I’ve never done anything but dream. This, and this alone, has been the meaning of my life. My only real concern has been my inner life. FERNANDO PESSOA

Wednesday, 7 October 2015

Via Francigena: Days 4, 5 & 6: Verrès, Pont-Saint-Martin, Ivrea

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.)

3 comments:

Ruth said...

Brilliant experiences, Robert!

dritanje said...

Ah these delightful villages and mountains, bridges, valleys, sunshine....
Ah well, at least we are having astonishing sunshine here these days - and geese flying south, and vapour trails, and lower flying planes...

The Solitary Walker said...

Thanks for reading, Ruth and Morelle!

Yes, this English autumn has been truly wonderful...