Tuesday, November 12, 2013


We both agreed that this is our last pilgrimage. It was no cake walk for a couple over 70. There were days when I couldn't believe C would keep going. A lot of women much younger than her would have packed it in and taken a train. In fact a lot wouldn't even have started out. We had some days when we meandered along without a care in the world. I really can't recall them right now. The one thing that was a constant for the 92 days was the emotional factor. The not knowing brought on the highs and lows. When fatigue set in along with the highs and lows, they were that much more intense, one way or the other.
I think we are glad we did it, although if we knew what we would be going through before we started, we might not have taken it on. It is a really big commitment. Walking through thunder storms with intense lightening, heavy rain, swelling streams, flooded rivers, all this while trying to find your way. Not for the faint of heart, nor the uncommitted. The piece of paper at the end pales in comparison to the satisfaction of having done the journey together and having met angel upon angel, day after day.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Recovery a Day Four..Vernazza

Rained in the night with thunder and lightening. We have a nice stream running by our deck with a very pleasant constant sound. We started off this morning along the coast trail to Monterosso and it seemed okay for walking but the rocks were slippery. We got there in an hour and a half. We scouted out the town, went and had a caffe/latte/americano/in un beaker and started right back again. We took the same amount of time going back even though there were (C counted them) 543 steps up, she actually got to 620 steps before the top. We had taken stuff out of our packs so they felt real light to us. Our breathing is so good that we overtake many people standing to the side resting. We met a young guy coming up towards us and he was stopped rubbing his ankle. I asked him if he was hurt and he said no, just over heated. Most people had street wear shoes on, not proper hiking boots. Fresh buns with ham and cheese on our sunny deck this afternoon. Local bottle of wine with cheese later this afternoon. It is hard to believe the utter destruction and devestation of this village two years ago when a wall of water and mud came down on it. It is still being rebuilt but you really can't see any visible damage now. The trail between Riomaggiore to Manarola to Corniglia apparently is completely closed. 
Keeping the trail open in this type of terrain must be a challenge. There have been hikers injured from falling rocks. Apparently an Australian woman was hit with a large boulder and seriously injured last year. We will try going to Corniglia on the coast trail in the morning and see how we do.

Recovery Day Three Vernazza

We thought we would take a side trip and do some walking along the coast in Cinque Terre. We boarded the local milk run train to La Spezia. We have seen these local trains along the way when we were walking. They stop at any village along the track and they have a very rough appearance outside.
Inside they are nearly as rough with various odours of local food that have permeated the seats. We find it strange to sit beside Chinese looking people speaking Italian. Happiness is riding the train and being able to have your tunes on again. We would have loved to walk with our tunes on but we found we lost concentration on following the trail markings and several times getting lost because of it. Blame it on Rita McNeil and Willie Nelson. It was nice to get so many emails congratulating us on completing our pilgrimage on the Via Francigena from Canterbury to Rome. The distance is listed anywhere from 2100 to 2200 kilometres but in our case we added who knows how many kilometres, so let's make it 2200. For those members of the Rotary club of South Cowichan in Mill Bay BC back home who are donating so much a kilometre for our walk from Cossonay to Rome, the number is 1350. The dollars will be donated to The Rotary Foundation, a foundation that sponsors humanitarian projects around the world.
Our room in Vernazza has a nice balcony and is cozy. It has a nice view west, out to sea. We have been told that quite a lot of the coast path we want to walk has been closed. This is not uncommon due to the terrain. Tomorrow we will walk to Monterosso if the weather is okay. It did rain some today and that affects the path openings as do rock slides etc.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Florence. Recovery Day two. Thursday

After leaving our room with the sisters we got the underground to the train station and got a fast train to Florence that took 1 1/2 hours. We have a nice hotel room not far from the station and enjoyed the atmosphere in Florence. Yes, there are certainly tourists here but not near as many as Rome. The cathedral here is absolutely breathtaking. How can you take a picture that would do it justice. It was wonderful to walk the streets and piazzas last night and watch the artists and street performers etc along the way. We enjoyed a nice evening meal, pasta of course and booked our train to Vernazza for Friday morning. Oh yes, we had lunch in McDonalds. The only thing that tasted good were the french fries with all the salt. It is odd that a person thinks they have missed something like the mcdonalds food but after you have eaten it, you remember why you don't eat it at home. We stayed at the Three Star-Domus Fluorentia hotel 2 via Degli Avelli near the train station for 56E plus 3E each tourist tax. Phone 055 265 4645.The breakfast there was outstanding, after some where it can be very limited and called an Itslian breakfast.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Rome Plus One

