Friday 31 October.
After being kept awake we felt like making as much noise as possible when we got up at 6am, but we didn't and acting normally and made as little noise as possible. We slipped out of the room with all our stuff and packed downstairs in the kitchen after breakfast. The choice of route today depended on avoiding the busy SS9 as much as possible. The waymarked route shown in our little map book headed in a big loop, going at right angles for 10 km then heading at an angle back up to Fiorenzuola giving a total of 29 km. Cicerone however described a way close to the highway and was only 15 km, we decided to take that one. I started to transcribe the details into my note book and found them complicated and confusing. It still went along the SS9 in places but when it said to ford a river Moira said No! We opted for the longer waymarked one.
It was our earliest start so far when we got away at 7 am. We were wrapped up again, I even had my rain jacket on as well. But it wasn't so cold this morning and after an hour we started taking things off. A cycle path took us along the side of the SS9 for a short distance then we headed away from it on a minor road. This took us to the village of I Vaccari but we only skirted round the outside then picked up a gravel track that became a rough forest track beside the river Torrente Nura. This was the reason we had to travel so far from the SS9, we had to get to the next crossing by the bridge into the town of San Giorgio Piacentino. It was a pleasant walk through the trees though we had to be careful with regard to route finding, the waymarks were scarce. Somebody had tied plastic tape at intervals to trees to mark what we hoped was the direction to take, it was. We had to leave the river bank and head back to the road for the bridge over the river. The road was a nightmare, it was trucks and cars in a near continuous line and not easing their speed. There was no hard shoulder and we had to keep,jumping into the long grass at the side. We were both very annoyed that we had walked 10 km off course and would do an extra 14 km today to avoid the SS9 only to end up on a busier and more dangerous one. Fortunately it was only for about a kilometre and we were into the town centre of San Giorgio and on a pavement.
In the town square there was a market being set up and there were benches. We sat down and I made a cup of tea, we were relieved to be off that road. When we started again the map seemed to indicate we continued along the main road through town but there were no waymarks. When we reached the end of the town and the pavement it was the continuation of the heavy traffic but that didn't tie in with our map. We asked at a garage and were told we should have turned left somewhere and they directed us by some back streets to what they said was the route. When we reached the road leaving town it still didn't look right and I stood scratching my head in frustration when a. car stopped and offered assistance. He confirmed it was the correct road and after walking along it for a few hundred metres there were the red and white bands on a pole confirming it was the VF.
From then on it was a very nice walk through lovely countryside with fertile soil ploughed ready for the next planting. Large isolated trees were dotted over the flat landscape, and it was flat yet again. We were on mostly narrow country lanes with only the very occasional car to disturb us and at other times on gravel tracks. The route zig zagged between fields and hamlets, Moira had the map and was able to track our course on it and predict the coming turnings. Looking for the next turn or bend made today more interesting, you were only aware of the next kilometre or two and not concentrating the overall distance and worrying about 29 km. There was was one village, Paderna, with a church and a pub and a hamlet Zena where we stopped and lay on the grass to have lunch, the rest was just different collections of farmhouses and buildings. The farms are all neat and tidy, and the yards aren't caked in manure or full of old rusting equipment that we have seen in other countries.
After avoiding the other short route because of the river to cross and Moira's fear of water and falling in, we discovered a symbol on the map showing three fording points. The first was a dried up stream and we felt confident after that. At the second there was a fisherman busy putting on his waders to get into the stream. It wasn't too bad and the fording point was concreted so stable and not muddy. We changed into our sandals and waded across, the water was freezing cold but it helped our feet. We kept our sandals on to walk to the next ford, just a kilometre away, there was also water there but again good firm footing.
Our route gradually wound its way back up and we recrossed the SS9 that we started on this morning. It was only another kilometre to Fiorenzuola but we still couldn't see any sign of it. Then suddenly round a bend and clear of the trees there it was in front of us. Don Silvio at San Lazzaro last night told us that the hostel was at the church which was easy to find as there was only one church. We made for the tall square tower we could see as we approached the town, this was ruined old church. We saw another tower but it turned out to be a library but here we got directions to the church. There we asked two people about the hostel but they didn't know. Moira got the address of the hostel from her accommodation list, Piazza Molinare, and headed for there with the help of a number of locals. Here was another church and there seemed to be something going on, a crowd was assembled outside the entrance but we spotted a side door that was open, No 15 as a on the the list. As we entered there was a priest who said 'Ah pilgrims, sit down', we had found the right place. He was in a hurry to conduct the service that was taking place in the church and told a woman to deal with us. After a lot of documentation and photocopying our credentials and passports she charged us €5 each and showed us to a flat next door. We had a nice room upstairs with attached toilet and shower.
We had a cup of tea and relaxed for an hour before having a shower. The water wasn't very warm but its surprising how the cold water livens you up. Moira went out to do her usual foraging for food and look for a place to eat tonight. There wasn't a kitchen available in the flat and we decided to eat out. She came back with stuff for breakfast and a beer which we drank slowly in bed until dinner time. Now it was getting cold and we were too tired to go out looking for a restaurant, instead Moira went nearby and got pizza. I fell asleep while she was out and only wakened when the food arrived. She bought two, a fishy flavoured one and the other had loads of mushrooms. We split them between us, it was a nice big meal and satisfied our hunger after a long day on our feet.
Although it was still early we were both very tired with lack of sleep last night. We read for an hour or so but soon the light was out and so were we. It was another peaceful place and comfortable, the recipe for a good night's sleep.