Last night after our post was published we heard a banging on the door of our tower hostel. Andrew went down to see who it was and it turned out to be—the mayor! He makes a point of greeting all the pilgrims personally. We got our stamps and signed the guest book and he told us that we are the first Lutherans he’s ever met!
This morning we made our way out of town and through assorted fields full of corn or lying fallow, with brilliant bluebirds and subtler herons, along a levee until we came to the landing for the Transitum Padi, or Po River Crossing. There was a tall brick column marking it, recent of origin but declaring the crossing site itself to be of venerable age. Right at 10 our ferryman Danilo arrived, as we’d arranged the day before, in the “taxi fluviale,” along with his companion, a cute mutt named Bilbo. In we hopped and off he went. It was a cold and windy ride: I felt like my cheeks were rippling from the sheer force of the air flowing over them, though it was only my hair that ended up in total disarray. We docked on the other side, this one marked with a column containing a stone with a footprint on it—left there, it is said, by Sigeric the Serious who first recorded the stops on the Via Francigena. The ferryman took us to his house, had us sign the guestbook and gave us a stamp, and then sent us on our way for our first steps in the province of Emilia-Romagna.
It was pretty flat and agricultural as on the other side of the Po. One little town had a very nice house in possession of the Knights Templar. We saw fields full of tomatoes in the process of being harvested; but it’s not a very efficient harvest, with maybe 1/3 of the tomatoes left behind on the ground—I hope they get collected later or gleaned by someone! We kept at our Dante until the country roads gave out and we had to walk along the miracle mile(s) leading into Piacenza—complete with McDonald’s, Blockbuster Video, Burger King, and no end of kebab shops. The center of town was almost completely silent and boarded up (it being Sunday) and not particularly spiffy.
At the far end of town we stopped at the parish of San Lazzaro. The mayor in Orio Litta had told us about a pilgrim hostel associated with the parish not in listed in the guidebooks. We found the priest who gave us the key (we told him we didn’t speak any Italian; he said not to worry, he speaks Italian perfectly) and the information about the place. It was another kilometer and a half to the hostel, a tiny brick building next door to a tiny brick church with a lovely mosaic of St. Peter holding the keys to the kingdom in the lintel over the door. The hostel has three levels, six beds, and one washing machine. It will go to good use tonight.