Wrap-up from Rome after 973 km of pilgrim trails

On the final full day in Rome after 973 km (605 miles) on the Via Francigena and Via di Francesco.

It’s such a funny thing to walk for a few weeks then wake up one day and realize the walking is all done. That’s how I’m feeling this morning as I finish breakfast on the day after my summer of walking is over.

What a summer. I set out on August 3 from Lausanne, Switzerland and walked over the Great St Bernard Pass into Italy, finishing in Piacenza after 478 kilometers over mountains and through rice fields. I’m still convinced it was the long days and hot temperatures that caused me to get sick in Piacenza. I then flew home for a hectic few days of moving household items in preparation for the sale of our Seattle home.

On September 1 I was back in Italy with Luke to lead our first tour group. With eight wonderful folk Luke drove our Sherpa van and I walked from Florence to Assisi, retracing for the first time my book research walk from 2014.

Then on September 19 Luke and I greeted our next eleven pilgrims and walked with them from Assisi to Rome.

Though I skipped two stages due to another illness, with the many extra kilometers of pilgrim herding the total distance clocked from Florence to Rome was 495 km.

The biggest blessing of the time was my month working closely with Luke. Since he grew up and moved out on his own we haven’t had anything like this intense time together. For 32 days, both of us working from 7:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. we’ve laughed and hugged and strategized and overcome. Luke is a great young man and was a real hit with our pilgrims, who all love him to pieces — but none love him more than me.

As for me, I’ve lost about 15 pounds with all this walking. My feet are in great shape thanks to HikeGoo and surgical tape. I have a massive farmer’s tan. And according to my FitBit my resting heart rate is down about 17 bpm. I shaved my head in August in Aosta and I miss my hair. I used 12 gigabytes of data on my iPhone 6, and found Galileo Pro and WhatsApp to be invaluable aids. My Italian is becoming stronger, though no one is mistaking me for a native, and most of all I’m missing Theresa and home.

Tomorrow I speak at a conference near Assisi and then, due to flight schedules, I am in Italy until Sunday evening. That night I fly to London Gatwick, stay in a tiny Japanese style airport hotel, and then fly home to Seattle, Theresa, friends, cats, church, new home and the joys of the familiar, where I’ll begin to plan the next walking adventure.

Here are some of my favorite photos from these seven weeks of walking.

Roads Go Ever On

Roads go ever ever on,

Over rock and under tree,

By caves where never sun has shone,

By streams that never find the sea;

Over snow by winter sown,

And through the merry flowers of June,

Over grass and over stone,

And under mountains in the moon.

Roads go ever ever on,

Under cloud and under star.

Yet feet that wandering have gone

Turn at last to home afar.

Eyes that fire and sword have seen,

And horror in the halls of stone

Look at last on meadows green,

And trees and hills they long have known.

The Road goes ever on and on

Down from the door where it began.

Now far ahead the Road has gone,

And I must follow, if I can,

Pursuing it with eager feet,

Until it joins some larger way,

Where many paths and errands meet.

The Road goes ever on and on

Down from the door where it began.

Now far ahead the Road has gone,

And I must follow, if I can,

Pursuing it with weary feet,

Until it joins some larger way,

Where many paths and errands meet.

And whither then? I cannot say.

The Road goes ever on and on

Out from the door where it began.

Now far ahead the Road has gone.

Let others follow, if they can!

Let them a journey new begin.

But I at last with weary feet

Will turn towards the lighted inn,

My evening-rest and sleep to meet.

—J.R.R. Tolkien

From the castle on down

Note the nifty blue guidebook in the pilgtim’s hand  

Day eleven: Ponticelli (Nerola) to Monterotondo — 32 km (19.9 miles)

We left the castle this morning at 9:00 and reconnected with the trail. I’d set the stage end at Montelibretti, though my book carries the stage another 17 km, ending at Monterotondo. Four of our group opted to go the full distance with me, while seven were picked up by Luke in the van at Montelibretti. Tomorrow I’ll return to Montelibretti with the Seven and walk again to Monterotondo.

The scenery is changing noticeably as mountains are turning to vast fields of wheat as the Tiber River Valley expands as it nears the sea.

For several km we followed signs to Alesansro’s birthday party. We hope it was fun!

Pilgrim walking. 

This fountain always looked like a cradle to me. 

Ponies. 

Sheep. We like sheep. 

Effects of Lover’s Tunnel still going strong. 

The flower tower. 

We arrived in Monterotondo just in time to enjoy a street fair.