The stages, day by day
Saint Martin de Crau
Saint Martin de Crau
Among all the markings left behind by the students of Padua, is a book that describes their pilgrimage
Born to a family of Parisian printers, Charles Estienne studied in Padua as a companion of Michel de L’Hospital and Miles Perrot. The publication of his Guide des chemins de France became the first guidebook of France and mentions the same cities, rivers and streets that we have seen throughout this journey.
The salt flats that cast over the city of Aigues-Mortes appear to us like a mirage from afar. In the thirteenth century, King of France Louis IX conceived of the walled city which was later built during the reign of his son Philip III. In 1482, perhaps as the ship’s doctor, Girolamo Ramusio embarked upon a vessel filled with spices for Venice. It was here that the songbook sang of his yearning for Caterina de Narni, the daughter of Gattamelata the famous captain of the Venetian army. Girolamo had graduated from Padua with a doctorate in artibus six years earlier, the same year in which his beloved died.
As we pass through Saint-Gilles, a destination for medieval pilgrims, we witness the French Romanesque facade of its church and the damage it endured during the French Revolution. From here we cross the Parc naturel régional de Camargue where the green and grey hues of the lagoon touch the horizon.
Crossing a bridge over the Rhone, we arrive in Arles (UNESCO) and circle the amphitheatre that is crowned by two medieval towers. As we leave behind these Romanesque monuments we head to Marseille where the mathematician Ernesto Padova and the physicist Nicola Dallaporta studied.
The landscape between the cities of Marseille and Toulon is covered by jagged and rocky coasts, islands and gullies of the Parc National des Calanques and the sinkholes, chasms and underground rivers of the Parc Naturel régional de la Saint-Baume. Toulon, with its grandiose arsenal, was the birthplace of Jacques-Hyacinthe Serry, a well-known Thomist theologian who taught at the University of Padua for many years and whose well documented works remained mostly unpublished.
On the fifth day, we pass the ancient salt marshes of Hyères, the Parc national de Port-Cros, and the Roman ruins in Fréjus. We cross Mont Vinaigre before descending towards the sea to Cannes. We parade along the seafront on the way to Antibes, a city that offers a full view of the star-shaped Fort Carré whose four arrow-head shaped bastions line the wall of green shrubbery. We leave this coastal city only to reach Nice (UNESCO) with its famous Promenade des Anglais.
On the sixth day we cross the French border arriving in Ventimiglia and Sanremo, on the seventh and last day, passing between tunnels that celebrate the history of cycling and borders of oleanders, we reach Finale Ligure the destination of the eighth and last stage of our long journey.