What a difference a day makes. No more walking. Quite a mixed bunch of feelings. Testimonium in hand. A bit at loose ends. Nowhere to go. Need a place to stay for tomorrow night. Lack of internet access limits our ability to make plans for the next few days. The noise and confusion level in Rome compared to what we have been encountering is extreme.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Walking with Angels. La Storta to Rome

Heard rain in the night but it will take more than that to keep us from Rome. We were up at 6am to get ready for the 6:30am breakfast put out by the sisters. It was a simple but nice breakfast with hot milk for the chocolate. We didn't have any idea of how this day was going to go. We only have 17 kilometres to Rome but the track is along the Via Cassia which is a very busy highway. We agreed to take it as it comes and if we find that we feel too vulnerable with the traffic, we will return and take the train in. We followed the VF indicators along the road and walked on sidewalks if there were some or along the roadside. We walked with the traffic knowing that we had to make a right turn down the road further. We had little trouble walking the road as the morning traffic was at a crawl rather than the usual
race track speed we are accustomed to seeing. The VF markings were not great and as we got further into the city they were older red/white painted ones or just painted arrows. Once in awhile a red/white sticker would appear on a pole. It took us about four or so hours to make our way to St.Peter's Square. We stood around in the square, trying to take it all in. It all seemed rather anti-climatic after having walked so far and overcome so many adversities along the way. We always knew it would be about the journey and the people along the way, not just the destination of Rome. We celebrated with a kiss in the square, a few pictures and a couple of beers with lunch. But the amount of people here. Throngs of tourists everywhere, vendors in your face hawking their goods every 20 metres. This we could do without. It is such a rude awakening from the life we have led for the past 52 days. After a visit to the green tourist information box, as the police person called it, we got on bus 23 going to our destination for tonight. Divine Providence, Hospital of San Giacomo and Saint Benedict Labre at b11 Via di Genovesi in Rome. We had bought bus tickets at the tourist office but when we got on the bus, we didn't realize we should have got on the number 23 bus going the other way. The driver finally let us off and after another round at the tourist office, we finally reached our accomodations. We were met at the door by the two hospitaerios, Fazio and Paulo. It is a wonderful feeling to be made to feel special when you arrive, and they made us feel just that. When we were signing in, I said to them that they remind us of when we used to be hospitaerios in Spain at Santo Domingo de la Calzada. They replied, we are going next week to be hospitaerios at Granon, only 9 kilometres from Santo Domingo. They have very good facilities here with two large dorm rooms, one for men and the other for women. They also have sheets and blankets. They went through the routine for this evening. Vespers with the community at 7pm, welcoming ritual of washing feet at 7:45 pm and dinner at 8:15 pm. They have agreed to let us be here for two nights. This will give us a chance to get our testimonium and Vatican stamp in our passports. At 7pm we went down for Vespers at the convent church. Of course the church is very grand with frescoes all over the ceiling. It was nice to hear the pipe organ being played and the voices of the 18 or so nuns singing. Afterwards we went downstairs for the foot washing ceremony. The Signora and Signor put on their official capes on, recited some words and washed and kissed one of each of our feet. After we all stood in a circle holding hands while they recited a prayer.
After that they asked us if we wanted to sing something. So I started singing our table grace of which I 
Know all the words to and C joined me. When we finished they all clapped. Then we sat down to a pasta dinner they made. It was all delicious along with wine.p

