Post Via Day3 – Home

It is with no lack of excitement that we woke this morning knowing that we were going home. Home for us is a beautiful place, and we’ve missed it.

Early to the airport.

We arrived at the Airport early and had a leisurely wait until boarding. I’d used Frequent Flyer miles to upgrade our return journey to Business Class so it was going to be a nice journey.

Boarded in BC!!! She deserves it.

Two hours into the flight I noticed that we were flying near London. So there is was, in the short span of two hours our pilot had undone 94 days of hard work, sweat, and pain. Wow.

Our flight had been delayed by about 45min leaving Rome. But normally they can make the time up in flight and they nearly did this time as well. However we didn’t have a leisurely connection in Newark so it was going to be tight. It all depended on the big 4. Immigration, bag claim bag re-check and security.

Immigration was a breeze with no one in line ahead of us. Bag claim could have been faster but no big deal. Bag re-check was ultra quick. Three down, one to go.

Anyone who has flown through Newark knows how much of a zoo security can be in Newark. The Airport just isn’t built for it. The halls are narrow and they’ve had to cram scanning equipment as well as serpentine queues in spaces designed for foot traffic. It just never works well.

We arrived in line with just a few minutes to spare. Then some disorderly people in front of us refused to follow the rules and everything ground to a halt. Tick tick tick tick.

It was fortunate that our gate was the first one in the terminal. As we arrived the last call was announced and we boarded (last on the plane). Whew.

After a few quick texts to family to say we’d re-entered the USA after being away for over 100 days we were taxiing down the runway on the quick 1-1/2hr flight to Greensboro.

Arrived in Greensboro – awaiting the kiddos.

It was so nice to be picked up by our daughter and granddaughter. It was a fun reunion. Somehow I think Allison is pretty happy! What do you guys think? Ok…so am I.

We arrived to a welcome home banner and a fridge and cupboards full of food and a beef stew dinner (a gift from our kids, my sister Nadine, and friend Cindy). We also heard that some saints from our church swung by and did some pruning and trimming and weed whacking for us as a gift. I’m overwhelmed.

Overwhelmed and feeling the love.

Being home was bizarre. Some things had changed. We’d had some landscaping done while we were away and it really changed the look of the lot. Also the house felt HUGE. The bathroom was enormous; the kitchen immense.

After a few hours with the kids and a home cooked meal we planned on crashing early since the jet-lag was kicking in.

It is great to be home.

Tomorrow I will write a few summary thoughts to tie a bow on this vlog. In about 2 weeks I will add a P.S. to talk about the transition from pilgrim to citizen. After that we will all have to wait and see what the future brings.

It’s been a real blessing to have done this. The investment will increase as the weeks pass and the memories fade. I know I’ll be glad for the reminders of important people, special places and beautiful sights.

Thanks to all who have been a part of our journey. Thank you for your patience and for your thoughts and your prayers along the way.

Thank you for commenting and writing to us. It meant a lot to hear from you and know we were not alone in this. Until tomorrow…ciao.

Post Via Day2 – Restless

Just a short post today to let you see a little bit of Rome and share a thought or two.

We packed our bags and left them at the hotel after we checked out. We had a mission to find a few simple gifts and see a few sights. A fellow pilgrim had told us about two churches on the same block designed by competing masters of the Baroque era. Here is an excerpt of the texts he sent me.

“In via Quirinale there are two churches near each other. One is San Carlino alle quattro fontane (architect is Borromini). The other is San Andrea al Quirinale (architect is Bernini). These are the two giants of the Baroque period with radically different styles. Borromini creates stark interiors with complex geometrical forms, especially curved lines, while Bernini does incredible embellishments. Their personalities were also very different. Bernini was the consummate man about town and Borromini was a recluse always dressed in black and committed suicide.”

His advice was Spot-On. The two churches were great examples if radically different styles of Baroque. Which do you like.

Next we went past the Pantheon which we’ve visited in the past. It is awesome but the line was too long to re-visit.


We finally visited Castile Sant’Angelo the castle/fortress/palace of popes.

Finally we strolled back past the Vatican


The time for us to head to our airport hotel finally arrived and not a moment too soon. Honestly this pilgrimage has made me restless. Staying in one place for two nights just felt odd. I don’t think we could have stayed another night.

As we walked out, the entire city came out and literally rolled out the red carpet. We were touched. Truly touched.

For Us!!! You shouldn’t have.

We hung around for a bit but never found out what was REALLY going on.

