Getting a Testimonium at the Vatican is Fun (but not easy)

When a person arrives in Santiago de Compostela there’s not much confusion about how to get the “Compostela,” the completion certificate issued by the Cathedral Office. Pilgrims go to the special building near the cathedral, stand in line, present their credential, are asked a few questions, and then are issued their certificate. Presto!

At the Vatican, it’s not quite so easy.

When we four pilgrims arrived at St. Peter’s Square our first question was, “where do we get our Testimonium?” We asked various police officers, who told us to stand in line at the metal detectors and then go inside to the Sacristy for our certificates. So, we dutifully stood in a line of several hundred people, inquired as to where the Sacristy is (it’s off the West Transept of the basilica). When we arrived in this ornate room, complete with a beautiful, stone dome of its own, we met a man behind a desk who asked for our credentials and then stamped them with the Vatican’s “tinbro” (stamp). When we asked about our Testimonia, he at first didn’t know what we were talking about, then told us the Testimonium office is only open 9-Noon. Since it was after 4:00 we let it go to the next day.

Our little group divided in two, with Jacqueline and I heading to shopping and Andreas and Sebastian wanting to get to their rooms for a shower and comfy rest. As Jacqueline and I walked, we asked a few folks who looked like they knew what they were doing about how we would get our Testimonia. They directed us to the pilgrim desk at the Tourist  Office just off St. Peter’s Square. Sure enough, when we arrived there the kind woman seemed to know what we were talking about. She copied our credentials and promised she would mail us our Testimonia.

The next day, unbeknownst to Jacqueline and me, our colleagues went to the official pilgrim office inside the Vatican and secured their Testimonia! “Go around the metal detectors,” they said, “then go to the police station, then through the Swiss Guards, then to another police station, then through security, then walk down the road, turn left and then right and go into the building. They’ll give you your certificates right there.” IMG_2461

So the next day, Jacqueline and I did just that. After four security checks, including one with the guys in the flashy pantsuits, we arrived at the official pilgrim office. We were asked to have a seat behind a desk and surrender our credentials. In a few moments the kind man returned with stamped Testimonia, tucked into an official Vatican envelope. On our way out we asked how many pilgrims come for their Testimonia each day. Only five to ten, we were told. No wonder no one seemed to know where to direct us.

In spite of the difficulty in finding our way to the right office, it was still fun to see “behind the scenes” at the Vatican during our little foray into this tiny city-state. It’s been a month and no sign of any duplicate Testimonia in the mail, so I’m glad we took the extra time and asked around a little more so we did finally get our certificates.


We did it! Jacqueline and I succeed in securing our Testimonia, proof that we walked the walk! The Vatican office is just behind us.

Testimonium from the Vatican following our 2013 Cammino di San Francesco

Testimonium from the Vatican following our 2013 Cammino di San Francesco.

Short and Beautiful Walk Leads to Happy Reunion

May 20, 2013 — Arrone to Piediluco

20130520-153439.jpgViews toward Arrone as we left town after breakfast and shopping

Our morning started with a breakfast of coffee and “biscotti,” which sounds promising to an American used to the Starbucks variety of biscotti, but which in Italy seems to mean a sugary pastry preserved forever in a plastic Twinkie® bag. Still, smothered in jam or Nutella these biscotti give ample, sweet calories for a day’s walk. We lingered over breakfast, then lingered some more after breakfast, to give ample time for our clothes to dry in the morning sun.

After buying apples, checking my weight at a crowded pharmacy (down 3 pounds), buying toothpaste, and clarifying directions with a helpful member of the local polizia we left Arrone under partly cloudy skies, in shirtsleeve temps on a level track through the valley behind the town.

20130520-153535.jpgOne of the many fisherman along the accompanying river out of Arrone

By the topographical chart we knew we had level ground as far as the Marmare Waterfall, but at that point we’d climb about 400 feet to the Marmare viewpoint. We were excited about seeing a beautiful waterfall, even if it meant a steep climb to get to the top.

The climb ended up being quite steep — like a stairway without the steps. Sebastian led the way up, up and up to the large park above the falls that includes a museum, food kiosks, ballfields and a campground. The steep climb had prepared us for a bite of lunch, which we took at one of the kiosks near the ticket office. We asked about the cost of tickets and learned they would go on sale “when they turn on the waterfall.” Seems the beautiful falls do double duty as a power generator and part of the day the water is diverted to make electricity for nearby towns.

Rather than wait a couple of hours for the waterworks we headed on toward our goal of Piediluco which was just 7k ahead. About two-thirds of this track was on tranquil, gravel road next to a wide canal, but unfortunately the other one-third was on the edge of a busy two-lane highway. So we made our way into Piediluco alternately in either sun-splashed bliss or barely controlled terror.

20130520-153622.jpgStepping off the path to watch a visiting painter

By 3:00 we were in the lakeside town and a kind man directed us to the only open hotel in town, a renovated monastery above the famous Church of San Francesco from the 13th century. We settled into our room, showered and headed to the terrace, just above the church’s tile roof, to write in our blogs and diaries. As we wrote we were charmed by various local cats and by the hotel owner, too, who brought us bread, cheese and a couple of tiny pizza slices for a snack.

Even though we’d seen some beautiful scenery, the big event of the day was the arrival of our 2011 camino friend, Andreas of Finland. We long ago knew he’d be able to join us starting on May 20, but it wasn’t clear until a couple of days ago that our rendezvous would be here in Piediluco.

20130520-182133.jpgFisherman among the boats at Lake Piediluco, a place also popular with Italy’s competitive rowing teams

Andreas is much-loved in our 2011 pilgrim family. I appreciated especially his jokes, skits, and comedy sketches. He’s a faithful Lutheran and a student of theology and journalism.

Tomorrow we head into “real” St. Francis territory as we cross from Umbria into Lazio and overnight at Poggio Bostone, a place closely associated with St. Francis’ life and spiritual development.

20130520-215140.jpgFrim left: me, Sevastian, our host restaurateur/hotelier, Jacqueline, and new arrival Andreas