Although set in unpromising surroundings our hotel was comfortable, the staff were very friendly, and the restaurant provided a good set menu supper. We had an interesting conversation with the owner before we left, about various things including the widespread use of dogs in Italy for home security. She explained that this is reaction to TV news of bad things happening. What a pity to live in such a state of hyper-vigilance/ paranoia. Tom suggested turning off the TV!

Provisioned with focaccia sandwiches and fresh oranges for lunch, we set off out of town. We had been told that we would be walking along a busy main road at first, though with protection for pedestrians made at considerable expense. After our near-death experience walking into Vercelli along a dual carriageway we were just very glad not to have to walk in the road!

The footpath sandwiched between busy road and fields, but safely fenced off

Within about 15 minutes we were out into countryside, walking along dirt tracks carved through deciduous woodland, currently bare of leaves. What a joy it was to be off the tarmac having been on it all day yesterday. It looked as though there had been a lot of rain yesterday, with large puddles still lying on the track in places. We could hear lots of birdsong, again reminding us that spring is well on the way, whilst overhead a Hercules aircraft repeatedly circled low and slow, presumably with a pilot in training.

At the edge of Chimenti we were brought back onto a very busy road, briefly, before branching off onto an old medieval road, said to have been laid at the time of the Third Crusade in 1191, and well preserved by keeping more modern traffic off it. A quiet and friendly springer spaniel emerged from a garden and walked with us all the way to Galleno. It was as if his job was to guide the passing pilgrims. Curiously, as we passed by, another dog penned into its garden barked furiously at ‘our’ dog rather than at us. What a nice change!

The medieval cobbled road up into Galleno

In Galleno we had a short rest sitting in the peace garden, before pressing on through town and back into the undulating countryside of this area, known as the Cerbale. Here, on the tertiary sand heathland there were conifers, broom and gorse with few deciduous trees growing on generally drier ground. A circling buzzard ensured that no small birds gave themselves away by singing – if there were any left. The walking was easy on a level gravel track, if a little uninteresting for want of any views. It reminded us of a section of the Pilgrims Way approaching Canterbury and another a bit later near Laon – it’s all about the geology!

As we descended back into the valley we saw more wild flowers in bloom – purple crocus, yellow marsh marigolds, daisies and forget-me-knots in profusion, and some larger purple daisies facing towards the sun. We saw more butterflies today too, both red admirals and brimstones.

We arrived in Ponte a Cappiano just as one of the cafes on the square was closing – the others were already closed – but the very kind woman tidying up took pity and made us a couple of hot lattes before she left for the day. Fortunately it was warm enough to sit outside, and we left our empty glasses behind a plant pot, as requested. A cyclist passing through was so impressed by our journey from Salisbury (once he realised it wasn’t Salzburg – there is no ‘y’ in Italian, so many Italians mispronounce Salisbury as Salzburg) that he immediately sent a photo of the banner on Tom’s rucksack to his friend in Belgium.

The fortified covered bridge with pilgrim Ostello spanning the bridge

Ponte a Cappiano was apparently mentioned by Siguric in the diary of his journey back from Rome to Canterbury to take up his Archbishopric, and was important in medieval times as a strategic bridging point in the marshes that extend southwards to Fucecchio, our destination. Today, the latest iteration of a covered and fortified bridge spans an irrigation channel and the drained former marshland is being cultivated. However, the pilgrim hostel is still there on the bridge and in use.

Leaving Ponte a Cappiano along the main drainage channel

We had a pleasant walk alongside the canal, spotting a very large grey heron and lots of black billed ibis feeding in the fields, a sight we’ve not seen since crossing the Po valley back in November. Our path then peeled off southwards, along a raised track through the fields towards Fucecchio.

Our hotel is situated in an industrial area outside the town centre, and seems to be a popular place for a Friday night pizza. It is good to see such businesses doing well after the privations and challenges they’ve endured over the last couple of years.

Highlights of today: lovely spring weather and the flowers.

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  1. Good to see you’re hitting your stride and making steady inroads to the last few hundred klicks !It must be nice to be in the warm south ( so have a beaker full on me) as that’s a real contrast to the weather here at the moment, and worse to come apparently.
    There you are Tom , just to show I do read your blog, although the the anti-dog sentiment is worrying, so I don’t share it with the pointer.