The last “adventure” was our short train ride to the airport where our hotel for the night awaited. It was surreal to see things pass by at high speed. Our journey home has begun. We so look forward to being home. We miss so much about it – not the least of which is our family.

Post Via Day1 – Shopping

First, just to let you know, I updated Day 94 with videos of our morning update and and our entry into St Peter’s etc for those that might want to see them. Check it out.

We began our first day off the Via with a quick trip to schedule our Covid tests. Then we hit the town to find some new clothes. Believe me…this is no vanity trip. We REALLY need some new clothes.

Allison HATES shopping and spending money in general, but once you get her used to the idea at hand she does alright. We spent a frustrating morning with little success…well, no success.

However after lunch we moved our search to Trastevere and she finally found a dress she liked and would wear. Oh, and our negative Covid results came back. Good news all around.

Shopped until Dark

It’s our baby girl’s birthday today (Happy Birthday again Isabel) so we had a nice video chat with her. Then came a single glass of wine and boom, the gloves came off.

We were darting in and out of stores like madmen. It was fun, but tiring. In the end we managed the transition from Pilgrim to consumer pretty well I think.

None of this is for Mark, but he did buy a 10Euro shirt. Big spender.

Tomorrow however our feet have to come back on the ground.

We ended our evening at the street side restaurant adjacent to our hotel. Skipping the pasta and pizza for an evening we both chose salads. Grazie mille.

A street musician came by and played some nice music and then asked for some money. Normally I’d be happy to oblige but in this instance we literally had nothing but a credit card. He loudly proclaimed to everyone that we were too rich. Kind of sad really. But it didn’t ruin our dinner.

Well that’s it for the evening. Tomorrow we should have something more interesting to report but for now Buona Notte

Day94 La Storta to Roma – This is It!!!!!!!!!!

We slept in late. When I mean late, I mean not just late for pilgrims but 8am late. It felt awesome.

Morning Update

Our first goal was to get to a pharmacy and get a Covid test. But when we arrived the pharmacist on staff convinced us to wait a day and get tested in Rome. So this was our decision.

Our morning walk took us through the city of La Storta and among the Via Cassia a major route into Rome. La Storta is really just a big suburb of Rome. It is not a very scenic walk but we attempted to see beyond the many cars and trash scattered about.

However after a couple of hours the path took us into some natural park areas.

These natural areas were mentally relaxing and took us several hours closer to Rome. In the course of our walk we climbed to the peak of Monte Mario and took on our first glimpses of Rome. Here we met a new friend!

Lilian from Brazil was admiring the view of the city. We decided to eat lunch at that very spot. We all shared our left over stash of food. It was a wonderful meal. And since Lilian had planned ahead and knew where to go to get the testimonial, we decided to walk with her into Rome. It was so nice getting to know Lillian and having some feminine company. Guess I should say this is Allison writing otherwise readers may wonder at that comment.

So we walked into Rome together and directly into St Peter’s plaza within the Vatican. We’d made it, 2250km (1400mi) from London to Rome. How did it feel?

Very honestly I was astonished and overwhelmed to be there. I was proud of our accomplishment. I was happy to have made it. But I was also I was sad to have finished the adventure. The desire to be home multiplied tenfold but also a sense of tiredness set in.

After walking through the Vatican and collecting our Testimonial we scurried to our hotel and celebrated with an ever so non-pilgrim dinner.

At dinner we chatted with some nice young ladies. It was nice to have some feminine company. This is Mark and I just had to throw that remark in for fun.

Seriously though we got some funny looks from a couple folks today as we were searching for a restaurant. We were tired and I mentioned that we had walked from London. The perplexed looks really made us laugh. Yes, we have actually WALKED here from London.

It’s still a little hard to believe.

For those that have wondered, we will continue this blog for a few more days. I want to document the time in Rome, the voyage home and the transition from pilgrim to citizen. It is not an easy path. In some ways harder than being a pilgrim. So…stay with us just a bit longer.

Day93 Campagnano to La Storta – Locked out.

Our morning started with a cold snap that made us dig the warm gear back out to start the day. Not to fear, we were shedding it within 30min.

The day was going to be marginally challenging since we had 500+m ascent in store and we really haven’t climbed much in recent days. “Would our climbing muscles scream at the effort?” We’d see soon enough.


The climb into Campagnano di Roma continued on the other side of town as we left the streets for a nicely forested walk.

