Day 54 – Garlasco to Pavia – 24 kms

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Leaving our Hotel Di Pino this morning for Pavia – a much bigger city in Italy than anything we’ve visited before on this pilgrimage.

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A very pretty and colourful view from the street into someone’s private garden.

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In Pavia we found these 2 electric ‘share cars’ getting powered up on the street – with electricity – not petrol!

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In the city of Pavia there are many elegant entrances like this one from the street to the houses and businesses behind the street facade.

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Inside the church of Santa Maria in Betlem, next door to where we stayed at our Ostello.

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Pavia has this covered bridge linking one side of the town with the other.

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Some residents find the bridge a great place to perch to do some study.

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Inside Pavia’s classically beautiful Duorma.

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Taking time out at the Time Out bar in Pavia.

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Day 53 – Mortara to Garlasco – 20 kms

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Franca, our perfect host at the Pilgrims accommodation last night. Nothing was too much trouble! But Franca had us all out of the Ostello by 7.45am – clearly her time between 8am and 3pm each day was very precious!

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It was a very foggy morning as we set off on another rice paddy and corn growing walk. It was very humid with our raincoats on but raining so hard that we couldn’t take our coats off.

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These were the Pilgrims from Spain. Canada and Germany we’ve been with these past few days. Must say we’re now meeting up with many Pilgrims – so unlike the lonely trek across France and Switzerland to date.

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On a bathroom stop we noticed that the fittings seemed to have a kangaroo logo on them so suspect the supplier is an Italian/Australian.

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Approaching Garlasco today we noticed these fresh flowers at the roadside chapel. Seems someone died recently and the family in the district brought these flowers to the chapel to commemorate the life of the deceased!

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Day 52 – Robbio to Mortara – 18.5kms

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Last night in Robbio we stayed here at the small Pilgrims accommodation, with sleeping set up for 4 people at the rear of the Municipal offices. It was very basic but all that was really needed- offering shelter from the weather, a bed, a bathroom and a basic kitchen. We were the only Pilgrims there last night so also enjoyed some private space.

On arrival in Robbio we were helped to find Luijania by a local who was in the process of having her hair dyed red! Everyone in the hair salon came out on the street, hair in various stages of cut, colour or perming, they all wanted to help!

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Day 51 – Vercelli to Robbio – 17kms

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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.

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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.

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And we think this red brick extravaganza was a former military garrison.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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Initially our path wandered its way through shade and a little sunshine.

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Then as the day moved on and it got hotter we had less shade.

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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.

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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

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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!!!

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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!

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Day 50 – Santhia to Vercelli – 27.5kms

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Meet our Dutch walking friend, Mat. We met up with him on our first night in Italy, when Jenny was still with us and since then our paths continue to cross. Last night the 3 of us shared the pilgrim accommodation at Santhia. Mat has Coeliac Disease and finds it difficult at times to get his food needs met, as he cannot eat the Italian staples like pasta or bread.

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The entrance to Santhia’s pilgrim accommodation which is next door to the church.
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Soroptimist club of Santhia, Italy, is acknowledged for their donation of these street signs directing passing Pilgrims to the Via Francigena route.

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The church here in Santhia was founded by the Franciscan’s, who traditionally wear brown robes and leather sandals as depicted in this painting on the church’s exterior wall.

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The Italian route of the Via Francigena.

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Today we started out walking beside rice paddies.

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And finished at Vercelli walking beside more rice paddies!!

The day had been very hot, with little to no shade at all for the entire 27.5kms. It was humid due to the water lying around on the paddies. It was also mosquito central –  there was a constant hum of them dive bombing us as we walked along. We were glad to get away from the rural area and into urban Vercelli but disappointed to hear that the rice paddies continue to Pavia – several days of walking ahead of us!!!

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The churches in the towns we walked through today looked like they were in a state of benign neglect like this one. Mostly they’re still used, but some only intermittently, and clearly they don’t have the parish numbers to fund maintenance when it’s needed.

Onward we pressed despite the hot and bumid weather conditions around the rice paddy fields where we walked here in northern Italy. At last we entered the city leaving behind the mosquito poblem
We eventually found the Ostella we’re booked into and were asked if we’d like to join a weekly dining group at the Ostello tonight at 8pm. We said yes!!!

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This was our delightful Italian dining group that welcomed us warmly with conversation, food and wine tonight. Mario was the translater who managed to keep us informed in regard to our walk tomorrow and all manner of relevant issues a traveller needs to be across.

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Day 49 – Viverone to Santhia – 16kms

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Leaving the beautiful Viverone lakeside this morning. The sun was shining, the lake was calm and all was well with the world!

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On the way out of Viverone we met up again with Eric who was enjoying sitting beside the lake completing his Sudoku.