Walking with Angels. Campagno di Roma to La Storta

We went down to the restaurant at 7:30pm last night. We sat there for thirty minutes and no one even came to the table even though we were the only ones there. Finally Signor shows up and takes our order. The Italians never come into the restaurants before 8pm. When we finished our pasta dish the Signor wants us to settle our hotel bill at the same time. He says that they will give us a discount because the cook will not be able to be here in the morning. Then he comes back to the table and says the discount is 10E therefore the hotel bill is 65E. I was sorry to have to tell him that we were quoted 60E without breakfast. Then he wanted to know to whom we had spoken to when we made the reservation. This was going nowhere. Then he went away again after not getting a satisfactory answer. Then he came back and says the Signora remembers now and the 60E is correct. All the while he was ignoring the other customers. It was all quite amusing. I went out at 6:45am this morning and found a place for breakfast and noted our track out of town. It had rained last night but was now just overcast. We knew we had about 25k to go today with not too difficult a terrain. We had heard about a dangerous river crossing and wondered what that was all about. Perhaps if one fell in while crossing on the rocks it could be deemed dangerous as the water was relatively deep. We knew we had seen much more dangerous situations than this one. It rained again today which means fewer photos. We averaged our usual 4 km and hour net after stops and arrived in La Storta at 1pm. We quickly found our lodging with the sisters at Instituto Figlie de Nostra, Signira del Sacro Cuore at 1826 Via Cassia. The sisters were very welcoming and we paid for half board with the evening meal included at 74E. The laundry lady commented about this being the last day to wash socks. I just published the last few days while here with the sisters. The setting here is like a park and the building spotless. They kind of set me back when they asked what we wanted to eat. I know now what they wanted to know is what we wanted for the first course before the meat or second course. When I answered spaghetti they nodded okay. The meal tonight was really good. I was a little taken back by C. She had said earlier that she was absolutely starving, but I didn't think she meant that literally. There wasn't a crumb left on the table. As we come down to the last walking day tomorrow, we talked about how it feels after all the mental and physical up and downs we have had on this journey. Such good times and with so many people who helped us on a daily basis. The very few pilgrims we have met along the way, perhaps 6 or 7. The last image we have of those pilgrims we met. A lot of memories to bring back a smile to our faces when the topic comes up.

Walking with Angels. Capranica to Campagno-di-Roma

LActually the day started to go sideways as soon as we went downstairs for breakfast. We had told them 7am and they agreed to that. At 7am we are downstairs with our packs sitting at the table. It us set for breakfast but there is no one around. We start with our buongiorno, no response. Then we get louder, then we go upstairs and knock on the bedroom door across from ours because we heard voices and a dog barking, nothing. Then we knock on that door. The response was nil. Then we started opening doors, still nothing. Then we go outside and try to figure out where the hosts might be.
Finally we find Signora in the outside kitchen and maybe things will move along now. We sit down at the table and she starts bringing in the usual pre-package buns etc. Then Signor appears and he brings bread and freshly squeezed orange juice and caffe americano. After breakfast we go into the outdoor kitchen and they stamp our credentials, while we give him the money, 50E plus $30E for the meal, which we are okay with. Then he informs us that he wants to accompany us for the first while to show us how the trail goes through the forest and along the river. Right away I start to get bad vibes about this but being Canadian we say okay. There is no rain coming down, yet. Off we go at a quick pace, he in front and us behind. Into the woods and then the rain starts. Pretty soon he us getting real wet and then while it is pouring down he gives us instructions not to take the first bridge but to take the second. Handshakes all around, axrrivaderchi. On go the ponchos, now we really in for it. Rain pouring down on a forest path with the odd VF sticker wrapped around a tree branch. The ponchos getting caught on the bushes, all the while we are trying to stay on the trail with the forest floor/trail covered in fallen leaves. We did come to a bridge. It was on the trail and no other bridge in sight, over we go. No harm done we navigate through the woods and finally pop out on to a road with a big brown Via Francigena sign pointed to the right. We have never trusted these political motivated signs but in a weak moment we turn right. Perhaps it was the rain. Perhaps it was me having what might be called an off day, heaven knows there have been a few. In my defence it was raining and we knew we had a terribly late start and wanted to make time. We did see red/white trail indicators every so often. Finally in a couple if kilometres the sky started to clear and I had a bad feeling that the sun was in the wrong spot. Maybe it was just my imagination because there were the markers. Finally we stopped and realized the red/white markers were not the VF at all. Back we go with an increased rate of speed. This I am sure is a character flaw whenever I know I have screwed up, I increase the pace. In what seemed like no time, the three kilometres we walked from the turn have been erased and we are back at the big brown sign with the arrow. Now that the rain has stopped we realize that sign is for people walking from Rome. It was hours after this that I still wanted to go back and tear that sign down with my bare hands. We looked left and there it was, a VF marker indicating that we should go that way. I really don't understand why in the last few days the marking has been so bad and so close to Rome. We never did like the big brown signage put up by people who don't walk. All we want are the red/white VF indicators put up at regular intervals like they have been for weeks. I really wanted to see the volcanic rock amphitheatre etc. hollowed out of the volcanic rock, but the best we could do is view it going by and get one picture. The distance today was approximately 30k. Now with the screwup it is 36k and to top it off we had a very late start and it is raining. This is really starting to look like another, dig deep day. Thankfully at this stage we are conditioned and can increase the pace. Off we go, no stopping along the way until the 15k mark with a stop at a bar for iced tea and a sandwich. Then it is back out knowing that dark comes in quickly with the time change and overcast sky. The woods trails seemed to be getting harder to see the footing but finally we looked up and there on top of another hill, is our town. We have done it again. Like C says, thankfully this has happened at the end of our pilgrimage when we are better conditioned. We found our hotel on the usual fourth asking of directions to it and the room is very comfortable and the heat is on. We are staying at the hotel restaurante Benigni on via Della Vittoria.  Not many pictures taken due to the rain or my mood or just the time factor.
Did we learn anything from today, yes. If one has the opportunity to tear down a big brown Via Francigena sign that points the wrong way, just do it.

