I’d like to share with you a little video I filmed during my walk to Rome. Maybe it gives you a little impression of what pilgrim life on the road looks like 🙂
The last day pretty much consisted of walking endlessly along the streets of Rome. The main street to be correct. There were only fifteen kilometres left but it felt like a lifetime. I didn’t actually take photos because I was trying not to be run over by cars and to not get lost. Apparently, within the district of Rome, the destination of this pilgrimage, the eternal holy city, there are no signs for pilgrims anymore. Well, there are some, every once in a while. Very helpful. You got to fight your own way through the urban jungle. Which we did, not without getting separated though. At Monte Mario, a nature reserve, i.e. park, we find each other again and enjoy a final break with the first view onto Rome.
The internet is being stupid, so I cannot upload more photos. I’ll do so tomorrow morning.
Anyway, when we are finally reaching St. Peter’s Square, it starts raining. What craziness. It’s like the perfect welcome to the end of a long journey. We can’t help but to laugh. We make our way around the square passing the dome, to find the Swiss guards shielding the Vatican from stupid tourists and other evil. We are allowed to pass, having to leave our knifes with a police officer. Inside, where hardly any tourist gets, we receive our credentials. They are beautiful. The whole things is totally incredible. They even want to take a photo of us inside the walls in front of the building. Must remember to check the Vatican website… Then about thirty cardinals make their way out of the Vatican, taking selfies on their smart phones and photos of us. Therefore we dare to ask some of them for a picture with is too. As I said, all of this was so surreal. Totally awesome, no question. But… Did this really happen? To me? It’s unimaginable! Unthinkable! Unbelievable! I’m sure it will take a while for this to settle and to reach a certain level of reality in my mind. I did it! I walked to Rome. I loved it, I hated it, I was full of joy, in so much pain, in high spirit and ready to give up so many times. Like a roller coaster, up and down and all around. And somehow, during this ride, I reached my destination.
This is a great and an important experience. You learn so much about yourself, about the strength within you that you never knew of. In everyday life, not many times are you challenged to grow above yourself. Here, you do so every day. You can’t walk on when you reach your bed in the evening. Yet, every morning, you get out of this, more or less comfortable, bed and put on your shoes. Your pack your bag and start walking. Again. And again.
Thinking about walking 1200 kilometres, it seems impossible. But you need to learn to only look at today’s goal, the very thing right now. If all you do is live the moment, you can reach every destination, every goal. And, for myself, I learned that it’s ok not to succeed. I want to, don’t get me wrong. But I have come to allow myself to try without having to be successful. Which actually helps, because it does take away some of your fear. And once you’re on the road, you basically keep running anyway. Of you don’t make it to the destination, well, try again, if you think you can do it afterall. Or do something else, if you’re willing to accept that this simply wasn’t meant for you. In my opinion, both options are valid.
This time, I did it. But I had a second motif to succeed! As you know, I walked to Rome in order to raise money for humanitarian aid in the near east, where people, at the moment, do not have the choice of doing something else if life doesn’t ease them. I took you with me on this journey to share my joy and my pain. Taking this hardship onto myself is all I could do at the moment. If you think this is worth something, it would be absolutely fabulous if you could donate some money for my cause. If you don’t have much, give one cent per kilometre. That adds up to 12 euros. If you can spare a little more, feel free to do so. Check the “How to donate” tab for more information. If you need a tax receipt, feel free to contact me (in advance!).
Thank you all for being part of my journey, for listening to my short stories, my joyful expressions and my whiny complaints. Thank you for walking with me and giving me strength. We all need support from others every once in a while.
Love from Rome,
We are now in one of the suburbs of Rome. Yes, I nearly made it! 15 kilometres left. Tomorrow I will finally reach my destination. I cannot actually believe this. Despite the imagined impossibility, I’m so glad that finally I can stop walking. My body aches in so many places, I don’t even know how to describe it anymore. And still, there is a part of me that’s kind of sad that this journey will be over tomorrow. It’s so simple if all you have to do is get up in the morning and walk. Then find a place to sleep and food. Take a shower… However, I’m really glad to finish too. And I’m looking forward to spend some time in Rome.
