Rome

13th June 2019

It’s time for us to farewell Rome after our three days here. We’ve done some sightseeing and seen and done a few things we weren’t able to do last time. It’s been very hot so we would get an early start, head out and see the sights, have lunch and then go back to our appartment and rest until things cooled down. I think we’ve got the siesta down pat. Then it was time to go out again for another wander around and find a place for dinner.

We’ve been back in St Peter’s Basilica and this time climbed up into the dome. It costs €8 each and it takes a mighty effort if you don’t take the lift. We walked to Rome from Florence so no lift for us. After climbing and going round and round enough to make you dizzy you come to a level that you can look down into the Basilica, it’s caged so it’s difficult to get photos. Then there is more climbing and no lift option up very steep stairs in a narrow sloping to one side corridor between the outer and inner shell of the dome or cupola. This finally brings you to the very top and you get the best possible view of the whole of Rome as this is the highest point. I have issues with heights but none of these viewing points were a problem as they were all surrounded by grills.

We went to the crypt or grotto where the remains of St Peter are. Many Popes have been laid to rest here too. It’s such a special place.

We also went into the treasury which has so many beautiful and interesting things, gold candelabras and various sacremental objects, robes and Papal hats. I can see that this might not appeal to some folk. That was all enough for one day and after our siesta we headed out for one last dinner with our mates Paul and Zbigniew. It was a fabulous night lots of food and wine and of course lots of laughs. It’s been a privilege getting to know these guys and it was a sad farewell. It’s always sad saying good bye to your Camino family.

Next day we found the Holy Stairs Santa Scala. These stairs were once in Jerusalem and were moved here (that’s the short story) . It is said that Christ ascended these stairs to be sentenced to crucifixion by Pontius Pilate. They have been encased in wood for over 300 years and recently restored to their original state. The staircase leads to the Sancta Sanctorum, the ancient private chapel of popes. The faithful climb these stairs on there knees saying a prayer on each stair. The stairs are quite worn dowm. There is another staircase one can climb on foot if it can’t be done on the knees. So we used that one as our knees aren’t up to the task at the moment. Using our little booklet with the prayers we slowly made our way up to the beautiful little chapel.

Then we headed across the road to the Basilica San Giovanni with it’s magnificent statues and mosaics on the ceiling.

We made our way for a quick whiz round the inside of the very impressive Vittorio Emmanuel building. Very interesting museum full of military history.

Hot and exhausted it was time to head back for a siesta before another lovely dinner in Trastevere.


View from the very top of the dome.

Looking up into the dome in St Peter’s Basilica.

Holy Stairs for the faithful on their knees.

Stairs for the faithful with bad knees.

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Monte Sacro to Vatican City

Day 33, 10th June 2019 (11 km )

It’s a wrap!

After a very nice breakfast we took off for our last day at about 8 am with havily laiden back packs now fuller from yesterday’s shopping frenzy.

It was already starting to get warm when we set out but we stayed on the shady side of the street which helped.

The street was busy…very busy. Traffic, noise, fumes we haven’t been used to this for the last month and there was no escape. We had chosen to take the most direct route to our accommodation to save some km’s but there would have been traffic regardless of whichever route we took….so we battled on. It was only 7.5 km to our appartment anyway.

We finally arrived and checked in, dumped our packs, found somewhere for lunch then continued our walk so we could finish at The Vatican.

We’re about 30 minutes walk away from the Vatican which seemed like a really long way funnily enough even though we didn’t have our packs on.

It was emotional arriving at the Vatican, our journey was finally over. It’s been a very tough pilgrimage..our toughest even though it’s been the shortest in distance,around 500km give or take a bit. We’ve had rain, hail, snow, wind, mud and a heat wave. We’ve climbed steeper mountains than ever before..often slippery muddy slopes. We’ve decended some (in my opinion) treacherous declines often too close to the edge for my comfort. I’ve been challenged without doubt and often, in fact rarely a day without some challenge or another.

The most wonderful part for me is that we have met some wonderful people, some will remain life long friends. Our dear friend Beate and her husband Raimund came and found us for my 60th birthday and I spent that day with old and new friends and that was a special day too.

