Monday 30 September 2013

Day 21 Cassio to Ostello-della-Cisa 17 km

Monday September 30th Day 21 Cassio to Ostello-della-Cisa 17 km

The Cisa Pass  runs along the border between Parma and Tuscany
walk through the town of Berceto: Berceto has a medieval atmosphere, with small stone buildings and the remains of a 12th century castle

Woke up this morning early and had fruit and yoghurt for breakfast! The Ostello Di Cassio is wonderful!
 While having breakfast at 7 am, I check the weather outside, it's  very misty, foggy and I'm not sure if there is a light rain, or its just wet air from the fog....
  think I'll spend a bit longer over breakfast!  even have a poached egg on toast too! such a luxurious breakfast after weeks of just bread and jam, or a croissant 
Still very foggy! Claire and John. set off on their cycles just after 8 am. 
at 9 am, I've finished breakfast, packed and walked over the road to the bar for a Caffé doppio con latte ... contemplating donning the pack and venturing out into the foggy wilds of the Cisa pass! 
Off we go into the misty fog.
I'm going to romantically name our walk this morning "a walk in the clouds" We saw lots of white... visibility was between 5 and 15 m all morning. We didn't see any flying deer!

We kept to the road rather than follow the VF walking track. 
I don't want to end up lost, getting eaten by wolves, or falling off a cliff and having a poor unfortunate pilgrim find my skeleton in a couple of years!
 Luckily the road is fairly quiet, not too much traffic. amazing how some drivers still drive at full speed with such limited visibility!
Walked down into the atmospheric village of Bercato, where I experienced another squat toilet facility at the bar near the amazing church!
Berceto is an old, old village, I wandered around a little while Patrick stayed snug and warm in the bar, the low cloud and fog made it seem eerie and mystical. (see the round church window of thin marble, to the right of Patrick - it gives an amazing glow inside the church!)
A local filling drinking water bottles from the fountain
Berceto Church entrance
I saw this little door in the church and opened it... I was so tempted to go up the stairs!

The mist and fog closed in again
Think this door was the butchers - 
Lots of intriguing alleyways...

Off we went from Berceto at about 2:30 the clouds aren't going to cooperate and lift...
 "A walk in the clouds, part two!" We stuck to the road again, no hope of seeing any paths, tracks or markers today!

Walking over the Cisa Pass reminds me a little of our experience walking from Foncebaden over the mountain on the Camino de Santiago...  everything seems eerie, mystical and nebulous in the cloud and fog.

We arrived at the Ostello Via Francigena sooner than I was expecting at -  4:20 pm  yippee!! 
Fausten was there to meet us, we double checked we had the same Ostello that we phoned from Berceto... yes, they're expecting us, we spoke to his mogli (wife) Caterina. 
Bliss, a shower and food by the fire! (red wine, cheese, cold meats, breads, local intense flavoured honey) a snack before a delicious dinner of pasta with fungi, and secondi of grilled herbed chicken fillets!

Our accommodation 
Hostel of the house Grossa - Cisa Pass - Ostello Via Francigena 
Address: SS Cisa, House Roadhouse, 58 km 
Phone: 0525629072 - 328 8741814 
Type: Youth Hostel 
Price: € 15 room only, providing sleeping bag + 3,50 EUR, linen + 5 € 
Number of places: 24 
Services: Lunch or dinner 10  

saying goodbye to the Ostello Cisa - Fausto, Caterina Squeri and their  figli (children)  Pietro & Paolo  

Youth House

Address: Via Martino Lasoni - Berceto
Phone: 0525 60087
Type: Hostel municipal
Open: All year round
Price: OFFER
Number of seats: 7
Kitchen use: YES

Ostello della Cisa
Loc. Tugo
43042 Berceto (PR)
Tel. 0525/629072
Cell. 328/8741814 national parks and accommodation 

Sunday 29 September 2013

Day 20 Medesano to Cassio (Cassius) 31 km

Sunday 29th September Day 20 Medesano to Cassio (Cassius) 31 km

climbing the Appenines, towards the summit of the Cisa Pass through forest and mountain tracks

We met up with Jon, from Spain again last night. He arrived after dark. He'd come back to Medesano, as he was hit by a car yesterday, not hurt thankfully, but the impact dislodged his teeth bridge ( not sure if that's the correct term for them) so, in his words... he "looks like a fooking monster"  he searched the ground around the impact, but couldn't find them, so he's going to Parma on Monday to get a new set... At least he's not physically injured. When we're walking on the roads, we walk on the left here, so we can see the cars on our side of the road coming towards us and step off the road if required....

