Acquapendente till Rom

Sista etappen på pilgrimsleden till Vatikanen

Jag, Lennart, gick denna del av leden själv 10 - 17 maj 2016. Jag skrev en reseberättelse på engelska redan då och det är den som ligger till grund här - därav engelskan.

Jag stannade sedan ett par dagar i Rom. Den 19 maj besökte jag Vatikanen för att kvittera ut mitt pilgrimsbevis. Det är ett intyg från Påven på att jag har gjort tillräckligt mycket av leden för att vara godkänd.

  • May 11 to 17 2016
  • Acquapendente to Rome
  • Lennart
  • Total distance 122 km
  • Via Francigena part 2 by Alison Raju
    from Cicerone 2014. Denna är numera utgången, se ledens huvudsida för ersättning.


Tuesday May 10

Travel to Acquapendente is not so easy. I had to go by air to Rome and catch a bus from Stazione Roma Tiburtina. That bus is now discontinued. Currently there is a bus from Siena.

I reached Acquapendente at around 17:30 and checked in at the charming Albergo Il Borgo. Unfortunately the restaurant was closed on Tuesdays.

Acquapendente is a small city with some hotels and restaurants.

Acquapendente - Bolsena

Wednesday May 11

I started around 9 in the morning after a sparse Italian breakfast – coffee and a croissant with Nutella, basta. A light rain accompanied me the first hour, but I never really got wet.

Soon after leaving the village there was a sign about Via Francigena Marathon. I’ve done marathons – several – and that is something completely different from walking on a pilgrim trail. Here it is time for thinking and reflexion, not for wondering when the blood sugar level will become low. The advantage was that these signs were sometimes the only clear ones to follow.

Walking on small roads and the last part on the main road I reached San Lorenzo Nuovo on mid-day. Time for coffee, panino and some rest at Bar Centrale.

Leaving San Lorenzo you get the first view of Lago Bolsena. Lago Bolsena is a volcanic lake, the largest in Italy. It is surrounded by a ridge, which is the old volcano. Montefiascone is located on the highest point of the ridge.

The way soon turns left into a park area and stays there all the way to Bolsena. No sign of human life except for a few other walkers. I think there were about 3 other persons walking the same section that day. During the day I saw two of them. The track went uphill and downhill on small trails. Mostly there were signs to follow except for one crossing where there were signs in two directions. I took the right path, while the left was correct. It stopped at an open field in fallow. Walking along the edge of the field and with help of some instinct I soon joined the correct track.

The track later follows small roads with almost no traffic. The most common flower that time of the year was the poppy that sat a red tone to all fields.

Bolsena - Viterbo

Thursday May 12

Next morning began with a decent breakfast with yoghurt and juice. Good, for this was to be a long day, even though I was not aware of that yet. I took off at eight.

The first part goes along Via Cassia, the main road to Rome. The original Via Cassia, today called Via Cassia Antiqua, was built 200 – 300 years before Jesus walked around in Palestine. The current version is a main road for motorised traffic and has the same name all the way to Rome. The path turns right after a few km after passing a Coop where supplies can be refilled. Pellegrinos are guided to stroll along a beautiful landscape on small roads. The way is fairly clearly signed although a map can help shorten the way a little.

At lunch time Montefiascone was entered. This was around 12:30. It was supposed to be the end of the today's stage. I did not want to stay here half a day doing nothing, nobody to talk to and just be sitting at a hotel room. Would it be possible to walk half the distance of next day's stage? A discussion at the tourist information indicated a possible Agroturismo at half the way. I know they are quite expensive, but OK, in case of rain or other problems it could be an emergency alternative.

But first I needed lunch and a tour around the village. Lunch at restaurant Mamma e Pappa (No not Swedish = Mum and Dad, but Italian = Mum and Mush, Swedish: Mamma och Välling). The absolute best Spaghetti Carbonara so far, followed by a homemade Tiramisu of high quality. I was thirsty and asked for a large beer. Was suggested a speciality, which I accepted unaware of the price. Actually you should have wine in Montefiascone; this is the origin of the Est! Est!! Est!!! wine.

Feeling strong after a healthy lunch I decided to continue after visiting the borgo and its fantastic view over the Lago Bolsena.

The borgo (fortress) is located at the very top of the city. It is today an archaeological site with a fantastic view. In ancient time the borgo gave protection to popes that wouldn't dare to come close to Rome.

Montifiascone has a fantastic duomo that I should have seen from the inside, not only from distance. After visiting the borgo I went on the steep road down through the old city.

