I set off in the dark in order to rendezvous with Danilo’s water taxi across the Po. This is the traditional way to cross the river, and there historic markers on both sides of the river to note the crossing’s place in history.
Not knowing exactly how far I had to walk, I set a cracking pace, but upon consulting my mapping app after 90 minutes, I figured there was enough time for a cappuccino and pastry. As it was I covered the 15km in 2:45, including the 15 minute coffee stop!
After several days of not seeing another pilgrim, there were 12 others waiting for the boat. Another of those funnel points on the via francigena. Being polite, I was last on last off, helped pass backpacks and u tie mooring lines, therefore Danilo appointed me Capitano! I was also last to sign the register – number 998 for 2019.
The walk into Piancenza was initially pleasant, but the last five km was on a main traffic route, lined with car dealerships, gas stations, furniture stores, and the Italian equivalent of big box stores (i.e. not really that big by American standards – the yardstick of excess.) Brutal.
The old town of Piancenza, once gained, was the aged historic centre you’d expect from a former Roman frontier town, port, and trading post. Given that the city was heavily bombed in WW2, much of it has been rebuilt, but only when you look closely at some of the older buildings can you see empty niches where there were once (presumably) statues.
As in any major towns or cities, the central area is not only beautiful buildings, but beautiful people and beautiful stores. Being siesta time when I was in the city, I ate my supermercato lunch on the steps of one of numerous churches and watched the fashionistas parade by. There is a profusion of fancy eye wear and lingerie stores, and while there are plenty of nice frames being worn, sadly no one is parading around in their fancy undies.
After touring the most well known of the city’s landmarks and viewing the exteriors (interiors closed for siesta), I headed out to the ‘burbs to an Ostello to shorten tomorrow’s walk. Earlier, while lunching, I’d chatted with a Canadian/German lady who at the time was heading towards a downtown hostel. As I headed out to the ‘burbs, I bumped into her again – no longer downtown – and we compared notes, with the net result that we needed to get the keys from the Church where she was waiting, then go to the hostel where I was heading. We were both half right! The hostel is very nice – an old building that has been renovated, but still has the ancient wooden beams and a stone column or two. A deal at 10€. And as Camino Karma would have it, I’d missed the turn for the official path just before I met her, as I’d been fixated at getting to a large sports store on the other side of the busy road to procure new rubber tips for my walking poles. The guy in the store felt bad that he didn’t have any in stock, so he pulled the plastic ones off a new pair and told me to put them in my pocket. Not sure how long they will last, but can’t argue with the price.
Daily km: 39.9 (but 4km was on a boat, so doesn’t really count)