Well, we woke up this morning at 6 am, and the rain that was predicted is falling. 
Its too wet outside I decided I'll need to wear my boots again, I havent worn them for over a week since buying a pair of joggers. Hopefully my feet have stopped swelling and they'll be OK. They feel fine putting them on, so we will see!
As we set off with our wet weather gear on, me in my attractive blue poncho... the rain is very light, hopefully it will stay that way! Can you believe we've started off on our walk today before 7am!!! still not fully light, what keen pilgrims we are today!
Our plan is to walk the 30 + km to Cassio, but the weather and how we feel might change that. There is an option of stopping overnight at Sivvizano, about 17 km from Medesano.
We stopped off for our mattina (morning) caffè at a lovely little bar in the town of Felegara, the owner is originally from Canada, and has been in Italy for 25 years. I started to say my usual ... "buongiourno, vorrei due Caffé per favore...." and she says, "would you like to speak English?" we all laugh... Is it that obvious we're not Italian???
Later, we walk over the huge bridge, past the sign below
through Fornovo-Di-Taro, get some lunch supplies at the supermarket, walk past the church 
Didn't go inside the church, as we were in full wet weather gear, but it looks very interesting 
(I'd love more time to explore this village)
and we come across a antique car street race!
Arrived at Sivvizano, all walking up and down paved country roads, light rain the whole way.
We stop for a break at a very cute bar in Sivvizano about 12:30
I have a macchiato (aperitif)  and we both have lasagne for's  raining, sort of dark... decisions to be made about continuing on to Cassio or not.... lunch- pranzo first! Lasagne and a vino Lambrusco for me!
OK, now sufficiently fortified with food and wine- onwards...  and... the rain has stopped!
How lucky are we? Just as we Re about to,start the steep uphill climbes, we have sunshine!

It's amazing the way I continue to learn something new every day... or am reminded of something l've forgotten! such as, it's not a good idea to have a macchiato aperitif, followed by lasagne for lunch with a red wine when we still have about 15 km to walk!! I really wanted a little nanna nap after my lovely lunch and wine, but managed to soldier on! I think I burnt off the lunch calories in the next 2 hours of steep uphill walking! This is looking down on where we've come from
Off into the wilds of the Appenines - mule tracks, forest tracks, 

hope the CF signage is good! 
We pass a couple of beautiful small villages and their churches on the way up the mountain.

Pilgrim stone sign
detail of door and stone of the church at Bardone
 - couldn't go inside, it was chiuso ...

The next village of Terenzo
Saw geological formations that fired my imagination- thought for sure it was a dragon's tail! A long strip of sharp projecting stone called the "Salti del diavolo"
I thought once we'd arrived at the top of the pass we were at our destination, Cassio! But we were at Castello Di Casola ...
with another 4 km to go! more slippery muddy tracks up and down... I'm thankful for the thousands of squats and squat jumps completed at Hannah's boot camps over the last few months! Even so, with my heavy pack my muscles had the shakes at the end of the ascent.

past a wild beehive, and a beekeeper tending his hives.
Through pine forests,

And finally just before 6 pm Cassio! The village centre of Cassio is beautiful ... "Il tuo villaggio è bello" your village is beautiful  - I tried to communicate that message to a couple of old locals... they shook their heads and disagreed...

arrived at the Ostello Di Cassio at 6 pm! Two tired pilgrims, I'm very proud of our effort today, 31+ km, mostly up! (checked in the guide book... ascent 1046 m from Fornovo! )
A very warm welcome from Andrea 
off with the muddy boots, left them at the door, he showed us our room, and said to have a shower first, and sort out formalities after we're clean... lovely room, giant timber beams, stone lining.. all a tired pilgrim could want and more at the end of a big day...
Beautifully set up and organised Ostello! Food and beverages all ready, you can cook what you like in the kitchen, or go over the road to the Trattoria- there is an honesty box to contribute the value of what you've eaten and drunk.
We met Clair Fletcher  & John Murphy from Wexford, Ireland who are cycling the Via Francigena, We cooked up some delicious pasta and ate together.
We chat for a few hours, then off to bed about 10pm, my eyelids are drooping!
Clair fletcher  & John Murphy

