Day 5

Liberation Day in the Piedmont countryside

Day 5, Wednesday, 25 April 2007 – An Italian’s first allegiance is to the town where he was born, even if he hasn’t lived there for 25 years (though chances are he never moved), then to the provincial capital, the region and then finally to the country.

That means somebody born 25 miles from Milan pledges allegiance, so to speak, first to his village, then to Milan, then to Lombardy and then to Italy. With that in mind it is then not surprising that Italian flags fly on rare occasions, one being when the national soccer wins and another being April 25, Liberation Day celebrating the end of World War II.

As the years pass it is getting harder to find flags flying even on April 25 because there are ever fewer veterans and the new generations seem less interested in remembering World War II and the two years of resistance against the German occupation (1943-1945). We do come across a few flags after leaving Giulio’s house at 7:30 as we pass through several small villages, including Viverone where we are in time to catch the end of a small celebration for the liberation.

It’s all asphalt today, but with Giulio as the guide and with constant asking of directions from locals we manage to do about half on secondary roads. There are a few indications that some towns are beginning to promote the Via Francigena. In Roppolo we meet the mayor, Sergio Sarasso, who is welcoming people at a just completed rest stop for pilgrims. We are the first two pilgrims to drink from the new fountain. In the same town we chat with the family running the B&B Le Lune, which costs 50 Euros for a room that sleeps three, but they also offer dinner free to pilgrims (the last ones being a Swiss couple that came through in February on their way to Rome).

In Cavaglia’ there are markers in front of key monuments explaining the town’s role as a way station along the Via Francigena and here we also find a woman in her 60s, Carla, who randomly offers us any help she can give. We ask for directions finding back roads for the last stretch to Santhia’, her response sums it all up: “there are country roads where no cars pass, but you need to know them because you can’t find them on your own.”

I have gotten several requests for more information on the landscapes, here’s an attempt to catch up and I will try to include this as I go. I know, I tend to get carried away with the food. For the record – for dinner I just had half a pizza, a plate of tagliatelle with mushrooms and another Valdostana steak…which seemed to help the calves last time and as the Italians say, you don’t change a horse mid-race if its winning. There was Pistachio and Nocciola gelato for dessert.

Day 1 – high mountains with beautiful snow covered peaks everywhere. Charming villages dot the valley down to Aosta.

Day 2 – vineyards line the main Aosta valley, which is much nicer seen from higher up so the effect of the freeway and busy SS 26 are muted. Views back to the imposing Mont Blanc massif.

Day 3 – ditto Day 2 with the bonus of the previously mentioned bridges and Roman road.

Day 4 – yesterday, I think I covered that in a previous post.

Day 5 – today, green fields of grain, lots more vineyards and unfortunately lots of asphalt.

I am writing this from a spartan room used by the church for social functions that will be our sleeping quarters for the night. Sleeping arrangements have gone from wonderful monastery to hotel to Giulio’s house to this room that has one pull-out couch (on which Giulio is already snoring) and many chairs. No shower here and no hot water, but we are nevertheless very grateful to Don Paolo who let us in.

I am writing this and all posts with a pocket PC though I rely on the help of a few people in Milan to make it all run smoothly: Joakim who puts the posts online when I can’t manage to, Valentina and Sara for the translations, Fabio at Pcram who did the initial programming of the site and Emilio for the occasional technical support.

Trip details: Palazzo Canavese to Santhia’, 23.1K, altitude change: 174 meters up, 245 meters down.

State of the route: dire, asphalt for 95 percent of the way. About half on less-travelled roads and half on state roads (cousins to the SS 26, but with larger shoulders). Water in all the towns.

Weather report: overcast when we set out with the sun peeking through by 10 am though the heat tempered by a persistent haze. 19 degrees C on departure at 7:30 am, 26 on arrival at 2 pm.

Medical report: left calf seemingly cured, right one still hurts, but improving. Pinky toe blister a nuisance, all other blisters neutralized. Right knee hurts though I’m banking on recover in coming days now that I have hit the plains and there will be no climbing for a week.

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