When leaving Montefiascone the road continues on the Via Cassia Antiqua for a while. On some parts the original paving still remains. You walk on stones placed there by the Romans, or more likely, their slaves. I feel the history in my feet!

Passing a thermal bath on the way, where people sat outside in several small pools, I finally reached Viterbo by six in the evening. Ten hours on foot except for the lunch in Montefiascone. Now I just needed a hotel and then some rest. Then I learned something; Viterbo is not a town, it is a labyrinth. There are whole blocks that have only one common entry and exit point, even for pedestrians. There are crossings on the map where there in reality is a bridge with five meters between the streets, and so on. Normally in an Italian village you just walk into the centre, find a decent hotel and get a room. I went around in the centre for one and a half hour without seeing any hotel. Two B&B found on Google maps were closed. Then I was asked by a woman if I spoke English.
What is the thing in the middle of an olive called?
Kernel, I suggested which was accepted.
It should have been stone, but kernel is used in computer language for the software in the middle. As a fair deal I asked for an albergo qui vincino, a hotel nearby.
-Si, va dritto al la chiesa, girare a sinistra, proseguire fino al porto, girare a destra, proseguire circa 1 km e albergo è a destra.
Super, there was a hotel. It was a **** hotel with price accordingly, but it was almost eight in the evening and I was tired and hungry.

I had some of my lunch supplies from Coop in Bolsena and fell asleep.

Viterbo - Vetralla

Friday May 13

Morning on a **** hotel means a steady breakfast. Good for a pellegrino.

Leaving Viterbo the path takes a detour through an important Etruscan site. I was curious to see what they had left for us to discover. Etruscans were the people living here before the Romans came, saw and conquered. The Etruscans had a rich culture with a lot of influence from Greece.

How about the site? Well, it was an Etruscan tomb, i.e. located underground. Visible is a stair going down in the middle of a meadow. It is covered by a construction in armoured glass not possible to look through except for a small hole in the glass. Thanks' for the detour. Then it is just to follow the clear signs showing where Via Francigena goes.

After crossing an autostrada four times it finally takes a nice gravel road into a small forest. There for the first time that day I saw other pellegrinos. Since I made two stages yesterday I had now phased in on a new "wave" of pellegrinos. This wave consisted of several groups and much more people than the one I had left. I passed a group of Italian women and there were more groups after that.

Shortly after that, there was a nice place for rest where I stopped for lunch. I had the last remains from Coop in Bolsena and some water. It was windy and almost rain in the air, although it never fell down.

The track passed over the Via Cassia main road and continued into an area with small houses, continued into a forest and ended up on a road with absolutely no signs or hints on which direction to take. Thanks' to the offline map I could choose the correct way and continue up to Vetralla.

Wise from last evening's excursive walk in Viterbo I had made a reservation on Albergo Da Benedetta. Da Benedetta is a small nice hotel where I got a room with balcony.

Unfortunately the restaurant with the same name driven by "La Nonna" was not of the same quality. The simplest bruschetta ever, bread with olive oil, basta! It was me and one woman (obviously Italian) in the same room and a large "famiglia" in another. The staff paid all attention to the other room and hardly looked at us when serving.

I took a walk in the town and looked around. It is funny built on top of a ridge. In the ridge there are several man made caves. I wonder if there is any direct connection from the houses down to the caves.

Vetralla - Sutri

Saturday May 14

Breakfast in the morning and off again. I had not even left the old town when the rain started. This was my day of rain. The track went into a beautiful forest with some strange messages on the trees.

Ok, cinghiale I know. It is Italian for boar (Swedish: vildsvin). And attenzione indicated that you should take care of some kind. Was it a warning for the boar? Hardly, since they are very shy in daytime and normally keep away from humans. I continued and later checked with my dictionary. Battuta di caccia al cinghiale means boar hunting and only on Thursday, Saturday and Sunday.

Shortly after Vico Matrino there was a road lined with tall pine trees.

At lunch time I reached Capranica in heavy rain. I stopped at a bar just before the portal in the village to have something to eat and a coffee. It was Saturday and the bar was filled with men playing cards. They were hardly looking at a stupid man spending the day outdoor of free will. I was already wet and no chance to get dry in near time so after the coffee break I continued in the rain. No photos taken for the rest of that day due to the weather.

I arrived at Sutri in the middle of the siesta so the hotel I found was closed. But there was a phone number on the door that I could call. This was the graduation in Italian language: to book a hotel room on phone. Success, including an explanation that I was waiting outside the door. So I was let in and got my room.

