Leaving our hotel this morning

This morning started with full cloud cover, but it was neither cold nor raining. What a great place the Hotel Mathis is. We had slept well and breakfast was one of the best we’ve had so far. It didn’t take long to get out of Fiorenzuola and into the countryside. Again, the walking was easy and level, but mostly on tarmac and with little of scenic interest.

Walking through Fiorenzuola early in the morning

At the first village, Chiaravalle della Colomba, we had two encounters with dogs. The first, a very aggressive German Shepherd which not only barked and bared its teeth, but attempted to jump over a not very high garden fence to get at Tom who was simply walking past. He had to raise his stick to discourage it from trying harder to jump out. The second was much more acceptable to innocent walking pilgrims, despite it being on its hind legs baring its teeth.

The second of Chiaravalle’s dogs

We found two cafes open in the village, and chose one to pause at for a coffee and brioche. Just as we were leaving, an elderly couple sitting at the adjacent table spotted the banners on our rucksacks and were very enthusiastic about our walk to Rome, describing St Peter’s as ‘stupenda’. They also recommended a visit to the Cistercian monastery in the village.

A notice outside the monastery requested ‘decent attire’ to enter and so Julie pulled her waterproof trousers on over her shorts before going inside. It reminded her of a childhood visit to churches in Italy when all women and girls were required to cover arms and legs, and to wear a scarf or hat – a significant sartorial challenge for teenage girls out of school! This is the first time we’ve come across an explicit request about attire before entering churches during this trip.

Inside the monastery church – built some time before 1136, it is simple in style
The cloister
Detail on the corner column in the cloisters
Beautiful stone arches around doors and windows off the cloisters

We weren’t able to spend long exploring the monastery’s museum, and were a tad challenged anyway as everything was in Italian only, but we did note that the abbey was dedicated to St Bernard who had founded Clairvaux Abbey which we visited on our route back in June. It has been fascinating to learn just how much people of influence, such as St Bernard and St Anselm, moved around Europe in medieval times, with consequent intermingling of languages, cultures, trade, and ideas. And of course at that time our kings were Norman Frenchmen.

Approach to the monastery and its church

As we were leaving the monastery we met a couple of pilgrims from Lausanne who had started out from Vercelli and only able to take a week off work. As they said, each pilgrim does things their own way. They were using ‘donativo’ or specific pilgrim accommodation where you’re invited to make a donation to cover the costs of your stay according to your means.

Looking back at the monastery from the road bridge

A short walk past the monastery grounds brought us to a bridge across the main A1 motorway (which runs from Milan to Rome and Naples) and a railway line, and then a long stretch of walking through farmland again.

Crossing the A1 motorway and railway line

We were just bemoaning the lack of places to sit to eat our lunch, other than in a ditch on the side of the road or an abandoned farmyard where the flies descended on us as soon as we stopped, and then Tom spotted a pilgrim friendly house and Julie spotted the notice inviting us to make use of their garden table and benches. So we did, very gratefully.

Tom counted that he’d been to nine of the places indicated on the finger posts
– including Ulan Bator!

There was a notice from the owners stating that if they were at home they would share a glass of wine or a coffee with us, but sadly they weren’t there. What a shame, we’d have enjoyed meeting them.

The remainder of the day was spent walking along minor roads. We arrived in Fidenza just as the sun was going down.

Crossing a small stream which evidently floods widely, with Fidenza now in sight on the horizon

We found our hotel without difficulty and, having showered and changed into clean clothes, went in search of a supermarket to stock up on items for lunch. By this time the cathedral had closed and so we saw only the floodlit outside of it. It has some interesting carved friezes on the west end, which include a depiction of pilgrims on the way to Rome – particularly poignant for us. The cathedral certainly looks worth a proper visit on another occasion.

Fidenza cathedral west end
Beautiful stone carved frieze above the west door depicting pilgrims on their way to Rome on the Via Francigena
East end of the cathedral

Supper in the hotel restaurant wasn’t special, but the pasta we had enabled us to stock up on carbohydrates for tomorrow’s very long walk of over 30 kilometres.

Today’s highlight was the monastery, and the tantalising prospect of seeing inside Fidenza’s cathedral at another time.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *