Day 16 of our Via Francigena pilgrimage took us from Mortara to Garlasco. Distance traveled: 13 miles. Weather: partly cloudy, humid, high 80s.

As the eldest of eight kids and a Navy Sailor, I’m no stranger to sharing a small space with multiple people. However, last night it took some time to fall (and stay) asleep.

Morning breakfast at the Abbey of St. Albino was the standard pilgrim fare: bread, butter, jam, and a coffee. Despite multiple calls last night, Dad had been unable to receive confirmation that there was church lodging for us. We hoped there’d be something available by the time we got to Garlasco.

Our fellow pilgrims from Canada, Ireland, Italy, and Germany set off rapidly after breakfast. With temperatures once again expected to be in the upper eighties, everyone was keen on getting as many miles in as possible while the weather was still cool.

Keeping Track of Our Friends

The soil on the paths retained their imprints (three pairs of feet, 1 bike) so well we hardly needed to use the app. Dad had been curious about what kind of tires the Italian was using as he biked, and had checked out the Italian’s tread as he departed. Thus, we literally tracked them to the next town.

Which was empty. Not a single shop was open.

Fortunately, the next place – Tromello – had one open shop. We had only gone a few yards when we saw the German woman waving to us like we were long-lost friends.  We waved back.

Dad pulled out his phone, flipped to a picture, and showed it to her.

“Hey (name omitted), is this your shoe print?”

She burst out laughing.

It wasn’t only the pilgrims we met the night before who were there at the cafe. We saw the French couple and exchanged waves. We also ran into the young Slovenian woman we’d seen on the hike from Chatillon to Verres. She was still walking long distances at incredible speeds, this time with an Italian. It was a veritable pilgrim happy hour. 

After a couple of hours walking in the heat, getting chewed by mosquitos, it was such a treat to sit down and take our backpacks off. In an act of pure indulgence, we each had two watermelon popsicles.

Another Stamp for the Pilgrim Passports

While we were eating and chatting, an older man stopped by and spoke to us in Italian. He generously offered to stamp our pilgrim passports as we ate. As it turns out, he had recognized my Dad’s voice. (Dad had called him the night before trying to reserve lodging, and he had regretfully explained that because so few pilgrims stayed overnight in Tromello, the place was now closed.)

His words saddened me. It’s a spiral. In order for pilgrims to come, places have to be open. When places such as markets and restaurants are closed, pilgrims move on. That man was such a lovely and thoughtful person, and he made our day by coming over.

Happily, that 20 minute stop in Tromello changed everything. Things improved almost immediately the second half of the journey. A few clouds appeared for shade, the mosquitoes still attacked, but not as viciously as before, and the scenery became more varied. One of my favorite stretches of the day was alongside the artificial irrigation canals.

While on that stretch, Dad got a call that there was room for us in Garlasco, provided he first send photos of our passports. We stopped at the first cafe we could find in Garlasco, sent the passport photos, and were given instructions on how to access the apartment.

An Apartment in Garlasco

It turned out to be an utterly charming 2-bedroom place, with a kitchen, bathroom, living room/dining room, and – joy of joys – a washing machine! After so many days of hand-washing our dirty clothes and praying they dry out overnight, it’s been such a luxury to have a professional machine do the work.

Mom, Dad, and Dan took one bedroom, the Slovenian lady and I are sharing the second, and the Italian has the bed in the living room. We made our own beds using the linens that were provided. For whatever reason, no matter what church we’ve stayed at, the sheets have all smelt AMAZING.

We’re also grateful for the electric fans in each room, which help ease the heat. I was also thrilled to discover that the apartment has Wi-Fi!

We ate dinner in the apartment. Mom made a delicious salad, which was perfect given the scorching heat outside.

I like my high-energy roommate. She’s smart, kind, open-minded, and very curious. Given the distances she’s walking each day, I would not be surprised if she makes it to Rome before we do.

It’s been a fun day. Next stop on the Via Francigena route – the university town of Pavia!

Pilgrim encounters: 2 French, 2 Italians, 1 German, 1 Canadian, 1 Slovenian

Costs

Breakfast: included in St. Albino donation

Lunch: €4 ($4.27)

Dinner: Supermarket

Lodging: €20 donation ($21.35 per person)

By Katie Cerezo

Thank you so much for visiting. 😊 I have always loved traveling, and my legs are my primary means of transportation. It's a beautiful world, and I'm eager to explore it…one step at a time.

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