How exciting to set off on the final stage of the journey! And, contrary to all forecasts, the sun is shining. There's only a few clouds and an occasional sprinkle of rain as I set off along the side of the busy Via Cassia highway towards Rome with my new German friends, with whom I have shared a hostel room several nights on this second part of my journey. A short way down the road we are joined by a Swiss couple, and I end up walking all of the last stage with them. The Germans stop at Monte Mario, while the rest of us enter the park and climb the hill to see the view of the Eternal City.
|Climbing Monte Mario|
|The view from the top|
Another short stretch through the city of Rome, and we are there!
|Arriving at St. Peter's|
|At St. Peter's|
The first thing we do when we arrive at St. Peter's Square is go to the Pilgrimage Office of the Vatican to get our pilgrimages officially certified.
Then we sit down and have a drink together at a café right by the Chilean Embassy to the Holy See, where we feel perfectly safe in the presence of the machine gun-toting guards... The Swiss couple have a son in the Swiss Guard and they are waiting until he gets off duty. After a drink and a snack I leave them to go and see the Basilica. But the line-up to get in is an hour and a half long, and you can't put your baggage in the locker room until you get to the front... I go back to the pilgrimage office and ask if there is any way to get out of standing in the line-up, such as taking a guided tour, but all the guided tours for the day are fully booked. Then I ask about going to see the necropolis under the Vatican, having just read something about it, and am directed to a side entrance to ask about it at the "Ufficio Scavi". After going through security and getting past the Swiss Guards, I am told that there are no more tours of the necropolis available today, but the gendarme on duty kindly offers to take me to see the tomb of St. Peter. He points out that most people visit the church above it but don't actually go to the tomb itself, which is after all the most important thing in all of St. Peter's, and what it's all about! He thoughtfully stands outside the chapel and offers to wait while I say a prayer. It is the perfect ending to my pilgrimage, for this is what pilgrims have come to Rome for, all through the centuries.
Upon leaving the tomb I discover that from there I can go directly into the church, without lining up! So I spend some time in there, and even visit the Museum of the Treasures of St. Peter's, which is quite fascinating but very small, and once again visited by very few people, unlike the Vatican Museum.
I have been to St. Peter's before, but it is a much more meaningful experience when you have walked 600 km to get there!
I now need to get across the city of Rome to the home of my friend Patrizia, who will host me for the night. Rather than figure out the buses and metro system, and in key with the theme of this trip, I decide to walk there. Google Maps gives me a route that goes right past some of the best-known monuments of Rome, seen in the fading light of evening.
I have calculated a total of 591 km from Chiavari to St. Peter's, according to my GPS tracks, and with the remaining 9 km across the city to Patrizia's apartment, that makes a nice round number: