Conclusions

It seems right, at this point, to draw some personal conclusion about this long experience on the road, about these months passed walking in always different places and new for me, often with wonderful people I also met during the journey. Above all, the one I walked with and lived with for the past two months.

A determined and courageous woman, with a strong character, that can also be seen touched by the love she received from the many people who followed her along her journey. She started from Santa Maria di Leuca in Puglia taking with her a message about violence against women and I had the pleasure to meet her once she arrived in North Italy. I decided to accompany her to the end of her journey. I never had doubt about the fact she could do it, neither when, along the part of Italy which led us to the French border , I’ve seen her managing difficulties between the path and the commitments with radios, associations, institutions and various appointments.

We learned so much about each other in these past two months and we learned a lot from the others, because the path, whatever it may be, it’s made by people. The only way two people who have to live together for 24 hours a day everyday to get along is to be mutually true to each other and confront themselves about difficulties to fix quickly the possible misunderstandings.
After all the road I walked at her side then I could not close this interval in the world of the Blog without some words from her:

“One day I decided, after the first journey to Santiago that I wanted to repeat this experience, that I would have walked again, with more awareness and more logistic and technique experience. An absurd hypothesis because the path, whatever it may be, cannot be engineered, it’s naturally unpredictable. It imposes its times, its paces, its roads, its ascends, its descends, the rain, the sun, the wind…you can only decide when to start and walk…often even stopping is a decision you cannot take. As the ones you will meet while you’re walking.

I made a wonderful journey, made by extraordinary things…incredible encounters and places which cannot be recounted in detail by pictures.
My #steptostopviolence has never been just mine actually, it has been owned by everyone who followed me virtually, by the ones who accompanied every step I made day by day for 120 days. A path which passed through Italy, France and Spain bringing with itself a message of hope: stop killing women, stop the violence against women.

I walked for the victims, with the victims and sometimes with the same executioners more or less aware of that violence that is not just physical but mental, infinite and which destroys life day by day.
Daniele has been the companion of my journey, he walked with me for a long stretch of this formidable experience, and shared everything with me, 24 hours a day with great respect, with great helpfulness and generosity. He took my hand when I was in need, waiting for me when my body was tired and slow , listening to me. The path together taught us to reciprocally respect the good moments and the bad ones, with patience and care, and this is not a simple thing.

An experience that after 5000 kilometers changed radically my life but that gave me the opportunity to meet many people who will inevitably be a part of my future. And the journey goes on…relentless…as life does, and who knows if Daniele and I will do something else together…because what we have done cannot be kept as a secret, we hope that many people will decide to leave with a backpack on their shoulders, ready to sacrifice and feel pain. What’s the result? You will find it out by yourselves…walking. “

Grazia Andriola

Back to talking about myself, needless to say that the Journey to Santiago, unlike the Francigena, is much more organized, more signaled, safer and surely for everyone and much, much more. It gives you more emotions too, and I believe this comes from the human factor; many pilgrims are met and the locals are used to see people with their backpacks on and a shocked face due to the fatigue. They welcome you and respect you, mostly because, besides the big cities, the little villages would be desert without the pilgrims passing day by day at every hour. And there would be less money too. 
When I was walking on the Francigena I met many people anyway, each of them veterans of the journey to Santiago, each of them with their stories to tell about that magic and unique experience. I, though, was not unsure to be able to make it, that fear which comes from the unknown, that little bit of insecurity you feel because it’s the first time that you walk for 800 kilometers or more.

I didn’t live the Spanish journey like this, on the contrary I got there with many kilometers in my legs, I already knew everything about my body’s abilities; the first leg, for example, for many people is a hard test to pass, and for me it has been something like a pleasant stroll. I don’t know if this may give or take something to the experience about the journey to Santiago, but I felt the same fears and insecurities when I started my journey to Rome on the Francigena, most of all because I thought I would have encountered many problems along the way according to tales and stories found on the Internet. 
Instead with the GPS tracks and a list of hostels you can walk very easily in Italy too. Yes of course sometimes we have to deal with high prices and some trouble typically “made in Italy” but it’s worth it if you consider the wonderful territories, the ancient burgs and the cities full of art you may encounter along the way.