Ostello Di Cassio
Hostel Cassio

Address: Via Nazionale - Cassio
Phone: 339 3203824 or 0525526110 
Type: Hostel municipal
Person in charge: Mr. Andrea Bianchi
Open: All year round
Price: 15 €
Number of places: 11
Kitchen use: YES
Services: Cost € 5 sheets

Saturday 28 September 2013

Day 19 Fidenza to Medesano 21.8 km

Saturday September 28th  Day 19 Fidenza  to Medesano 21.8 km 

We farewell Fidenza after our morning caffe at 7:30 am, after only an hour of walking we start to climb up into the rolling hills of Parma, the walking is much more interesting and to my liking than the flat plains of the last few days!
into foothills of the Appenines!

We walk past the church of Thomas Beckett (English Martyr 1170) 
Remains of lovely fresco

we had an encounter with a friendly dog who followed us for a km or so, 
once we got to a busier road, she kept following. I was worried she'd be hit by a car, so we  buzzed at a gate and a gentleman, who spoke no English came out, managed to convince him to get a rope to stop the friendly dog from being run over. He took her to his neighbours home to keep her in their yard. Even though she's a pit bull, she's "molto tranquilla" We phoned the number on the tag a couple of times, but there was no answer.
We arrived at Costamezzana at about 11 am and stopped off at the local bar (run by friendly Oliver) for a Caffé and toilet stop!
There was fresh Fettucini drying on plates inside... mmmm wonder what's for lunch, tempting to stop a while longer!
The owner of the dog phoned us while we were at the bar to tell us that she has collected her dog safely, what a relief!
Costamezzana has a lovely church that was being decorated for a matrimoniale, full of white roses, 

Oliver suggested we walk up the road past the church... Which we did, but its not on the VF path, so the rest of the walk we followed small, quiet country lanes to Medesano rather than the marked VF. 
We arrived Medesano  at the Oratorio Don Bosco pilgrim accommodation at 2:30 pm
No one around, men at the bar who were playing cards directed us to behind the church, buzzed on the door to no effect, (found out later we should have pressed the top buzzer, not the bottom buzzer!) phoned the number, hopefully someone will arrive soon to let us in! about 10 minutes later, a priest comes and gives us a key and shows us the facilities, lovely, clean and fairly new!
AND ... with a washing machine which we take advantage of!
  The building entrance is located just a few steps up from the bar,  towards the church. 

I've been seeing signs similar to this along the road sides, thought I'd better finally figure out what they're actually saying. "Divieto Di caccia" means hunting forbidden. 

We ate a good pizza up the main road for dinner and to the left near a park and the frutta shop where we also bought some fruit. Amazing how our appetites have increased! we now eat a pizza each! At the beginning of the walk we shared a pizza...

If I did this section again, or my suggestion to others, ( if you have the energy)  would be to continue on to Fornovo-Di-Taro (another approx 11 km past Medesano) and stay there rather than staying at Medesano, Fornovo looked like a very interesting town, has quite a few facilities, a lovely old town centre and the church looks intriguing. (We didn't find much of interest in Medesano) That would have made our walk today 32 km and the walk tomorrow about 22 km of uphill!

Our accommodation at Medesano
 Don Bosco Oratory - Medesano

Address: Via Conciliation, 2 - Medesano
Phone: 0525 420447
Type: Hostel parish
Open: All year round
Price: OFFER
Number of seats: 4
Use of kitchen: NO

Monte Genesio -  B&B 50 Euro
di Tagliavini Roberta
Via Monte Genesio 102, Miano
43014 Medesano (PR)
Tel/Fax: 0525 431163

Parish of Santa Maria Assunta - Medesano

Address: Piazza IV Novembre, near the parish
Phone: 0525 2218 - Marika: 3391260100 - Daniela: 3285480077
Type: Hostel parish
Open: All year round
Price: OFFER
Number of seats: 7
Use of kitchen: NO
Services: Possibility of breakfast and meals at the ACLI

