stopped to rest at Belgioioso and had a pizza and coke. We ended up only eating half a had the rest for dinner. It was labeled a cheese and wurst pizza. Turns out it was hotdog. So I had my first hotdog pizza. It wasn’t bad at all.
We stumbled into our original destination of Santa Christina (still an hour and and a half short of our final destination) and had a sit for a bit. We had a sports drink and an ice cream and enjoyed listening to all the local men sitting outside playing cards.
The last 1-1/2hrs seemed to take 3. I was very uncomfortable; but there was nothing to do but plow on. We made it to Miraldo Terme and did our best to do our chores before crashing and attempting a nap. As it happens, Jean Yves and a Belgian pilgrim Steven ended up at the same place, so there was no rest to be had.
But getting out of the sun and just lying around did wonders. All seems to be better now and I think with a nights sleep we will be ready to go again. Tomorrow is a short day !! Yay. The first we’ve had in a while. However it is predicted to be quite rainy. It’s amazing to think we’ve only had one real full day of rain this entire trip. Time to unpack the rain gear.
Today had us walking our last bit of the VF by the ever lasting rice fields.
Day63 Morning Update
The day began cool but incredibly humid. Coating yourself with bug spray before 7 am just feels wrong, but you have to protect yourself from the thousands of mosquitoes all out for a taste of your blood.
Wildlife sightings included some more egrets, ducks, Nutria (those otter-like rodent guys), and two new entries, a bunny and a fox. The fox was beautiful and stood motionless in the middle of our path just long enough for me to get my camera out, but not long enough to get a photo…bummer.
We next had a fantastic surprise. Up ahead in our view something very strange appeared. Could it be? No,….maybe….yes it is! A Hill! The village of Gropella Cairoli sits on a rise in an otherwise pancake-flat terrain. Although we only climbed about 50 feet the change was marked – no bugs, and a breeze. We actually stopped and sat on a bench and enjoyed it.
Although we went back down, almost magically the rice fields ended. Soon the drainage ditches became creeks and then rivers. Then there were genuine trees that provided this thing called Shade. Shade it good.
Today was a 30km day in humid, but blessedly cloudy weather. The light rain over night however really brought out the Zanzari (mosquitoes) , so we quickly coated ourselves with Deet and reapplied during the day. That did the trick but they were a nuisance.
We entered Nicorvo and discovered a small Chapel at the intersection of the two major Pilgrimage paths. We got a stamp here.
When you walk through repetitive parts sometimes the conversation and topics for video shoots can get a little weird. Here we are having a lovely conversation about sillage for example.
Those of you that know us won’t be surprised when I state that I’m the more spontaneous party in this marriage. Allison likes to deliberate and feel comfortable with her actions. I’m more reckless. Sometimes however Allison can be quite decisive.
In the village Madonna del Campo, just before Mortara we walked past a tiny chapel. You walk past hundreds of these guys (mostly closed), but this one had a placque that interested me so we went inside. Wow, what a find. The walls of Santa Maria del Campo (built around 1100!!!) had some amazing frescos but the real treat was the acoustics.
Shortly after visiting the chapel, we met yet another pilgrim today. He had a really funny walk though.
Actually, today we had some other fun animal sightings. First we saw some animals called Nutria. They looked like otters, but they are actually giant rodents and are a nuisance animal. ….but they look so cute, don’t you agree?
Finally we saw bunches of decapitated crayfish. Apparently they are what all those water birds are feasting on. The whole circle of life thing ya know.
Well, that’s it. There’s little else to say about our walk. When we finally reached Tromello (one of Sigeric’s stops FYI) we met our host and we’re escorted to our rooms in the parish house. This is another donativo (they are such a blessing). Our host Carlo spoke only Italian but he took us to dinner and we used a lot of Google Translate to have a basic conversation. He loves history and has a collection of Roman coins. Sorry no pics.
Tomorrow is yet another long day but between the last three days we will have shortened our walk in this region by two full days. It’s really not as bad as we may lead you to believe. The walking is actually quite easy and the signage has been excellent, It just isn’t spectacular.
An issue arose last night with this blog. I hit a storage limit. Not sure what I’m going to do about it, but a starting point was to delete the Camino de Santiago pages. Another strategy is to post less video and utilize YouTube links more often.
So….let’s see if you notice the changes!
Day61 Morning Update parts I and II
Late start this morning due to a late night last night due to a late and long dinner last evening.
True story, we had a great dinner as I described, but it was late by the time we were done. I didn’t sleep that well so I just didn’t get much sleep. It really showed today.
We left the B&B after a self-made breakfast of the usual provisions and headed into day two of the rice fields. The posts are just going to be shorter these days because the walking portion is tedious.
Someone asked “What do you talk about all day?” The answer is “every and any thing”. Here is a clip as an example.
Some days are just difficult. Factors that influence that are lack of sleep, humidity, flat trail, walking along highways, and some days you just do not feel like walking, yet we must. Because what do pilgrims do? We walk!