The Francigena still has to grow, but as it should be for everything, it needs people with skills who know what they are doing, less politics, less institutions and more pilgrims.
Personally I felt sad about not being able to walk through France, unfortunately the language was an obstacle, most of all when it came to find somewhere to sleep; after a couple of families on donation we couldn’t keep going in that direction and we have been forced to look for expensive B&Bs , youth hostels which close their bathrooms during the night and a monastery which asks 45 euros per night. And if I have to be honest in general we didn’t feel too much welcomed there.

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After all this what’s left is the list of the people I want to thank. All the people I met along the road and in the places I visited, from the first walk on the Way of the Gods to everyone I met walking with Grazia . Everyone who read this little blog or commented my pictures on Instagram or anyway those who supported me but, most important, Grazia and her purpose. 
A special thanks to my friend Monica who is still helping me with this little experiment, with the English translation and who followed us since the very beginning.

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Buen Camino.

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Journey to Santiago: the end

Finisterre/Muxia and then home

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We thought we have finished our path and we have seen everything, we wanted to act like tourists and then go back home and instead today we get to Finisterre and landed in the most wonderful albergue we met since we started our journey. The place is not “amazing” but the people here are truly genuine and wonderful. Fatima, the great owner of the house is a magnet for that kind of pilgrims that love sharing and knowing other people. The people stop here for a night and then stay for some day, 10 days or even 2 months. Her albergue is not on any list, no site apart a Facebook page, there are no signals and she doesn’t care about advertising it. She says that the pilgrims get there if they need to go there.

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After visiting the lighthouse and reached the famous kilometer “0” we get to the albergue just after noon, right in time to sit and have a good risotto prepared by Michele, a guy from Brescia who had to stop here after he injured his foot and decided to stay here. He stays here as hospitaller and says that he cannot stay away from this place.
In the afternoon Grazia and I go for a walk along the shore to collect some shells to take back home as souvenir and for someone who could not get here with their path. We sink our feet in the cold water of the ocean. After that we go food shopping before going back to the albergue, tonight we make a hot soup with fresh beans given by a neighbor who collected them in her garden.
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After a good sleep we wake up at 8.30 am and we take it easy before having breakfast; we have coffee and a couple of slices of a croissant just came out from the oven of the baker. In the meanwhile we chit chat while we wait for Fatima, she promised to take us to visit two special places in Finisterre and to take us to Muxia by car.
Once she arrives we just have some time to exchange the t-shirts, we leave our green shirts to Fatima and she gives us the shirts of her albergue and then we leave. First she takes us to visit the ruins of the church of San Guglielmo where they say there’s the real destination of the pilgrims, there’s not much left to be honest but it’s a nice place.
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Then we reach the highest point in Finisterre, above some rocks from where the ocean can be watched almost at 360 degrees. On the horizon the sky meets the ocean and from afar we can see a storm coming slowly towards us.

 

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After enjoying the panorama and after some pictures we go back to the car to go down and visit Muxia, just 28 kilometers from here. 
Once we arrive in Muxia there’s nothing much to watch to be honest, we go to the Sanctuary called “Vregine della Barca” (Virgin of the boat) which caught fire 3 years ago due to a lightning and it’s been rebuilt; the frescos unfortunately got lost. Higher on the hill there’s a monument called “La Herida” ( The Wound) in memory of the sinking of an oil tanker and the potential ecologic disaster on these shores during 2002.
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In front of the monastery instead we enjoy the wonderful panorama accompanied by the sound of the waves crashing on the rocks, but unfortunately a bus is waiting for us to take us back to Santiago and after a quick snack at a bar we sadly say goodbye to Fatima; we already miss her and go back to the big city.

