Days 97 to 102 – “and this is Tim who walked all the way from Weybridge”

There is no finer way to end a pilgrimage than to receive a Papal blessing. I hurried along to St Peter’s Square yesterday at the ungodly hour of 7.30am to join the masses for the Pope’s weekly audience. The early start secured me a seat in row 7 which gave me a good view and a decent opportunity for my little Sony camera to snap the action.

I thought I was going to hate Rome. Our walk into the city last Friday showed us all the worst elements such as the huge litter problem, the aggressive traffic and the crumbling pavements and general infrastructure. But I soon acclimatised and grew to love the place. The more churches I saw, the more I loved it.

Rome has hardly changed since my other visit in 1975. But now all the big churches have armed guards. Instead of just wandering into St Peter’s it’s now like entering an airport. The Sistine chapel is crazy; they wouldn’t even let me take my large bottle of Frizzante inside. How ridiculous is that?

The hostel only allows pilgrims to stay for two nights. On Saturday I joined a group for a walking tour of some local churches. Do you remember back in Canterbury I mentioned a pilgrim who is carrying a Celtic harp to Rome? She was two weeks ahead of us at that point but arrived a couple of days earlier. She met us in the final church and played some music. Having fulfilled her media obligations she claimed her two nights in the hostel. After an impromptu lunch in the hostel’s kitchen the two of us visited the Roman Forum. It was a great chance to hear more about her incredible journey and to exchange reminiscences as well as to see the ancient world.

On Sunday I moved into an economical B&B right on the outside of the Vatican walls. It couldn’t have been more than a couple of hundred metres from St Peter himself as the crow flies. I don’t know why but the owner asked me how I got there. It took some explaining and he gave me an extra croissant for breakfast.

Meanwhile Paul was in the midst of arranging a flight back to the USA and he took a lavish apartment with luxuries including a washing machine and a colour TV on which we watched the Italian Grand Prix. We enjoyed a couple more last suppers together before he departed. We shared the journey but more than that we shared the same suffering, the same doubts and the same toilet. How he groaned every time I ordered risotto.

Somehow we made it. We walked every step of the way. We drank the water from the bathroom taps. We slept in all sorts of accommodation from nasty hotels to castles, convents, abbeys, monasteries and that wonderful life saving psychiatric hospital. All in all it was a fairly satisfying accomplishment. Thank you to those who suggested I walk back: not this time. My boots are worn out. Over 2000 kilometres is their and my limit.

I appreciate everyone who has followed my blog and the encouraging comments which did much to keep my spirits up. Now I have to board my flight which will retrace my steps in a couple of hours or so. Goodbye until the next time.

Deep under Basilica San Clemente, in the 1st century.

St Peter’s chains

St Paul’s final resting place

if you wind back to the start you’ll see the 1975 version of this photo. Not a lot has changed

20 comments on “Days 97 to 102 – “and this is Tim who walked all the way from Weybridge”

  1. Thank you, Tim, for allowing us to walk to Rome from the comfort of our padded chairs whilst you sweated, struggled and suffered! But only you (and Paul) deserve the rosy glow of your achievement. Amazing!

  2. Calum McLean

    Well done Tim!!! You’re an inspiration. And thanks for your dedication to the blog… just looking forward to the cat calendar now 🙂

  3. Annette

    Thank you Tim it was a pleasure reading your adventures of each day.

  4. Mantel marie

    Dear Tim
    Congratulations for your trip
    How are you without walk every days ?
    We are very happy to share a part of your trip
    Good Come back in usual Life on England
    You are welcome in our place when you will come in France
    In pas de calais it is not do far
    Thank you for your blog
    We tried to read and translate every days
    Marie and claude

  5. Mantel marie

    We are on the camino since 11 days all is good for us after 330 kms
    We have a thinkîng for you and Paul when we drink a beer only for the muscles……

  6. Lucy Davies

    Fascinating reading from day 1, like the other comments, well done and look forward to next year’s adventure. 👟

  7. Philippa Thomas

    Thank you Tim, safe journey home!

  8. Susanna

    Well done Tim!! What a totally amazing achievement!! Our evenings won’t be the same now…we so enjoyed reading your gripping and fascinating daily blog and following your pilgrims progress xx

  9. Congrats Tim what a fabulous adventure you had and thank you for sharing with us all via your blog which was a must have read before turning off the light every night – I look forward to seeing you at the JF next Wednesday

  10. Hi Tim, it has been a pleasure to follow you. Last year I walked to Besancon, this time next year I will continue into Italy and hopefully the following year I will receive a papal blessing. That is the highlight of the walk. In 3 weeks I will be walking up the coast of Portugal so starting to cross them off the “to do list” before old age creeps up on me. A dirty word at present. Keep walking!!

  11. Janet holden

    Thanks tim will really miss your blog loved hearing about all the places you stayed and of course the food 😊 Janet

  12. Congratulations, Tim!
    PS Your web site won’t accept comments in Hiragana!

  13. Loved every post. Cannot wait to start our journey April 2020. You have inspired us. Thank you for sharing your ups and downs.

  14. Graham Capper

    Hi Tim, I think I have met you a couple of times at CSJ events.
    I have spent the last few evenings vicariously walking your Francigena, which I hope to attempt for real from home (Andover, Hampshire) in 2021. I like your blogging style and your gentle sense of humour! But I also really enjoyed your pictures and your warts-and-all description of the experience. Thanks for sharing! Hope to see you in unlockdown sometime, to pick your brains.
    Buen Camino! Graham

    • Hi Graham, thanks for your kind words. I’ve been to CSJ events for a few years so we must have met. It would be great to catch up with you in due course and I’m happy to help in any way I can. Have you seen the Confraternity of Pilgrims to Rome website? It’s a good reference source, particularly the various accommodation lists and I was roped into being the membership secretary. It’s something special to walk the Via Francigena from your home; I hope it’s fully open next year. Keep in touch, I’ll certainly meet you on your way through Surrey. Best wishes, Tim

  15. Hi Tim
    I just want to say thanks for your blog. My wife and I are planning to walk the Via Francigena next year and your blog has been an inspiration, a source of information and a dam good read.
    Best wishes for whatever adventure attracts you next.

    • Hi Michael, thank you so much for your kind comments. I do appreciate them. If you need any assistance planning your pilgrimage, please contact me. All the best, Tim

  16. Thank you Tim for a wonderful read. I’m a late comer to your blog, found it thanks to google search. I’m thinking of walking it from Canterbury next year depending on the way of the world, and if I think France won’t be too much of a problem as a solo female walker. The accommodation and food sounds a bit of a problem. I have walked the VF Lucca to Rome and actually stayed at the same place you did in Rome.
    Thanks again for such an honest, insightful look into the Via Francegina
    Regards Helen 🇦🇺🦘

    • Hi Helen, very good to hear from you. There’s no reason to fear France above anywhere else but it is a lonely walk with only a trickle of other pilgrims. The Confraternity of Pilgrims to Rome sells a guide to accommodation and services in France which is invaluable. It didn’t exist back in 2018. If you need any advice, please contact me. Tim

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