Part II – Aosta
As we left Il Camminetto and Adriana and Roberto, Adriana showed me a photo of her son. If she told us I don’t recall his name but a young man of 27 years who studied music in Bucharest still lives there making a life playing jazz music. Adriana and Robbie as she affectionately calls him, take a one week break every 4 years, they visit Adriana’s son then.
Such a warm couple giving and receiving farewell hugs, she ushers us to the door and she buries her hand into a bowl full of sweets on the front desk and thrusts them into Peter’s hands.
It’s always so difficult to leave a place that opens it’s arms in welcome but we must move on to our next destination, Nus.
As we exit the city we walk through the Porta Praetoria (Praetorian Gate). and over the ancient Roman bridge. I’m excited by these ancient structures. Aosta was originally known as Augusta Praetoria was founded by the Romans in 25BC at the junction of the major roads leading to France and Switzerland. Christianity came to the valley in 5 AD. The bishop of Aosta also later became the Bishop of Canterbury, clearly well clear of Henry the VIII.
The Via Francigena (VF) path is well marked which surprises me. It would appear that since our guide was written some improvements have been made for pilgrims on the route. Fountains are still available at the entrance to a town or near a church.
I mentioned previously meeting a pilgrim on route from Canterbury, today we met 2 French women both from the Champagne region who are spending only 2 weeks on their way to Pavia as the first of a number of visits to Italy to complete this pilgrimage. Celine and Veronique with their respective families are grape growers and winemakers. It’s been interesting to hear their stories via Celine who speaks English well and confidently communicates. Their respective vineyards supply grapes to Bollinger and they have their own label in Champagne. Their grapes and production is obviously at the top end but they tell their stories without pomp and ceremony “just winemakers” Celine says.
We have an invitation to stay at her B&B when we choose to visit France again. Well who could pass that invitation up, right?
We very much enjoyed our brief time together. It is unlikely we will see them on the road again this time, but we will remember them fondly. A round of Beck’s beer, photos and toasts and we farewelled them in Nus as we make our way to the Fermata to catch the Pullman (bus stop to catch the bus) to Chàtillon.
You must remember my groaning from my past blog in Spain. Every town is at the top of the hill! In Italy every church is at the top. Peter says “the churches have got it all wrong, they should be at the bottom to get more people to go to church”.
We’ve discovered also in our travels that most people don’t know the name of the street at the end of the one they are standing in, just like the young man in Aigle if you recall who knew where the swimming pool was but not the camp site right alongside of it.
Via Chanoux was at the end of the street where two men were prepared to send us in opposite directions when all we had to do was walk 100 meters to the street we were looking for. Thankfully as the sweat ran down our backs fearful of having to climb a steep hill to the monastery, we discovered our accommodation was just around the corner.
We met Bill Walker from Atlanta sitting on the bench opposite the front door of the monastery. Bill had been waiting an hour for one of the Franciscan brothers to answer the doorbell. He was rather frazzled, actually very worked up from an experience in Nus which I’ll save for another day. We had booked accommodation in very humble rooms but Bill was just looking for a floor to sleep on and at 220cms there’s no bed that he would be able to fit.
Bill talks without ever taking a breath so it’s impossible to ask questions or make a comment. If you’re our age you will probably remember the show Andy Griffiths. Bill sounds just like Andy’s assistant sheriff. As it happens Bill too is on his way to Rome, a writer of adventure books he plans was to write a book on the VF but has decided that I should do it rather than he. Bill was previously a Futures broker, lived in Chicago which is the Mecca of Futures trading in the US and then in London for a number of years. Futures crashed as has many of his investments and so he has turned his hand to writing with some success. His book or perhaps exposé on Futures Trading is currently being printed and will be released later this year.
Our conversations with Bill has confirmed that this hike is seriously difficult. The same time is takes to hike 6 kms would be the time we could cover 25 to 30 kms in Spain. It gives us a good degree of comfort knowing that we haven’t aged so dramatically in 2 years that we are unable to cover the same distances. And bill just like us will resort to a combination of hiking and transport for most stages. We are led to believe that Tuscany will be easier and we will be able to cover more distance each day but will have to allow enough days to walk the entire 130 kms at the end in order to receive our Testimonium at the Vatican.
Wish us well as we go.
PS: We have heard via Bill that there is another couple from Australia on route as well, a retired Pastor and his wife whom we hope to meet along the way.
It’s 30+ degrees in Ivrea today hope you’re warming up too!
Greetings to all who are hiking this journey with us.