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We get back to the same albergue we visited two days ago and by night we reach the center of the city to have dinner; we are a nice group with Vittorino, Adriano, Fredric from Austria and Lionel from New Mexico: we just met many of them. To be honest Adriano and Grazia were already Facebook friends and followed each others’ journey from there. 
This is another aspect of the journey.
Tomorrow afternoon we will be taking the flight back home, we go to bed later than usual knowing that tomorrow we can take it easy and wake up later. We can go around until noon before taking the bus to the airport. 
We’d be sad if these were our first days walking but after 4 months, talking about Grazia, and 2 months, talking about me, finally going home is not sad at all.

 

Journey to Santiago: day 40

Santiago.

Finally we are here, for 10 am we have to enter the square where the Cathedral is and where Grazia will meet the tourism counselor of the City. We could then take it easy but I am already awaken at 6.30 am, later I leave the hotel and reach Grazia and her boyfriend Matteo at theirs and together we go to have breakfast, taking it very easy; the sky is not promising but it’s not raining for now.
We move following the main road which goes down and then turns climbing until it enters the old town on the Rua de San Pedro, full of small shops and bars; it then goes down to join another busy road and on the other side it starts again with another name, only 330 meters are left to walk.

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I follow Grazia who knows where to go because she already walked these roads last year and we arrive in front of an arch where, once we are passed, we should see the whole square. Grazia walks barefoot from here with the cell phone in her hands to record live for all of the people home who followed her journey and supported her for the 4 months she has been on the road. 
Few steps and finally we enter the Obradoiro square ; I turn my head to the left and watch the huge cathedral; unfortunately the facade is partly covered by the scaffolding for the renovation but I’m not surprised because this thing is going on since forever.
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While I take a look around I see two of Grazia’s friends come to us; they have taken the plane from Lucca and Milan to witness this great moment; obviously Grazia wasn’t expecting this and she’s pleasantly surprised. We take some pictures but then we immediately go looking for the pilgrim’s office to collect our Compostela, seen there’s the possibility to find some queue and Grazia has to meet the counselor soon.

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We are lucky after all, after less than 20 minutes we are in front of the offices where the employees give us the parchment and seen we walked a lot we ask for the certificate of distance where they write the place of departure, the date and the kilometers even though they are not sure about some parts of the journey; they probably calculate them with Google maps, I don’t know. Anyway we leave the offices very happy and satisfied, it may only be a piece of paper but the effort to obtain it has been great and personally I would not have gone home without this piece of paper.

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We go back to the square for Grazia’s appointment and then finally we go have lunch. It’s done, for real now. Tomorrow and the day after tomorrow we will be staying here in Santiago, because Grazia’s boyfriend is here with us together with the two friends Roberta and Samantha and because we both need to rest .

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Perhaps we will be visiting Finisterre and Muxia by bus, it would be another small marathon of 30 kilometers per leg by feet and then we would have to get back to Santiago to take the flight home and to be honest I don’t feel guilty at all if I stop here with my feet and use the bus for the last part of the journey. I got here, it’d be silly not to visit these places.

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Once I will have collected my ideas I will write some thoughts on everything I walked, lived and seen. Maybe when I will be back home, or after visiting Finisterre or maybe again on the flight back home. In two months, three if we add the Francigena path, I collected so many experiences and with my little contribution I hope to have been able to tell them at my best, perhaps better than I’d tell by voice.

 

TOTAL STEPS: 1411389

 

Journey to Santiago: day 39

From Pedrouzo to Monte Gozo/Santiago

This morning at the albergue everyone wakes up pretty early, each of them cannot wait to start the last 20 kilometers and enter the square where the Santiago Cathedral is. We get out and immediately stop at the first bar we can find, we need some energy to start the day ; plus yesterday night I didn’t eat too much because I felt sick, but now I’m okay and it’s all good.
We leave the city with some difficulties to find the yellow arrows, but once we are out of the city we find the signals and take a long and dark dirt path between the woods where, without our electric torches, we’d be surely lost.

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Once the woods are over we pass between some houses and cross, thanks to an underpass, a highway until we get to a bar where we have another small break. Once we restart the road climbs up a little and at the crack of dawn we understand how many people are walking this last leg today; there were many pilgrims with us the other days, but today it looks like a parade or something.