We spent some of the morning asking each other questions about what the trip was like, what our favorite foods were etc. Here’s an example:

One of the only “tourist sites” on todays walk was a church known for a miraculous Madonna. However unlike so many churches this one was no mere museum but had an active congregation. We visited the place not to view an image, but for the more banal reason of getting one of our last pilgrim stamps before Rome. The church, of course, was on the top of a steep hill.

When we reached the top we ran into Victoria and Margarite (Maggie and Vicky to their friends) We’d last met them in Montefiascone. These two Italian ladies are loads of fun and are having a great time together. Unlike our first meeting we spent a long time today talking and walking together.

The morning crew – Allison, Maggie, Vicky, and Annie

Along the way we also met for the first time Annie. She is a French lady and spoke little English. Switching back again to French was sooo difficult but after a few minutes we could have a conversation together (except I kept saying “Si” instead of “Oui” all day).

As those that know me well will attest, I talk a lot. I love to converse. Allison is more reserved. But I was proud to see her chatting in French with Annie.

Here is they REALLY scary part. Somehow we ended up acting as interpreter at times between the French and Italian. Whaaaaat? Let’s hope no important international relations have been destroyed as a result.

One more companion joined us walking today. Herman is from the German-speaking part of Switzerland also walked with us for a couple hours.

I have been surprised how many people walk the Francigena in stages. Herman has walked sections for a few years.

The end of the day we walked through a national reserve. It was pleasant but the path was also shared with mountain bikes, and there were tons of them out today (Sunday). Enough were around that we walked in kicked-up dust at times.

After a quick pilgrim lunch (our last for this pilgrimage actually) we continued to the end of the park where it was interesting to see a hoard of Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts of different ages playing in the park. They were in full “dress” uniforms but playing games and exploring and having a blast.

Our day ended with a bit of a stumble. We’d booked a room in a house a bit on the outskirts. We arrived to the designated address and no one was home. The gate was locked and no one answered the buzzer nor the telephone number.

I tried emailing and messaging multiple times and became somewhat frustrated. Your options are really limited when you are on foot.

Finally I contacted via chat. They also had no luck. However they requested we stay put for 30min and if we didn’t hear from the owner they’d be “back with a resolution”. I’m not sure what they’d have actually done but it never came to that.

<20km by the end of the day

At about the 28min mark our host was in touch via WhatsApp. She apologized and told us to go two houses down and look in the mailbox for the key. Sure enough we were able to get in and get washed up.

Allison was excited to think that we didn’t HAVE to do laundry tonight but I think she was off by a day. Sorry dear. One more night.

One chore was left and after a shower I headed back out for a shopping adventure. The round trip added another 3km but I was smart and brought my backpack this time so that I would be able to more easily tote the groceries home. Dinner tonight = an Italian sausage stir fry with cauliflower, carrot, onion and celery…and of course rice.

We’ve declared this the last of the stuff meals. Tomorrow we will begin weaning ourselves off of 3000cal/day menus and retrain our appetites to match no longer walking 26km or more per day.

I really HATE this part. But it’s oh, so necessary.

Day92 Sutri to Campagnano di Roma – Feeling cooped up.

Looking forward at the weather it seems each day from yesterday until we arrive in Rome will get 1degC warmer each day. You could tell the change already as we left this morning.

Morning Update

The walk today was pleasant but rather uneventful. There was only one village between start and end and there wasn’t anything of note to see there either.

We did enjoy the quiet walk mainly along farm track and country roads.

About 3/4 of the way to Campagnano di Roma we walked past a recreational park near Monte Gelato (Mount Ice Cream – what an excellent name). There we found a small waterfall and cascades alongside an old mill in use since the 1970’s. It was a pleasant shady place so we stopped and enjoyed a gourmet luncheon.

Mouthful of food smile.

For this trip I’d downloaded Oliver Twist Audio book and when the trail got monotonous we’d listen to a chapter. We have three days of walking left (two now) and we still had 14 chapters left. So we hit 10 chapters today. Great book.

I sure hope the Beauty Mix snacks we purchased worn as advertised.

We also spent quite a bit of time talking about what items in our packs and on our persons that would not make the trip home. I have to admit that I have spending way too much time day dreaming about what items I can throw away. My odiferous shoes are first on my list. All the people on my flight home can thank me later. In a shocking development, Mark had fewer items on his throw away list.

Campagnano di Roma is another fortress town that sits atop a tall steep hill. Translated from Latin, “Campagnano di Roma” roughly means “pilgrim must climb steeply at the end of the day”.