All in all a wonderful and challenging Cammino…..

Accommodation.

The Rabbit Hole €245 for 3 nights booking.com.

Fantastic little appartment/bedsit. Very modern, extremely well appointed . Very clever use of a small space. Very clean, great value. Good location. Our host even left a very nice bottle of wine for us. I highly recommended and I’d definitely stay here again.

A perfect place for us to end our pilgrimage. It is 30 minutes by foot away from the Vatican. Shouldn’t be a problem when you’ve already walked all the way here in the first place.

Monterotondo to Monte Sacro

Day 32, 9th June 2019 (19.6 km)

We smashed it today, hit the road by 6am and set a good pace. We really wanted to beat the heat, which turned out to be a smart thing to do as it was 32 degrees by 10 am. We heard later that it got up to 37 degrees.

We had a couple of fairly long and steep climbs but it wasn’t too bad. We walked on the last of the gravel roads we’ll encounter on this trip for a while and our old mate mud turned up to farewell us but fortunately it only made a very brief appearance.

We walked through what will be the last of the amazing country side we’ll see on this hike and we soaked it up. The first part of today was peaceful and beautiful. At one stage on a crossroad in the middle of some farms lay three dogs sleeping. Once they heard us they woke up and rushed towards us barking with tails wagging hoping to make new friends. We chatted to them for a few moments before heading off. The dogs just flopped back down on the road where they had been before. After a couple of minutes my GPS made a noise to let me know we should have taken the turn at the crossroad. Back we went and our doggy friends were very excited to see us again. We took the correct turn and this time the dogs followed us for quite a long way before running up into the bush and presumably back to their intersection. We thought it was funny that they weren’t going to bother following us when we were heading in the wrong direction. What clever dogs.

We marched along on the lovely country lanes enjoying some shade. We could feel the heat rising so we were very grateful for all the trees that provided shade.

Eventually our gravel road led into bitumen and although it stayed a country lane for ages we knew that the country side was coming to an end.

Eventually the suburbs appeared and we fell sweating into the first bar for refreshments but we didn’t hang around long as we needed to push on.

The suburbs became busier with more and more traffic. It’s really awful being in the city with noisy traffic and fumes when you’ve not been used to it for so long.

We found our hotel which is really lovely and such a treat after our dodgy digs yesterday. We got here early, by 11am infact so we’d made fantastic time for our 19 km but check in wasn’t until 2pm. We were sweating and soaked the lovely receptionist said everything was ok and we could have our room early. “Just go and relax, the air conditioning is already on so you can cool yourselves”, she said. How fantastic was that…she was so helpful.

Refreshed and chores done for the last time we headed out in search of sustenance. That didn’t take too long as there was a lovely restaurant a few doors down. Fuzz had a spaghetti he’s been hankering after and I had ravioli which was a surprise as the filling was a cheesy, potato filling. I was expecting a meat filling but it was delicious just the same. I have had one similar to that on this trip before but I’ve never seen it in the past.

We headed back to our lovely hotel to just rest in the cool. We started checking maps for our last day’s walk and realized if we take a direct route instead of the winding guide book version we only have 7.5 km to go. I felt a bit ripped off because if I’d realized that we could have got there today. It didn’t really matter because it would have really been too hot to continue and we had our accommodations booked anyway.

Fuzz suddenly said ‘hey, we could get a taxi to Decathlon, it’s not far from here”. We love Decathlon. It’s our favourite sports store. It has everything you could want.

Our lovely receptionist called us a taxi and we were off to Porta Roma in no time. It turns out Porta Roma is a massive shopping centre. Imagine Indooroopilly Shopping Town but on steroids….huge. We were trying to find where Decathlon was and saw a clothing store ,called Pull&Bear. It looked good so we thought we’d pop in. There were some really lovely things and the prices were good too. We were like piranha in a feeding frenzy picking this and trying that. It’s so funny when you’ve been wearing the same couple of outfits for a month, how exciting it is to have different clothes to wear. We bought far too much but we didn’t care. Then we found Decathlon and our frenzy started all over. Again more purchases. Hmm….now we have to carry all this stuff tomorrow. But hey….It’s only 7.5 km.

