Sunday, July 31, 2016

Into Rome, From Monte Sacro to St Peters on the Final 15 K of the Way of St. Frances

Photo by SHaw791

There's a lot to contemplate here. Glad we finally made it, even if everyone looks tired.

We all went out for a nice meal the night before our last walk together, drinking a little wine and chatting about the strange things that happen along the road. We recalled the stories and lessons from an odd night in Los Arcos last summer in Spain. Sophia recalled a man who she saw stuck in a ditch. There are a lot of surprises along the way. The following day was going to be our last for a while.
We woke up early in Monte Sacro for our final 15 k walk toward St Peters. We all woke in fine moods, enjoyed a lovely 730 am meal, and started on our way. The walk would be short, 16 K, out of the suburbs into the center of the city.
So we walked along bike paths, over sidewalk, eventually making it to the train station where the aesthetics of the road seemed to change. Graffiti was everywhere. But so were vines and weeds, as the city seemed to contend with a sense of something wild. The beauty of Rome is that feeling that there is another, deeper way to live. A tour guide once said in a tour of the ruins of the Forum, its best to think of time here not in terms of the present and the past here, but as an ever flowing present, connected within a space where empires have risen and fallen. Walking by the graffiti along the train tracks Danny and I talk about the future of cities. Can they be places that live within nature, sharing spaces with the vines we see everywhere or places that dominate nature, the car friendly infrastructure extending over cities everywhere? The future of cities seems to depend on the former not the latter. Is there a space for sustainability, where the natural world co exists with city, where streets co existence with gardens? Could we grow a city around nature, along with the wild - possibly. Cyclists zoom by the long bike path as we walk. We stroll by a bike share sign declaring, “Green Mobility Rome.”
Number two spends several days of the trip lamenting the AIM Pipeline being build under the Indian Point Power Plant just north of New York City. This thought has been with her all trip long.
“Will we feel it if a bomb goes off in Rome?” she asks as we walk.
“I do not know. It depends on the size.”
The thoughts on the road are many. But there is a rawness to the feeling.
She sees a playground.
“Can we go in there?”
“Its locked up.”
“We can go anyways.”
Thata girl.
The girls and I walk closer and closer, making our way to the ageless Tiber River, where we see the first glimpses of St Peters.
We walk along the river for several K, looking for a café. There are homeless men sleeping in the streets. An elder man passes out in front of a café as we walk. Everyone runs out front and helps him up. It all seems ageless and precarious at once.
Still we walk, making our way past men telling movie posters and signs for the Vatican.
What is it? Asks number two.
Its its own city with its own rules.
How does that work?
All of Italy pays taxes to it, I explain. One day I’ll show her the movie Spotlight. Not right now. I think of the scandal in the church every day I walk.
Still we walk, completing our ten k walk, as well as the way of St Frances. We did it! We really did it. The trip was twice as difficult of the Camino de Santiago for us. The ups and downs, the heat, the reduced amenities, made it harder. The amazing spaces we found, the ruins, the trees, the fields, the mountains, the bed and breakfasts that hosted us, and give us food, they made it worth it. We skipped a few of the harder trails and ascents just to make it, walking some 148 miles, 246, 9.5 in our last day. My arm still can’t extend itself from the first day of walking when I stumbled coming out of Assisi. We were not sure we were even going to get through that afternoon, no more water, and miles and miles to go.
We all learned to meditate and support each other a little more along the way. Hopefully cities can do the same.
Danny and Sophie later join us. And we get our credentials.
In the Pilgrim office, we run into a few pilgrims who’ve been walking all summer across Italy. One is walking for an end to violence against women. She’ll walk till Santiago, planning to make it by Christmas time. She shows us a map of her route. We can’t believe she’s really going to do it. But she is.
Finishing, we get a little pizza and go back to our hotel at the Theater of Pompeii, a theater dating back to the 59 BC. We always stay here. This is our third stop here. Number one has been with us each break. So was mom, who we are thinking of every day as we walk.
Later we all get some ice cream and a drink and toast our trip with Danny and Sophia.
They are off for more travel. We’ll stay in Rome for a few more days, exploring the treachery and lessons of the space, before making our way south. We eat at the Campo de’ Fiori, with the statue of Giordano Bruno by Ettore Ferrari looming over us. He was a heretic, who challenged the pope, viewing god and the universe as infinite. He agreed with Copernicus that the earth was not the center of the Universe, spoke out for what he believed and for that he was burned at the stake. Before they burned him, they put a stake in his tongue so he could no longer speak.
The treachery of Rome is deep, its church’s intolerance unending. But the possibilities of this city, its lessons feel infinite. This is why we are here.