A visit to Italy – An Italian Odyssey

Gorman the Norman will guide you along his lord Robert’s long and arduous route into Italy and tell you more information about the places his lord Robert discovered.

Now my lord has instructions to go to Italy and see if Countess Matilda is for marrying.

There are some small obstacles in his way – the distance, the Alps, and not least the lady’s wishes.

Firstly, the distance. We shall be travelling along the Via Francigena. This is a well-worn route from Canterbury to Rome, and traversed afoot by many pilgrims, treading the path between monasteries (d’Ospidale), or hostelries where they can find shelter for the night, or sleeping rough. Sometimes the path diverges a little and there are three routes over the Alps. Even so, it’s a journey of a thousand miles.

We are privileged to stay at important monasteries on our journey, including Baume, where my lord receives useful advice.

Benedictine

Benedictine

The Benedictine Abbey of Baume-les-Messieurs

We are told it’s been in existence for four hundred years, probably because it’s safe at the head of this secluded valley, with only one way in or out.

My lord might be reluctant to leave such a tranquil spot, but we need to reach the Alpine crossing of Saint Bernard’s before the winter sets in.

After crossing the first hills, we encounter the first serious threat to my lord’s progress.

Chateau de Chillon

Held by the Germans and controlling the road to the Alpine crossing of Saint Bernard.

But there are journeys and journeys…

and if my lord believes that we are going to climb over that lot…

Th Alps

Th Alps

The Alps

…Then he was right and I was of little faith, for climb we did, and looked into Italy from the highest road imaginable.

So near to God were we that day, we could almost touch heaven, but we are pleased to leave it behind us and travel onward into Tuscany.

Then at last, seven hundred miles from Rouen, our destination is in sight.

Canossa

Home of the Grand Contessa, Matilda of Tuscany. But there is more work to do, and when the time comes we are on our way…

Canossa

Salerno

Salerno

…To Salerno, only another four hundred miles, and becoming warmer all the time.

Phew! Too dizzy for us up there, we prefer to stay down by the sea in a nice Roman villa.

Melfi

But alas, not for long, before we head into the hills for Melfi; somewhere else up in the clouds.

Then there is trouble, and my lord finds a fight down in the valley below.

It’s in this riverbed where he finds Roger Borsa encamped, but he does not remain there for very long ere his army is scattered by my lord.

Then with that small matter settled it’s time to head back to Canossa, where my lord has some unfinished business with the lady Matilda – and who knows where we will be going after that. Someone mentioned the infidel and the Holy Land…