Many hikers skip the 205 km between Ivrea and Piacenza, partly because the section is completely flat. Reason number two? The lovely rice fields above are a haven for bugs.
A Rich Agricultural Zone
Northeastern Italy is a diverse food growing area. Further north, I’d seen tons of fruit, grapes, corn and big gardens. Now it was rice, fields of what looked like fava beans and more corn. Endless fields. The horizon swallowed up the edges of them.
What Century Am I In?
I spent much of the day on little side roads with little traffic; it was Sunday morning, very peaceful and quiet. I had lots of time to ponder the question I’d asked myself the day before. Was I really not feeling well? Or was I sick of the Via Francigena?
The couple above broke into my reverie. I assumed they were on their way to church as they were both nicely dressed, and it was Sunday morning. She was reading something to him while he drove the horses. Domestic bliss. They laughed together at something she said as they passed me.
Back to the endless fields, these weren’t the problem. The flies were. They’d bitten the inch between my pants and my socks and snuck in between my scarf, shirt and backpack strap. They especially liked the back of my ears and section of neck below my hat. Now they were starting on my upper arms. There were clouds of them, and I often had to close my mouth and put a hand over my nose to prevent them flying in. Every couple of steps, I stopped and scratched some part of my body. No wonder VFers skipped the stage.
I had no doubt Santhía was a beautiful town, as was the next proposed day’s stop, Vercelli. But I’ll never know. Once on the edges of Santhía, I followed the signs to the train station and took the first train out to Vercelli. From there, I purchased one for the city of Piacenza, where I hoped to never see another rice field again.