Later in the trip it will probably seem strange I spent so much time in Pavia. During my week in Milan I recovered from my journey, dealt with my delayed baggage, saw the sites and enjoyed saying ‘yes’ to invitations from my hosts. So my blog hasn’t been updated and I have a backlog of photos unprocessed. There had also been some stuff I’d meant to get done before I left Sydney. These things were piling up on my conscience and so I’m taking a few quite days here to get caught up.

What I’ve noticed in these first 10 days or so is that I can’t treat a gap year as a long holiday. When I holiday I really fill the days to make the most of the time. I expect to get home a little worn out. But I can’t do that for a full year. And I don’t feel like I’m on holiday either. Its more that this is my new reality, albeit a temporary new reality. Here I am … in Italy. Of course, I’m meant to be riding my bicycle and there’s been precious little of that so far. It will come, it will come.

So today was Festa della Republicca – Italy’s national day marking the anniversary of the vote held on 2 June 1946. The Italians were to choose a post-war form of government and 12,717,923 voted for a republic to the 10,719,284 who favoured restoring the monarchy.

Google led me to the Citta di Pavia website when I asked what was on for the day. It seemed there was march at 10:00 am followed by a ceremony at 10:30 am. I failed to find the march before it had begun to enter the grounds of the University for the ceremony – where I joined them.

It’s funny how alike national day ceremonies are from one country to the next. Or at least from Australia to Italy. It was almost identical to Anzac Day in Urala. There had been a procession of groups: veterans, first-responders, and fraternal organisations who then formed up with their banners to line a red carpet which led to a flagstaff flanked by soldiers in fancy uniforms.

An MC listed all the participating organsiations and a politician inspected those lined along the carpet. She then spoke – I’m guessing about sacrifice and national pride – before a school choir and band performed the National Anthem. The crowd sang the first verse with gusto then faded out; the conductor was awesomely expressive. As they sang the flag was raised one centimetre at time. The politician returned to speak of new Italians and people coming to Italy from around the world – a handful of whom were called forward and handed a document. I’m guessing they were new citizens: people from Africa, India, and the Middle East. Lastly a Cardinal (perhaps – though he was wearing pink rather than red) of the Catholic Church spoke of God and led the people in prayer. Afterward there was a rush to tables at the back where free stuff was handed out and I got an Italian flag bucket hat.

I spent much of the rest of the day comfortably ensconced at the desk in my little hotel room catching up my book keeping (knowing what I’m spending will keep this thing going) and the processing (editing, saving, and backing up) of photographs.

In the late arvo I began thinking I might stay another night here in Pavia. Another day like today and I should be all caught up in a way that I’ll feel confident of keeping up with. Once I’d made that decision I went out for an evening walk in the old town. I enjoyed apertivo and a gelato and called that dinner.

Walking through the narrow, cobbled streets of the old town in the evening I was reminded that all around me were people’s 21st century homes – the sound of domestic voices, the clatter of cookware and smells of dinners being prepared.

3 June

I’ve devoted the better part of another day to getting work done and feel like I’m in a much better place to move forward. I’m not completely caught up but I feel like I’m on top of the writing, the blogging, my photography and my bookkeeping.

I did go out in the morning to have a look at the (outside) of the castle and the (insides of) the Duomo and San Michel – both of which were cool and lovely.

At the Duomo I arrived for the last few minutes of a service in a side nave. When the priest had finished the gathered sang something about Maria. Their voices were full and round and filled the space perfectly.

San Michel was built in the 11th century (?). As the descendant of immigrants to America and as an immigrant myself to Australia … 11th century buildings sort of boggle my mind. The church bells struck midday while I was at San Michel – the heavy brick deadened the sound but still they were there as they have been, I guess, for hundreds of years.

It was good to see Pavia on a normal week day with the streets lively and market stalls set up in the Duomo Piazza and elsewhere. My favourite was a bicycle stall offering repairs and selling a variety of basic parts, tools, and accessories.

After lunch I worked some more and thought about riding out to visit the Certosa di Pavia. It would be a nice 8km ride each way. But it was about 40* and I still had more work I wanted to finish. I wondered, in the end, which would disappoint me more: not seeing this one place or leaving Pavia not nearly as caught up as I would like to be. And with that I stayed and worked.

Once I’d gotten the photos all caught up – which is to say fully backed up, edited and duly classified on SmugMug – and published a blog post I went out into the late afternoon heat. It was still in the high 30*s. I had every intention of having an actual dinner tonight but again … I stopped for a beer and apertivo. Once consumed I felt full enough to skip ahead to gelati (fragole e yogurt) and call myself fed.

I still don’t quite know where I’m riding tomorrow but I do need to get an early start to avoid the worst of the heat.

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