Castles, Slugs and into the Foothills of the Alps

We decided to set up our base camp in Ivrea for a few days. It turns out that Ivrea is a UNESCO World Heritage 20th century city and the home of Olivetti, originally of typewriter fame, but now a multi-billion dollar telecommunications company. Our Plan B ‘apartment’, Domus Leydi, was a bit of a disappointment. It advertised a washing machine, which we needed, but something must have gotten lost in the translation. It had a dishwasher (which we didn’t need) and no clothes washer and the bed was a rather uncomfortable sleeper sofa. Sigh! We managed.

As usual, we were on our walking mission and didn’t spend much time in the city. Here’s a couple of pics of what we did see.


Day 40 – Ivrea to Hône

We weren’t quite sure what to expect weather-wise as the rain, hail, thunder, lightning and wind provided quite the show during the night. By morning, all was calm and clear. It was a particularly fun and varied walking day through vineyards, forest paths and up into the Andrate Nordic Walking Park. We climbed up rocky steep paths, walked through tunnels and over big boulders.

Pont -Saint-Martin was, without a doubt, the highlight of the day. It’s a beautiful town and the entrance to the Valle d’Aosta. Most notable was the ancient Roman segmental arch bridge dating to 1st century BC! And still it endures … we walked across it and it’s still open to local traffic!

Pont-Saint-Martin, a 1st century BC Roman bridge

Pont-Saint-Martin, a 1st century BC Roman bridge

Further along the route, we came across the equally old remains of a Roman arch. The Romans built their structures to last!

Further along the route, we came across the equally old remains of a Roman arch. The Romans built their structures to last!

There were several castles along our path which still fascinate us. The most imposing, however, was Fort Bard, a huge fortification sitting high on a rocky prominence overlooking Bard and Hône. Strategically located overlooking a narrow gorge in the Dora Baltea River, the castle has been totally renovated recently after years of neglect and is now a tourist attraction housing the Museum of the Alps. There’s been some sort of a fortified structure on this spot since the 5th century since this was a key route between Italy and France (Via Francigena!).

Fort Bard - Awesome!

Fort Bard - Awesome!

We’re in the foothills of the Alps now and there are mountains all around us. We met 10 pilgrims today.

Day 40 – Ivrea to Hône

18.95 miles walked / 44,077 steps

Leg distance: 18.0 miles / 709 miles to Canterbury


Day 41 - Hône to Chatillon

It’s starting to become more and more French. The train announcements this morning were in Italian and French (but no longer in English). The street signs are marked ‘Via’ and ‘Rue’. Even the names of the towns are sounding more French than Italian.

ivrea-hone_french and italian now.JPG

Every day that we walk, there’s always something of interest that really stands out. Though I thought I’d never be writing this, this morning the stand-out was slugs which of course led to a long conversation regarding the difference between snails and slugs. There were scads of them all along the road, sliming their way from wherever they were to wherever they felt they needed to be.

The terrain the last couple of days is certainly a big change from the flat rice fields that spoiled us just a few days ago. We walked along the Dora Baltea River for miles, then climbed up to the terraces high above the valley for spectacular views.

We climbed steep paths for great views of the villages below

We climbed steep paths for great views of the villages below

We passed through several tiny villages and hamlets, many of which were very medieval looking. The streets were cobblestone and barely wide enough for walkers or horses, but certainly would not accommodate modern day cars … even small, smart ones. We nearly expected to see slop buckets emptied out into the street and piglets running rampant at our feet.

We descended to the lovely town of St. Vincent with a distinctly alpine look. We saw several more castles which begged the question - however did they build them and get all the supplies and materials to such precarious spots. Inquiring minds always want to know.

Lovely St. Vincent

Lovely St. Vincent

This side of the mountain enjoys a Mediterranean type climate and gets little snow, making it a great area for agriculture and viticulture. We only met one pilgrim today.

Beautiful terraced vineyards

Beautiful terraced vineyards

Day 41 - Hône to Chatillon

18.02 miles walked / 41,906 steps

Leg distance: 17.0 miles / 692 miles to Canterbury


Day 42 – Chatillon to Aosta

La Belle Epoche

La Belle Epoche

The plan was to take an early morning train from Ivrea to Aosta, drop off my pack and extra gear at the hotel and then walk from Aosta to Chatillon. We arrived at the Hotel Belle Epoche around 0730 and the witch at the desk began shouting at us before we even wished her buongiorno. We explained we had a reservation and just wanted to leave a duffle till later in the day, but she continued her rant. There was no room for our luggage. We finally relented and I asked if I might use the toilet before leaving. The rant began again, the toilets were not clean yet and could not be used. Ouch!

We walked to the end of the alley and found a cafe for coffee to rethink our plans. My plantar fasciitis is beginning to bother me again and we didn’t want to make it worse by carrying my pack for 20 miles. On the outside chance that maybe the cafe owner could help us, we asked if he knew where we might leave the duffle and extra pack. He offered an upstairs room in his cafe under the condition he would not be responsible for it, but he felt it would be fairly secure. We removed all our electronics into David’s pack, left the bag and headed out on our way. Had we not prepaid our room, we would have never returned. As it turned out, however, when we did check in later in the day, the service was friendly and la strega was not around.

We followed the meandering VF path to Nus

We followed the meandering VF path to Nus

We followed the VF path to Nus, a cute little town, and had lunch at a local bar. The VF path then climbed once again high up into the hills for no apparent reason. David noted that the VF cycle path, however, followed along a canal and then the Dora Baltea River for miles. We doubt that Archbishop Sigeric the Serious looked for most difficult, steep routes in order to be more challenged and entertained by vistas. We took the easier route and made our mileage

Follow the bike path? Why not?

Follow the bike path? Why not?

Cherries are in season here!

Cherries are in season here!

Day 42 – Chatillon to Aosta

19.43 miles walked / 45,181 steps

Leg distance: 17.3 miles / 675 miles to Canterbury