Leaving our newly established centrally located Pilgrims accommodation, Ostello “Sancti Eusebius” this morning after a wonderful evening that included dinner, bed and breakfast with great company as well.
Wherever we go we seem to find the ubiquitous Italian red bricks on buildings – here in Vercelli they were used to build this old church.
And we think this red brick extravaganza was a former military garrison.
Italian churches in the cities such as Vercelli, have even more ornate interiors than French ones, often with frescoes on the ceiling. Their cousins in the rural areas have significantly less ornate ones which are often in much poorer repair – seems the city rural economic divide operates in most countries!
Vercelli had a large Jewish population pre WW2 as attested to by this large and ornate synagogue we passed as we weaved our way out of the narrow city streets. We believe the synagogue is now closed and opens just for tourist visits. Without the Italian language we can only speculate on the reason for its closure- perhaps the population never recovered following the Mussolini and Nazi extermination era or perhaps everyone just migrated to Israel.
Leaving the city we found the allotment movement is alive and strong here beside the river. Water and sunshine are plentiful so the vegetables and fruit trees are growing vigorously here in late spring.
Initially our path wandered its way through shade and a little sunshine.
Then as the day moved on and it got hotter we had less shade.
And now we’re walking again in full sun above the endless rice paddies which stretch for as far as the eye can see on this never-ending flat land.
We heard lots of cowbells and looked down to find a small herd here in these scrubby trees with a young girl and her dog minding them
Meet Julie – a very generous resident of Palestra, who approached us as we were sitting in the shade behind a war memorial commemorating a battle the Italians fought near here in March or May 1859. Despite our language difficulties we were still able to communicate with each other. Julie wanted to know where we stayed each night, where we ate, where we came from yesterday and where we were heading to. She was very impressed that we had travelled from Australia to undertake the Via Francigena. She then made us some very strong coffee and brought it out to us. We find such kindness of total strangers to us two rather scruffy Pilgrims overwhelming!!!
We enjoyed Saturday night at one of the local bars in Robbio, offering wifi of course, and met these very friendly Italians. Drinks always include substantial nibbles – after enjoying these we invariably find ourselves too full to manage dinner. The locals have their main meal in the middle of the day so having just nibbles or tapas style offerings of an evening works well for them – but not so for us!