Fizzy red wine, horse meat, Carabinieri and crossing a raging torrent

Day One: Piacenza to Fiorenzuola d’Arda — 32 km (20 miles)

Pilgrim begins his progress at the start of the day.

As I studied the guidebooks prior to today’s walk I noted a discrepancy in the distance for today. Alison Raju said to expect 23 km while the SloWays site said 32 and the Lightfoot Guide warned of 34. Somehow in my head I prepared for the shorter distance, anticipating an arrival time of 1:00 or 2:00 at the latest. Instead, I rolled into Fiorenzuola d’Arda at 4:30 with two blisters after nine long hours of walking.

Nothing happened today, except for being stopped by the Caribinieri, fording a raging torrent, finding Black Stallion on the menu, and beginning what I hope will be a long and happy relationship with fizzy red wine.

The Caribinieri — these are Italy’s national police force. As I walked along another endless flat stretch, two Caribinieri in a white squad car stopped me to ask what I was up to. They’d heard of the Via Francigena and guessed I was Austrian. Must’ve been the lederhosen-like hiking shorts. I marveled at their gorgeous uniforms, deep blue with red piping. Which reminds me of one of the many Caribinieri jokes. “Why do Caribinieri have a red stripe on their pants from heel to hip?” “To help them find their pockets.” Other than a wrong guess, though, these Caribinieri seemed plenty nice, smart and competent.

First of many way marks on this well marked trail.

Fizzy red wine — Yes, it’s a thing here. A nice thing. As friends would attest, I’m a little bit of a red wine snob. Little did I realize how much I’d like red wine — with bubbles!

Horse meat on the menu — Never have I been so proud to be a non-red meat eater.   I’m hoping I have the translation of cavallo wrong because it’s on menus everywhere here. “Cavallo Crudo”? After all that horses have done for us?

Street scene in early morning Piacenza

Crossing a raging torrent — The rivers and streams around here are all optimistically called torrente. I had read in the guidebooks about the need to ford various streams and how important it would be to wade across only in the dead of summer, when the streams are quiet. Finally a torrente appeared ahead of me and I carefully noted that the calendar identifies today as early spring. So, although the stream appears calm, I assure you that, according to the guidebooks and the calendars, it actually is a raging torrente. 

The torrente in its quiet rage

My much abused feet, preparing to cross. Perfect time for a horse to appear and carry me across. Oops, they’ve been eaten.

After an uneventful 32 km (20 miles) I stumbled into the church offices at San Fiorenzo parish and claimed my place in its empty, four-bed hostel. Then it was off to dinner for fizzy red wine and anything but horse.

Crossing under a highway near Piacenza

Poppies by the rail tracks in the sun.

I prefer my busy streets with sidewalks.

Typical view. All day.

Church by the Castle of Paderna

Lunch at Chero’s restaurant. No horse served here today.

At the end of this Fiorenzuola lane is a tower in a piazza with a church that has an office that runs a hostel with a bed for me.

Guest register at the hostel. There are pilgrims not far ahead.

8 thoughts on “Fizzy red wine, horse meat, Carabinieri and crossing a raging torrent

  1. Hi Sandy, looking forward to your posts. Shirley and I walk the Via Francigina last year from Canterbury to Rome. Fiorenzuola was where we celebrated our 55th wedding anniversary.
    Good luck
    Brian Gallagher

  2. Hi Sandy, great to see you walking a new “way”, I look forward to reading your story, no more pics of the feet though!..Where did you get your credencial for the walk? I have Italy in mind for October and a walk through the “Holy Door” 31st Oct, I have your guide to Via Francesco and torn between it and Francigena, Please keep reporting and sending the photos and Best of Luck with the blisters.. (am just back from 14 days on Camino Portugues/Coastal). Una

  3. Fabulous post Sandy. I’m with you regarding the horse meat. Last year when I walked the VF I found that the distances were different in different guide books. Meeting other pilgrims at the end of the day also indicated different routes as well. It’s a great walk so please enjoy and keep the post coming. Buon Camino

  4. Thanks for the blog posts! I’ve walked Siena to Torrenieri, Gambassi to Siena, and plan to walk Torrenieri to Viterbo this fall and am enjoying your photos and descriptions. I’ve been served horse meat in the Veneto, where it is a thing, but didn’t know it was in other places… consider me warned! Buon Cammino!

  5. Sandy,

    I am starting June 23 with a well organized group. My questions are about how to set up such a blog, whether you use a camera or a phone for your photos and how you download them into the blog. I’m from the US and am reluctant to pay my carrier for very expensive data. But are there wifi spots along the way?

    Keep the posts coming! Thank you so much.


    • Hi Janet — I set up my blog on and then take all my photos on my iPhone 6. Using the WordPress app I create the blog post and upload the photos to my blog when wifi is available, as it was in a restaurant last night. The process takes 1-2 hours per post, mostly in the writing. But I love having a record of my experiences and this seems like a fun way to create one. Hope that helps. Buon cammino!

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