Quietly we crept out and down flights of stairs – gate would not open but luckily someone starts work the same time as us and bonjourno’d to us from another gate – phew!

The early opener was open and occupied by the older men – we, as they do, sit in the coolness of the street having our usual coffee, chocolate and the first croissants of the day – as good as anywhere. We paid the man then reflected nearly all the bars we have been in have Asian owners with varying grasps of the Italian language – I’m thinking, but could be wrong, that the younger Italians are moving to the cities so not available to take over the business?

Walking still on a narrow road high above the fields below, sometimes bitumen, sometimes not, eventually moving down as we get closer to the imposing Ticino river. The walk becomes more varied and interesting as our paths wind through woods alongside small river beaches and a waterfall, but it is hard to totally relax as the many cyclists race by. We are soon caught by our fast walking Mexican friend, John, and we talk about his close family, his work on an oil rig. He vanishes in no time and we soon arrive in stunning old Pavia where its narrow car-free but crowded street looks like a miniature via Veneto in Roma.

We went to the local information office and were totally spoilt by three young Pavians who found us the “best” accommodation in town. It’s quaint, cool, decorative, with double doors opening onto a garden for sitting in and attended by Angela, the most charming hostess you can imagine. Her fridge full of welcoming drinks and chocolates give a glimpse into her generosity. Her recommended restaurant is sure to live up to expectations. Buon appetito!!