FCI 027 – Walking the Pilgrim Trail to Rome with Chandi Wyant
In the spring of 2015, Pope Francis released a papal bull announcing a special jubilee year on the theme of mercy. It officially begins today, December 8th 2015 (The Feast of the Immaculate Conception), and runs through November 20th 2016.
Consequently, we can expect to see a marked influx of spiritually motivated tourists following the pilgrim trail to Rome during this period. On the podcast today is Chandi Wyant, an American writer, teacher, and traveler who hiked this route in 2009, and is currently working on a manuscript about her experience.
Many people have heard of the more famous Spanish pilgrimage route, El Camino de Santiago de Compostela, but are unfamiliar with the Italian equivalent, the Via Francigena. I didn’t know much about it myself until I took a tour with my friend Anna in Tuscany last year (we were in a cozy mini-van, however). But the Via Francigena is very important historically, and is largely responsible for the development of many Italian cities and towns along the route, such as Lucca, San Gimignano, and Siena.
The Pilgrim Trail to Rome
The origins of this tradition date back to the 10th century when Sigeric the Serious, the Archbishop of Canterbury, used the Via Francigena to travel to and from Rome in order to receive his ecclesiastical vestment (pallium) from the pope. But although he was the first to document in writing his precise course and the stops he made, it is likely that the route was already well-known at the time of his journey.
In 2009, my guest Chandi walked 264 miles of the Via Francigena herself for 40 days after a difficult period in her life, both physically and emotionally. She’s very open about sharing her journey, even though she was ill-equipped to take on such an ambitious challenge at the time. Even in the best of circumstances this trek would take a great deal of conditioning and mental stamina. But she did it during the weakest point of her life.
She also talks about what we gain culturally and historically from walking this route; the connection to the past and a tribute to those who came before us. We feel grateful that this tradition has been revived, and can now be cherished and preserved as a cultural artifact.
Finally Chandi, gives us some practical advice regarding what kind of shoes to wear, where to stay along the way, and how to plan effectively for such a daunting task. She tells us how to pack according to our body weight—what to take, and what NOT to take (hint: technology). For the full run-down of her suggestions, read this very informative post on her website: How to Plan for Your Pilgrimage Walk
Chandi says she fell in love with Italy when she first went there in the 1980s as a young budget backpacker. Italy so enthralled her that she returned the following year for a 6-month language course in Florence before starting university back in California.
In the 1990s she organized her wedding in Florence and then parlayed that into a business helping Americans and other foreigners get married amid Italy’s storybook settings from Venice, to Tuscany, to the Amalfi Coast.
Battling the country’s “challenging” bureaucracy while arranging weddings in Italy, Chandi learned that she has a particular flair for organizing trips and events. And although she stopped offering weddings after 6 years, she still provides trip planning services and has helped hundreds of people have fabulous trips to Italy. She assists with itinerary planning, takes care of all the bookings, and combines an insider’s knowledge of Italy with the concept of slow travel to create vacations that are unhurried and rich with culture, history, and gastronomy.
I’d like to give a big GRAZIE to Chandi for being on my podcast today, and sharing her personal experience along the pilgrim trail to Rome on the Via Francigena. Walk along with us on today’s episode, and maybe you’ll be inspired to take advantage of this Jubilee year to make a pilgrimage of your own.
When in Rome
Once you’ve reached the end of your journey, there’s still plenty for a pilgrim to see IN Rome, of course. Check out this new, free iPhone app by a group of enterprising young Romans: Pilgrim – Rome Guide