Now it was time to dry clothes. Walking poles are excellent support when need to dry cloths in a hotel room.

Time for some siesta waiting for the dinner. No restaurants open before 19:30 so there was also some time to look around the city. Sutri is a very old city, as most of the cities along the road.

It has an ancient Etruscan amphitheatre cut out directly in the mountain and also a church cut out in a cave in the mountain side. Unfortunately both were closed and did not open until 9:30 next morning when all pellegrinos have left. But it was possible to take a photo of the amphitheatre.

Back on the hotel room I could study some translation from Italian to English that I could have done better myself.

Time for dinner. The restaurant "Via Roma 54" has "pilgrim menu", meaning a fixed menu for pellegrinos at an attractive price. Va bene! I entered and got a seat. Strange, but in the same relative position to me as yesterday was the same woman sitting, also having dinner. Since we now had met twice I was invited and we had dinner together. This was actually the first conversation I had since leaving home. Stefy, as her name is, is bilingual English-Italian so conversation in English and some mentorship in Italian. A nice conclusion of a hard and rainy day.

Sutri - Campagnano di Roma

Sunday May 15

Morning and breakfast. The clothes were not dry yet but wool socks works perfectly even when a little humid. I left Sutri, passed the amphitheatre and denied help from a lady that tried to divert everyone into a long detour through a forest. The correct way was to keep straight on following the main road for a while.

The track turned into small roads with very little traffic. Although meeting a culture object. Nostalgic I thought of our blue Renault 4, 1969, that in 1978 took Maria and me all the way to Cognac in France and back, with a stop in Paris to get engaged. We are still happily married!

I reached Monterosi just when getting hungry. I was focused on finding a bar so I missed the left turn in the village. Found a nice bar where I could sit outside and have a coffee and two tramezzini. I looked at the map and realised how to get back on track again. There were a few drops of rain when I left the bar, although almost sunshine. After crossing the Strada Regionale 2 (SR2, Via Cassia main road to Rome), that now had become an autostrada there was an important track selection. First alternative was along the SR2 on a parallel road, not recommended. Second alternative a 4 km longer detour through some forest area, recommended. Looking at the sky and knowing the weather forecast I decided to take the shorter alternative. After all, it was not on the autostrada, I thought. How wrong I was. After a while the parallel road disappeared and the only alternative was to jump down on the roadside of the SR2. It was a little scary meeting all Italians out on Sunday tour. After 300-400 meters I could leave the SR2 and walk on strange abandoned roads. The last part while leaving SR2 I was forced back on the roadside and walked on the slip road meeting all traffic entering on the SR2. Yes, they were looking backwards on the upcoming traffic and not forward toward me. I walked very close to the railing.

Anyhow, the day ended well and I reached Campagnano di Roma not too late for lunch. I stopped on a piazza to decide which hotel to take. Then the thunder started over me. I realised that it was a matter of few minutes before the rain should start. A quick decision was to select the closest hotel and rush there. Yes, there were free rooms. Yes, I could get lunch. And, yes, it really started to rain.

I had some siesta and used the hotel Internet. In this hotel WiFi only worked in the office, so there I sat with a chain smoking woman and did my Instagram. This hotel really focused on security with some very advanced keys. Several were identical.

I had a nice dinner with Stefy and two German women. Now I learned about the different groups walking in parallel. There was the Brazilian, a group of women filled with jet lag and some injuries. The Italian group, that I passed the day before yesterday, slow of all stopping and talking. The German group represented in today's dinner and the Italian/English represented by Stefy. I was then the Swedish section and the only male pellegrino of all.

During the dinner I got a report on how it was to take the longer, safer track in the forest instead of along SR2 as I did. Actually it was even worse! They were all hit by the rain, a hefty thunder storm. They walked on slippery, muddy trails in the forest with the thunder all around them. I was happy that I took the SR2 version.

There was some talk about next day's walk where there should be a fording (Swedish: ett vad) over a torrent. I did not think it could be so dangerous bearing in mind that most pellegrinos eventually reach Rome.

Good night and good sleep.

Campagnano di Roma - Isola Farnese

Monday May 16

Breakfast in the morning and then pay for the room. We had to wait while the woman in the office were finishing her cigarette and then could pay attention to us. I was the last one to leave the hotel and take off.

Soon after leaving Campagnano di Roma I catch up with the Italian section. They had stopped for some reason, perhaps to tie a shoe or so.

