|Verrès in the Dora Baltea valley. (Wikimedia image.)|
The weather was constantly warm and sunny, and the walk as delightful and interesting as ever, as I followed the path through the ever-narrowing valley of the Dora Baltea. Here the lower slopes were terraced with vines, which hung from a lattice of wooden struts supported by stone pillars — a traditional and ancient method of viticulture in these parts.
I was enchanted by the sight of three nuns in white peering over the parapet of a stone bridge at the torrent below. I spoke with an old man tending his apple trees and complaining that the birds were ruining half his crop — 'they just peck at the apples, then leave them!' And in Verrès I slept in the dormitory of an hostello near the station — after first treating myself to a seafood lasagne in the Due Valli restaurant. The prices were quite cheap compared with neighbouring Switzerland — and even France.
|Verrès. (Wikimedia image.)|
After Verrès the valley narrowed even more. All morning the castle at Bard had been in my sights, and by early afternoon it towered above me. It stood on a huge rock and guarded the narrowest point of the valley. I climbed to the top (or rather three flights of lifts propelled me there), but I did descend under my own steam on a track which contoured down and around this rocky stronghold.
|The Roman arch at Donnas. (Wikimedia image.)|
At Donnas I walked a short section of Roman road and passed under this Roman arch . . .
|Donnas and its centro storico. (Wikimedi image.)|
. . . and at Pont-Saint-Martin I crossed this Roman bridge . . .
|The Roman bridge at Pont-Saint-Martin. (Wikimedia image.)|
I stopped the night in Pont-Saint-Martin itself, in the Foresteria — a wonderfully clean and modern sports and community building offering pilgrims individual rooms and hot showers for only €15. I was greeted by the friendly and efficient Angela, and later met fellow pilgrims Davide from Rome, and Dawa, a Nepali mountain guide, with his Italian girlfriend, Sara.
When I returned at dusk from the centre of town — where I'd enjoyed in a pizzeria the best calzone north of Naples — we all had a chat about life, love and pilgrimage. Dawa also gave us a graphic and heart-rending account of the April 2015 earthquake in Nepal, and I went to bed in a sober frame of mind — though at the same time very grateful that I was alive and well and able to walk safely through such a spectacular landscape.
On my final day in this mountainous, outstandingly beautiful region, I covered 20 km through vineyards and forests, past lakes and castles, and up and down rocky steps to the town of Ivrea (the largest place I'd visited after Aosta), where I stayed in the Canoa Club refuge (€15 again), and fell asleep lulled by the hypnotic sound of watery rapids. For there was a canoe slalom course on the river right outside my dormitory window . . .
|The 14th-century castle at Ivrea. (Wikimedia image.)|