Postscript 3: last day in Rome

The Testimonium again! Have you ever been frustrated by bureaucracy? Well, the Vatican has plenty of it, and lots to spare! I arrived at St Peter’s at 9am, made my way to the pilgrim office, and Don Bruno Vercesi took me (along with Mario, a Fr Canadian pilgrim) to an inner office, questioned us about our journeys, filled in a big book with our details (I am pilgrim no. 2006 to be registered), got us to write summaries of our experiences, then asked us to return at 11.15am. We did, only to be joined by 5 Italians and three young Germans, then we were given a lecture tour of parts of the crypt that tourists don’t get to see, followed by a short service in an Irish chapel……………. At 12.30 we came out brandishing our testimonia! Three and a half hours later! In ten years time, what if a hundred pilgrims turn up daily at the office? What then?

The long wait gave Mario and me the opportunity to climb the 500+ steps to the top of the cupola of the Basilica, and admire the exquisite symmetry of the entire Vatican. The climb is arduous but worth it (or you can pay a few euros more and take a lift part-way). The Vatican was built to demonstrate the power of the church, at a time when popes enjoyed extensive political, as well as religious, influence. That demonstration of power still attracts millions of visitors every year.

Curiously, during the concluding service of prayers and readings, two of the German lads confessed they weren’t Christians. Well, that got Don Bruno’s missionary spirit into overdrive, but I could see that his ministrations were falling on deaf ears, but the lads smiled generously and thanked him for his advice.

Lunch with the Marists. My brother, Gerard, is a Marist in the UK, so he provided me with an introduction and I was kindly invited to lunch at their General Curia by their Fr General, John Hannon. Having been held up by the bureaucracy that morning, I had to walk smartly to an unfamiliar part of the city, and find where the house was. Lunch was excellent, and it gave me the opportunity to meet members of the order from other parts of the world.

A stroll through the city. Rather than head straight back to base, I decided to walk across the city and take in

many of the well-known sights on this my last day. Rome at any time of the year is busy with tourists, but late

summer is an especially busy time. Large groups are marched along by their leaders, all plugged into their audio

systems, listening to their guides as they walk along. You don’t hear any guides shouting to be heard by their

groups, and this is particularly pleasant to other passers-by who don’t want to hear their commentaries.

But amidst all this beauty and affluence, the downtrodden will make their way and hope to feed off the crumbs that fall from the rich man’s table. Though there is a great deal of well-rehearsed drama in the way the poor beg, it is not easy to pass them by and ignore them.

I also popped into  the Pantheon and looked inside to see if I could get myself a burger at McDonald’s. Curiously, I couldn’t find it!

Homeward bound. Tomorrow I have to admit to myself that the journey is really over when I climb on the Ryanair flight back to Stansted. The bike is boxed up in a fashion, more to protect other people’s luggage than to protect the bike. And where is the sense in this? My ticket cost me 9 euros, and the bike has cost 40 euros. The clear message is that people are discountable, but sports equipment isn’t.

See you up the road in the UK!!

About Frank Burns

My journeys around the world are less about riding a bicycle, and more about what happens when I get off the bicycle. Click on the Personal Link below to visit my webpages.

Posted on September 20, 2010, in Canterbury-Rome 2000kms: a cyclist's tale and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. Congratulations Frank, not least on getting your testimonial. You must be having mixed feelings right now; pride at having completed the journey, relief (and possibly sadness) that it’s over and a bit of trepidation about returning to the ‘normal’ world.
    We are in Vercelli, making good progress through the rice fields. We still expect to be in Rome by the end of October.
    Good luck and Bon courage from your fellow pilgrims
    Keith and Pauline

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  2. Keith and Pauline,
    good to hear from you, and to see the good progress you are making! Yours is a journey of determination and stamina.
    Back in the UK, it is great to be home “and seeing the place for the first time” (Eliot), but I found myself sinking into a kind of lethargy this morning, and the only cure was to get the bike out and go for a long ride. Is it the addiction to the gentle cadence of pedalling or to the daily adrenalin rushes, I wonder?
    When you both finally stop after three months of walking, you will definitely go through something similar. The first few days/weeks will require some adjustment.
    When you get to Rome, plan your visit to the pilgrim office (Sacristy of St Peter’s) early in the morning Monday-Friday, and allow for a protracted process (possibly the whole morning). It’s not like Santiago, where you are processed rapidly because of the number of arriving pilgrims.
    Bon courage………y buen camino!
    Frank

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  3. Hello Frank, hello Pauline and Keith,
    I am very happy to read the good news abaut Pauline and Keith. I finished my 2nd tour 2008 in Santhia. God bless you for arriving Rom.
    Last week I got an information about a new and long pilgrim way. The “Hugenotten und Waldenserpfad” across 4 countries (Germany, Swiss, Italy, France) and 1800 km long. Mayby a new pilgrim-tour for you?
    I would like to send you my nice photo fom Pontarlier. Please send my your mail adress.
    Buen camino Alke-Brigitte

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