We did get to see rice being harvested and that was kind of cool.
Today was not a long day in mileage but it felt that way. We stumbled into the village of Robbio hoping to find lodging. We had been unsuccessful in calling any of the numbers provided by various sources. All the numbers were no longer in service (the challenges of the VF in Covid). Lodging is definitely one of the top daily stressors.
We entered town knowing that we may have to walk another 12 km this afternoon/evening which would make our day a whopping 40 km day. I am so thankful we found a place to stay. Putting things in perspective, our lodging was the only option in town with a max of 3 beds. God is good.
Mark made a trip to the grocery which turned out to be another mile round trip. He returned with food for our dinner, breakfast tomorrow morning and lunch tomorrow too. He should get lots of praise for making that extra trip because I know how tired he is too.
Our lodging tonight is the municipal which just happens to be in a police complex. I find that kind of funny. We should be extra safe.
Our alarm went off earl this morning at 5:40 am. Let me clarify that first statement, Mark was the alarm. Why and how he wakes up every morning 5 my minutes before the alarm goes off just blows my mind.
We packed up as quietly as we could and headed out in the dark. I will have to admit that watching the sunrise was incredible but do not tell Mark. I do not want to make a habit of getting up so early.
Walking into the city of Santhia we discovered it was market day. So of course, we had to explore. Our purchases included: fresh bread, soap, bananas, an avocado, and we snacked on a focaccia (cheese and prosciutto) with a soda and sports drink and 2 candy bars. Sounds like the breakfast of champions, Right?!
Just after leaving the market area we stumbled upon the cathedral of Santissimo Santa Maria in Santhia. The inside was just beautiful. The small chapel near the entrance was a nice surprise. Inside, the walls and ceiling were covered with paintings depicting Old Testament stories. As we were leaving, the young priest who was sitting in the back approached me. He asked if we were pilgrims and where we had come from. He also requested that once in Rome, we pray for the church and community there.
We tried to give him a key but before we did, he’d disappeared. Opportunity missed; bummer.
Today the terrain was flat but the mountains are still barely visible in the background. We did not see any pilgrims until just after lunch when we ran into our French friend Jean-Pierre. We’ve met a few times over the days but have rarely had much time to talk. We do seem to be on the same pace, so I expect we will meet again.
Rice: Who knew. We accidentally learned a little about rice today. This area supplies all Europe with rice. Risotto or Sushi rice or just about 100 other kinds grow in this area.
We passed a family with a problem. Some sushi rice had sprouted up amongst their Risotto rice. The solution…., manually go through a field of acres and acres of rice and pull up the offending sprouts. I was amazed. This looked like it would take years…but off they went, about 7 of them marching across the field.
Once we checked in to our beautiful B&B our host was kind enough to tell us the history of the area and the intricacies of rice farming. I loved all the info. Clearly he loved this region of the Piedmont.
Dinner was special. This town must have a population of 20, but there is a restaurant in town that draws from a large area. We were served course after course of specialities with detailed explanations I loved it.
We had a great nights sleep with the windows open and the sound of rushing water of the kayak course acting as white noise. But we wanted to get out a bit early today so the 6am alarm got us up and moving.
There is an art to getting up, getting dressed and re-packing in a dorm setting. The goal is to get as much done the night before so that you can get out quietly without disturbing the other pilgrims. But backpacks and quick dry bags are notoriously “crinkly” and can make a lot of noise.
We were lucky this time and there was an outer room where we could stash all our stuff so we were as quiet as mice leaving before 7am. We’d been given a coupon for a center-of-town cafe in which to have a croissant and coffee so this was of course our first stop. Pilgrims are always looking to find a good deal.
But even breakfast was quick and soon we were off hiking out of the suburbs and into yet more vineyards and fruit groves. We did see olive trees for the first time and the remaining Alpine foothills disappeared quickly.
We actually crossed from the Valle d’Aosta and into the Piedmont yesterday, but today it was very evident. All the roofing changes dramatically from stone to red tile and it felt very much like the Italy I remember.
We walked past lake Viverone and watched the water sports from a distance. Our day ended in the smaller town of Cavaglia. Our lodging is the municipal Ostello and our friends Carlos and Suzanne ended up at the same place.
Tomorrow and the next few days are complicated. Lodging and villages become more sparse. Options are limited. But for now we are snug in our lodging and we’ve decided to let tomorrow worry about itself. Call it foolish or brave, it’s what we have left in us at this point.
The excitement of the Alps passing is behind us. Honestly we are still having a good time, but we are tired and feeling somewhat worn. That’s natural and not a surprise, but we’ve tried to be pretty honest in this blog and this is the honest truth. Pilgrimage is sometimes really mundane and difficult; it is hard both physically and mentally and often spiritually as well.
The next week will be tough, no lie, but then we get the Appenines and Tuscany and Rome. Finally the greatest and most joyous adventure – returning home to our friends and family.