Today was a “challenging” 28km from Pavia to Santa Cristina according to my guidebook. I set the alarm for 4.30 and we departed at 5.15 while the temperature was a pleasant 24 degrees. The walk was reminiscent of the past few days: a morning mist hanging over the rice paddies, clouds of mosquitoes around my face and inside my ears and a beautiful sunrise. We also met a young couple from Tenerife walking from Rome to Compostela.
There is no tourist accommodation in these parts but we aimed for sleepy little Santa Cristina where there is a hostel by the church and it’s air conditioned. It has 8 beds plus floor space according to my accommodation listing which sounded rather ominous. But for this to be a problem it would have taken every pilgrim we’ve met since leaving Weybridge to turn up in Santa Cristina.
We arrived to find 3 mini buses parked outside, a massive barbecue in progress and 26 young Italians part walking and part riding to Rome to meet the Pope. One of the leaders invited us to lunch and the priest appeared. This was clearly an unusual day and he suggested we might be more comfortable in the hostel in the next village. Off we went for another four kilometres in the 32 degrees heat.
The priest gave us no directions except to say it’s right on the Via Francigena in Miradolo Terme. We nonchalantly crossed another level crossing right by Santa Cristina station because we actually saw the barriers coming down just in front of us. This was a more conventional crossing because not long afterwards the local train rattled up scattering chickens on the line.
It took us awhile to find the hostel in Miradolo Terme. Rather than a large multi-storey building with neon signs, a Via Francigena hostel is usually a small room behind the church. And that’s where we eventually found it. I rang the bell and the priest appeared, showed us the room (3 beds) and left. There is a tin for a donation.
We were relieved to see a small air conditioner on the wall and I turned it on full and shut the door. After some minutes a horrible truth became clear. It wasn’t working. Worse. It’s a fan heater.
More pictures of rice
This ancient Via Francigena milestone marks the way to Rome
Today’s breakfast bar in Belgioioso
A new cycle lane awaiting the opening ceremony. Just 100 metres long in a quiet village and going nowhere. We saw several of these today.
Spraying the rice
Just before we discovered the Santa Cristina hostel was full