|Sculpture representing the River Po in Turin. In crossing the Po I passed from Lombardy into the region of Emilia-Romagna. (Image from Wikimedia Commons.)|
On the last day of August 2015 I walked 25 km from Orio Litta to the city of Piacenza — except that, in reality, I walked only 21 km, as 4 km was covered by boat. The previous evening in Orio Litta I'd rung Danilo, the Po river boatman, and booked a seat on his small motor launch. At 8.30 the next morning I waited for him at the Po crossing point (Transitum Padi) in Corte Sant'Andrea, the place from which pilgrims have crossed the river for centuries. He was late, and it wasn't until 8.50 that I heard the sound of an engine. Danilo seemed convinced there should have been another passenger besides myself, and he began an animated conversation on his mobile phone — but I tried to reassure him that Davide was stopping in Orio Litta an extra day to rest his legs. We sped quickly down the wide river — such a pleasant change for me — and after a few kilometres reached Soprarivo di Calendasco on the opposite bank. There was little there except for a rickety landing stage. Feeling distinctly soggy-bottomed (I'd been sitting in a pool of water on the boat), I made my way along the river bank, soon turning off across flat farmland towards Calendesco and skirting fields where the tomato harvest was in full swing.
|Piazza Cavalli, Piacenza — the Palazzo Gotico is on the left. (Image from Wikimedia Commons.)|
The urban fringes of Piacenza were not great — there was a dangerous road bridge to cross and a busy route leading to the centre through the usual edge-of-town shops and factories — so it was with relief that I finally arrived in the main square, the Piazza Cavalli (named 'Cavalli' — 'horses' — because of the two 17th-century bronze statues of Alessandro Farnese and his son Ranuccio, dukes of Parma and Piacenza, astride their stallions.)
|The bronze statue of Duke Ranuccio Farnese in the Piazza Cavalli. (Image from Wikimedia Commons.)|
The finest thing about Piacenza was the architecture of its cathedral and many of its churches, which was in a distinctively lombardian Romanesque or Romanesque-Gothic style. These were the loveliest churches I'd seen so far along the VF — by a long way. So many I'd viewed earlier were neglected, rather ugly buildings, with unappealing, high-Baroque interiors. These churches (the cathedral, the basilica of Sant'Antonino and the church of San Francesco, for example) were calming in their lack of adornment and restricted palette of colours. The simplicity of their stone arches, brick pillars and pink marble spoke to me and moved me.
The girl at the tourist office spoke to me too — in excellent English — and had soon fixed me up with a B&B for the night. The B&B owner — a retired schoolteacher — owned a splendid apartment, and was most friendly and welcoming. She spoke a tiny bit of English, and I spoke a tiny bit of Italian, so we were able to communicate — in a fashion. She showed me to my room but, when she realised how tall I was, ushered me at once into another room with a bigger bed!
|Basilica Sant'Antonino, Piacenza. (Image from Wikimedia Commons.)|