I slept well and enjoyed a good breakfast before starting just after 9.00am, for the final leg of my pilgrimage. Tim and Paul had already left and were now probably in Rome having determined to leave at 5.00am. Initially the walk was along the footways of the busy Via Cassia and the suburbs of Rome, a busy urban area, greatly spoilt by dumps of household rubbish. Around halfway I stopped for coffee and met Federico who was walking with several other pilgrims. We discussed and differed on the final route into Rome. In the end we each took our own route.
Arriving at “Mont Gaudii”, the happiness’ Mount, I met Margaret and Thirsa. The view from the mount was spectacular and immensely moving., Rome stretched out beneath us and provided my first sight of the dome of St.Peter’s Basilica. I walked with Margaret and Thirsa for the last few kilometres through the busy streets of Rome.
We entered the Vatican via the Porta Angelica which had been built by Pope Pius IV in 1563 and so called from the baptismal name of Pope Pius IV, or Giovanni Angelo Medici, and was built for pilgrims who came from the north and were headed to the Tomb of Peter. I arrived in St.Peter’s Square at 20 minutes past noon, exactly three months plus 20 minutes after leaving Canterbury at noon on the 1st June.
We hugged and took photos before approaching one of the Swiss Guards to ask about receiving the pilgrim’s Testimonium from the Vatican. Speaking to us in perfect English he asked about our journey and directed us to a security check-in area. After passing through this we were directed to the Vatican security centre where in exchange for our passports we were supplied with security passes and vaguely directed to another building. We entered and found ourselves in the Sacristy of St Peter’s, Palace of the Canonicate, We were met by two security guards who escorted us to a ground floor office where we were met by a Vatican official. He took our pilgrim passports and walked away, returning later with the passports and a pilgrim Testimonium. Disappointingly the Testimoniums were blank and unsigned, all in all, a rather underwhelming experience.
After retrieving our passports from security we said our goodbyes and went our separate ways. Margaret and Thirsa were staying in the Spedale della Providenza, a pilgrim’s hostel a couple of kilometres from St.Peter’s square. I had arranged to stay with friends at the Ponte Sant’Angelo Methodist church. So after lunch I headed for the Ponte Sant’Angelo to meet my hosts in Rome, Revd. Dr.Tim Macquiban and his wife Angela. Tim was the Director of the Methodist Ecumenical Office Rome and had lived in Rome for the past five years. I had been introduced through a friend in my local church in Brushford and they had kindly arranged for me to stay in one of the bedrooms they have available for visitors in the Ecumenical offices.
They were wonderful hosts and invited me to dinner in their home where I enjoyed a very convivial evening which ended with a glass of wine on their terrace which sits above the Ponte Sant’Angelo with spectacular views of St.Peter’s Basilica and the roof tops of Rome.
It had been an extraordinary day.