Days 50 & 51: Pavia

Number of kilometres yesterday: 26.0

Total kilometres walked from Canterbury: 1,284.4

Total steps since Canterbury:  1,820,051

I feel l like so much has happened in the last two days that I could write two chapters in a book but I won't...just yet.  This is a long post so if you can't be bothered with the words, make sure you scroll down because I have lots of photos to share with you.

Before I get started I want to share a quote with you that appropriately describes where I am at on this journey because I feel like I am saying the same things over and over:  Wow.  It's beautiful.  It's amazing.  I am so blessed.  It's challenging.  My feet hurt.

"It takes a while for our experience to shift through our consciousness.  For instance, it is hard to write about being in love in the midst of a mad love affair.  We have no perspective.  All we can say is, "I'm madly in love," over and over again."

That is from Natalie Goldberg's Writing Down the Bones (thanks to my lovely friends who bought me the best weightless and useful going away present, an Amazon voucher; this is one of the books I have bought and am reading and thinking of you, thank you all so much.)

As challenging, tiring and painful it can sometimes be, I am in love with this journey; enthralled by the beauty, the pain, the kindness of strangers and my own tenacity and adaptability.  While it is all unfolding, all I can say over and over is I am in love and to share snippets of my days with you.

Yesterday was a big day.  Officially, I walked 26 kilometres between Garlasco and Pavia but it was really much more than this.  When I arrived here in Pavia I then walked almost 2 kilometres to the train station and back and not to mention all the walking around sight-seeing and "killing" time in between.  I don't usually "kill" time but I was staying at the Ostello della Santa Maria Betlem and typical of many hostels, I could not check in until 6.30pm.  It was too early for an aperitivo.  I didn't want coffee so I kept walking the streets of Pavia in the rain...the only place it rained yesterday.

I didn't end up leaving Garlasco until 7.50am yesterday, 20 minutes later than I planned which ordinarily wouldn't matter except I knew I wanted to make it to Pavia by 2pm so I could catch the train to Certosa di Pavia to see one of the largest monasteries in Italy.  As I was leaving, a hunter who was also staying at the hotel with his friend struck up conversation with me noticing that my face was very bronzata and that I had sunglasses marks burned onto my face. He circled his own eyes to indicate this. I explained I had spent many days in the sun walking Via Francigena which then lead to a conversation about it with the lady manager and many exclamations and head shaking in incredibility that I would undertake such a journey alone. This is a typical reaction mainly to the sola part.  He then told me it was going to rain today which I already knew as the male manager had told me the night before and I had checked the forecast.  He looked outside and said it was raining now so I took out Kermit and with the help of the lady manager covered myself and the Devil ready to walk out into the rain only to be told by another gentleman who had just entered reception that it wasn't raining so off came kermit again and finally I set off towards Pavia.

I entered the rice fields once again glowing gold against the silver haze which is a constant in this area. And it was beautiful. It makes everything bright but yet softens its texture yet draws my attention to the shape and form of everything around me. So many photos to take yet somehow not capturing the exact beauty of those moments.

I stopped for second breakfast in Groppo Cairoli where as usual, I was the centre of attention of the locals.  I can't blame them anymore.  This foreign, dark and dishevelled woman with sunglass marks burned onto her face walking into their bar with a large pack on her back. But as much as I have been met with curious stares I have been greeted with encouragement also; waves, thumbs up, hand-shakes, wishes of buon viaggio and buon camino.  

As I entered the village of Villanova d'Ardenghi, I greeted an old lady walking to the church for Sunday mass.  She started speaking to me in rapid Italian that I didn't understand. I gathered she wanted me to come into the church with her to write something. I heard scriveta several times.  I gracefully declined then she grabbed my hand with both of hers, said something about the Madonna, that I know the Madonna, si, I know the Madonna, and wished me Buon viaggio.  

I eventually arrived in Pavia as it started raining, only lightly. I managed to keep dry by tucking me and the Devil under my small travel umbrella so I didn't have to make an obvious entrance into the city wearing the very bright Kermit.  I was greeted on the path towards the Ponte Coperto, the covered bridge, by a man in his 60's who picked me as a pilgrim and wanted to make sure I knew about the Ostello Santa Maria Betlem and to give me his business card in case I needed help.  He is a dog trainer. La scuola per te pensata per il tuo cane.  His card has a picture of Lady and the Tramp eating spaghetti.

