November 2020                                          e-newsletter number 14
Welcome to the fourteenth e-newsletter of the
Confraternity of Pilgrims to Rome.


Lazio....getting near to Rome
  • Alison Raju 1939-2020
  • News of Joe Patterson
  • Danilo Parisi launches a book
  • Danilo's boat appeal update
  • A Pilgrimage to Canterbury
  • Highs and Lows of the Via Francigena - Zoom 
  • Romeo Cox - a young man with a mission
  • Could you help the Confraternity?
  • Slowways
  • Re-open EU
  • Christmas Shopping
  • Membership renewal

Alison Raju 1939-2020

With great sadness we learned of the death of Alison Raju on 2nd November. Vice-Chair Brian Mooney has provided this obituary. 

Alison Raju, who died on Monday 2 November aged 81, guided and inspired a generation of pilgrim walkers. She wrote more than half a dozen guidebooks on the ways to Santiago and Rome, and on St Olav’s Way from Oslo to Trondheim. Her earthy comments and well thought-through instructions in convenient pocket-sized books, with their distinctive maps and photographs, encouraged and enabled thousands of walkers to follow in her footsteps.

Alison’s contribution to pilgrim walking was not confined to writing guidebooks; she was an active and enthusiastic member of both the Confraternity of St James and the Confraternity of Pilgrims to Rome – of which she was a founding member – and she gave her time generously to the Camino Francés, working as an hospitalera in pilgrim hostels at Miraz and Rabanal del CaminoIn recent years, she edited the Confraternity of Pilgrims to Rome Newsletter.

A chance viewing of a television programme fired Alison’s interest in the Pilgrim Road to Santiago, at that time barely known in Britain; as a keen walker, she set out to complete the 1000-mile Camino from Le Puy-en-Velay to Santiago all in one go. Fortuitously, this was the early 1990s when Cicerone Press was looking for an author to write an original guide in English to the Spanish section of the route. The Way of St James (1994) was the start of a bountiful relationship between walker and publisher which over 25 years led to a succession of guidebooks on the various routes to Santiago and on the Via Francigena to Rome and St Olav’s Way in Norway. Praised for their accuracy, cultural sensitivity and pithy knowledge, her books sold in tens of thousands. The products of many thousand miles of watchful and steady footfall, they appeared to resonate in an increasingly secular age with a surprising resurgence in walking ancient pilgrim ways. Those who walk with Alison’s guidebooks will invariably find her good company.

Having also produced a series of practical guides for both the Confraternities, Alison’s last published book was an update on the French section of the Camino, Le Puy to the Pyrenees (2018). She was working on a revision of her guide to the route from Seville to Santiago, Via de la Plata (2005), when she had a fall outside her home either before or after a brain haemorrhage.

Born Alison Rose on 30 May 1939 in Redhill, Nottingham, where her father ran a building company, Alison was educated locally and then as a boarder at St Michael’s School, Limpsfield in Surrey. She went on to the Guildhall School of Music and Drama to study the violin and French horn but left before graduating to work with the International Voluntary Service, which took her to India. There she met and, in 1963, married Louis Raju, a professor at St Joseph’s, Darjeeling’s prestigious Jesuit college.

The couple moved to the United States where they studied and worked at the University of Pennsylvania – Alison attaining an MA and Doctorate in French while working part time at the University library. Her doctoral thesis was on the role of humour in Victor Hugo’s plays and novels.

Alison and Louis came to England in the early 1970s, divorcing soon after. There were no children. Alison set up home in Nottingham where she had a series of jobs, working in a bookshop and with a publisher, and she took a further degree in Spanish Studies at the University of Nottingham. She settled into full-time work as a foreign languages teacher at a college of further education (she had a good knowledge of Spanish, French, Portuguese, German, Italian and Hindi), until in her fifties walking progressively took over. She had a modest and somewhat frugal lifestyle and, up to her fall, she was still editing on her computer, and playing the French horn for local orchestras, including the Nottingham Police Band and the Djanogly Community Orchestra.

Alison was at one with, and at home on, the road, her thirst for knowledge forever drawing her over the next hill. Tenacious but without being dogmatic, she understood instinctively that motivation for pilgrimage in the 21st century could be historical, cultural, sporting or religious, or indeed a combination of all of these. More on the spiritual side herself, she talked of the attractions of life on the road pared down to its bare essentials, and she sagely observed:

“Most of those who walk the Via Francigena, like those who have already experienced the Camino to Santiago, and especially those who have been able to do the whole route in one go, would probably agree that it has changed their lives in some way, even if they did not set out with this intention.”

In her unassuming way, Alison helped change the lives of many people.

Dr Alison Raju 30 May 1939 – 2 November 2020.  She is survived by a younger sister, Pip, and five nephews and nieces.

Joe Patterson

Another Via Francigena veteran and former CPR Chair, Joe Patterson, is now in a care home in Dorchester suffering from advanced Alzheimer’s disease. Carers say he loves to walk around the home – a well ingrained impulse. Joe was one of the VF pioneers, walking to Rome from Canterbury in 2001 in just over two months.
Many thanks to Brian Mooney for maintaining contact with the respective families. Let us keep Alison's family and Joe in our thoughts and prayers.

Danilo Parisi - the Po Ferryman

Danilo at the helm in 2018
Our Vice-Chair Brian Mooney writes:

New Book Celebrates the River Po Crossing

The ever-active ferryman of the River Po, Danilo Parisi, has published a new book with his friend and collaborator Maurizio De Berti to celebrate the centuries-old passage of pilgrims through their water-bound homeland.

