Via Francigena. The Road to Rome

Romeo, 10 years old, travels on foot from Palermo to London along the Via Francigena

He left at dawn on Saturday 18 July and arrived in Viterbo in the morning, where we met him for a video interview.

He is walking the Via Francigena together with his father to reach his grandmother in London and to raise awareness of migration and environment. It is Romeo’s Big Journey, who today made a stop in Italian Viterbo. The young pilgrim is challenged by a march of 2800 kilometres, supported by many messages of solidarity and hope.

Romeo was born and raised in London but has lived in Palermo for a couple of years. During the lockdown his thoughts were about his grandmother, who was left alone in London. He wanted to come to visit her, but how could he do it? The parents explained that it was impossible to take any means of transportation.

"Then I'll walk there!”: Romeo replied as if it was the most obvious thing in the world. When the parents, an Italian documentary maker and an English war journalist, found themselves contemplating about this idea, "I realized it was really happening," Mom Giovanna told us.

The adventure took shape and Romeo added arguments to support his journey. The little one was determined to have a first-hand experience of migrants and refugees. In his early age he already has a high awareness about migrations: in 2006 his mother Giovanna founded a non-profit organization "REACT", providing access to education and legal advice for migrants and refugees.

“During the lockdown Romeo had a tablet, a phone, internet connection. However, it was not the case for all children. Many of his playmates here in Ballarò (both migrants and Italians) were cut off for months from education. This is something that struck and saddened my son very much, who understood how many of his friends did not have the same possibilities", continues his mother, "He started to think that the trip could be a way to raise funds for refugee children of Palermo and to raise awareness on the issue of migration. If asked, he replies that he makes this trip because he likes it, because he is lucky and that his father is ready to solve any inconvenience of the trip, while many of his peers fleeing war and misery often make far more dramatic journeys. And not by choice, but only towards the prospect of a little hope and a better future ".

The journey to his grandmother started in mid-June, when Romeo travelled through Sicily to Tindari, where he crossed the sea on a sailing boat to reach Agropoli, south of Salerno. From there, following the Via Francigena, he and his father arrived in Rome on two bicycles. Now they continue their walk along the European path of the Via Francigena, using only environmentally friendly means of transport. Their arrival is scheduled in September.

How to help Romeo?

- Support his fundraiser to provide a possibility for Ballarò children to have tablets and WIFI connection to access digital online learning and vital resources.

- Offer hospitality! Follow Romeo's journey on Romeos Big Journey Facebook page and if you know someone who could provide accommodation - contact them. It is difficult to find affordable housing; the raised funds do not cover travel costs that are borne by the family.

- A donkey wanted: Romeo has expressed an interest to have a donkey to accompany them, does anyone have one who wants to take a walk?

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