The walks begin to take on a familiar pattern although each day is unpredictable with walkers not knowing the route, when we halt for breaks and where or when we arrive, and what sleeping arrangements are made. Each day also brings new people awaiting us to share, as best we can with language differences, our stories. Skipping ahead from Ferrara to Borgoforte di Anguillara Venata, I find this stopover in particular speaks to the nature of our journey. Borgoforte is a small town, but the welcome is so warm and genuine it lifts everyone’s spirits. The three ladies who took responsibility for feeding us during our stay there formed friendships difficult to imagine occurring in such a small space of time, especially as none spoke English. (Pictured right; Lina, Irene and Anna working in the kitchen.) During this stay AG and the group found time to add a mural (see top photo) to the outer wall which will remain there as a fixture of the pilgrimage. In the evening a large local group of 20 people joined us for a talk about the pilgrimage and videos and discussion that went late into the night. The warmth of the welcome and the contacts made is such a big part of why we walk, and make all our efforts that much more meaningful. In the morning Gian Carlo (pictured left with Claudia) walked with us: as an authorized guide he could take us along a route through lands that had once been marshes some 300 to 400 years before and drained to provide farmland. As we meandered between rivers there were also plantations of trees to provide the paper industry and vineyards. Just the enthusiasm of the people to accommodate our needs expressed, in their way, how important it was that our journey touched on their lives.
The days between Comaccio and Borgoforte took us through Ferrara (where I was able to blog from an internet café) and Rovigo, as we continued mostly to follow an old pilgrimage route off road. At each stop we met and talked with local people who welcomed us and short films were shown. The land is now fairly flat and open with cool mornings, but still warm sun during most of the day which made for pleasant walking conditions. The long summer days seem to be extending further into the late autumn days, and for us fortunate before we know much colder days are ahead as we trek further north. Feeling very lucky to be three weeks into the pilgrimage with little rain to speak of, we suspect the gloves and scarves will soon be needed. At Piove di Sacca the day after Borgoforte, there was a press conference before we headed towards Padova, a 30 km walk which ended at a park where trees were planted by the mayor, and a commemorative plaque (photo) with the days date welcomed the pilgrimage. The following morning the group spent some time at the cathedral (Basilica of Saint Anthony) before the walk to Mira where another warm welcome was received which I will comment on in the next blog, as this also, like Borgoforte had meaning since the informality and warmness more than made up for austere crammed offices and sleeping room, where seven mattresses were laid out for us. And I will probably also mention the hedgehog that caused me to lose sleep. (Writing from an internet cafe just outside Venice while others sight-see in St. Mark’s Square and surrounding area).