I passed them and continued to Santuario Madonna del Sorbo. This is a small chapel built on a site for a mystery that occurred sometime in the 14th or 15th century, a beautiful little place which also has been a monastery.

Walking down on the stairs towards the monastery I suddenly saw a snake. It was a long black one with green/yellow stripes. I stopped and quickly took up my phone for a picture, looked two seconds on the screen to adjust the zoom and looked up again. Swish, the snake was gone. So I did not get any photo.

I later found out that it was a Green whip snake (Swedish: gulgrön pisksnok, Latin: Hierophis viridiflavus). You can see it on Wikipedia. It has always been considered to be non-toxic but recently someone has discovered that after around five minutes of biting there can be "suspect symptoms, including problems with neuromotor skills". I wonder who came up with the idea to test. "Let all snakes bite me for five minutes to find out if which actually are poisonous." How many did they test?

I continued into a park area where horses were going freely. And then after a while I caught up with the German and English/Italian sections.

Together we entered Formello for coffee and some tramezzini.

Here the route was not fully clear. Some descriptions pass outside Formello and some enter the city. So after Formello there was uncertainty about the track. I suggested following my map and going straight to the point where we joined the track passing outside of Formello. So we did and ended up on a narrow road with heavy traffic. We had to walk on the roadside for some kilometres. I don't think the Germans ever forgive me for that. If you happen to read this: Please forgive me, the other way was probably better.

Then there were more discussions about the fording. What if the heavy rain yesterday had caused flooding so it was impossible to cross? I said we have poles and they can be used, no problem.

At one point the signs pointed to the right, while the map indicated left turn. We followed the signs and found ourselves on a completely new footpath. A new way had been built that offered a shortcut directly to Isola Farnese and by that bypassing the fording at Torrente Valchetta. The way was not present on any map or in any description we had and seemed to be only a few days old. This was a little anti-climax on the fear for fording.

We had a nice walk along the new way that took us to the waterfall Cascata della Mola just before Isola Farnese.

Based on a hint from Stefy I decided to stay in Isola Farnese instead of continuing to La Storta. In Isola Farnese an order of nuns runs a hotel named Casa Nostra Signora.

In Isola Farnese an order of nuns runs a hotel named Casa Nostra Signora.

It is a beautiful place with a lovely garden.

Isola Farnese - Città del Vaticano

Tuesday May 17

The following day was the last day of my walk. The path here goes a lot along the Via Cassia and later Via Trionfale, two main roads with heavy traffic. Still in company with Stefy we decided to bypass that section. A bus took us to Stazione La Storta. A short visit to the Capella della Visione, a small chapel built on the spot where Saint Ignatius Loyola had a vision on his way to Rome 1537. Then we took the train to the Stazione Monte Mario.

From there it is a short walk along the Via Trionfale to the north entrance of the Riserva Naturale di Monte Mario. Walking through park is a very good way to enter Rome. There is no traffic and suddenly you see the whole city with the Basilica di San Pietro in the background.

The rest is a piece of cake and eventually the Piazza San Pietro was reached. This was the goal for my seven day walk, although it was planned to be eight days.

Collect your last stamp i the pellegrino passport in the pilgrimage office on Piazza San Pietro. It is also possible to obtain the Pilgrimage Testimony here. This is the proof that you have done a pilgrimage of sufficient length. But if you feel that to be real the testimony shall be collected in the Vatican city, do not get one here; you can only get one.

Stefy and I went to get a pizza for lunch to celebrate the completion of the Via Francigena. After several days of intense discussions and talks this was the "last supper".

This photo © 2016 Stefania Messina

I went to my B&B and Stefy went to her family outside Rome. This is a thing when walking on a Camino. You meet new people and find a lot of things to talk about. You spend some interesting days together and then just "arrivederci".

An access into the real Città del Vaticano

Friday May 19

The remaining task for my last day was to get the testimony of the pilgrimage. This can be obtained from the sacristy of the basilica. It is then necessary to enter into the Città del Vaticano. You explain your reason for access to the Swiss Guard and are allowed inside. You then continue to the registration office to get a badge for the access permission. In the registration office I got my badge for access.

The header of the testimony says: "Testimony of pilgrimage to the tomb of Peter", in Swedish "Vittnesbörd om pilgrimsfärd till Petrus grav". I am not an expert of Latin so I am not 100% sure about the text, but the meaning is something like that I showed piety and made a pilgrimage to the Basilica of St Peter, the apostle, to understand that it is built to the glory of God and the honour of the apostle St Peter himself.