Our walk to the Vatican was the Herald’s first such venture, and we plan to offer a programme of around four such walks a year, ranging from the four-day St Cuthbert’s Way in Cumbria, which ends up in Lindisfarne, to the two-day Abbesses’ Way in Shropshire.
Such walks offer a chance for reflection, switching off one’s phone and living in the present. I also like the fact that each morning we were handed an itinerary by Sandy Loder and – like obedient monks – never questioned the route or the pace. I found not having to make any decisions – other than occasionally pointing towards a promising-looking trattoria around lunch time – strangely liberating.
As we headed off on the Via Cassia towards the fortified ancient town of Viterbo, it felt extraordinary to march in the hot October sun towards the Eternal City along the cobbled road (no cars allowed) that legionaries, pilgrims and slaves would have walked some 2,000 years ago.
I was surprised as to how few fellow pilgrims we encountered. Maybe a dozen in five days. Perhaps that was why there so few places to eat or buy anything.
A highlight was walking along the Appian Way into Rome. I liked that the address is still popular with wealthy Romans today, except that instead of senators having centurions guarding their luxurious villas – the smartest were close to the old Roman horse racing track – they now have electronic security gates and CCTV cameras. But the names of many of the villas are still the same as 2,000 years ago, which gave our walk a strange sense of tempus fugit.