This morning we woke relatively late as we have a shorter walk, but were surprised to see a wall of fog hiding the lake from view. Today’s forecast had been for sunshine all day. What a contrast with last night’s beautiful sunset reflecting across the lake!

After a leisurely breakfast we had to walk back up into the village to rejoin our route, stocking up on some lunch items in the supermarket on the way. With a heavy dew overnight the many spiders’ webs in the bushes were spangled with dewdrops, highlighting their owners’ intricate workmanship. Noticing these small details takes one’s mind off the effort of carrying a heavy pack uphill. But it does give an excuse to stop for a moment to admire and take a photograph.

On the outskirts of Viverone we got a brief glimpse inside the cemetery, but had to move away as there was a funeral going on. These cemeteries have been intriguing us, because they are usually locked and contained inside high walls, but from the outside look very different from a British or even a French one. They have what look like large family vaults around the perimeter walls, and separate walls with plaques and flowers which we assume to be for cremations. We were reminded of the shock we felt when we first saw the large ornate family vaults in the south of Corsica, which is renowned for its Sicilian mafia, though here in the north of Italy they seem more modest in style and size.

Up the road, at Roppolo, we saw our first memorial to individual soldiers who fell in the Great War, some as late as 1919. Again, we were touched to see fresh flowers recently placed in memoriam. Although the number of individuals seemed small, certainly compared with the shockingly large numbers we’d seen in French cemeteries, our guess is that these deaths will have had a significant impact on a small tight-knit rural community.

Each ’bollard’ commemorates a named individual soldier who died in the First World War

The next stretch of today’s walk took us through lovely chestnut woods and around small arable fields. There seem to be keen supporters of the Via Francigena in this area as the path was well signed with both direction markers and information about nearby pilgrim facilities.

A mere 880 kilometres still to go to Rome, but only 13kms to tonight’s stop!

After passing several large houses and some kind of factory we descended into Cavaglia, a small town with a very ornate church and a castle, though we didn’t have time to explore either, unfortunately. We’ve noticed that churches here have elaborate west ends, usually dating from the 18th century, whilst the rest of the building tends to be unplastered and looks to be much older, in romanesque style. The separate campanile are also usually built in brick.

On the way out of Cavaglia we were hailed by a smiling woman shouting after us ’buono camino’ which cheered us up and compensated for being repeatedly discouraged by aggressive dogs. There was further encouragement along the way with several places providing somewhere for weary pilgrims to sit and rest. Had we set out to walk from Ivrea to Santhia in one day, as some guidebooks suggest, we’d have been very much in need of these rest stops.

One of several roadside resting places
Unfortunately we had sat on a grassy bank for lunch before we got here!

The rest of today’s walk followed farm tracks across almost flat land intersected by irrigation channels, and we came upon our first rice paddies constructed by levelling and bunding fields to facilitate efficient use of water resources. Apparently, melt water coming down off the mountains in springtime is stored and then gradually used across the northern arable plains over the dry summer months.

In the midst of the farms we had to get to the other side of a motorway and the high speed railway line. Crossing under the latter was simple as it runs on a long viaduct at this point, but in order to cross the road we were sent on an irritatingly circuitous route where a 5 metre set of steps would have made all the difference!

The red line marks our route

Along the farm track we found a very hospitable sign inviting weary pilgrims to use the garden chairs and lawn to rest, asking only that we leave it all clean and tidy. What a contrast with the hundreds of notices we’d seen declaring that it was (quite obviously) private property and beware of the dog!

The notice invites pilgrims who need a rest to use the lawn and garden chairs

Farming around here seems to be mostly rice with a small amount of other arable and dairy, presumably providing milk for local cheesemakers. We were served some delicious local cheeses for our supper last night. Why can’t we buy a greater variety of Italian cheeses at home? Judging by the number and spacing of farmhouses the farms are quite small and are having to diversify into ’agriturismo’ to survive.

One of the more elaborate sets of hatches to control irrigation channels for the rice paddies

Another couple of kilometres of zig-zagging through farmland brought us within sight of Santhia, at last!

Santhia is not a large town, and we soon found the tourist office in the centre. Still open, and the nice woman in the office immediately anticipated that we wanted to have our pilgrim passports stamped.

The main church has a very elaborate west facade – doors all closed!

Across the other side of town we found our hotel, near the railway station. This will shorten our long day’s walk tomorrow by about half a kilometre. Every little counts!

The highlight of today was walking through the chestnut woods, which reminded us of our time in Haslemere. It made us think of Tom’s father and how much he would have enjoyed walking with us on this pilgrimage. Bless him.

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