Sunday, May 18, 2014

Ospedalleto to Piacenza May 18

                                                               Current day                            Trip to date

Distance walked miles                                  17.6                                         50.6

Gross climb feet                                            125                                          490

Net climb feet                                                    8                                            28

Song of the Day:  "Louie, Louie" by the Kingsmen:

Said Louie Louie, oh baby
Said we gotta go

I said we gotta go now
Let's take this on outta here
Let's go!

Another great day in Italy.   We both woke up early this morning and decided to get an early start on the day.  I'm glad we did, because at 7:30, while having coffee and brioche at our hotel, we saw this on the highway in front:

A shepherd, taking his sheep, goats, donkeys, horses and dogs down the middle of the very busy highway!  A great way to start the day.  

In an effort to shorten the day, we searched the map for possible shortcuts. What looks good on google maps doesn't always work out....but sometimes it does.  As we left the hotel this morning, we followed a sign for the Via Francigena that we though would be a shortcut.  Unfortunately, after about a half mile, it became a dead end.  I could see the next little town about 3 miles in the distance, but no road to get there. So, we made the decision to "farm whack"!  We cut across fields and farm roads.  One challenge in Italy is that many of the fields are surrounded by small waterways with deep ditches.  On a couple of occasions we had to go down in the ditch to get to the next field.  At one field, a farmer who was driving his tractor stopped us.  We were a little nervous that we might get in trouble, but Linda talked to him for a while, and he gave us great instructions on next steps:

We think that we may have reduced our journey by a mile or so through this route through the fields.  At 8 am, a mile is not very much.  At 2 pm, a mile is everything!

Later, we were walking on a path for walkers and bicyclists (we were the only walkers...).  This group of 4 cyclists stopped to talk to us.  Turns out, one of the guys was named Alberto, and he is in charge of the Via Francigena for all of Italy!  He is actually a famous guy for vigorously promoting and improving the Via Francigena.  I had read about him in several of the books I read and I had ordered several maps and books from a company that he runs.  Fortunately, I had one of his books in my pocket today!  His father was with him, as well as a couple of other people who work with him.  He spent about 20 minutes with us and gave some up to date instructions to us on changes in the routes, etc:

Finally, about 1:45, we arrived at our hotel.  Only, it wasn't, we decided to go have some lunch in a nearby restaurant and hope that the hotel still existed and that we had a room for the night.  We went to the a restaurant near the duomo around the corner.  While there, I saw a 20 something Italian guy with a SF giants hat on.  I went over to talk to him about his hat (much to the embarrassment of Linda....).  I told him I liked his hat and that I had a similar one (which I was wearing).  He said, yes, he was a big 49ers fan!  I explained to him that the giants were a baseball team and the 49ers were a football team with a different logo, hat, etc.  I don't think he really understood that whole explanation though...

Later, we went back to the hotel to check in.  A very beautiful hotel, with only 6 rooms.  We spent some time talking with the owner of the hotel, and he explained how he spent a long time rehabbing this ancient building to modern standards.  It is one of the better rooms we have stayed in.

Later, we decided to explore the town of Piacenza.  What a terrific town!  As with most of the Italian towns, lots of churches. We then decided to have dinner at a restaurant on a square.  The meal was excellent and we had the added bonus of listening to the local Elvis Presley (who goes by the name Johnny Kellogg oddly enough!).  The band played a great 20 minute rendition of "Louie, Louie"! 

Tomorrow, we are taking a day off the trail and will catch an early morning train to Parma (a 30 minute train ride).  We hope to explore this famous food town, both for the sights and the food!  We will stay in Parma tomorrow night, then rejoin the trail on Tuesaday morning.

My San Francisco Giants lost their second game in a row last night.  I hope it wasn't something I said or did....

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