Day 43 of our Via Francigena pilgrimage took us from Campagnano di Roma to La Giustiniana. Distance: 16.2 miles. Weather: clear, sunny; temperature: high-80s.
Because we had proceeded past town yesterday, we had actually already completed a good portion of today’s route. The only question was how best to intercept the trail. However, as soon as we posed this question to our hosts, they exchanged anxious looks and insisted on driving us to the Sanctuary of the Madonna del Sorba.
We said that with so few miles left to Rome, we wanted to walk. They adamantly and very expressively conveyed that walking was a bad idea. Eventually, we yielded and got in the car.
Sanctuary of the Madonna del Sorba
We soon appreciated our hosts’ point. The hilly road was full of blind turns and narrow spaces. Ironically, since we were now in a car, it was *US* who posed a threat to our fellow walking buddies. I winced every time I recognized a figure, and ducked my head a little, hoping none would recognize us through the glass.
“Hey, there’s Claudio!”
“Dang, he’s fast.”
“Hai visto un collega?” Our host inquired innocently.
Did you see a colleague?
A minute later, the road widened and he pulled the car over and helped us put our gear back on. He was a sweetheart to have driven us five minutes to a safer stretch of road. We thanked him for his generosity and walked uphill to the Sanctuary.
In the 15th century, an order of Carmelites built a convent with a church atop the site of a 10th century church. The medieval church is dedicated to Virgin Mary. It’s a lovely, quiet place. And it’s got a stamp for pilgrim passports!
A Nature Walk and Stop in La Storta
Shortly after departing the Sanctuary, we entered the Regional Park of Veio. Much to my surprise, I counted at least seventeen horses grazing leisurely within the fields. They had no saddles or restraints, and seemed totally oblivious to our presence. Seeing them was one of the high points of the morning.
The park was full of woods and wildflowers. It was a hot day, but the beauty all around was stunning.
Dan and I also ran into a friendly group of pilgrims near a cool water stream. They were enjoying lunch in the shade, and they all waved a hand in greeting. We waved back and dipped an arm in the refreshing water. I asked Dan if he wanted to take a break here, but he asked to keep going.
With the exception of the park, I don’t have many nice things to say about today’s walk. The area between La Storta and La Giustiniana is probably the dirtiest section we’ve seen during our time in Italy.
After a tasty lunch at a bar in La Storta, we made a left turn and started walking on the famous Via Cassia.
The Via Cassia is an ancient Roman road that dates back to the second century B.C. It continues to be a vital road today, and has delivered many a merchant and pilgrim in and out of Rome. However, the version that exists today is not built with walkers in mind.
This sidewalk abruptly ends and pilgrims walk on a Via Cassia lined with bottles, cigarette stubs, and broken glass. Please do NOT attempt this section at night!
Arrival in La Giustiniana
Technically, we arrived in Rome today. (We are on the outskirts.) However, lodging prices in La Giustiniana were a mere fraction (1/4 to 1/3 the cost) of what they would be in the tourist center. There’s a reason it’s far less expensive.
The trash bins in many places were overflowing, making the sidewalks unusable. These are tough neighborhoods that reveal a Rome few tourists will see. It’s where many immigrants and blue collar families live and there’s a “realness” and grit to it. It might be rough, but it’s honest. No one is faking things or putting on an act.
Our apartment is bright and sunny, but comes with enormous locking mechanisms on the doors. Mom’s and Dad’s reactions to the vault-like locks surprised me. They weren’t alarmed; they were impressed. Both broke out their phones and started snapping pictures.
For dinner, I found a pasticeria nearby and got slices of pizza and cannoli to bring back. I’m really going to miss Italian food and the ability to consume massive amounts of it without gaining weight.
It’s best to enjoy it while we can.
Tomorrow, we arrive in Rome.
Lodging (per person): $34