Richard J. Goodrich

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The Peripatetic Historian: Via Romea Germanica - Introduction

The apostle at the end of the journey. Rome, Italy.

It was a long walk. 

In the summer of 2019, my wife, Mary, and I hiked 650 miles along the Via Romea Germanica. We started in the alpine town of Brennero, right on the Austrian/Italian border, and proceeded south, down the spine of Italy, to the city of Rome. We suffered the usual misfortunes and misadventures of the long-distance walker: trails that proved false, paths overgrown with blackberry brambles, guidebooks that puzzled more than enlightened. 

The Via Romea Germanica is a relatively new pilgrimage route. It purports to follow a traditional route south from Brennero, a series of stages outlined in Abbot Alberto of Stade's journal (written around the year 1236) but, as I will discuss in future installments of this series, I am not completely convinced that the modern trail always follows the historic course.

Footsore, drained by the sun of an unusually hot summer, we limped into the city of Rome on July 16. Amid the crowds disgorged from the tour buses, we gazed at the magnificent St Peter's Basilica, knowing that we, like hundreds of thousands of pilgrims before us, had experienced an epic journey.

Our route and mode of transportation (two feet) carried us far from the beaten tourist trail. The myth that everyone in Italy speaks English is - well, a myth. Get away from Rome, Venice, and Florence, and you will discover an Italy that requires some facility in the country's language. You will find small towns and tiny villages that attract no tourist attention. You will see an authentic Italy - a country with her makeup off.

It was a fabulous experience, and despite a few grumbles along the way, I would do it again in a moment. So cinch up your backpack straps and let us get started. It's a long way to Rome, but it all begins with that first step.

Next: Episode 1: Brennero to Vipiteno

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