Got a taxi back to our hotel, dumped our bags and went out for a quick bite of dinner. Then back home for a fashion parade. Now I’ve realised I’ll need some shoes…bugger. They’ll never have shoes my size in Italy. I’ll just have to get by.

I was going to wear my new hiking gear into Rome ( well we’re in Rome now really) for my last days hike I should say but I’ve decided to wear what I’ve been wearing for the whole month, just for old times’ sake.

Accommodation.

Hotel Aniene $96 AUD inc b/fast booking.com

Perfect. It’s very nice, extremely helpful, happy staff.

Highly recommend, I’d definitely stay here again.

Monte Libretti to Monterotondo

Day 31, 8th June 2019 (17.4 km)

We got an early start this morning because it was going to be a very hot day. We whizzed up to our local bar for coffee and croissant (called cornetti here in Italy) and then hit the trail just before seven….smelling all lemony fresh ( because I’d washed our clothes in dishwashing liquid yesterday).

We made great time today. There were some hills and although some of them were fairly long,none were too steep. There was some rocky surfaces but quite a bit of bitumen road. Sometimes country lanes with more cherry trees, olive groves and pear and apricot trees kept us company. We wandered along enjoying the scenery.

We passed an old Roman tower just sticking out of a field before walking for a while on a road with some traffic. Not heaps of traffic but what there was, was going far too fast. Fortunately that passed quickly and we eventually arrived and found our accommodation. We were let in early which was fantastic so we cleaned up and went out for a very lovely lunch.

We didn’t need much dinner so we’ve just popped out for aperitivo and that’ll do us for tonight.

We’ll head home now and get to bed early as we have about 19 km to walk tomorrow and it’s going to be a very hot day.

Accommodation.

La Tana Segreta Booking.com

€60 …note…it wasn’t that price when we booked it but we were charged extra when we arrived. Nice lady let us in early so we were greatful.

Ponticelli to Monte Libretti

Day 30, 7th June 2019 (14.7 km)

We headed out on a rather hot day a little bit later than we should have. We won’t make that mistake again.

We popped into the bar to see Patricia and Riccardo for a quick coffee and a chat. Then headed off expecting a fairly easy day of what we thought was only 13 km.

It got hot very quickly. There were more climbs than I’d expected and some quite steep although not as bad as yesterday.

At some point we missed a turn and rather than go back we stayed on the road. There was a bit of traffic but not too bad and we made good time. Probably the easiest part of today’s walk.

We finally arrived at a bar in the town of Aquaviva where we had an early lunch. The trail joined back in again here. We weren’t in any rush as it was only 6 km to go.

By the time we started again it was so hot. Back on the gravel trails sometimes rocky with the hot sun reflecting back up at us from the light coloured gravel made us feel even hotter. We moved through olive groves and sometimes our path was lined by peach trees with fruit not ready yet and heavily laden cherry trees.

Finally a very long, steep stretch to the hilltop town of Monte Libretti, our destination today. We fell exhausted and sweating into the first bar and swilled down a coke quick smart.

We had a few problems trying to find out where our accommodation was because we had no mobile service in this town. This has happened a few times in hilltop towns, it’s very frustrating. So after connecting to the bar’s WiFi we were back in business and got to our digs for the night without any problems. It’s 800 m off the track so we have to back track tomorrow but it’s a really lovely little appartment and it’s all ours tonight. Very well appointed and a good price.

Washing done and drying in the hot sun on the little patio, we headed to the bar for a gelato for me and beer for Fuzz and some WiFi

It’s a simple life on the trail.

Accommodation.

Casa Lory €50

Great value, lovely modern little appartment. Close to everything.

I’d stay here again.

