Last night after our post was pub lished we heard a bang ing on the door of our tower hos tel. Andrew went down to see who it was and it turned out to be—the mayor! He makes a point of greet ing all the pil grims per son ally. We got our stamps and signed the guest book and he told us that we are the first Luther ans he’s ever met!
This morn ing we made our way out of town and through assorted fields full of corn or lying fal low, with bril liant blue birds and sub tler herons, along a levee until we came to the land ing for the Tran si tum Padi, or Po River Cross ing. There was a tall brick col umn mark ing it, recent of ori gin but declar ing the cross ing site itself to be of ven er a ble age. Right at 10 our fer ry man Danilo arrived, as we’d arranged the day before, in the “taxi flu viale,” along with his com pan ion, a cute mutt named Bilbo. In we hopped and off he went. It was a cold and windy ride: I felt like my cheeks were rip pling from the sheer force of the air flow ing over them, though it was only my hair that ended up in total dis ar ray. We docked on the other side, this one marked with a col umn con tain ing a stone with a foot print on it—left there, it is said, by Sigeric the Seri ous who first recorded the stops on the Via Fran ci gena. The fer ry man took us to his house, had us sign the guest book and gave us a stamp, and then sent us on our way for our first steps in the province of Emilia-Romagna.
It was pretty flat and agri cul tural as on the other side of the Po. One lit tle town had a very nice house in pos ses sion of the Knights Tem plar. We saw fields full of toma toes in the process of being har vested; but it’s not a very effi cient har vest, with maybe 1/3 of the toma toes left behind on the ground—I hope they get col lected later or gleaned by some one! We kept at our Dante until the coun try roads gave out and we had to walk along the mir a cle mile(s) lead ing into Piacenza—complete with McDonald’s, Block buster Video, Burger King, and no end of kebab shops. The cen ter of town was almost com pletely silent and boarded up (it being Sun day) and not par tic u larly spiffy.
At the far end of town we stopped at the parish of San Laz zaro. The mayor in Orio Litta had told us about a pil grim hos tel asso ci ated with the parish not in listed in the guide books. We found the priest who gave us the key (we told him we didn’t speak any Ital ian; he said not to worry, he speaks Ital ian per fectly) and the infor ma tion about the place. It was another kilo me ter and a half to the hos tel, a tiny brick build ing next door to a tiny brick church with a lovely mosaic of St. Peter hold ing the keys to the king dom in the lin tel over the door. The hos tel has three lev els, six beds, and one wash ing machine. It will go to good use tonight.