It was indeed a steep climb into town. But we were soon to the top and set about finding our lodging. This would be different in two aspects. Firstly I had neither address nor location. What I did have was an email with instructions. Secondly was the lodging itself.

Tonight we are actually sleeping in a chicken coop – on purpose. Well, a converted one anyway, but there are chickens outside. I hope they aren’t too upset that they got kicked out on our behalf.

We got set up in the coop and set of to walk the town. That was actually disappointing. We found nothing interesting. But we sat outside in a park with a good phone signal and got to video chat with Allison’s brother and sister-in-law. That was nice. It hit me during the call, when they were talking about next weekend’s plans, that we’d be home next weekend too. That will be odd having been gone so long.

Goodnight all!

Day91 Vetralla to Sutri – Woods and Amphitheaters

With a short day ahead we were really slow in leaving the apartment this morning. The high wind of yesterday had pretty much abated and despite the cool 8degC temperature it felt much warmer.

Right off the bat we ran into Stephanie, an Italian lady walking her dog. She’d lived in Wales for a few years and spoke excellent English. She was one of the few people to come up to us and initiate a conversation.

Morning Updates

After a short climb we walked along a beautiful stretch of hazelnut orchards for a couple hours.

And then out of nowhere two ancient towers appeared. These were the ruins of an abbey and a Roman cemetery. It was interesting to try and identify portions of these unrestored structures.

By about 10:30 we’d already reached Capranica where, after visiting the church of Madonna del Piano we walked through the ancient gate to the city. The was yet another typical hilltop fortress towns with windy streets and fun narrow throughout.

The weather was cool but when the wind stilled and the sun hit you, you could get hot quickly. We must have donned and doffed our layers 4-5 times during the day.

Adding a layer

After the visit to Capranica the trail entered a beautiful wooded trail that was soft underfoot and crisscrossed a small running stream. This section ran for about 8km and reminded me of home.

At the end of this section we were already very near our final destination of Sutri. But being near didn’t mean that we’d be propping our toes up just yet.

Sutri is home to several historic monuments including a “recently” re-discovered Amphitheater that is unique in the Roman world. When I say “recently” I mean in the nineteenth century. Before that it was pastureland.

Sutri Amphitheater

It is unique as it is excavated entirely from the surrounding rock. Because it was lunch time we decided to park our bodies inside the amphitheater and have a bite to eat.

Roman Graves

The amphitheater is part of an archeological park that also includes Etruscan cemeteries, a Roman graveyard and a former cave used in the cult of Mithras – turned Christian church (Madonna del Parto). A church within a cave is a pretty cool thing. The frescos were interesting.

Finally we made our way to our lodging for the night. Once again we ended up with an entire apartment to ourselves. We showered and washed and then headed out to get dinner supplies and food for tomorrow as well.

Allison whipped a quick dinner.

Chef Allison

After that we just decided to veg and enjoy some rest.

Day90 Viterbo to Vetralla – Via Cava di Sant ‘Antonio and Olive Groves

After a typical breakfast of coffee toast and jam we headed out for Day90 of our long voyage from London. Ninety days, three months…wow.

Morning Update

Entering the Cave

After leaving the city of Viterbo we soon encountered the unexplained Via Cave. These channels were dug by the Etruscans or perhaps even their predecessors.

As we walked through them I was initially unimpressed. Later the depth of the channels (as much as 15m) really was astounding. All dug by hand of course.

Their purpose is a mystery but they are scattered through Tuscany. Some think they are defensive channels, others mere roads, but none of these explanations really justify the depth and extent of the network. Before I did any research I actually guessed they may have been dug to follow a vein of copper or tin or gold. It seems it will remain a mystery.

What we do know is that they are still used today. Somehow they accommodate two lanes of traffic, but we have no idea how that works as you will see below.

After we emerged from the “Caves” we coursed through groves of olive trees as the Via undulated southward toward Rome. The paths were primarily farmland and other than our first spotting of Nectarine trees and Hazlenut “trees” and a few other interesting plants, we saw nothing remarkable.

What is this?

We stopped for lunch at a hot spring. It was just a local one set up as a picnic spot. The water was lukewarm at best. But the grassy spot was perfect for a picnic – or so we thought.

Our warm picnic spot that quickly became chilly.

As we ate our Avocado, tinned Salmon, and chips, the wind picked up and we both got quite chilled. Before lunch was over, we had bundled up in almost all our layers of warm clothing. The wind packed quite a cold punch.

