Pavia was founded over 2000 years ago. It is famous for its churches and I love to spend some time exploring European churches. So I set off nice and early. Walking around the quiet back streets of Pavia is a pleasure in itself. There were five churches in particular that I wanted to see: the huge Duomo, the Basilica di San Pietro in Ciel d’Oro, the Santa Maria del Carmine, the Basilica di San Michele and the Chiesa di San Teodoro. They were all impressive in their own ways but I started at the San Teodoro and this was my favourite.
I sat for ages listening to the background organ and harpsichord music. The church was built in the 12th century and was richly decorated with frescoes including one of 12th century Pavia. It’s still recognisable.
I met two young male pilgrims sitting outside St Michael’s Basilica. One had walked from Lille. They were both eating from containers full of spaghetti which is the sort of food you need on a long walk. I looked on enviously. I asked if they were having a good time and they said no, they were not. They didn’t like the Italians, they hated the heat and the mosquitoes and they were upset to have met so few pilgrims. “It is probably the nature of the Via Francigena” he said. “In France” he added, “everyone is more friendly and interested in what we are doing”. I told him he had to look forward to five more days of mosquitoes before we reach the hills but he said they would take the suicidal walk down the busy highway and do it in two days. Desperate men.
At lunchtime I dined early inspired by the two pilgrims. I found a friendly looking restaurant close to the San Pietro church which was almost empty. The waiter brought the menu which is pretty well the same everywhere in Italy. There is a starter, typically a small mixed salad. Next comes the first dish and here you find the usual pasta offerings for about 8 Euro each. One would imagine that would buy enough pasta for lunch but sadly what comes is a side plate with a portion you might give a four year old. You are then drawn to the second dish which is a huge lump of meat, enough for the whole family on a Sunday. It is always covered in some vile sauce. And it is forbidden to serve potatoes or vegetables at this stage of the meal. Of course this is hopeless for the pilgrim.
I put the menu to one side and told the waiter to bring me a grandee salade verdy and I drew an imaginary bowl in the air to impress on him the sort of portion I was expecting. And then I asked for a grandee spaghetti with fungi in the same gigantic bowl. He was unsure. I told him “I’m walking to Roma and I’m hungry”. I’ve suffered enough of these strange customs across France and I was prepared to go on ordering first dishes all afternoon if needed. However he rose to the occasion and soon staggered over to my table bearing a simply massive quantity of spaghetti.
I ate every strand. I felt obliged to finish it even though I could have fed myself from it tomorrow as well. I declined dessert and the good man only charged me 8 Euro. In the market outside I bought two huge peaches which I’m eating slice by slice at the moment and a banana for my 5am breakfast tomorrow.
I visited a pharmacy to buy a tube of After Bite and noticed one of those old fashioned weighing scales in the corner. I emptied my pockets and popped 50 cents into the slot. A discrete printout appeared showing 66,8 kg which the machine considered to be “normopeso”. Since leaving home I have lost 3Kg.
My favourite church San Teodoro and 12th century Pavia
The 10th century silver crucifix
Choose a small car in Pavia