Poggio San Lorenso to Ponticelli

Day 29, 6th June 2019 (22.5 km)

We woke to another beautiful sunny day, had a very nice breakfast of coffee and cakes before taking off on what we knew was going to be a tough day.
We weren’t wrong…..It was at times a Pith helmet kind of day with some more overgrown path which made navigating difficult for a time. Old mate mud didn’t leave us alone either and while not the major feature of the day definitely had a presence.
The hills were our major source of entertainment for the day. Up steep inclines, down a bit then up more steep inclines. I have finally started to feel fitter and have barely noticed the back pack for a while now. I love it when the ‘fitness’ kicks in even though it seems to have taken longer to actually realize this time and it’s a shame that there are only four more walking days left before we reach Rome and the Vatican City.
We kept going along varied surfaces, sometimes forest floor, bitumen or rocks….lots of rocks and I’ve already mentioned the mud, over creeks and it was getting warmer as the day progressed.
We arrived at an archeological site of Roman ruins in time for our lunch break. We ate the ham panini we’d had made for us earlier just before we left the little town of Poggio San Lorenzo. We also thirstily drank the can of coke we’d bought there too. Wow, did we need that.
We set off again feeling good. Shortly after our picnic we passed a little church. The church of San Vittore. The church contains the sarcophagus of the 4th century martyr Vittore. It also has a well inside who’s waters are said to have healing properties. Shame it was closed, we could have used some of those waters particularly by the end of the day.
Eventually we came to a little bar and stumbled in for more coke. It was nice just to sit for in the cool for a while. We had to start again sometime though so off we went again.
We were beginning to wonder if we would ever arrive at our destination. There were little towns, clinging to hillsides that weren’t too far away and they teased and beckoned us almost luring us off the correct path. My trusty gps app kept us on track fortunately.
We were exhausted, this really was a tough and long day and it’s really warmed up in Italy now. Finally we came to our accommodation. What a reward for our efforts this place is. We have the whole house to ourselves as no one else is coming here today. The house has been renovated extremely well and is very well appointed. It’s also in very lovely grounds. What a treat.
After getting cleaned up we headed to the little bar in the town for a drink. The owner of our house also very kindly made a dinner reservation for us there for later, they do a pilgrim menu.
It turned out that it was just the very friendly bar owners Patricia and Riccardo for dinner besides Fuzz and I so the four of us ate and chatted away until quite late. I really got to practice some conversational language rather than just phrases which was really good for me. They were all very patient with me as I tried to add to the conversation and did a great job of correcting me, we had heaps of laughs. It was a fabulous end to a very grueling day.

Accommodation.

Il Viandante (whole house…may have to share with other guests)

€50. Great price, very lovely house. Helpful owner.

I’d definitely stay here again.

Definitely go to Patricia’s bar for dinks and or dinner.

Rieti to Poggio San Lorenzo (Agriturismo Santa Guista

Day 28, 5th June 2019 (21.5 km)

Today looked easy in the guide book but it wasn’t. Shortly after leaving the town we started on a very over grown path full of stinging nettles and brambles. Fortunately Paul had sent a message to let us know we’d need long trousers today. He and Zbigniew are now ahead by one day and we were very grateful for the information. Overgrown paths and nettles would become the main theme of the day…perhaps at least half of today’s walk.

After a long climb we found an ancient Roman bridge. There was a picnic table and it was lunch time…..how fortunate. We had a simple picnic and then headed off again.

Gravel, and bitumen then a very muddy climb before finally emerging onto a bitumen down hill. We walked down until we found the turn off to our lovely Agriturismo. It’s very nice indeed but the downside is it’s 800 m off the trail and it’ll be uphill to get back to the track tomorrow. The other downside is it’s 2.5 k short of the start tomorrow and it’s a long and difficult stage. Oh well…We’ll see what happens.

We’re currently sitting at our beautiful Agriturismo on the covered patio drinking a beer watching the trees rustling and swaying away in the distance and listening to the birds chirping away. Memories of today’s challenges fading away.

We had a little while to wait for dinner so Fuzz and I played cards. We haven’t done that since we were on the Via Francigena in 2017. What a laugh we had.

Finally it was time for as beautiful dinner. Tagliatelli with mushrooms followed by chicken sort of stewed in wine with olives abd a mixed salad on the side. All delicious

Our view as we rest after a hard day.

That’s actually the trail.

Not the Roman bridge just one we had to cross.

Simple picnic.

Agriturismo Santa Guisto €70 inc b/fast. Also does dinner at extra cost.

Very nice…beautiful. 800m off the track though.