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    • Day 21

      Day 17: Piacenza to Fiorenzuola d'Arda

      May 9 in Italy ⋅ ☀️ 22 °C

      A big day of walking today (33.67 km). I added about 2 km to that by getting off track! It was a very pleasant rural countryside to walk through, with some mountains in the distance, but with very little shade. My legs got sunburnt even though I started the day with sunscreen. My recommendation for anyone doing the VF in Italy is to wear the most cushioned shoes you can find as you will be walking on a lot of sealed surfaces - either on the roadside itself or the paths adjacent to those roads. It gets very wearing. Luckily, about 6 km before the end, there was a long section of dirt road, which eased my discomfort somewhat. That road brought me to my first quagmire! I was able to avoid the mud on the first side but slogged through the mud on the other side. My boots look very second-hand now. I met four Italian pilgrims today, one French pilgrim and a British couple. Only the British couple and I are going all the way to Rome.Read more

    • Day 32

      25. Etappe-Piacenza-Fiorenzuola d'Arda

      August 1, 2023 in Italy ⋅ ☁️ 20 °C

      Heute morgen bin ich gleich um sechs Uhr los, um dem morgendlichen Verkehr etwas zu entgehen. Tatsächlich ging es lange durch ein Industriegebiet, um dann in einem Autobahnkreuz/Auffahrten zu enden, wo ich sprachlos davor stand und sagte: Nee, der Weg führt nicht im Ernst da jetzt durch, oder?! Doch! In Deutschland völlig undenkbar und vielleicht sogar strafbar, behaupte ich jetzt mal. Kurz danach gab es eine Bar und Kaffee, Klo und Pistazien-Croissant. Ich hatte den alten Weg auf meiner App abgespeichert, der neue wollte noch die Schnellstraße entlang. Ich entschied mich für den alten Weg, wird schon irgendwie klappen. Seit gestern bin ich, seit ich den Fluss Po überquert hatte, in der nächsten Region Emilia-Romagna angekommen, keine Reisfelder mehr, sondern stattdessen Tomatenfelder (wachsen niedrig, Flaschentomaten) und Maisfelder.
      Mein Weg führte also an einer Landstraße an den Tomaten entlang, da muss man auch aufpassen, weil manche Autos nah an einem vorbei sausen. Kurze Zeit später ging ich gemütlich an einem ausgetrockneten Fluss, um, als es scheinbar nicht mehr weiter ging wieder ein gutes Stück zurück und durch das Flussbett zu laufen. Da hätte ich schon auf die andere Seite gehen sollen! Später war das Flussbett zu steil vom Weg hinunter und zu breit und bewachsen. Ich konnte nur zur Straße vor und über die stark befahrene Brücke rüber laufen. Ich hab also einige Kilometer extra gemacht, ehe ich auf den aktuellen Weg stieß. Aber für mich hat sich dieses Abenteuer gelohnt, und ich habe auch einen Damspießer (junger Damhirsch) gesehen und viele Hasen.
      Plötzlich sah ich die drei Italiener, also zwei Freundinnen und ein 16-jähriger, dessen Eltern mit den Eltern der einen befreundet sind. Wir verabredeten uns in dem einzigen Restaurant unterwegs. Ich war sehr durstig und dehydriert, hatte ich seit den 25km oder mehr, die ich bisher gelaufen war, nur ein Liter zu trinken, ohne einmal die Möglichkeit gehabt zu haben, es aufzufüllen, das hatte ich noch nie. Das Mittagessen tat gut, waren es ja noch 9km in der prallen Sonne zu laufen. Ich merkte, dass dieses viele Asphaltlaufen mir Blasen verschafft hatte, sonst war ich erstaunt, dass die Füße zwar weh taten, aber nicht so sehr wie bisher.
      Abends haben wir fünf von dem Hausherren ein Menü bekommen und waren Eis essen. Den jungen Italiener werde ich wohl ab morgen nicht mehr sehen, weil er längere Etappen läuft. Die anderen sind in der gleichen Herberge. Danach werde ich wiederum längere Etappen laufen.
      Und ich hab heute schon die Berge gesehen, juhu, Flachland ist bald zu Ende!
      Read more

    • Day 63

      Fidenza 16 miles

      September 13, 2023 in Italy ⋅ ☁️ 19 °C

      True enough. There is always someone. In this case both of them. Not that they were together at least they didn’t seem to know each other on yesterday’s ferry but they each must have decided that 6am was a fine time to get up. I think they and everyone else staying here had left by 6.45am.

      Possibly unconnected with the above, but I briefly wondered which of my night-time activities persuaded the guy in the lower bunk below me that it was worth his while getting up in the night and moving his mattress and himself onto the floor for the rest of the night. He may not rush to get the bunk below me next time.

