Henri Craemer | Stage 27: Farewell Countryside, Hello City
This covers Stage 27 of the route of the Way of St Francis as it winds its way into Rome. Henri Craemer's experiences on the second last stage of the Cammino di San Francesco which leads from Monterotondo to Monte Sacro.
Monterotondo, Sandy Brown, Albergo Antica dei Leoni, Vallarica, St Peter’s Cathedral, Marcigliana Nature Reserve, Marcigliana Nature, AS Roma, Monte Sacro, Caminoways, Catholic College, Francigena, Camino Frances, Vallerica
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A first sighting of the Dome of St Peter between the community of Vallarica and the Marcigliana Nature Reserve. (Photo: © Henri Craemer)

Stage 27: Farewell Countryside, Hello City

Monterotondo, 08:00, 21 September 2017. The Ristorante Pizzeria of the Albergo Antica dei Leoni offers a good Breakfast. The illness has completely cleared up. It’s remarkable how being fit speeds up recovery.

Sandy Brown classifies our Way for today as “easy.” Looking at the route profile there are as many ups as there are downs. Over the expected distance of 19.3km* our ascents will total 711m and descents 422m. The hills are mostly in the beginning before the walk flattens out towards the end.

We collect our backpacks and say goodbye to Father Frank, Mary, and Margarite, and we’re on the road again. Monterotondo is quiet. The air has just a hint of autumn chill. We meet up with the route of the Way of St Francis somewhere along the Via St Angelo.

Sarocco (Photo: © Henri Craemer)

Sarocco from the side closest to Albergo Antica dei Leoni (Photo: © Henri Craemer)



The Last of the Countryside

Walking is easy, and we soon find ourselves in the countryside. We look out for “the waymark sign that swivels randomly,” as Sandy Brown puts it. When we get there, it indicates the right direction. Everything seems to be going according to the book as asphalt alternates with dirt roads. As usual, Niels is up ahead. We tick off two more landmarks: the community of Vallerica and the olive oil plant.

Anticipation fills me as we gradually climb this long uphill. The air is brilliantly clear. Niels waits for me on the ridge ahead. That must be the viewpoint. Will I see it? When I get there, I am not disappointed. On the horizon, I see the dome of St Peter’s Cathedral. The end is literally in sight.

We enter the Marcigliana Nature Reserve. I’m greeted by a forest ranger. We have a short conversation about my journey and where I come from.

On the way to catching up with Niels, I pass a group of pilgrims. We greet each other. Many cyclists pass me. Niels and I have our last break in the countryside before entering the suburbs of Rome. We have a beautiful view of fields and a paddock with horses. Two Italian men pull up to the resting place. They just seem to be on a break from the big city, sitting enjoying the countryside while having some wine.


Paddock & fields – the last of the countryside on the outskirts of Rome. (Photo: © Henri Craemer)

Paddock & fields – the last of the countryside on the outskirts of Rome. (Photo: © Henri Craemer)



The Outer Suburbs of Rome

Signs of civilisation start dominating as we enter the outer suburbs of Rome. As the route joins the Via della Bufalotta, we retract our walking poles. It almost feels like a symbolic gesture. We’ve used them on route ever since Florence, never retracting them once.

The route is quite flat, and the surroundings become progressively bleaker. We go through an underpass of the A90 freeway. Lots of graffiti proclaims support for the world-famous AS Roma football club.

We see a sign for an Australian Bar. This piques our curiosity. Making a right turn off the Via Bualotta into Via Canberra, we notice the street names have an Australian theme: Tasmania, Brisbane, and Melbourne. At the pub, we choose to rather get to our hotel since we’ll have to wait too long for anything to eat.

Coming into Monte Sacro, we keep our eyes peeled for Domus Urbis, our pitstop. We pass a strange two-legged tower. The street begins to look more like a big city scene, complete with busy traffic, apartment buildings, and shops. Further downhill we get to a caffè. With great relief, we stop. It’s a bit early for lunch. Gnocchi is the only thing on the menu at the moment. The owner and staff are also having gnocchi. Our serving is deliciously filling.

Checking the instructions from Caminoways and GPS, we find out we’ve overshot our destination by about 1.4km. I sigh as we pick up our backpacks. It’s amazing how a gentle downhill becomes a challenging uphill when you have to retrace your steps.

We pass the strange tower again. All indications are that we should be on the doorstep of Domus Urbis. Niels calls their number. All we need do is cross the road to the Domus Urbis. We check in and chill out. From our window, we have a view of the tower.

Everything is extremely quiet. The only place where we have access to Wifi is in the hall. I spend the better part of 90 minutes there, sending WhatsApp messages to the family and going through the photos on my phone and camera. We decide to stay in the hotel for supper.


*Conversions from Metric to Imperial

1.4km = ~1531 yards

19.3km = ~12 miles

711m = ~ 2333′

422m = ~ 1385’


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