Two days ago we arrived at Piacenza, and a crossroads in our pilgrimage.  We have made the decision to say goodbye to the Via Postumia, which goes south to the coast at Genoa, and instead cover a bit of the Via Francigena in reverse.

We walked and cycled the Via Francigena from Canterbury to Rome (and beyond, on the the Via Francigena Sud) in 2012 and 2013.  So when we arrived in Pavia today it was our second pilgrimage pass through the city.  But what a different experience.  In 2013 we were trying to stay in a pilgrim hostel, but after hours of waiting in the heat we were unable to stay because a youth group had filled it.  We were subsequently also turned away from a monastery.  Well into the evening we finally paid a fortune to stay in a hotel.  We didn’t have the opportunity to see the city and left with a grudge.

This time we paid the same amount days in advance, accessed the suite early in the day, and had an opportunity to have a look at some of the attractions.  It’s a beautiful city with a striking bridge and one of the purest Romanesque basilicas we have seen in Italy.

While our experiences in Pavia were markedly different, one commonality was the temperature: hot.  It was 34 degrees today, another in a lengthening series of 30+ days.  I’ve been starting my walk at 5:30 each morning, and noting public water sources along my daily route.  

My new favourite thing is the water machines we occasionally encounter.  These dispense cool natural or carbonated water for free or a few cents per litre.  They are a pure delight after hours of walking in the heat.  Sadly they are not that common, but it’s like Christmas when we come across one.

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