Friday 27 September 2013

Day 18 Fiorenzuola-d'Arda to Fidenza 22.2 km

Friday September  27th Day 18 Fiorenzuola-d'Arda to Fidenza 22.2 km

We had a bit of a slow start today, Patrick set the alarm, but forgot to turn it on! consequently by the time we packed, stopped off for Caffé and bought our picnic lunch, it's 8:45 am
Walked through typical farms of the plains area, lots of work going on harvesting and tilling the soil.
Fairly typical farmhouse for this area, house to the right, and farm buildings attached to the house on the left.

We stopped off and spent some time at the amazing The Abbey of Chiaravalle de Colomba, built around 1130
The cloister is stunning, 
Walkways of the cloister

every piece of the building has meaning and significance...

Frescoes and artwork fill the interior of the church

An intriguing organ with beautifully painted doors.

paintings of various saints

Onwards through more fields of tomatoes, Lucerne hay being cut, corn... seemed to walk around the fields for no reason sometimes, rather than a more direct route- I'm sure the pilgrims of old would have wanted to get to Roma ASAP... Lovely old tractors alongside the new, all in working order said the farmer!

While walking along, (feeling a bit visually fatigued by fields of tomatoes, lucerne and corn...) I reflected on some of my observations of Italy...

Cycling- It seems all Italians cycle! from babes in the cycle carriers to the older members of the community. 
There are definitely two styles of cycling, one is the road bike, where full road cycling attire is always worn, and the cycling is taken quite seriously! every day we pass many of these cyclists. 

The second style of cycling is the serene, and stylish - the village or town cyclist. Usually dressed immaculately, and managing to look very relaxed on their bikes, sometimes talking on their mobiles, usually with baskets attached for pane, or other produce- this style of cycling is often a family affair, with baby in the bicycle seat, mum and dad cycling along together or it could be Nonna cycling with the grandchildren. 

Often cycling is a social event too!
The road cyclists have ALL the appropriate attire!

We arrived 3:10 pm to accommodation at Alburgue in Fidenza. Fidenza is in the province of Parma, Emilia-Romagna region.
After a lovely shower and short rest to elevate the legs (I noticed I've developed quite a sock tan! and I need to get my toenails painted...) 

We're ready to explore Fidenza! 
Starting off with an aperitif at a bar in the Piazza. 

I've observed the locals often have this lovely orange coloured drink, found out its called a macchiato (like the coffee) it's a shot of liquor such as Campari with sparkling white wine, not too bad!

The Fidenza Duomo 

Carving of pilgrims walking to Roma

Intricate carving, paintings and realistic sculptures
I couldn't go down into the crypt, as there was a small mass service. This family is preparing for a christening.

DINNER tonight

Tratoria Antica - vicolo antini
Vicolo Antini. Fidenza
Tratoria Antica - near the main square and the duomo (highly recommend this local trattoria!)
Another trattoria where there is no printed menu, just three options for each course created from local seasonal produce!
We can see the kitchen, and watch the action, smells delicious!
We go with what's recommended 
pears, Parmesan regiano with a sparkling white- delicious sparkling white!

prima - tortelli  Di erbette - pasta, made fresh in the house, when you order with ricotta and spinach 

secondo- filetto Di maiale - pork fillet with peppercorn sauce (first time I've been able to make it to secondi!) Wine is a local Lambrusco, not something I would normally choose, but we went with the recommendation and it was delicious!

dolce- Patrick, torte Di mille , apple cake (I just had a taste...) A memorable meal, with friendly service!
Not too far to,wander back to,the Albergue through the streets of old Fidenza

Accommodation Fidenza
Albergo Ugolini , Via Cornini Malpeli 
PH: 052483264
45 euro double room (pilgrim price)
Very close and handy to Historical centre of town, also not far from railway station.
clean, simple basic room with bathroom.

Other accommodation option

Convent of the Capuchins - Fidenza

Address: Via San Francesco, 7 - Fidenza
Phone: 0524 522035 - 0524 520118
Type: Religious Structure
Open: All year round
Price: OFFER
Number of places: 8
Use of kitchen: NO