Things you may not know about The Vatican City
- Smallest country in the world - 110 acres
- Population - 1,050
- Came into being an independent state 'only' in 1929
- GDP is driven by sale of postage stamps , admission fees, publications and tourist mementos
- The name of the city is taken from its location to the nearby Vatican Hill. Vatican derived from an Etruscan settlement, vatica / vaticum meaning 'garden'
- Vatican citizenship is issued to anyone who lives within the Vatican city walls. Once you cease to do so, and if you have no other passport, then you are automatically entitled to an Italian one.
There's a few contenders for ''rude awakening'' . One is that pierceing ''beep-beep...this truck is reversing '' sound that you hear when the rubbish collectors come around at 5.30 am.
Another strong contender would have to be the 14.2 km hill outside my hotel in Viterbo. With the warm glutinous feeling of croissants and coffee still warbling around in my stomach, the moment I turned a pedal it was allllll uphill for the next hour and 20 mins from Viterbo to a non descript pass at 2,788 feet. In heat. On a heavy traffic road.
It would seem the closer I got to Rome so the cars got closer to me. I spoke earlier of an elderly gentleman in France who won the award for being the most courteous of drivers in regards to respecting cyclists. Well, the driver of a bronze colored Mini Cooper wins the ''You're an idiot '' award. He was so close I could smell the perfume his partner was wearing and I could see who she was texting as they roared past. AND , they had the windows up.
I think I mentioned yesterday how the state of the roads deteriorated once I had crossed the regional border from Tuscany to Lazio. Well , they only got worse. Not such an issue when you are doing less than 10 KPH up a hill, but it becomes very relevant when you are trying to cash in on all that labor the other side of the hill and want to enjoy the run down. Nothing focuses the mind sharper than hanging onto your bikes handlebars as you do 50 kph + down a hill, teeth clattering as you run over deep potholes with roadside trees casting their shadows across the road. Black - light - black - light - bump - bump -black - black -bump bump bump bump - light - black - bump bump bump - black ...you get the impression.
Rome is built on seven hills. As you crest one of these you are thrown down some beautiful tree lined streets adorned with magnificent villa's and there in front of you lies the Vatican. I am not remotely religious but I have always been impressed by the sheer size and grandeur of the Basilica. It is an impressive building and surrounds by anyone's estimations. Certainly given the diverse mix of nationalities present in the forecourt you get a real sense of the enormous reach of Catholicism throughout the world.
I was pleasantly bemused that in this day and age I was allowed to bring a bicycle laden with panniers into the actual forecourt of St Peters Square, and furthermore park it among the pillars that surround the square. Police presence seemed no greater than any other time I have visited the Vatican which was a pleasant contradiction to what I was expecting.
A quick selfie or two, help from a German tourist for a couple of other photos and then it was off to the Via Francigena office to have my VF passport stamped one final time and receive my testiomonale of completion of the Via Francigena.
2,121 km after leaving the house in Richmond, London I had completed the pilgrims route known as the Via Francigena.
The walled city of Viterbo. Population of 67,000 and is twinned with Albany, NY among other facts.
Lazio regional and city roads take the '' worst roads '' award from the Milanese that I had given out earlier in my trip. They really were 3rd world in a lot of places. You can understand then need for focus and concentration when you are tearing down a hill and encounter the above.
Throughout my ride from the Alps to Rome I have become dismayed at the disregard a lot of Italian motorists have to rubbish and their countryside. Countless times I have passed whole rubbish sacks deposited roadside. Don't get me started on how many plastic bottles I must have passed or used tissues. It really has been one downer on the ride through what is otherwise a beautiful country. There just seems to be zero respect or regard for the environment. Perhaps it is not educated to them, perhaps it is cultural, but along with parts of Asia I have visited the Italians disregard for refuse is appallingly bad and on a par with the very worst of countries I have traveled to. The closer I got to Rome the worse it became too.
Half way up the hill out of Viterbo. I like the idea of ''kicking back''
Cresting the 14.1 km hill. 1 hour and 24 mins to top it, gives you an idea of the gradient.
My type of car. Perhaps not the color, but one day when I grow up I am definitely buying one.
Columns of St Peters Square.
There he is ! Along with 275,645 of his closest mates in St Peters square.
2,121 km later.....Final stamp done. Testimonale received. Box ticked. Itch scratched.
The slightly heavier, less sun burnt version setting out on April 25.
Thanks again to EVERYONE for all measures of support whether it be financial, morale, or otherwise. YOU CAN STILL DONATE and any financial gift, regardless of how small or large is REALLY APPRECIATED by me and those charities that I am supporting. So if you have enjoyed the posts and doing the 'virtual' ride with me then PLEASE do give something. The donation window is only open another few days.
Again - THANK YOU and THANK YOU.