As the train pulled up to the station in Piacenza yesterday I finally felt that wonderful combinations of feelings — expectation, release, hope, joy, excitement, wonder — that mark the beginning of a camino. Ten minutes before the actual stop I was already up from my seat, pack on my back, standing at the door ready to jump off the train and …. walk. For the next month. Walk on to Rome.
When I say “finally” arrived, that stands not just for the 24 hours of flights and layovers from Orlando here, and not just the three agreeable days spent in New Smyrna Beach, Florida, at the board meeting of our Salud y Paz mission org. It also means I’m finally here after years of knowing about and dreaming about the Via Francigena, the ancient pilgrim route from England through France, Switzerland and Italy on to Rome. With two months before my new job back home, I opted to spend one of them on as much as I could do of one of my dream walks. The whole walk is 1700 km (1050 miles), which would take more time than I can spare, but by my calculations I can do the last 700 km (405 miles) this month. And I’m excited.
Today I square away a few things in town. I’ll mail a package, but some food and water for inside my pack, enjoy the sights of this charming and historic town, then Wednesday morning I’ll slip out soon after dawn to feel the trail under my feet again, to watch the dew rise from the fields, to listen for church bells in the distance and hear the quiet lowing of cows and sheep as they begin their days.
I’m truly blessed to be a pilgrim again and with God’s help in 29 days I will rub the foot of Peter’s statue in the mighty basilica that bears his name.
Photos from my day in Piacenza: