We finally arrive in Parma at 3pm and as it was very hot and we had a long way to go so we opted for a taxi to the Hostel Cassio instead of walking. This trip took 1 hour in another suitable vehicle (a Renault Espace) and it was luckily air-conditioned. The temp leaving Parma was 35oC but we climbed up and up to Cassio with the temp dropping to 25oC by the time we arrived at our youth hostel. What a welcome sight!
Sil: There is something very special about waking up in a castle surrounded by beautiful objects and padding through to a gorgeous bathroom with marble tiles, glass and brass, I stood looking around me and thought "I can't afford this!" But it was only E23 each! And then breakfast - what a beautiful spread. I'm sure Val will do it justice. The owners of this beautiful place are very artistic - Senora Clementine Nicoletta is a painter, potter, gardener and baker. She has made all of the ceramics in the Casa - crockery, light fittings vases etc. as well as paintings and murals all in a very romantic style eg each room has the name of a flower and we were in the IRIS room. Her beautiful son Moreno, is a photographer of note and she showed us one of his photographs that won 2nd prize in a national competition.
When we planned this walk we asked the advice of Joe Patterson, Carol Welch and others about walking a 30 day Via F. All recommended skipping the section between Ivrea and Fidenza or even Fornovo di Taro. So today Moreno drove us into town and we left Ivrea by train for Parma. As we left the Valle D'Aosta the mountains on either side became hills and we entered into the flat plains of the Po Valley. The scenery was rather bleak and industrial. We spent an hour at the station in Turin waiting for a connecting train to Parma. It is a large station and we were able to buy Val another peaked cap – this one with handy scarf attached to the back. As we neared Parma the vineyards returned, green fields and rising forested hills in the distance.
Due to train delays we’d arrived later than planned so we decided to get a taxi to the Cassio Youth Hostel. Climbing the hills from Parma was a little like driving to Cato Ridge from Durban - the further we got the more rural the landscape and then "The Valley of 1000 Hills" (or lower 'berg) with few settlements and heavily wooded hillsides.
One thing that has really paid dividends is the daily info sheet prepared before we left with a photograph of the town or village, a photo of the B&B/hotel/hostel, a copy of the confirmation of the accommodation booked, a map of where to find it and a short précis of the history of the town and area. The driver recognized the hostel right away from the photograph on the info sheet.
It is the job of the Group Leader of the day to read the info to us and tell us the distance to be walked each day, what the terrain will be like and approx how many hours we can expect to walk. Tomorrow we walk about 20kms, beyond Berceto, and Rayna will be the group leader.
After the IRIS room in a castle, we will spend the night in a youth hostel dorm tonight! Val was to sleep alone in the attic room so we carried her bed down to the main dorm to join us. This YH is clean and the ablutions are modern and we had it to ourselves. We were able to buy a couple of VF souvenirs and Kathy and Rayna each bought a shirt. The fellow who booked us in even showed us a catalogue of VF memorabilia that one can order. This is Parma-Fidenza country and the Associazione Europea VF is very active in this area.
Although our windows face the road there is no other building close by besides the tavern across the road so I doubt there will be much traffic and we should all have a good night's sleep. Buona Notte for now.