It was back to a pre-dawn iPhone alarm call this morning as we faced a gruelling 33km walk in the blazing, near tropical sun. For those who are interested we followed the AIVF historic variant. By 9am we had covered almost half the distance and we pulled into Piverone for cappuccino and croissants, an orange and a bottle of fizzy water. Rarely in life do I feel I’ve earned a little treat as much as when walking with a heavy back pack in these southern lands.
Nothing much happens in Italian villages on a Saturday before mid morning. The streets are empty and the houses are shuttered against the sun. It’s good for photos if you don’t want any Fiats spoiling the view. The bar lady was able to mop the floor while waiting for customers.
We walked on through vineyards and crops. I noticed that all the hills have gone and the landscape is now flat, for the moment.
Our second stop was an early lunch in Cavaglia. There were two options, the Bar Italia or the Smile. Of course we should have gone straight to Smile but we chose the Bar Italia. No one smiled and my toasted ham and cheese sandwich was somehow cooked without melting the cheese.
Despite that, we kept up a cracking pace and arrived in Santhia at 2pm. We sat at the bar opposite the church and the bar lady brought us beer and fizzy water. It appears that we are stuck with bottles of fizzy water for the duration. In France and Switzerland they are happy to bring a jug of cold water and glasses for free. Not in Italy. You have to buy a bottle of water or die.
Paul and I follow the same routine every day like a couple married too long to change anything. Once the throat fire has been extinguished we start the search for accommodation. Paul decided to take a suite in the Four Seasons but unfortunately there isn’t one within reasonable walking distance. I consulted my accommodation listing and saw the Ostello Santhia sulla Via Francigena. Apparently a quick wink to the bar lady would be enough to bring Mario with the keys. I nodded in her direction and she said “10 minutes” in Italian, holding up all her fingers. And sure enough, Mario duly appeared and led us to the top floor of a nearby house with a mixture of rooms and beds for pilgrims. Payment is by donation. The accommodation is very colourful with plenty of happy children playing down below.
We have been joined by 2 French men who we’ve already met a few times. They are only walking a shortish stretch of the Via Francigena, not the whole thing. They breezed in a little after we arrived and gaily announced that they had travelled up from Ivrea by train. Whatever next?
Fiat 500 awaiting restoration
The hills have all gone