Today was the last day walking in a natural landscape. And it was so very beautiful. We finished with a supermarket dinner which we had in the gardens of the convent we’re staying at. It’s a nice, quiet and calming place.
Like most days, today was longer than it said in the book. But I was another good walk. The weather was really nice and I could refresh my tan (obviously very important). My feet were hurting again, but since we took several breaks, I managed to push through. One break was at the waterfall of Monte Gelato, the ice cream mountain. What a beautiful place on earth.
Starting the last round, clouds came up and some raindrops were falling, but we made it safely to Campagnano without getting wet. The city is on a hill and there is a very steep climb into the old tone from the forest side. That was our way. It’s amazing to do some climbing at the end of a long walk, I can tell you. The old town is amazing. It looked a bit dead though and we were happy to find out, that there were other parts of town too. We finished the day with a wonderful pizza at Pane, amore e fantasia.
Two more days to Rome. Unbelievable!!!
Another beautiful day. It was pretty cold this morning which is nice for walking. Jesper and Alina were too fast for me today as with my new blisters I’m a little slower. I got those from wearing my sandals yesterday after my shoes got wet before Acquapendente and didn’t dry again… Anyway. I’m enjoying the walk on my own. I’m slow, but happy. The landscape is beautiful and the path good to walk on. I can look at the lake Lago Di Bolsena a lot. And even more important, today I hit the 100 kilometre mark. It’s so amazing to see this point after over 1000 kilometres of walking. 46 days behind me. Five more days to Rome. My feet are in pain. But I’m able to ignore it all day long since I’m feeling well. Arriving at Montefiascone it takes a while to get to the Convento di Capuccini, where we are sleeping tonight. The beds are squeaky, but everything else is fine. And then in the evening, all reunited, Alina, Jesper, Markus and his dad and I, enjoy some take away pizza during the sunset over the lake beneath us.
It’s strange though how sometimes you can be surrounded by people and still feel lonely. I’m not sure if it’s all those days of being in a different place every day, or the painful feet, or the general tiredness which makes me want to go to bed straight after arrival, or the feeling of nearly being there… Anyway. I’m good. I’m happy. I’m enjoying the walk. And I can’t wait fur my holidays in Rome 😉
What a beautiful day. Alina, Jesper and I start walking in the fog once again. I refrained from taking more of the same pictures. We made the first ten kilometres to the next town without a break having a nice conversation and some peaceful silence. After a warm tea and some food, we do another ten kilometres until we reach Bolsena. I loved walking today. It was a beautiful walk and I was very happy again. Also, the black clouds were in front of us and Alina and I wanted to reach Bolsena before the rain started to not get wet again today. And we did. Standing in front of the doors to the parrocchia the water starts falling. We just make it inside. When the sun comes out again, Alina and I go for a swim. Afterwards I climb back up to the castle and go to the beach once more. This city is truly beautiful. What wonderful day, to be finished with a massive Italian pizza with Markus and his father who has joined the walk in Radicofani. Perfect.
It was a long straight walk along a street so close to the sea yet not close enough to see it today. This is the region where marble is produced. You might have heard of Carrara. The region is called Massa-Carrara. After that endless walk through a hopeless tourist area, I left this region behind.
However, obviously, I had to go for a swim before doing so since I didn’t go yesterday. The detour should at least have been worth it. It wasn’t as easy as I thought. All of the beaches down there are privately owned and you can only use them if you rent a sun umbrella or chairs. Since I’m from Germany where every beach is public (as far as I’m aware of) this seems ridiculous to me. Technically, they can’t forbid you to go for a swim. It’s just that you can’t reach the ocean. We learned it the hard way today. Eventually we made it to about five metres of public beach and I finally got my well deserved swim I. The salty water. Do you know what it’s like when you lie in the sea on your back? Your ears go underwater and you just stay above without any motion necessary. It was joyful. My whole body relaxed and I heard the most amazing sound of the day: silence! I enjoyed it very much.
