Musings on Lombardy

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The happy prospect of finishing by lunchtime today after a mere 16.4 km inspired us to get out of bed not too long after the alarm went off, aided shortly afterward by the church bells ringing 7. (We were extremely relieved to discover that the sensible Christians in Italy don’t ring the hours through the night so you can actually sleep if you’re near the church, unlike certain other Christians north of the Alps we could mention.) At the bakery a helpful clerk guided us through our breakfast purchases and proudly bestowed on us the 10% pilgrim discount.

It was a pleasant enough morning’s walk, with a pale sun behind the fog and lots of dew on the grass. Although most everything is still green, there is a definite autumnal field about the countryside. The rice and corn harvests continued, and we noticed the pomegranates and persimmons ripening on the trees.

Though this area is as agricultural as Bavaria, we couldn’t help but notice how very different it looks here. Southern Germany is tidy, bristling with order, cheerful in a principled way, shiny and well-tended and lush with flowers. This part of Lombardy is, well, weedy. Shabby and neglected-looking. We saw two old manor houses with huge grounds on the verge of falling down; living among the ruins of many different centuries seems to be the standard. For all that, there are lots of people around bustling about their business, popping into the local café for an espresso and talking up a storm.

We wonder—with no way of verifying it—whether the houses are bright and shiny on the inside, and that the difference is only on the outside. We know that some places deliberately neglect the public and outside spaces on purpose, for safety or just for preference, and maybe it’s like that here. It doesn’t seem to be poverty that’s the cause of it. The locals we’ve stayed with have said that contemporary Italians are very materially oriented and rather too interested in money and things—though whatever they’re investing in, it’s not the facades and gardens of their homes. One way or another, it’s certainly a different experience to be walking through here from the first half of our journey.

It was very nice to finish up as planned at lunchtime in Orio Litta today. We caught up on various things, spent lots of time with our day, explored a tiny grocery store, and enjoyed cooking for real for a change. Our pilgrim hostel is rather exotic tonight, a brick tower in the middle of town with halls extending in either direction, and an unsealed beam-and-tile roof on the top floor that gives little glimpses of the stars. Too bad we’ll sleep through most of our time here!

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