11 August

After spending the night in a very unlikely location, we set off toward the Po river. We started walking just before dawn. The vast rice fields slowly gave space to different varieties of crops; the sun kept shining over the east, leading our way. The heat had a constant crescendo dictated by the rising sun, which slowly was getting higher in the sky.

After walking for over 15 kilometres, we stopped for some refreshments. To our great surprise and appreciation, cafe ownercafe offered us some delicious homemade jam and almond cakes.

After the 30-minute stop, we picked up the rucksacks and hiking trolley, now a clear extension of our bodies, and we set off for the final 7 kilometres.

The heatwave was now at full blast, although the worst was yet to come. We walked silently, focusing on the rhythm of our movement, one step after the other.

We followed the Via Francigena signs, which led us in a sort of labyrinth of dirt roads surrounded by high croHowever, whenWhen just a few hundred meters out of Orio Litta, we found our path blocked by a tractor uto irrigaten of the fields.

Considering the Via Francigena as a major European pilgrimage route, after unsuccessfully trying to cross the obstacle, we contacted the local authority. The town wasn’t far, and we were hoping for some aid. Unfortunately, walking back, and adding an extra five walking kilometres to our day, wasn’t an option. I exchanged several telephone calls with the police and the Majer office, and when we realised that the effort wasn’t solving the problem, we gave up. We walked back to the first larger path, where, with the valuable help of Google Maps, we decided to avoid Orio Litta altogether (the town where we were supposed to eat and refill our water bottles), heading directly to Corte Sant’Andrea.

We followed a riverbank without the minimum shade; the heat was overwhelming, and worst of all, we were hungry and thirsty. Luckily, by avoiding the town, to our great surprise, we shortened the distance to our destination; after around 4 kilometres, we reached our destination.

In Corte Sant’Andrea, we got fantastic hospitality. We stayed in a quaint rural building (Ad Padum) that felt more like a family home rather than a hostel.

Although tired, the magic of this place was so palpable that I offered to prepare dinner for all the guests. A few other people helped in the kitchen, and in no time, we had a great plate of pasta to comfort us for all energy spent during the day.