Rome to Home

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Photo: Please donate!

Nearly one year ago, the LA police picked up a stray off the streets and deposited him in an overcrowded, underfunded dog pound. When no one claimed him, he was slated for euthanasia.

But shelter staff could not bring themselves to kill what they considered an adoptable dog. He was taken off death row and put on a bus to Luvable dog rescue in Eugene, Oregon. He arrived sick, full of fleas and worms, horribly matted, un-neutered, and untrained. After medical treatment, Waldo came to live with me to develop his social skills.

When a social worker called me about a client needing a dog, Waldo found his forever home. He is now a fully trained and licensed therapy dog living with an 18 year-old woman with post traumatic stress disorder. With Waldo at her side, she was able to complete her senior year of high school and graduate in June. She starts university in September. Waldo is just one of the thousands of dogs that Luvable has saved from euthanasia and placed with loving families.

If you have been inspired by my journey or have admired my tenacity in completing it, please consider a donation to Luvable dog rescue. For those putting 10 pennies in their piggy bank for every mile I have walked, my total distance was 1032 miles. For more information, the Luvable address, and paypal account go to:

http://www.luvabledogrescue.org

There is a fantastic video under the “about us” section that describes the LA shelter where Waldo came from, how the transport system from California to Oregon works, and the vision of Luvable’s founder.

Thank you.

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Day 82: Roamed to Rome

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Photo: Glenn, Kathleen and I at Saint Peter’s Square.

Start: La Storta
End: Saint Peter’s Square, Rome
My distance: 11 miles
Correct distance: 11 miles

The walk into Saint Peter’s Square was noisy but not dangerous. Kathleen and I left La Storta at 6:00 am, arrived at 9:30 am. Glenn, aka the Rhinestone Cowboy and his wife Letta were there to meet us. I cried when I saw them, a truly triumphant moment for all of us (Kathleen, too, Belgium beat the US last night).

Glenn and Letta are good Aussies and were prepared for our arrival. After hugs and tears we sat on the steps of Saint Peter’s, Glenn pulled culturally-sensitive beers (wrapped in ice of course) out of his backpack. This has been our ritual: to walk, drink beer when we arrive at the destination of the day. No reason to break with tradition on this most auspicious occasion.

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Photo: Hydration is crucial for a successful pilgrimage.

Post-party, Glenn led Kathleen and I to the secret Vatican gate where pilgrims are welcomed and receive their testimonium. With the rituals and ceremonies over, the pilgrims made dinner plans for our last evening together. I am on the first flight out of Rome tomorrow morning.

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Photo: Taking my pilgrim credential to the inner sanctum with my special Vatican visitor’s badge.

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Photo: Another line on my C.V.

Day 81: St. Peter’s Square tomorrow

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Photo: A fabulous start to the day.

Start: Campagnolo-di-Roma
End: La Storta
My distance: 17 miles
Correct distance: 16 miles. Kathleen and I chatting too much and missed a turn…

Today was the last fun day to walk although the Chinn guidebook warns of “tricky descents and climbs” and “a potentially dangerous river crossing.” That’s what I was thinking about last night when I read about today’s journey.

Tonight I get to ponder the grim walk into St. Peter’s Square tomorrow on Rome’s busy highways through the city’s more unsavory suburbs. Planning to get a 5:45 am start to get a little ways ahead of rush hour traffic.

Met Italian pilgrims this morning who are bussing it into St. Peter’s Square from La Storta as they are worried about the last 11 VF miles. Kathleen and I will walk it as did the Rhinestone Cowboy a few days ago. He will be there to greet us.

Best to focus on today, which was fantastic. The mayor of Formello stopped Kathleen and I to wish us a good walk into Rome.

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Photo: Happy snappy.

We hiked through farms, fields, and forests with a few friends to keep us company. Another 90 degree day but we had enough shade to stay out of the sun for most of it.

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Photo: A road-side companion.

Stopped for an hour or so after crossing the Torrente Valchetta (river) to soak our yucky feet. Purple dragonflies flitted about as the water gently splashed against a the remains of a Fiat parked/crashed at the water’s edge.

From there, an ugly trek into La Storta via the village of Isola Farnesse, whose garbage men/women must be on strike because plastic bags were piled high and mostly broken open with trash scattered all over the road. A little taste of tomorrow.

Looking forward to watching the US vs Belgium game tonight with Kathleen, my Belgian walking buddy during the past 2 or so weeks. One of us will walk triumphantly tomorrow…

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Photo: Dangerous river crossing.

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Photo: Another road-side companion.

Day 80

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Photo: Twenty-seven miles to Rome.

Start: Sutri
End: Campagnolo-di-Roma
My distance: 16 miles
Correct distance: 16 miles

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Photo: Campagnolo-di-Roma.

My shoes are completely worn out, I am happy I don’t have too many more miles ahead. My feet feel every step I take, tarmac roads are particularly painful.

A mellow day today walking through fields with horses, donkeys, and sheep huddled under bushes to stay cool. The path clearly marked to stay off the highway.

Not much to see but maybe I am getting too near the finish line to find excitement in cornfields and hay bales. Lots of trash along the route, which is always disappointing to see. Not sure why anyone would chuck a TV into a creek…

Day 79

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Photo: The village of Capranica.

Start: Vetralla
End: Sutri
Accommodation: Hotel Sutrium
My distance: 14 miles
Correct distance: 14 miles

Only 3 more days to go!

Outta Vetralla early this morning. Walked through hazelnut orchards and into Capranica where I lunched on zucchini flower pizza. From there the path zig-zagged along a creek with signs warning of wild boar and advising to act big if you see one.