Tinned fish, bread, and an avocado – pilgrim lunch.

The wind persisted as we began walking again after lunch. Sometimes the wind gusts were strong enough to make us fight to walk in a straight line. There were even a few times the wind won.

We started to enter Vetralla and I began thinking this must be an ancient place. For about 100m on approach to the village there were little caves carved into the rock. Some seemed to be sheds, others displays, and still others has addresses as if someone lived inside. Perhaps they do – did I see a Baggins address…or did I imagine it?

The town however makes the most of its Francigena roots.

We found our lodging without any difficulty. Our host met us at the door and showed us around. Because we were still a little chilled after our usual cleanup routine, we enjoyed a nice hot cup of cappuccino. As a matter of fact, I am sipping it as I write.

Warming Up

As a result of today’s slightly longer than planned walk (by only 4km), tomorrow will be a bit shorter. That will give us the chance to take a 1km detour and see the Roman amphitheater of Sutri … now, I must go, because we still don’t have a place to stay for tomorrow and I should fix that. 🙂

Day89 Montefiascone to Viterbo – Spas and Popes

The short climb back up to the Torre di Papi was almost the only climb we made today.

Morning Update

The rest of the day was a slow steady downhill run across ancient Roman pavement and modern cinder farm tracks.

We ran into Victoria and Margarite who were on day 1 of their renewed March to Rome. These two friends have done pieces of the walk for several years.

Dark rich soil

We also crossed paths again with Tobin (Canada) and Raphael (Baltimore) but spent little time with either as one was speeding on and the other taking a slower approach.

Porcupine Quill

The weather warmed a little and we were soon in shorts again.

Other than the beautiful scenery, the highlight of the day was passing another hot springs resort.

It was nice to take advantage of the free entry for pilgrims. The hot springs were relaxing even if the method of changing into our bathing gear I.e. our underwear was less than private. Me holding up a towel for Allison was the best we could do. As usual…no one cared.

Sneak pic

As we were leaving Elana was arriving and we gave her the lay of the land so-to-speak. There were 4 pools (puddles number B1-B4). B1 was cold but the other three warm and only varied in size and shape. Sorry. No pictures were allowed.

After our luxury experience, we continued our journey into town. As we entered Viterbo we were hungry for lunch and there w as a Burger King right across the street. The temptation was too great and the enjoyed some fast food for the first time in about 3 months. It was less than inspiring I’m happy to say.

Snow on the horizon

Viterbo was founded by the Etruscans but is know as the city of Popes. Remembering that in one period of history the Pope was more than a spiritual leader but also reigned over a country of his own “The Papal States”, it is not surprising that he would have a palace and a fortified one at that. In fact, it was here that in 1145 the first conclave was held to elect the new Pope. A fun fact is that they took so long (3 years) that the citizens revolted and literally locked the cardinals up, giving them only bread and water in order to “nudge them along”. It was in 1266 that the Pallazo (Palace) was built.

Now I tell you all this cool history and I have to admit that we had a chance to visit the palace and chose not to. We got there and there was some cool architectural outside and the open church. After that we just both yawned and decided to head back for supper. Honestly we’re a bit tour-ed out.

Instead we strolled through the medieval streets instead and found some cool things. We popped into an open church just to look. It was the Church of Gonfalone – never heard of it – us either. But inside we found an amazing ceiling. It’s the kind of place that, as an engineer, bends the mind. I studied the ceiling for about 15min and I honestly can’t tell you if it is flat, domed, or vaulted. The painted scene is a master work of illusion.

We also found a cool medieval street with a crazy suspended arch.

Our night ended with a stop at the grocery store for tonight’s dinner supplements and lunch supplies. On the way out we were stopped by a Nigerian man. He asked if we were English and he seemed relieved to have someone to talk to. He was from Nigeria and worked until recently. He isn’t too happy about the Italians (he doesn’t feel accepted). He hopes to get to the USA some day because “there, anyone who wants to work can make a living”. The American dream is alive friends. Honestly, I hope he finds his way there. If we had our packs with us he’d have received a key.

We decided to eat in at the convent. They have a small kitchen and we have a package of risotto that we’ve carried for about 10 days. There we met two engineering students from Myanmar an d a high school student from the area. We were also served by our host. She was one of the kindest loving souls we’ve met on this trip. For her gentle heart and attention she got a key. I told her the story of the key and although she was already familiar with it I think she loved that she heard it from me. Hugs followed.

Tomorrow is yet another short day. A pilgrim could get used to this.