“The greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short; but in setting our aim too low, and achieving our mark.” —Michelangelo
Yesterday I visited the Vatican for the first time, the ending point of a 1,800km walk from Canterbury, UK to Rome, the Via Francigena.
In the morning, I tallied the steps counted by my one almost constant companion, the phone I’ve used to write and take pictures and connect. It counted 1,758km since June 2. Pretty close to the original goal of 1,800km on foot. I traveled much further than that since June 2, though, because of a liberal attitude about taking cars when they appeared.
Anyway, I felt elated with this.
I mapped my course to the Vatican from where I woke up - a leisurely 40 minutes.
I looked at my two credentials full of stamps and realized there were many spaces left in the second, the one that I started in Aulla.
So I took about 4 hours walking the 4 km to the Vatican so I could stop in everywhere and ask for stamps to fill my book, before it became a historic document.
This led to some confusion, that was easily escaped with a thank you and and a ciao.
But it also led to a beautiful stamp, and a nice meeting with two Italians who were genuinely interested in the Via Francigena and walking it for themselves.
“But I think when you go back to your life, you’re going to be completely different”.
I considered this as I looked for an opening in the Vatican walls.
After a few tries in different offices of the Vatican, I found my testimonium - complete with a little gold seal and a stamp to commemorate achievement. But the rain as I left reminded me, it’s only a piece of paper.
(Also, the guy at the desk was ready to give me three extra ones for my friends. No wealth is safe from inflation!)
I visited the Basilica and partook in some rituals and the awe of the place. I kissed the worn feet of this statue in an improvisation. My feet felt sympathetic.
I was baptized Catholic and raised Baptist, so it was an interesting experience to be in the bastion of Catholicism! I definitely fumbled with the code between my sports clothes and instincts developed over 70 days of hiking.
I learned that many old cathedrals are built over powerful currents in the earth. They are the strongest where only priests are allowed to go.
The energy I felt in the Piazza though, was the most holy to me. The timetable of my day made zero sense. I spent so much time walking to stop and get stamps from tabacchinoa, waited in line for the basilica and then decided to move to the office to try getting my crudentiak first. But by the time I made it to the Piazza, I just ran into my friends who walked from La Storta in the morning.
And this is my other favorite picture from yesterday, of just the feeling.
Moving, making friends, saying “see you later” and then seeing them. Sitting peacefully when you’re tired. It’s only a feeling, but as precious as anything that’s slipped through my hands or passed under my feet so far.