A mostly shady day, much needed because temps reached at least 90 degrees. Met a Swedish family walking 10 days of the VF with their 13 year-old daughter who was hiking in a floral strapless dress she bought in Florence. Not the usual hiking attire, wish I was that brave.

Sutri a fortified city with Etruscan tombs and a Roman amphitheater.

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Photo: Sutri.

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Photo: Sutri city gate.

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Photo: Roman tombs.

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Photo: Etruscan tomb.

Day 78

Start: Viterbo
End: Vetrella
Accommodation: San Francesco parish hostel
My distance: 11 miles
Correct distance: 11 miles

Despite yesterday’s assurance that I am just 100 km from Rome, one guidebook says it’s 110 km. Another says 80 km. Either way, I have just 4 days left until I reach Saint Peter’s Square.

Viterbo medieval quarter the scene of a music/dance/literature/film festival that I mostly ignored due to total exhaustion. Wandered around, took advantage of free beer, called it a day. Had just enough energy to navigate through the ugly, modern city to the medieval quarter and find a B&B. All night partying with the locals physically impossible.

The road out of Viterbo busy but at least a newly-built footpath newly keeps pedestrians clear of the traffic. A huge disappointment to pass by Etruscan tombs completely enclosed by frosted glass and steel frames.

Navigation a bit tricky but hard to describe to other pilgrims other than watch the signs and when you reach the rabbit farm keep going, VF way marks will re-appear.

Vetrella not the best of cities to stop in, San Francesco parish definitely puts the grim in pilgrim hostels. Volunteers friendly but everyone smokes, impossible to get away from the smell. The parish (as far as I can tell from the limited English-Italian conversation) houses Vetralla’s more troubled citizens. Had to deal with a dude living there but just out of prison for drug offenses. The volunteer in charge emphatically indicated to lock the room door at all times. A glow-in-the-dark crucifix hung on the wall provided extra safety. Happy to get up and out as early as possible.

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Photo: Medieval quarter, Viterbo.

Day 77

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Photo: Objet d’art, Viterbo.

Start: Montefiascone
End: Viterbo
Accommodation: La Fontaine B&B
My distance: 11 miles
Correct distance: 11 miles

The website says it all: http://www.bagnaccio.it/

Make sure you scroll down…

 

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Photo: Soaking it up.

Day 76

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Photo: Saint Rocco, also a pilgrim to Rome, was thought to have tended to victims of the Black Plague in the mid 1300s until he became infected. Expelled from town, a nobleman’s hunting dog followed him into the forest, licked his wounds to heal them, then returned to town to bring him bread.

Start: Bolsena
End: Montefiascone
Accommodation: Monasterio San Pietro
My distance: 11 miles
Correct distance: 11 miles

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Photo: One of Montefiascone’s great claim to fame is a tomb in the 13th century church with the inscription, “here, here, here, on account of too much drink my master lies dead.” The word ” here” was originally written as “est.” All over town the words “est, est, est ” appear. This is a repro tomb set near the city walls 2 years ago. It is flanked by 2 wine barrels.

Montefiascone’s second claim to fame is that it is officially 100 km from Rome although I have seen several markers with the official 100 km point all day.

Stayed at the monastery, which was a great spot for a quiet night of catching up on the news (no bars in town showing the US vs Germany game). Strong wifi signal and a stack of New Yorkers to read on the iPad an excellent plan B. The Sisters provided a lovely meal (with wine) with veges from the monastery garden.

Sister Marie Claire speaks French, had a long conversation with her late last night about her life in Gabon. She prayed for John, my bother-in-law who died almost 1 year ago, as well as my sister and their 3 teenagers he left behind.

.

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Photo: Volcanic Lake Bolsena. An overcast day, perfect for a leisurely stroll following the shoreline to Montefiascone.

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Photo: Santa Margherita cathedral, Montefiascone.

Day 75

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Photo: The Rhinestone Cowboy returns.

Start: Aquapendente
End: Bolsena
Accommodation: Pensione Italia
My distance: 14 miles
Correct distance: 14 miles

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Photo: The fountain at Bolsena, 1493.

Walked with Glenn today, lots of catching up for us as we last met at least 1 month ago. Great to walk with him again. The scenery has changed dramatically, less hillside vineyards and olive groves and more flat fields of hay and corn. Have to say that the conversation kept my attention more than the views.

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Photo: Bolsena.

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Photo: Bolsena.

Day 74

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Photo: Getting close.

Start: Radicofani
End: Aquapendente
Accommodation: Ripa hotel
My distance: 22 miles
Correct distance: 20 miles

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Photo: The village of Proceno.

Another epic day on the road, which started at 5:30 am to once again stay out of the heat. Got a little confused by the direction at T junction at the bottom of the valley. VF sign points left so left I went. But after a mile of traffic flying past I stopped and looked at the Chinn guidebook, which said go right. Can never go wrong with him so I turned around and and marched back to the T junction and learned there are 2 roads to Aquapendente: a shorter route along the road or a significantly longer off-road path. Decided to go long.

Caught up with Kathleen and Rialto, a South African we met in Radicofani. But I decided to walk alone today, plugged into the music and followed the signs. Once again out in the sticks, passed through Proceno but no other villages.

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Photo: Super-cute.

Booked myself into the Hotel Ripa, had a shower, headed out to meet Kathleen and Rialto for the Italy vs. Uruguay game. Into the hotel walked the Glenn the Rhinestone Cowboy. Happy reunion for sure, we met in France many weeks ago. Glenn joined us for the game, the 4 of us had dinner after Italy’s devastating defeat. A fun night as the Aussie and the South African talked rugby while the girls quietly sipped white wine.