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From here Simona, Cristian and Enrico decide to fasten their pace to reach the cathedral as soon as they can, we will meet again tomorrow anyway, while Chiara decides to walk with us a little more.
The path goes on with ups and downs, we pass near the airport of Lugo/Santiago, where we will be taking the plane back home in few days, and then another ascent takes us to Lavacolla and, before entering Monte Gozo we find the hotel we’d like to stop at.
We say goodbye to the small great Chiara who continues her path alone to Santiago where, alone, she will enjoy her moment when she will enter the square.

In the meanwhile Grazia and I discover that the hotel is sold out so we have to get back on the road; the schedule included to stop 5 kilometers before Santiago to enter the square Saturday morning when there will be less confusion, the day of arrival has already been decided and transmitted since we entered Spain so we cannot anticipate now. 
We keep going stopping at every hotel to ask if they have room for us, unfortunately there is a series of concerts which lasts for 3 days here in Santiago and the hotels are sold out. The albergues are for pilgrims but tonight Grazia’s boyfriend will arrive and he could not sleep in these buildings; to be honest after all this time I’d really love to sleep a couple of nights in an hotel instead of sleeping in dormitories with people snoring all of the time.

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Then we get only two kilometers far from the center of Santiago, where we find a single room for me first and then a double room for Grazia and Matteo in another Hotel which is not far from mine.

We are here, just two steps from the destination and it’s very difficult to resist from going and take a peek of the cathedral, but we prefer to do it in style tomorrow and, most of all, to do it together as we did for the past two months. 
Yesterday, at the albergue, I have seen Grazia visibly moved while she was reading on Facebook all the love and support the people, friends and acquaintances are giving to her and the success of her initiative.
For the last month she asked everyone she met to wear a green shirt once they would get to Santiago or these days in general, honoring Pippa Bacca and all the other victims of violence against women, and now she’s having a great harvest. Her Facebook page is full of green color and her cell phone doesn’t stop to get notifications and she is very happy and proud. And I also am proud because I have been her companion in this thing for such a long time.

 

Steps: 23014

Journey to Santiago: day 38

From Rivadiso to O Pedrouzo

We have breakfast at the bar all together and then off we go, Grazia and I leave first and then Chiara who decides to walk with Cristian and then Simona with Enrico; yesterday he got here with an aching ankle so he has to slow down his pace for now.

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We soon climb on roads and paths for the first 3 kilometers leading us to Arzua, a rather big city with many bars and albergues; we proceed passing through it to get back on small roads among fields and woods. When, after a long ascent, we stop at a bar for a quick snack, Cristian and Chiara join us and the first 10 kilometers are gone.

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From here on the road goes down between woods, chestnuts trees and some village, and in the meanwhile I take my pace and go further from the others. I cross a highway and flank it to get to a bar/restaurant where I stop to wait for the others. By now we are near today’s destination, we will be able to eat something once we will get there and have taken place in the ablergue.
Today, after we passed Arzua , we started to meet many other pilgrims; many started their journey just few days ago, many others are using the taxi service for their backpacks and also many groups of kids. Here in Spain it seems that doing the Santiago Journey adds points to the school report.

We keep going then on the path among the woods which goes down until it crosses the highway again; the path goes on straight to Burgo but we take it on the left to reach Predouzo where, once we get on the main road, on the left we find the albergue. Tonight we finally can use the kitchen and we decide to have pasta with tomatoes, even though I don’t feel very well. I feel cold after the shower and my stomach is sick, so I decide to eat something lighter than pasta but I stay with the others for the company. 
This is the last night we pass all together with the others, maybe we will meet again in Santiago; Grazia and I we will stop 6 kilometers before the cathedral to wait for her boyfriend and to get there on Saturday as we scheduled, the others instead will go on to reach the long awaited destination , everyone on their own with their own emotions.

