Number of kilometres today: 29.5
Total kilometres walked from Canterbury: 1,313.9
Total steps since Canterbury: 1,861,853
Tonight I am in Santa Cristina, a really small town where there are a few bars and pizzerias but no hotels or guesthouses. The only option for pilgrims to stay here is the charity of the local church who provide a room with two permanent beds and a bathroom above the parish bar/social club. They have another room with seven mattresses stored just in case they are inundated with pilgrims. It is simple accommodation but it is a safe, warm roof over my head and helps me on my way to Rome.
The best part of today was the welcome I received. I had not contacted anyone about staying here and I wasn't really sure where to go when I arrived other than to the church to try and find Padre Pedrazzini who was listed as the contact in the guide book. I just trusted that it would all turn out okay. And it did.
I arrived at 4.30pm as Mass was commencing. As Padre was now busy, I sat on a step and waited for Mass to finish and the parishioners to leave the church so I could enter and find him. I waited patiently as the women filed out first casting me a curious glance as they stepped past me. After a few minutes, an older gentleman exited, looked at me and asked if I was "pellegrini" and wanted to "dormi" here to which I responded "si." He escorted me down the driveway of a property next door to the church and into a bar which acts as the church's social club. Two groups of four men sat at separate tables playing some serious cards. My escort announced me as an Australian pelliegrini to which I was greeted with many salve's and exclamations and he handed me over the man behind the bar. His name was Enzo as in Enzo Ferrari he told me. He made sure my pilgrim passport was stamped, that I knew how to organise the river ferry I will need in a few days time, showed me to my room, checked the hot water was working, turned on the heating, showed me how to lock and unlock the doors and told me where to go to eat dinner. All of my cares were looked after which is such a comfort and relief after a long day's walk and entering a new town where I don't know my way around.
This kindness and help is one of my favourite things about this journey. I am reminded by firsthand experience the impact that a kind word or gesture can have. When I have felt weary, alone or in pain, I been instantly uplifted, set back on my feet to keep walking with a new outlook, new energy, new resolve. Today's kindness touched my heart, made me feel comfortable in a new surrounding and perky after what had been a blandish day.
If I could graph how I felt about today it would be a long flat line with a couple of spikes just before lunch before flatlining again and then slowly ascending with a massive spike just after I arrived into Santa Cristina that dipped again when I had my warm (not hot shower) and rose after I stood in front of the heater for 15 minutes then dipped to another flat line at dinner (food was average, service was terrible, the first bad service I have had in Italy.) Right now it has plateaued at a nice, cosy median.
This morning I left Pavia later than expected. It was 10am by the time I started walking and my exit from town was along side a main road through suburbia. No soft morning light. Nothing pretty to look at just apartment buildings, shops and houses. I was feeling unwell and bland after eating what I suspect was a dodgy slice of cold pizza last night that gave me stomach cramps and this morning left me with the metallic taste of nausea. I wanted to be there instead of here, to have arrived already. My left shoulder was hurting again despite yesterday's rest, as it has been for the last week. It took an hour and a half to find my rhythm and then I settled into enjoying the feeling of walking, my feet on the earth and the energy moving through my body. Then bursts of beauty revealed themselves; astonishing autumn flamed trees, green and gold spotted woodlands and the bright gold of the rice fields against the ghostly silhouette of trees on the hazy horizon again.
I put a lot of trust in tonight's accommodation sorting itself out. I am putting even more trust in tomorrows in Oria Litta another small town without a hotel or guesthouse. I have heard that a local friend of the Via Francigena will greet you on your way into town and sort out your accommodation for you. I really, really, really hope he finds me.
Lots of birds on a wire...
Lots of birds leaving a wire as I walked past
Green and gold woodlands
Farm outside Santa Margherita
Golden trees, Santa Margerita
Sometimes town look better when I leave them than when I enter them behind. Santa Margherita.
Autumn colours, Belgioioso.
More Autumn colours lining a farm in Torre di Negri.
Dry gold and ghosted silhouettes near Cascina Travacca
Looking towards Costa di Nobili