Thursday 30 October.
It wasn't so cold in the building but when we left it was bitter again, we had wrapped up well again just in case. We had a good breakfast before leaving to boost us against the weather, soft boiled eggs, yoghurt and toast. We made the toast into 'soldiers' for dipping into the yolk.
The map in the reception showed the distance to Piacenza by the river Po route to be 21 km, the little map book we picked up a few weeks ago had it at 26.1 km, and Cicerone said 23 km. it turned out nearer the 26 km plus we took a wrong turning which added 2 km then for our accommodation it was 5 km after Piacenza in the town of Montale. This totalled to about 33 km and we were on the trail from 7:30 am to 5:30 pm. It wasn't all walking we had our usual breaks for coffee and a few 5 minute stops to ease the aches and pains. We also found an Auchen supermarket in a shopping centre before Piacenza where I managed to get some small cylinders of camping Gaz. We also stocked up with food for dinner and bought some gammon to put on sandwiches which we had in the car park with a beer for lunch. The shopping took an hour, the supermarket was huge and together with the language problem it is difficult to find things.
The weather picked up once the sun was high and it was warm enough to take off our extra clothes. There was a haze and mist first thing and it never really cleared making any photographs a bit unclear. Although the route we were taking was named the Po riverside path we didn't see much of the river. There were glimpses through the trees but the nearest we got to the river was about half a kilometre. When we reached Corte Sant Andrea it was through a stone archway into the village then we headed for the landing stage where the ferry runs from, but we didn't see it. Instead the VF followed an embankment all the way to the outskirts of Piacenza. The embankment appeared to be a flood defence system, all the villages and farmhouses were behind the embankment while it was just fertile farmland between us and the river, the quality of the soil no doubt enhanced when the river floods and deposits silt. Later before coming into Piacenza we crossed a road, Via Ottobre 2000, this was named to commemorate the 'evento alluvione' the terrible floods of that time. The walk wasn't very interesting, it was flat and between fields. There was a lot of activity in the farmlands with the land being prepared for either winter planting or the spring. Tankers were running back and forward along the road with a slurries of manure which was then sprayed over the fields, a tractor with harrowing discs then broke up and turned over the earth.
The route which should have been straight forward became confusing with cycle routes and different coloured arrows for various other walks and rides. We should have taken a short cut through the village of Valloria and cut off a corner but we stuck to the route along the embankment. Where the short cut met the embankment again we thought the VF markers were the ones we were to follow. This took us back all the way to where we had come from. When we met the embankment again I recognised where we had already been and had to go all the way back. We had wasted half an hour and getting tired but we pushed on to make the supermarket for something to eat for lunch.
When we came off the embankment it was still on a cycle path that ran beside the very busy SS9. We cut off to go to the supermarket but returned afterwards to another cycle and walk way beside the SS9. This became a bridge over the river Po, the first part was sandy and dried up and very disappointing but further along the bridge the main river appeared, wide and fast flowing with a multi-arched railway bridge down stream. On the other side we were into,the city and all we saw of the main features were a magnificent statue of a horseman and some very attractive churches and buildings in a square. Soon we were heading away from the centre and into the more commercial outskirts. We were told that the church of San Lazzaro was the last building before leaving Paicenzo and it was, we could see the steeple from a distance and it was a relief when we finally got there. The priest, Don Silvio, was in an office adjoining the church and seemed to be expecting us. I gave him the message of greeting from the Mayor of Orio Litta and it brought a smile to his face. He stamped our credentials, gave us the key to the hostel and instruction in how to get there, also had information about the hostel at the church in Fiorenzuola d'Arda where we stay tomorrow. Tonight we were to continue along the main road we were on and the hostel was 100m after a busy roundabout and junction and attached to the church.
It all seemed very straight forward, there was a nice cycle path running beside the busy SS9 until we reached that chaotic junction and roundabout. The cycles path ended and we found ourselves in a supermarket carpark. We went to the top end to try to get out and follow the road to the other side of the junction but the road was a motorway. We went back to where the cycle path finished and dodged the traffic going round the junction. Somehow we reached the other side in one piece and it was only 100 m to the church and the hostel.
We settled in and I made a cup of coffee. Sitting in the kitchen relaxing then there was someone at the door. He was a cyclist from Madrid and was looking for a bed for the night. We told him to phone the priest at San Lazzaro which he did and it's OK for him to. Stay although he wasn't officially a pilgrim. He had started from Spain with a friend intending to pedal all the way to China. His friend continued but he changed his mind and was doing part of the VF then heading for Turkey. Moira made the packet of soup we bought and we had nice crisp bread to dunk. Our main course was bacon and eggs, it made a change. Just as we were finishing the door bell rang again. It was two young lads with loads of food which they brought in. They said there were 5 boys scouts from Rome coming tonight to stay and they were local scouts and were organising a reunion with them. There were going to be 13 in total for dinner tonight and when they all began arriving we retreated upstairs to lie in bed and read. In our room there were 3 beds, for us and the guy from Madrid. In the only other room there were another 3 beds, I don't know what the 5 scouts were going to do about sleeping arrangements.
We had a showered before getting into bed and going to sleep. There was a bit of noise from downstairs but I was soon sleeping. I wakened to go to the loo about 1 am and couldn't get to sleep again, I heard people talking and I thought it was from outside. At 2 am I found it was the scouts and they came trooping upstairs to bed. The next hour they spent going back and forth between their room and the bathroom. I didn't get a lot of sleep. Moira was the same and we weren't too happy about it in the morning. I put a comment in the visitor's booking questioning the rule that only pilgrims with credentials could use the hostel.