It was a Sunday afternoon in London, and I found myself with nothing to do. I felt the urge to head into the city and wander its streets. On days like these when I have plenty of time and no agenda, it’s like some sort of homing beacon kicks in. I find myself gravitating to Covent Garden to wile away the hours in one of my favourite shops, Stanfords.
Stanfords is the world’s largest map and travel bookshop. For someone like me, it’s a treasure trove that jolts memories and inspires in equal measure. Walking its floors is akin to flicking through my passport, mulling over its many stamps and recalling travel experiences from years gone by. And my wanderlust is given space to breathe. As I browse the shelves I indulge myself, planning a lifetime of adventures in countries near and far.
I was browsing through the Italy section, when a book caught my eye. It was a walking guide to the Via Francigena, a pilgrimage trail that runs from Canterbury to Rome. I was familiar with the Camino de Santiago, a popular pilgrimage trail that culminates in the Spanish city of Santiago de Compostela. But I’d never heard of the Via Francigena.
Before I’d even picked the book up off the shelf, I knew the Via Francigena would be a journey that I’d make at some point in my life. It seemed too perfect – a trail, and adventure, linking the countries of my heritage. England and Italy.
As I thumbed through the book and made my way to the cashier, I didn’t dwell on the question of whether walking the trail was possible. I jumped straight to the question of when.