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We walked onwards in the direction Of Santhia and enjoyed this wonderful view.

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Along our days walk we found these lovely wild flowers.

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Beautiful climbing roses often grace ordinary walls.

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Peony roses grow and flower well in this cold climate.

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In Flanders fields……

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Inside the church in Santhia.

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The church here was founded by the Franciscan’s.

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Evening mass was celebrated in the Piazza Rome – just outside our Pilgrims accommodation. It started at 8.45pm and continued till 9.45pm. lots of singing and amplified music.

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The mass is almost ready to start – and most of the towns dignitaries will be here tonight.

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Even the birds up high seem to know something special is happening here tonight.

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Day 48 – Ivrea to Viverone – 18kms

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Today’s walk was mostly hot and mostly flat and on minor roads. But we saw some unusual gardens sprouting from walls.

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An elaborate roadside chapel offering support to Pilgrims.

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This unusual tree sits in front of the ubiquitous large Italian red brick house, so familiar to Australian’s.

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As we climbed up the hills overlooking the lake at Viverone we found many mansions such as this one. All were secured with high fences and gates and usually came with a very unwelcoming barking territorial dog.

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Piverone was a delightful elevated old medieval town several kilometers away from Viverone. We prefer not to have to climb but the Via Francigena always makes us go up and down at least a few times a day.

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The lake was our elusive destination today.

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Resting in front of the vines and the rose bush several kilometers from our days destination.

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We passed this 11th century derelict church close by Viverone.

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What a spectacular outlook we had from our room at Hotel Royal, Viverone.

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Enjoying our late afternoon aperitifs overlooking the lake.

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Today we met Eric, a Dutch cyclist en-route from Ivrea to Viverone and we enjoyed drinks and dinner together. The weather invited us to enjoy the time sitting outside – a far cry from the snow of just a week ago!

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Dusk tonight overlooking the lake – it’s so beautiful!!!!

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Day 47 – Ponte Saint Martin to Ivrea- 27kms

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Leaving our delightful Hotel Ponte Romano this morning.

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An interesting way to grow and trellis grape vines.

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We’ve seen many elaborate and simple churches along the way – this is one of the simple variety.
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Here also is a very simple roadside chapel – there are no elaborate icons here.

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Climbing roses are out in their finest here in the late weeks of spring in Europe – how great to be able to grow these lovelies!

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Intensive viticulture is seen everywhere here in northern Italy.

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More delightful climbing roses in a nearby village.

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Classic photo of a castle as we approach Ivrea.

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Inside the old part of the town of Ivrea there is this large red brick 12th century castle. Looks like the Italians still love their red bricks – not just here in Italy, but also in Sydney and Melbourne, just a few of their post-WW2 immigration destinations.

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Day 46 – Nus to Ponte Saint Martin

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It’s teeming with rain today as we leave our Hotel Florian in Nus. Big decision to be made – to walk and get soaked, to stay another day in Nus or to take some transport onwards. We are 1 day behind our schedule imposed on us by the Schengen 90 day visa rule.. The transport option wins out and we take a train to Ponte Saint Martin. We are now 1 day ahead of our schedule at last!

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This is the bridge the Romans built in 25BC -and it’s still standing!

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We met a young nun who offered us accommodation up on high overlooking the town below. Despite the wonderful view and generous offer we decided not to take it up as the effort of walking up and down the mountain would be just too much with our backpacks. We settled for a hotel directly opposite the Ponte instead.

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Just some of the perfect roses we saw today in bloom late in the afternoon after the rain had stopped.

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Day 45 – Aosta to Nus- 17.5kms

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Leaving La Belle Epoche Hotel, Aosta today with very sore thighs after 2 straight days of downhill walking.

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Aosta in 25BC was a key Roman town for the expansion of their empire into northern Europe and Britain. Here Julius Caesar’s statue reminds us of the Roman’s influence on these northern Italian towns.

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This old castle is right in the city of Aosta, and is currently being renovated, as is most everything else here.

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This is 1 intact old gate of 4 that were built to guard the entrances to the city.

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This is one of the walls of the old gate.

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Another arched entrance into Aosta.

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Flat land in towns is at a premium so cemetries utilise vertical family vaults.

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We passed many beautiful container gardens along the way today.

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And regular gardens such as this one with its delightful peony roses in bloom!

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Our few days of good weather has come to an end today – storm clouds gather over the old Quart castle, built in the 13th century by the reigning fuedal family of the area.  Our path today took us on a climb up the mountain behind the castle then down into the valley- again. Peter wasn’t appreciative of this climb up and down!!

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Here is the story of the old castle.

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The reward at the end of the day for all the climbing effort was this delicious looking and tasting desert.

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