Shortly after, Jesper’s and my way parted. He is taking a rest day at the sea, I wanted to walk on to maybe go to Pisa for a day while I’m in Lucca, which I should be reaching tomorrow. A rest day is needed. But after all the tourists in board shorts, I know I’d rather take it in a city with loads of culture to admire (and things NOT to buy…).
I intended to walk back up to the Via to reach Camaiore only to realise the way was twice as far as I thought. So Jesper convinced me to take the bus. I happily agreed. It was a detour of five kilometres to go to the beach. I’m happy to take the bus back. And I really enjoy this place here.
Well, when I arrived, the ostello seemed to be closed. But I asked around and found a different entrance. A little boy found the right person for me inside after telling him I. My three Italian words that I wanted to sleep here. The guy says they are full since a group of forty people is staying here tonight. I can’t believe it! I say that I got a mattress, if he maybe has a little space for me. He does. It’s the room that leads to all of the storage spaces to there is constant coming and going he says. No privacy. But he makes me a proper bed with a mattress, so I don’t care.
What I love even more is the shower. It’s crazy how walking in the heat makes you smell so badly (seriously!) and feel so dirty. Showering is what makes you feel human again.
So then I went for a long walk around the city. It’s beautiful.
In the church I ask the only person there for a stamp: the cleaning lady. She finds one. And is super nice.
I get myself some mandarins for tomorrow and strawberries to eat straight away. It feels like the whole town is looking at me while I walk happily down the road. Time for ice cream.
On a postcard I discovered that there is a Badia church so I set out to find it. And I do. The organist is practicing for a wedding when I enter. So beautiful!
Due to all the rain and the paths through the woods being really muddy, we take the cycling path from Villafranca to Aulla. It’s like being in the rain forest. Including humid air, light rain and horse flies. We even encounter a wild hog. Very glad it stayed hidden in the trees after making some frightening noises…
The sky stays grey the whole time, but it doesn’t rain too badly. In the next village Barbarasco we even take off the rain gear. Through Terrarossa we make it to Aulla. We considered staying here but it’s only around eleven when we get there. So we get a stamp in the abbey which is also the pilgrims hostel and try to figure out what to do next. The very nice, very modern Italian priest gives me a coffee and biscuits and sits down with us. He advises us not to take the path through the woods because although it’s doable it would be very hard. The little road has been blocked by mud coming down the hills he says. So our only option is the national road. It’s not too bad as it only has two lanes and the cars aren’t going too fast. The sky has cleared up, the sun is shining. We have lunch and wait for traffic to slow down and on we march. It’s strenuous. And eight kilometres before our goal we give up. After buying some new things at Decathlon, we make our way to the train. It takes EIGHT MINUTES to get to Sarzana. We would have walked another two hours… Arriving, we run into the Italians again. Some of them took the hiking trail and jumped onto a bus eventually. Jesper and I have a look around tone and then a very nice dinner. Afterwards we have some beers with the five Italians in the backyard of the church we’re staying at. It’s a great evening and I can use my two Italian sentences I learned with my app so far. Then I mostly speak English…
After saying goodbye to Günter in the morning we start our descend quite late around half past eight. It’s a lot of uphill and naturally it’s raining that day! The views are nice however and we take some shortcuts along the road to not constantly walk through mud while being attacked by mean insects.
Eventually we really need to take a break but can’t find any rainproof shelter. So we hide under someone’s staircase. When I get up again, an old lady is standing at her door. She invites us in while having half the family for a visit. We only want to use the bathroom but are being fed home made ravioli and white wine.
We continue walking through fog and mud. It’s wet and cold and anything but comfortable. After finding a bar, we have a hot drink to warm up and go back onto the road. Eventually we make it to Cassio. Obviously, when we arrive the sun comes back out. The ostello is amazing. You can take all you want to eat and then donate some money. They don’t have internet though. The day before we met the Canadians again at the hostel and they are now on the same trek. In Cassio we have a nice apero together. Today we are on the way higher up to the Passo della Cisa. More later…