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Day 14 Pavia-Fidenza 67m(107km)

A day of meeting other pilgrims

A Finn walking from Vercelli to Rome (c 700kms). Met him on the outskirts of Pavia, early in the morning. Note his use of Nordic walking poles.

And 4 cyclists from the UK who had started from Martigny in Switzerland and will be cycling the 1000kms to Rome. I was to meet them several times en route to Rome, and finally in the St Peter’s Basilica, midst the thousands of visitors elbowing their way around th e monuments.

Followed Po valley most of the day to end up staying the night in this parish hostel where Thomas a Beckett stayed in 1167.  The buildings and location reminded me so much of Little Gidding in Cambrigeshire, a place of spiritual seclusion founded by Nicholas Ferrar, and later receiving the accolade of T.S.Eliot in his Fourth Quartet.

Piacenza is one of the most beautiful towns I’ve seen. It’s main Piazza is the site of the Palazzo Gotico and the bronze statues of former rulers of the land are stunning.

Fidenza where I stayed the night, has a statue of St Peter on the façade of the cathedral, pointing the way to Rome (well, they say he’s pointing!). Funny, I set off in a completely different direction!

Seeing ourselves as others see us? Well not quite. The other day, I thought I was being followed by another cyclist, and when I looked around, it was my own shadow trying to overtake me! So I had to take a few profiles of myself as the sun moved around. You may say I look like the shadow of my former self.

Two other reflections. I’ve cycled in Italy on several occasions, but the first time I saw elegant looking black women standing by the roadside out in the country, it took me a little while to work out they were prostitutes. Today, I discovered they are not always black women.

In Piacenza, I witnessed an unwholesome scene of what appeared to be racist abuse. An Italian couple, father holding baby, were vociferously abusing a couple of black Africans. I didn’t need a translator to understand most of the expletives. And, of course, the baby was screaming at the same time.