17th June 1901: Ambrose on a Wet Day

Somehow, Belloc managed to sleep through the night in the dilapidated bedroom. Not that there was any reconciliation between them: at sunrise, Belloc slipped out of the in and was glad to be outside once more.

He didn’t, however, leave Milan straightaway. First, Belloc went to Milan cathedral to hear Mass in the Ambrosian Rite. It seems he had heard criticism of the 1,200 year old Rite back home in Britain and wanted to see for himself what it was like. Bar one or two minor changes, he found it to be just the same as the then ‘normal’ Mass (i.e. the Mass that we now call the Extraordinary Form).

Once Mass was over, he left the city. In so doing, he began a long trudge into the Lombardy countryside.

Lombardy is an alluvial plain.
That is the pretty way of putting it. The truth is more vivid if you say that Lombardy is as flat as a marsh, and that it is made up of mud.

Hilaire Belloc The Path to Rome (Ignatius Press 2003) p.297

Mud, mud, and more mud – in the wet conditions that he encountered as he walked south, Belloc would have got to know the mud very well. As with the dilapidated room, however, they never became friends.

He got on no better with the places and natural features that he found along the way. Melegnano was ‘tortuous’ (The Path to Rome, p.300), the Lambro river ‘impossible’ (Ibid), and Lodi Vecchio ‘unkempt… founded upon dirt and living in misery (Ibid).

Belloc stopped at an inn in Lodi Vecchio. As there was no fire to warm him he had to dry his clothes next to ‘a tepid stove in the kitchen’ (The Path to Rome, p.301). The innkeeper and her daughter did not speak English or French and so provided Belloc with little in the way of companionship. Belloc ended up sketching a nearby church, even though he thought it ugly.

After finishing his meal, Belloc hit the road again. He got lost and ended up heading north until a local directed him to the road heading south to Piacenza. Desperate to start heading the right way in the right way, Belloc cut across the fields separating him from the road, getting his boots covered in mud in the process, and joined it adjacent to where he had started.

Soon after, he came to a village called Secugnano and there took a room for the night. According to Google Maps, it takes about nine hours to walk from Milan to Secugnano. It was a long day, then, for Belloc; a wet one, and one to forget entirely. I think Belloc would have agreed – his entry in The Path to Rome for today is just 7.5 pages, I think the shortest for any day so far.

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