The Peripatetic Historian walks 650 miles to Rome following an ancient pilgrimage route

The apostle waits to greet pilgrims in Rome. All photos by the author.

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…

Dooger’s Seafood and Grill, Warrenton, Oregon

Cannons set to resist invasion, Fort Stevens, Oregon. All photos by author.

Warrenton is a small Oregon town set in the corner made by the Columbia River and the Pacific Ocean. Traveling north on Highway 101, it is the last stop before Astoria, and the bridge that crosses into Washington. It is also the home to a former military complex, Fort Stevens.

What drove three women to hike across the country to San Francisco in 1915?

Photo by Austin Ban on Unsplash

“We’ll foot it to the fair or faint.”

On March 18, 1915, three young women, Ruth Harsley, Ethel Rockwell, and Maud Bridson gathered in front of Chicago City Hall. Accompanied by Frisco Jack, a Scotch Collie adopted from the local pound, the trio were about to hike west on the newly-opened Lincoln Highway. They planned to reach California in time to visit the San Francisco Exposition, arriving by October 1.

“This trip was suggested to me a year ago,” Harsley, the group’s de facto leader, told the newspapers, “I was reading of the great fair to be held in San…

How one small word changes the meaning of your actions.

Photo by Courtney Cook on Unsplash

This August, I submitted a letter to my department chair, announcing my intention to resign from my position as a history professor. My resignation will become effective May 2022, the end of our university’s academic year.

A day later the dean responded that I should alter one verb in my letter. She advised me to change “resign” to “retire.” If I used the latter, she said, I would be eligible for some retirement benefits that are not offered to employees who simply quit.

Who doesn’t love benefits? I changed my letter as suggested and resubmitted it.

And it has driven…

Bressanone, Italy to Chiusa: Rain, walking with the saints, the Chestnut Trail, and an encounter with stinco.

The Monasterio di Sabiona on a rain-soaked afternoon. Chiusa, Italy.


More rain.

When the rain hits the ground, it produces mud. And more mud.

Thus we go, sliding down the mud-slicked mountains, hiking through the rain to Chiusa, Italy.

Welcome to the Peripatetic Historian’s multi-part series about hiking Italy’s Via Romea Germanica. If you have stumbled across today’s installment by accident and have no idea what is happening, you might prefer to begin at the start of the series, here:

Otherwise, let’s continue the journey.

Yesterday evening (after I finished the day’s post) Mary and I wandered down from our distant lodgings and strolled through the streets of Sunday…

Mezzaselva to Bressanone: Will the Peripatetic Historian be able to distract Mary from her marble-carving?

Mary, sculptor Markus Gasser, and the head of Marcus Brutus.

Clink, clink, clink.

Marble chips flew from the side of a veined white block as Mary whacked away with a beefy hammer and a chisel. She had taken one look at the giant head of Brutus — Julius Caesar’s assassin — and ambition had flared in her eyes.

Captured by her artistic vision, I wondered if I would ever get her back on the road to Bressanone.

Welcome to the Peripatetic Historian’s multi-part series about hiking Italy’s Via Romea Germanica. If you have stumbled across…

Vipiteno, Italy to Mezzaselva: Maria of Trens and a hike along the Bee trail. The journey to Rome continues.

Vipiteno, Italy. All photos by author.

Vipiteno feels like a tourist attraction about to happen. The quaint shops and restaurants lining the main street seem poised to welcome guests, but on our second night in town, the avenues were largely devoid of tourists. Early evening bars placed chairs and tables in front of their storefronts in a desperate gambit to capture a share of the appertivo market. This was very optimistic on this gray rainy evening.

“The people begin to arrive in June,” said the owner of…

The Peripatetic Historian begins the long walk to Rome.

Vicenza, Italy. All photos by author.

And so, after all of the thinking, planning, and dreaming, the moment has arrived. We are in Vipiteno, South Tyrol, on the morning of our first day walking the Via Romea Germanica.

We spent our first three nights of this new expedition in Vicenza, a new city for us. Vicenza, or more appropriately, the monument to the great Renaissance architect Andrea Palladio, was a fabulous place. Unfortunately, our experience of it was tempered by the grey smog of jet lag. …

Survivor of three of the biggest shipwrecks in history, or a fraud?

The Empress of Ireland. Public domain,

On the afternoon of May 7, 1915, eleven miles off the coast of Ireland, the German submarine U-20 patrolled the seas, waiting for the arrival of the American liner Lusitania. The Americans were neutral; they had yet to declare war on Germany. Nevertheless, they continued to run passenger liners and freighters between New York and European ports. They paid no attention to German warnings that vessels operating in the war zone might be attacked.

The Lusitania was a speedy ship — too fast for a submarine to catch. Unfortunately, the U-20 lay athwart her course, in perfect firing position. As…

The Fish Peddler, Bay City, Oregon

Old Oyster Shack, Bay City, Oregon. All photos by author.

Editor’s Update: This installment of the Oyster Burger Chronicles is offered as a tribute to the greatness that is possible. Unfortunately, at the time of publication, the Fish Peddler has removed the Oyster Po’Boy from its menu. The closest a diner can come to that tasty delight is the fried oyster basket, and, as noted below, I have serious reservations about that.

As noted in another installment of the Oyster Burger Chronicles, the town of Tillamook, Oregon does not have a proper waterfront on Tillamook Bay. Traveling north from town, however, we find Bay City, midway between Tillamook and Garibaldi…

Richard J. Goodrich

Author and history professor. Monthly Newsletter, “What’s New in Old News” available at:

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