I headed straight to the train station.  We (the Devil and I) took a short train trip to Certosa di Pavia.  Such a strange feeling to be moving so fast after having moved so slowly for so long.  On the train, we covered 8 kilometres in 5 minutes.  When we walk, we cover 8 kilometres in 2 hours.  Simultaneously funny and depressing but you definitely do not see the world the same way when you are moving so fast.  You miss all the detail and the opportunity to stand still or go back to see again what you have passed.

The monastery at Certosa di Pavia was recommended to me to visit by my ex's father and I am so glad I did.  My first wow moment was after I got off the train and caught a glimpse of it towering above the brick walls that border the complex.  And the second but bigger wow moment was when I walked through the gate and into the complex and saw the church.  Holy wow.  I felt exactly the same way when I saw the Taj Mahal.  Built in 1396 to 1495 and inspired by the Duomo of Milan on a smaller scale, the facade of the church is intricately decorated with sculptures.  Inside is even more amazing with many chapels intricately decorated with different marbles and painted frescoes. Photos inside are not allowed so I can't share any of this with you.

After arriving back into Pavia at 4.45pm, I wandered the streets, making the most of my time here as I expected to walk 28 kilometres to Santa Cristina today.  By the time I checked into the Ostello at 6.40pm, I was so exhausted I couldn't even tell the receptionist where I had walked from that day.  My mind was completely blank.  After a hearty pilgrim meal at the local restaurant and some email exchanges with a pilgrim friend and finding what I decided was a reasonably good deal on a hotel in Paiva, I declared today an International Day of Rest.  I slept in until 8am when I was woken by the bells of the church next door singing their sweet song loudly.  I took a late breakfast at a friendly cafe where the waiters spoke English and also commented on my bronzata face.  He did, however, think I was 25, (bless) and one of them insisted on having his photo taken with me.  He misunderstood my name to be Hym not Kym.  

The Devil and I wandered slowly around the streets, meandering without intending to go anywhere in particular.  We went inside the Duomo di Pavia and found ourselves partially attending mass.  The singing and the chanting echoed and vibrated through its high ceilings. I didn't understand what they were saying, except Spirito Santo and Hallelujah, but I could feel every sound and I will always remember that feeling.

After dropping the Devil off at my hotel, I took myself out for a long and slow lunch at a trattoria in the piazza of the Duomo.  Risotto with pumpkin, rosemary and pecroino.  White wine.  Tiramisu. Espresso. 

Some more strolling.  A new bright red case for my iPhone to replace my broken black one.  A lip gloss and a facial mask for some pampering.  Supplies for the ever onward journey.  Feet up, resting until I walk again tomorrow.  I feel refreshed. I feel ready to go again.

Inside church of Garlasco, the darkest church I have been in but made this stand out. 

Into the rice fields and into the silver haze.

I loved how all of these trees were all slightly bent in the same way.

Approaching Villanova d'Ardenghi

Walking out of 

Villanova d'Ardenghi, I looked back over my shoulder and saw the colours of this tree brilliant in the field so I had to go back and take some snaps.

The river Ticino, one of the main tributaries of the Po.

I loved the symmetry of these trees approaching Pavia

Approaching Pavia next to the river Ticino.

Ponte Coperto also known as Ponte Vecchio, the covered bridge.  It was badly damaged in the war in 1945, partially collapsed in 1947 and then was rebuilt based on the original in 1949.

Approaching la Certosa. The first wow moment.

Entering the complex.  The second and bigger wow moment.

Back in Pavia.  The only place it was raining yesterday.

The Duomo.  The central dome is the 4th largest in Italy.

Piazza Duomo

Morning in Pavia on Corso Strada Nuova

Inside Duomo di Pavia

Piazza della Vittoria

The University of Pavia

Monument near the Castello Visconteo.

It is so Autumn right now!  Colours!