Walking with Angels. Viterbo to Capranica

We left our room around 7am without going down to the kitchen for their breakfast of coffee. We stopped at the bakery for cruisants and a flat bread sandwich. The distance to Capranica is 33 kilometres but there is a revised route that we wanted to try that reduces the distance by 8 kilometres.
There was quite a bit of climbing today but our conditioning is pretty good now so it wasn't a problem that way. The route went up through a forest preserve along the rim of a volcano. The forest was open and quite interesting to walk through. Because it is a holiday today, there were many people out picking mushrooms or having family picnics. We were a little concerned about the route but it worked out fine and we arrived in Capranica about 1:30pm. That was the good part. I always have the name and address of where we are staying on a paper so that I can approach people to show them the name etc. It usually takes me about four try's before we actually at our final destination. This city is built high up on a hill and I mean really high up. On the second try I got a lady with a few words of English. She took the paper and went into the bar with it. She had a big discussion with a number of patrons and then came out and said it is down the street to the end and then take the lift down. So off we go not knowing where we are going but trying to figure out what she meant by a lift. We can see that we are high up and when we came go the end if the street there was nothing other than stairs, a lot if them. Down and down we go right to the bottom. I know now by lift she meant the stairs. There is nothing there and it seems like we are out of town. Back up the stairs until we see an opening with cars. I call out to a woman and she indicates we have to go back down and up a hill. Finally we see a sign for this B & B and we follow it right out of town up a steep hill. When we walked up to the door, they are having a big family gathering and the last thing they expected was us. He tells us to wait and brings us bottled water. Finally 45 minutes later the room is ready. We are starting to get cold as we were still in our walking clothes and sweated up. I found a heater and turned it on and then Into the bed we get with our clothes on and fall asleep. There is nowhere to eat and C had asked him if they would make us a meal and he had said yes. No two days have been the same since we started. When we got to town we thought we would find our place and put our packs down and see the town. We never thought we would have gone through the town and out the other side without stopping. It seemed like such a historic town to look into. About 6pm I went down to talk about dinner tonight. He asked if pasta would be okay and I said yes. I went up and got C and we went down and sat at the table. There were 1/2 litre white and red wine so we poured some. Pretty soon the good started coming. Anti pasta , cold meat tray, grilled egg plant, toasted bread with chopped tomatoes, on and on it went. Then came the penne and tomato sauce. We couldnt eat anymore. We said no to caffe, salad, dessert and anything else. What a meal and just another surprise.