      To be fair I am going to try very hard to make sure there isn’t a next time. Dormitories have become my least favourite booking option.

      It was just as well that I am perpetually dehydrated as a night-time visit to the loo could have been fatal. Both for me and the guy trying to sleep on the mattress on the floor. Even in daylight getting safely off the top bunk and onto the floor was not straightforward. I am sure the grandkids could do it in an instant but this old man found it surprisingly difficult. Give it a go yourself sometime. And then try it in complete darkness while needing the loo quite urgently.

      Left before 8am and had the usual brekkie while sitting in the main square. For the first few hours it was delightfully cloudy. I wouldn’t say cold just a very nice walking temperature. Heated up a bit later but never as hot as recently. I think this was the last of the very flat days. There are some hills that are looming up. As usual with life I am looking forward to the change but very quickly I’m sure I will be moaning about the hills.

      The only accommodation I could get for tonight is a motel about a mile and a half out of town with nothing nearby. So rather than have a 3 mile walk for dinner I planned to go straight into town, grab lunch, check out the cathedral, buy some stuff for tea and go to the motel and stay there for the rest of the day. And start booking more non-dormitory accommodation.

      The lunch bit worked. I was standing looking a bit vacant in the centre of the town checking out my phone for likely restaurants when this old lady started chatting me up. And when I say old I mean pushing ninety. She was most insistent about something, I just didn’t have a clue what. We tried French. Hers was a good bit better than mine but we still weren’t making progress. But she wasn’t close to giving up on me. Eventually she tried accosting anyone else passing to see if they could speak English. Soon there were 4 of us. It turned out she was simply asking what I was looking for. I said lunch and the 3 of them went into an animated discussion about where to send me. Consensus reached and she dragged me off. The other two made their escape, finding my predicament quite entertaining. We went down one street, then another, and another and finally reached a trattoria but she wasn’t finished yet. She insisted in coming in with me. I was convinced she was going to join me for lunch. At what point does this become sexual harassment I wondered. She grabbed a waitress and had a long conversation, but finally seemed satisfied that I was going to get my lunch and so she left. Quite extraordinary. After all that the lunch was fine and a good bit cheaper than the fancy places in the centre of town, catering for tourists. This was very much for locals, to the point that the staff seemed to find my presence a bit odd. Or maybe it was just my girlfriend.

      Bit of an anticlimax after that. The cathedral was closed and I didn’t pass any food shops on the way to the motel. So, no tea.

      Had a thunderstorm later so I suspect I could be in for a change in the weather as well as the terrain.
      Read more

    • Day 62

      Fiorenzuola d’Arda 19 miles

      September 12, 2023 in Italy ⋅ 🌙 26 °C

      Usual brekkie. Departure slightly delayed by a phone call but still on my way by 8.30am or so.

      Was a little concerned by today’s walk because at 19 miles it was one of the longer ones and how would I be affected by the loss of hair. I am not exactly hirsute these days but I was fairly shorn yesterday. Would my strength be diminished? I’m glad to say I didn’t notice any difference.

      Somewhat to my surprise I have been listening to snippets of The Archers recently. They must have changed how they create podcasts at some point in 2014 because up to now if you choose a podcast you got the appropriate program. No more and no less. But for older selections they possibly based them on the scheduled timing with a margin. As The Archers appears to have been broadcast just before Desert Island Discs I now get the last minute of that program, just when the storyline is building a cliffhanger for the end. I suspect The Archers was daily whereas DID is weekly so I get a clip once every 7 or so episodes of the Archers and because I am working my way back so are the clips. I learned that someone really wanted their baby now, then she really didn’t want a baby, then she couldn’t possibly be pregnant, then she didn’t know what was wrong with her. Seeing as that is 4 weeks of stories they do seem to drag these things out a bit.

      Had a mile section on a busy road today but I had a white painted line giving me about 2 or 3 feet of “protection”. All the vehicles did keep to their side of the line but I was constantly staring at each vehicle in case the driver decided to check their phone, or look at their sat-nav or just lose concentration for a few seconds. It wouldn’t have taken much.

      Now in a tomato-growing area. They don’t use canes to grow them upright. Just on the ground. And then use a sort of combine harvester to collect them. Quite interesting.

      Bit of a disappointment when I got to today’s hostel. Firstly the guy said that there were no hostels open in the next intended stop. Which explains why no-one answered my e-mail requests. And when I got to my room there was a single bed and some bunks with 2 guys already grabbing the bed and lower bunk. I truly hate the upper bunk especially when the steps up are thin metal bars that are going to really hurt my tender feet. And it is like an oven. And at least one of them is sure to decide to get up stupidly early. There is always someone.
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