Into the Rice Fields

Day 39 – Sunday, September 8 – Santhia to Vercelli – 27km

A guy we met at dinner last night said it was supposed to rain in the morning. My app said it would stop by 9. When I got up around 7, my app said it was raining, but I’m not sure it really was. I probably could have left earlier, but it was nice to sleep in a little. I did wake up at 5 again, but I did fall back asleep! It was nice to just take things a bit slower.

But I slept really well. The pillows were the most comfortable I’ve had in a long time and the mattress was pretty nice, too.

I ate my breakfast and threw away the rest of the butter. I think it was probably still ok, but maybe wouldn’t be much longer. Plus it’s extra weight, and my pack did seem lighter today!

I paid my donation. They ask for a minimum of 10. I gave 15 total with the purchase of a little pilgrim patch. I was out the door a little after 8:30. Definitely later than yesterday!

As I was walking away, I was thinking I had forgotten something. I ran through what it could be, but I was pretty sure I had everything. One benefit of putting everything into its own bag is it’s easy to tell if you’re missing something that should go in the bag.

Then I realized, I didn’t remember putting the little pilgrim patch anywhere. I turned around and went back. I knocked on the door a few times before David opened it. I’d left the little guy right on the counter. Thankfully I hadn’t gone very far. It only added .5 k onto my day.

I was truly on my way about 8:45. There was evidence of rain, but It was already starting to dry.

Leaving town I had to go over a rather large group of railroad tracks. Thankfully they gave us a choice of ramp or stairs. I’d rather do stairs at this point than walk extra distance. A train came by right after I’d crossed over.

Then it was down the main road for a while. I saw a pilgrim with a rain cover on his pack in front of me, and I wondered if I’d catch him or not. Because I was more focused on him, I almost missed the turn for the Via into the rice fields. Apparently this pilgrim was taking the direct route into San Germano. 

The nice thing about being routed through rice fields is that it’s all gravel/dirt roads. That was the saving grace for today. The bad thing about being routed through rice fields is that it’s not very direct. You have to walk in large chunks in any direction to get somewhere, so it could add quite a bit of distance.

But I suppose this is the beginning of what people find so awful. I really didn’t think it was that bad. Yeah, it all looks the same, pretty much, but there are benefits. Gravel/dirt for one, when it’s not too muddy. It’s quiet. There is quite a bit of wildlife around. Lots of egrets. Lots of frogs. I know the main complaint of the rice fields are the mosquitos, but I haven’t encountered any yet. I’m hoping the mosquito season is over. There were TONS of swarms of flying ants that I walked through. I honestly wonder how many people think they are mosquitos. I’m not saying there aren’t any, because people get bitten, but all I saw today were mating swarms of ants. It was kind of gross. They don’t get out of the way very quickly, so they’d be on my face and glasses, and I did worry about breathing some in. But completely harmless.

There was the lovely sound of frogs plopping into the water as you walked by. They certainly didn’t let you get close, and then it sets off a chain reaction further down the canal. 

There are also bi-colored crows here, just like in Israel. Maybe it’s a Mediterranean thing?

People also complain about this part being very hot. I’m hoping it’s getting late enough in the year that there won’t be any really hot days. Today was nice because it had just rained, so there were clouds, but there was a nice, cool wind. Even after the sun came out, there was a nice cool wind. It was a bit of a juxtaposition.

I got to San Germano, but I didn’t stop anywhere. The church was open, but they were having mass, or about to, so I didn’t go in.

After leaving San Germano, I looked back and saw a pilgrim behind me. I didn’t recognize him. I looked back later and saw another one behind him. I thought there was a chance that might be David, and if it was, he would catch up to me.

He did finally catch me, and we walked together for a while. I do like walking alone, but it’s also nice to walk with someone. When you’re talking you’re not focusing on how much your feet hurt.

David said he was very impressed with my French, and I was the first American he’d met who knew any. I’m very impressed with my French as well. It makes me want to be better at it. Maybe I should try taking a class. Idk. I should try to track down Mme. Kramer and let her know she did a good job teaching me.

David had to take a break, and we passed some benches, but he really thought there would be a town soon with a cafe he could stop in. We came to a run-down abandoned town. Pretty sure no cafes. He took a break and borrowed my sunscreen. I sat for a few minutes, but I was on my way again before he was. You never know if you will see people again or not. He is walking a lot more per day than I am. He did 38k the same day I did, but the day before he walked 48k. Ugh. 

