Day 56 Vercelli to Robbio – 26th July

Another hot humid day in the paddy fields beckons as I leave the Cerruti Hotel at 7.00 am. The hotel is some distance from the Via Francigena so I plot a route to rejoin the path. Already at this time in the morning, I am finding the humidity oppressive and challenging. The path at times becomes a maze through the rice plantations and at one point I take the wrong path and find myself on a single track with water on both sides and takes some time before I find my way. Flocks of herons and egrets are in abundance. I use my hiking umbrella to provide shade as I walk but it does not protect me from the high humidity and my clothes become a burden, dripping wet and clinging to my body. I take a track away from the Via Francigena which leads to the main road and find a rare tree that provides a degree of shade. The place is deserted, only once have I seen any human life – two distant workers knee-deep in a paddy field. I struggle to remove my sweat ridden clothes, everything is wet and clammy, so I remove everything and sit there completely naked beneath the shade of this single tree – the relief is immense – and then I hear the sound of a tractor – so I quickly cover some of my nakedness as a rather bewildered rice farmer drives past. I put on fresh clothes and start walking again. At one junction just before Palestro on the main road, I spot an isolated chair. I guessed it had been dumped, so I took the opportunity to sit awhile. Shortly after a car arrives and a young woman gets out and walks towards me – it is her chair ! she is “A woman of the road” and it is where she sits beneath an umbrella plying her trade. We chat briefly, she looks well and happy and she is an absolute delight and I wonder how or why she is where she is today. From Palestro to Robbio the route continues on following the narrow banks that cross the flooded fields. I arrive in Robbio around 2.30 pm where I hoped to stay in the Oratorio Parrocchiale. I called the mobile number that I had but there was no reply. I explained to a gentleman standing outside the adjacent building that I needed somewhere to sleep. He made a phone call and told me to wait. I replenished my water bottles at a nearby fountain and twenty minutes later a rather brisk middle-aged lady appeared and opened up the large doors of a courtyard and took me first to a small ground floor kitchen and showed me the prepacked breakfast that was available for pilgrims and then took me to the sleeping accommodation up a flight of stairs completely separate from the kitchen. Before leaving she explained it was donativo and showed me where to leave my donation. There were five beds in two separate rooms. I was the only pilgrim staying that night. Two large fans were provided in an attempt to cool the stifling air. After a shower and washing my clothes I took a stroll and visited the local church, Chiesa Di San Pietro, and then found a small shop to buy a few items for supper and for my journey the following day. I was happy to be alone, being able to find comfort from the stifling humidity in my own way. My clothes were dry on return, so I was able to wash the second set. I retired in an attempt to sleep at 9.00 pm. I used both fans bringing them both close to my bed but with the bells of the nearby clocktower booming on the hour my sleep was very fitful. 

Vercelli
Vercelli
Palestro
Palestro
Robbio

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