Monday, June 4, 2012

Still trundling along with Napoleon!

I caught the bus from Aosta in order to rest my knee.  I deliberately chose that mode of transport because it more or less follows the path of the Via Francigena and indeed I actually got off at several villages and then caught the next bus.   I was constantly seeing the Via Francigena signs on one side of the road or the other.

I hadn't realised it, but the Valle de Aosta, the valley through which I was travelling was actually a glacial valley - though when I thought about it it made complete sense, because I had already noticed how steep the sides of the valley were and how flat the floor of it was.  The Balteo Glacier cut a swathe 5 kms wide and 600 metres deep through this region, and with the snow capped mountains behind the valley sides it makes a very picturesque sight indeed. 

The Valle de Aosta, from the Bard fort - flat floor, and steep sides.
Note the haze.   

Leaving the city of Aosta, the sides of the valley are soon taken over with terraced vineyards, similar but different, from those on the shores of Lake Geneva.  These vineyards seem to be far more precarious. The vines grow up on a vertical trunk, reasonably high, then splay out horizontally on a wide wooden lattice, one end of which is supported at the front of the terrace by conical stone columns.  The vignerons use the terrace stone in this area to help with the growing of the vines, as it absorbs heat during the day, and releases it slowly at night, thus keeping the soil warmer for longer.

I stopped at Pont St Martin to admire the Roman bridge.  This is a single span bridge built by the Romans in the years 142 - 22BC!  It spans the Lys Torrent - note that it is not the River Lys! This is quite a fierce river as the blue / green water bubbles its way down from the mountains to the even bigger Dora Balteo Fiume.  Saw fellow "Pilgrim Steve" here for a chat.

The Pont St Martin, with the Lys Torrent flowing underneath it.

Unfortunately, there was a haze throughout the valley which made photos rather unimpressive.  In fact it seemed to swallow up the mountains, making them almost invisible. 

I decided that rather than stopping again at Bard I would go into Ivrea and then come back the next day.  Bard has a fortress - a VERY impressive fortress at that, and it was one that I wanted to spend some time in.  This was where I came across Napoleaon again!  It was here that, for 14 days in May 1800, 400 men with only 20 cannons managed to hold off Napoleon.  I presume They eventually got overtaken, but not a bad effort nonetheless.  There is a bulding near the fort that still has cannon dents in it! 

The fortress at Bard

The house next to the fort, complete with gunfire damage - don't think ti would be standing with today's gunfire damage! 

My experience of Ivrea was interesting.  The tourist office booked me into a hotel which was VERY odd.  The man locks it and then goes to his residence on the other side of the building.  I didn't understand at first, but the phone he showed me in my room was for me to call him to come and let me out!  We really had a communication problem - I didn't understand that (and didn't like it either!), and then when I told him - so I thought - that I didn't want breakfast I got a call to say it was ready!  Needless to say, I had an evacuation plan ready if needed!  Yesterday I spent the whole day lying down trying to rest my knee and he kept calling me to tell me that if I wanted to go out I had to dial 9!  I kept telling him I was reposing, but he didn't get it!  Today when I tried to pay with a credit card he didn't take it and I had to ferret around to get enough cash to pay him.  I was thinking very dark thoughts about the place, but then, when I went to leave he presented me with a special pen, showing me proudly that it has a pull out calendar, and then shook my hand and gave me a kiss goodbye.  I then had to try and lighten my dark thoughts!  
A cobbled stairway in Ivrea, with the cobbles worn flat from the traffic going over them.

Tonight I am in Vercelli, again with strange accomodation again I think - have yet to see it, but I am beginning to think "this is Italy", and am trying to go with the flow!

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