Three months and three days after leaving my home in Weybridge, Paul and I arrived in Rome. Does the Vatican count as a country? If so, it’s our 5th country on this pilgrimage. That’s me on the left, if you don’t know.
We were up earlier than usual because of the excitement and set off at the first hint of dawn to join the traffic thundering into the eternal city. It was a strange 17km walk. First we were edging our way alongside the busy highway and then we disappeared into wasteland which is optimistically called a park. A whole catalogue of every insect that has plagued us across France, Switzerland and Italy was waiting for one last hurrah. My least favourite is a biting fly which sits on my sleeves and jabs it’s pointy end into my arm. It’s more irritating than painful but the red spots remain for days. It was even worse in short sleeves. We hurried along and soon caught up with the Dutch mother and daughter whom we me in Besancon. We walked together for awhile and then pressed on.
More roads and “parks” followed until we reached the top of a hill and had our first view of St Peters. Some pilgrims had left articles of clothing on the fence but I had nothing sensible to offer so we hurried on.
Eventually we were caught up in the city and we stopped for a final Frizzante before crossing the border into The Vatican, shortly before 11.00.
It’s a strange feeling finishing a pilgrimage. In the days when I run marathons there was always quite a lot of activity at the finish. Photographers clicking away, water stations, timing officials and stewards, medals etc. Even masseurs. You’d imagine the Church would get involved. In Compostela there is the daily pilgrim mass at 12.00 and the excitement of receiving the Compostela. I suppose all the clergy in Rome are too busy to participate. However the good old Confraternity of St James still has a little room nearby and they handed us a certificate.
We walked a couple more kilometres to the main pilgrim hostel, the Spedale della Providenza which is also a convent. I can stay for two nights but then I need to relocate because I don’t fly home until Thursday. There is a fine collection of pilgrims. A German girl who sped along from Lausanne. She started 1 August walking up to 14 hours a day covering 60km just to see if she could. She slept wild or in hostels. Also a lady from Ukraine who cycled here from Venice via most of Italy and several familiar faces from the hostel a few days ago. We have had the foot washing welcome and a good communal dinner during which everyone had to talk for a minute or two about their motivation for walking a pilgrimage. It is just wonderful to hear pilgrims try to explain why and how they walk such distances.
I’ll write another blog before I leave Rome on Thursday to wrap things up for this trip.
On our way through the streets of Rome
The Dutch mother and daughter this morning
It’s a tough life, this foot washing