|Felegara and the river Taro. (Image from Wikimedia Commons.)|
Early next day Giacomo accompanied me almost to the edge of Fidenza before returning to the railway station. He had to catch a train to visit his grandmother in Tuscany. After some pleasant walking I stopped for lunch in Costamezzana — which lay on a hill! Although this was hardly the Apennines yet, the countryside was more rolling and varied, and I was enjoying it immensely. I cast a look behind me at the great Po plain, and felt pleased and proud I had withstood its heat and its desolation and its biting insects without going even slightly mad (though some may dispute this). Here the upland air had a welcome freshness and a lack of oppression, though it was still very warm.
Lulled into a false sense of security by the lunchtime wine and pasta, I promptly took the wrong road out of Costamezzana (in my defence it was heading approximately in the right direction). I knew I'd made a mistake because the Camino signs had disappeared, and I should really have turned back, but I didn't, and I was also too lazy to pull my guide book out of my pack. This is so typical of me.
Eventually I came across a tree-felling gang by the roadside and asked them if I was going the right way to Medesano. Apparently I was, and all I had to do was turn left at the top of the next hill and follow the road along the ridge. I did this, and at first everything went swimmingly. However, I decided rather foolishly to take a farmer's track marked 'Private Road' into the valley, where I could see a major road which I was sure would take me directly to Medesano. I hadn't reckoned with the loose dog which rushed at me from an open gate halfway along the track. This, my third scary dog encounter of the trip, was by far the worst. He was a big, Alsatian-type brute, and put on the usual display of barking and growling and baring of teeth. I held my walking pole horizontally between myself and the beast, and backed off down the lane, facing him all the while and trying to utter soothing words in a firm and steady (probably, in reality, slightly quavering) voice:
'Now, please go away, you'll get into trouble for this, you won't like the taste of English flesh, anyhow your master's waiting for you indoors with a big bowl of pig's blood, so just, just . . . CLEAR OFF!'
After much of this kind of negotiation I found the distance between us was increasing, and eventually I was able to turn my back on him and continue smartly down the hill . . .
|Confluence of the river Ceno and the river Taro at Fornovo. (Image from Wikimedia Commons.)|
Medesano was an unprepossessing place, and I was glad to leave the next morning. The way now shadowed the main road to Felegara, where a bakery shop owner/assistant made up two cheese sandwiches for me (bread shops would usually offer to make sandwiches on the spot with whatever fillings were available). I then branched left towards the river Taro and followed a delightful path along the river bank to Fornovo. I noticed that the river, which could be a raging torrent in the winter months, had all but dried up. Fornovo, a small town of 6000 inhabitants with an attractive old quarter, was situated in the foothills of the Apennines, so I knew that I would be gaining some serious height the next day. That night I slept in a B&B in Respiccio, just beyond Fornovo.
|Church of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary at Fornovo. (Image from Wikimedia Commons.)|