The ostellos are really where you get more of the pilgrim experience and meet other pilgrims. I want to stay in more of them, but the language barrier really holds me back. I will try emailing some of them, but you have to plan ahead enough to give them time to respond.

This morning I emailed the Abbey in Mortara if they had a space for tomorrow night. They actually responded within a couple of hours and said yes. That locks me in for doing another double day, but it’s only 32k. Hopefully it’s more dirt roads. I also need to try to figure out how to figure out distances so I can try to arrange some of my own days. By the book, tomorrow is 18k, but the next day is 14k. 14k in this place is 3 hours of walking. That’s just too little, so 32k tomorrow it is. The next day is just over 20k, and I’m fine with that.

It was only another 10k to Vercelli, but it was still kind of difficult. My feet hurt. Gravel/dirt is nice, but it still hurts when you walk a long way. The last 4K into Vercelli was on pavement, and it didn’t take long for my feet to remind me how much more they would have been hurting if it was pavement the whole way.

One of the times when I was checking the map on my phone I got a text from the B&B I’m staying at. They wanted to know when I’d be arriving. I still had about 6k to go, so I guessed between 2:30 and 3. I had thought it was a hotel, but it’s more of an air B&B. The guy rents two rooms in his house, but his living area is separated.

As I was starting to leave the rice fields, the first building I came to was falling down and covered in graffiti. That was a big clue that Vercelli is the largest city so far on this Camino.


I picked this B&B because it looked like it was close to the city center, but it’s actually a bit before, so I didn’t pass the center on the way in. I need to do some research.

The host is very nice. The house is amazing. Very nice, and very nice, fancy furniture. He said I could use the washer and dryer! I was very excited about that. I am washing my sleep sheet. It’s had a lot of use and it really needed it. He said I shouldn’t put any synthetics in the dryer, but I am anyway. I’m doing it on delicate and not for a very long time. I’m checking on it every few minutes and it seems like it’s doing ok and not getting too hot.

The bed, I think, is incredible. I do like the ostello experience, but it’s also nice to have a hotel now and then. I just don’t want to do them as much as I have been.

Someone in the facebook group asked how much people spent going the whole way from Canterbury to Rome, and someone said they spent 3000 E in 80 days. I’ve already spent that much lol. A lot of it was necessary because of my route, but spending less would be nice. On my first Camino I spent a little under 50 E a day. I was spending more in Spain for private rooms, because I was sleeping so badly and had a bad luck with snorers. This time I’m doing much better, but I’ve also been by myself 80% of the time.

If I had this bed with the pillows I had last night, I would never leave this bed. Yeah. 

I decided to go see the main square and try to see some churches, but my timing was really off for the churches. Before dinner on Sunday is mass time. I did go in one church and just sat for a while, but no pictures.

Downtown Vercelli is a pedestrian hang out. And probably 75% of the people were walking around with gelato. 

Some dark clouds were coming in fast. I got back to the hotel right before it started raining. Not hard. 

I spent a while looking at restaurants near me. The host had recommended one for loca cuisine, and said I should try the panissa, which is the local Vercelli dish of fame. I think I had a version of it last night. It’s the risotto with beans. There’s a chance I’ll get it again, so I wasn’t going to go looking for it. I decided on pizza, because I’m sure the monks aren’t going to give me pizza tomorrow.

I went to Pupetta, which was about two blocks away and is supposed to have the best pizza in Vercelli. I got the Romana, which is exactly like the siciliana, which I had in Aosta, except it has a different mozzarella. I thought it was going to have circles of mozzarella, but no. It tasted the same as the other one. It’s good, but I should try something more radically different next time. I’m sure I’ll have plenty of opportunities.

I also got the bruschetta. It was only 3.50, and the pizza was 5.50, so my total was 11. Not bad. I was thinking bruschetta or dessert. Bruschetta was the correct choice. Holy cow it was delicious. Yum. It also came after I had eaten my whole pizza, because pizza cooks so quickly. It’s literally like 4 minutes.

It was raining lightly on the way home.

I remembered I left my sleep sheet hanging in the terrace or whatever it’s called. 

I need to maximize the hours in this bed. I wish the pillow was better. If I wasn’t on a Camino I probably would have tried to buy it. I have a hard time finding comfortable pillows.



Add yours →

  1. Awesome blog! Glad I found it. I want to aim to backpack with my husband around france next summer.


  2. I am a fan of rice fields!

    Liked by 1 person

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