4. Easter Monday 25th April 2011
From Belgiososo and head for Orio Litta on the straight road. Lots of fast pro-looking groups of cyclists, our first look at the massive fraternity of good Italian road cyclists Who decreed that the Italians are so good at cycling, and look so good while doing it?!
From Oria Litta onto very small roads, and then the levee protecting the old flood plain from the Po that created it. Of course it is the inhabitants of the flood plain who are protected from the great River.
The scenery reminds Regula of the Bertolucci Movie, 1900, but I have never heard of it! Rice fields and more rice fields and a few villages on the dry side of the embankment. Houses on the river side are sometimes abandoned, which is a clue to the seasonal power of the placid River Po – and the need to control its waters into the sometimes flooded rice fields.
We meet out first other pilgrims, a couple from Turin walking on the levee. We are all pleased to meet someone else engaged in the same pursuit, on a route less frequented than the Camino. I wonder how the mosquitos have found them? They certainly find us on the bikes. Then to Piacenza on a big road. Following the off-road section of the official route has been very slow, the route not well-enough marked and has left a feeling that the VF route is just a slight add-on to the direct road systems where Pilgrims would one have walked. Sometimes these quiet pastimes are relegated to virtual invisibility in out modern world. Maybe they are necessarily obscure?
Piacenza is pleasant enough in the centre with languid bike riders amid strolling pedestrians and closed shops. It is sometimes unclear how much time to give to the towns and centres – their details monuments and histories. In the past, it has been consuming – now we rely on feeling and acquaintance. We must make progress when that is necessary.
From Piacenza we are warned sternly by Paul and Babette’s Guide (not recent edition) about the traffic out onto the Via Emilia – renown as being lethal. There is a lot of ugly US style suburban straggle along it and some few of the hundreds of monuments to young Italian males, who have lost their battle with the Italian escape into speed. But today it is quiet – Easter Monday and we make quick and safe enough progress on empty main roads. Regula is fast and fresh after lunch and a hardly needs the rests at Cadeo and at Fiorenzuela D’ardia . We go to find the Parochia…and find an unfriendly priest, who we will find out is about to officiate at a funeral and a baptism in the fine church. Serving God and the community is as stressful as any job I guess. We get into the Caritas, with some stern half-understood Italian warnings as to disturbing a resident and of the need to lock doors behind us. There are other circumstances which we are unaware of, but clearly this local priest has real concerns and is acting as best he can. He is a diligent and serious man.