 
Steps: 27429

Journey to Santiago: day 37

From Ponte Campana to Rivadiso

We have breakfast with coffee, bread, marmalade and then off we go; by now we don’t count the daily amount of kilometers but those which are left to get to Santiago. The first kilometers of the day pass by in the dark, on paths littered by chestnuts, or better, to be honest, during the last 4 days, we often walked under chestnuts trees and today we even find some mushrooms.

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Today’s leg is not too long, we already scheduled our steps, so it’s basically useless to exaggerate and then stop for one day or more.

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We soon get to the suburbs of Melide proceeding between several ups and downs and some village; it is a small city with 7/8 thousands inhabitants, so basically it has everything we may need, for example the cash machines. While we are here, even though it’s just 10.30 we stop at Ezequiel’s, what seems to be the restaurant where they serve the most amazing “Pulpo alla Galiziana” (Octopus cooked in some Spanish way) . I’d rather not eat that even at lunch, so I decline the invitation. So, while my three lady companions (Grazia, Simona and Chiara) are finally tasting that fabulous recipe they were longing for , I eat a couple of slices of quiche.

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We get back on the road, and soon after that we are already getting out of the city on a dirt path which then becomes paved road; we have a quick break to lighten the shoulders from the weight of the backpack and then keep going along tree-lined paths while the sun starts to become hot. The day before yesterday we were chilling to the bones instead. The sun is very welcome but we are climbing so basically we are sweating like crazy.

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One more last descent and after an ancient small Roman bridge Simona and I understand that we already are at destination; 3 kilometers further there would be Arzua which is a bigger city with supermarkets and all that stuff but it’s all quiet here and very cozy so we decide to not go further.

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By now just few days divide us from our destination and my thoughts cannot avoid to go to next Saturday when we will finally get to the Cathedral of Santiago; I cannot imagine how Grazia would feel seen she’s getting to the end of her long path started in Santa Maria di Leuca. 
She will finish her path but not her battle; she already has conferences and interviews to release and she didn’t even got home yet, but she’s already splitting herself between walking and spreading her message about the violence against women. She’s used to that I believe, but on the other hand she’s tired and I understand her very well when she says that she cannot wait to get on the plane to go back home in Italy.

 

 

Steps: 27099

Journey to Santiago: day 36

From Gonzar to Ponte Campana

We leave the albergue very early in the morning, because the only bar in the village is still closed, it’s dark but, most of all, it’s foggy and when we start a long climb, the visibility is poor; we can only see that we are following a dirt path with the electric torch but nothing more.
Once we get to the top we turn on the right and start to go down, and with some difficulties we find the yellow arrow which indicates the road thanks to a Japanese guy who’s walking ahead of us. Finally, once the sun is coming out, the visibility gets better.

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We walk near the road until we reach O Hospital which anyway remains outside the path; however, at first sight, we understand everything is closed there. We keep going towards Ventas de Naron where we stop for a coffee and a croissant (unfortunately a wrapped one) . The “Napoletana” is very famous here. It’s nothing more than a croissant filled with chocolate: the fresh one is good but the wrapped one tastes like a sponge.

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We get back on the road soon, we want to get to destination as soon as possible today to have some time to relax, and we pass through small villages as Limeros, Ligonde and Lestedo, until we get to the first big city, Palas de Rei. 
Here, seen we don’t know when it may happen again, we go to the cash machine and the pharmacy and then proceed for the last 5 kilometers for today. We leave the city taking a small paved road which, in the end, climbs to reach O Coton. The place seems to be nice but today’s destination is just one kilometer ahead and, after a short descending dirt path we get to Ponte Campana. 
We did well to not stop one kilometer before because the albergue here is very nice, cozy, clean and quiet.

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It’s so early that we have plenty of time to have shower, to use the washing machine, to eat and rest. And in the meanwhile we wait to know if Simona and Enrico will reach us here and if Cristian will stop here with us or will keep going to reach Melide, ten kilometers ahead. 
In the meanwhile I lay down on the hammock because the sun is still warm.

 

Steps: 27540