My name is Julia Lewis (née Peters), an Anglo-American currently living in Canterbury, Kent. Although I have always been an avid walker, I only undertook my first long-distance walk in August, 2013 when I travelled over the Pyrenees from France and across Northern Spain along the Way of Saint James to Santiago de Compostela. Over 25 days and 875 kilometres I came to understand why so many are drawn to long-distance walking and in particular, the pilgrimage route to Santiago. Walking this distance can seem to many an impossible feat, yet what I saw on the Camino proved that this is not an activity reserved for the super-fit. Each day pilgrims and walkers of every age, size, and level of fitness arrive in Santiago.
Eager for a new adventure, my mind turned to another famous route that runs from my current city, Canterbury, to a place that was my home for four years and which I miss a great deal – Rome. After months of planning, I left on my journey on 28 March, 2015 and over 79 days walked the 1200 miles from Canterbury to Rome.
What I hoped to achieve:
The purpose of my journey was one of personal enrichment, an initiative to promote The Via Francigena and the Cultural Routes of the Council of Europe, to conduct research on mobility in the Roman Empire and to further links between the European Centres of the University of Kent.
I recorded my experiences and impressions of the 79-day journey through a blog (available to download here), which has reached readers from all over the globe. I hope this blog will continue to inform pilgrims planning to experience the route for themselves, and I greatly enjoy hearing from readers through comments and via the contact form of this website. My initiative to promote the Via Francigena continues, with events such as an annual fundraiser and making links to The University of Kent (i.e. Festival of Ideas, November 2016) and attending events and conferences of the European Association of the Vie Francigene. I am also Canterbury Representative of the membership organisation The Confraternity of Pilgrims to Rome (pilgrimstorome.org.uk). In this capacity I work with local government to improve signage of the route locally and participate in initiatives to engage local people with this heritage of the Via Francigena.
This project received support from KIASH (Kent Institute for Advanced Studies in Humanities, University of Kent), in conjunction with the research of Professor Ray Laurence (department of Classical and Archaeological Studies).
The University of Kent, European Centres
As an alumna of The University of Kent’s MA programme in Roman History and Archaeology (2014), based in both Canterbury and Rome, I represented the University of Kent’s European Centres as I made the journey connecting the university’s two campuses of Canterbury and Rome. Other students and alumni of the European Centres joined me for sections of the walk and contributed to the blog, presenting their own experiences of the route.
The University of Kent, ‘The UK’s European University’, has academic centres in Brussels, Paris, Rome and Athens
Visit http://www.kent.ac.uk/locations/ to learn more