I Pellegrini attraverso il guado del Po (Pilgrimage across the ford of the Po) focuses on the four rivers that converge on the Padan Plain near Piacenza – the Po and three of its tributaries, the Lambro, Tidone and Trebbia – and it traces the story of pilgrim traffic there from Roman times to the modern day.

It’s an insalata mista of history, archaeology, legend and local engagement with many photos and some 20 colour maps that illustrate the routes taken by pilgrims, including the Irish missionary Saint Colombano/Columbanus, on his way to nearby Bobbio, where he died in 615, and England’s Archbishop Sigeric, on his way back from Rome nearly four centuries later.  


The pull-out maps show how the courses of the rivers have altered through the ages from a combination of flood alleviation and irrigation and because of natural drainage and silting. Traversing this watery junction by boat and ford was all important until the arrival in more recent time of secure bridges – hence the historical significance and special role of Danilo’s ferry service.

Danilo, 71, revived the former pilgrim ferry in 1998 as the re-discovered Via Francigena gained traction, and this summer he carried his 10,000th passenger on the short passage from Corte Sant’ Andrea to Soprarivo.

His 22 years as unofficial guardian and ferryman of the River Po have not been without drama. An outboard motor was stolen and two of his launches have been vandalised – the last one at the start of the lockdown in March 2020. After the latest setback, the Confraternity of Pilgrims to Rome stepped up to the plate, our  members and other pilgrims, past and future, contributing 6000 euros towards the cost of a new launch. It will be put into service with due fanfare next spring. Danilo has been ferrying passengers in the meantime in a hired boat.

“My experience as the ferryman has not always been easy,” writes Danilo. But I have never lost my enthusiasm. The organisations associated with the Via Francigena have not always given me due recognition, but I retain wonderful memories of nearly all the pilgrims who have passed this way, many of whom have become my friends. I look forward to meeting many more in the coming days, months and – let’s hope – years.”

Danilo runs a cultural and hospitality centre at his riverside home and – on a lighter note – as well as recounting tales of his days playing and coaching rugby, he records that he has cooked and served more than five tonnes of penne!


This is not a book for your rucksack – it weighs 0.7 kilos – but with its colourful photos, maps and illustrations it is one to treasure ‘when the long trick’s over’. Copies can be obtained from Maurizio De Berti

Writing at the end of October, Danilo reports that he has ferried 325 passengers to date this year – most of them since the lockdown was lifted. This compares with a total of 1279 in 2019, 1405 in 2018 and 1231 in 2017. There are still a couple of months to go, but the annual total for 2020 is going to be very modest by comparison with previous years.


CPR Appeal for Danilo's new boat

In gratitude for the generosity and hospitality of Danilo, which so many pilgrims have enjoyed, we launched a Justgiving appeal earlier this year. We will keep it open until the end of 2020. It is not too late to contribute. 

A Pilgrimage to Canterbury

 A medieval pilgrim's badge depicting Thomas Becket.  Copyright Museum of London.   
The Confraternity is excited to announce that we are embarking on a new project to develop a pilgrimage route from London to Canterbury. Since the CPR was founded in 2006, we have worked closely with Canterbury Cathedral, which has been welcoming pilgrims for 1400 years. Although it is the traditional starting point for the Via Francigena it was formally designated as such only in 1994. As an alternative to travelling to Canterbury by train, the CPR feels the pilgrim community would benefit from the opportunity to approach the Cathedral, with its iconic kilometre zero stone marking the beginning of their walk, on a four-day pilgrimage from London to Canterbury, following in the steps of pilgrims who travelled for centuries to the shrine of St Thomas Becket. 
The name of Canterbury is famous throughout the world for its connection to Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. The tales told by the merry group of pilgrims as they journey from Southwark to Canterbury reveal few details of the route itself, excepting a few key place names.  From these names we know that the route followed Watling Street, originally a Roman road that went as far as Dover. Watling Street has since developed, as many Roman roads have, into a motorway. A route now dominated by traffic and passing through some industrial areas, it is not a preferred choice for walkers. The relatively recent revival of pilgrimage routes in Europe, such as the Camino de Santiago and the Via Francigena, and the steady increase of pilgrims walking these routes is driving interest and demand for a route to England’s most popular pilgrimage destination – Canterbury Cathedral.
The CPR is still in the early stages of this project, but we are aiming to create a route using existing paths that will take pilgrims through places of both historic interest and beautiful landscapes. We will keep our members and the larger pilgrim community updated on our progress. Immediate plans include trial-walking of the proposed route, and then releasing an early draft of the guidebook for volunteers to provide feedback on the route, and issuing pilgrim credentials.

If you are based between London and Canterbury and would like to be actively involved in this project, please get in touch with our Canterbury rep, Julia Lewis: 
Highs and Lows of the Via Francigena - Zoom

The Confraternity held two further successful Zoom gatherings, on July 31 and  October 26. The latter  was entitled Highs and Lows of the Via Francigena. Our aim was for an evening (which it was for most attendees!) which would be both informative and enjoyable. We were fortunate once again to have Victoria Field to moderate and guide the gathering and we are very grateful to her for this. About 25 people attended from places as varied as Texas, Alaska and Australia, and everyone seemed to enjoy it very much. It is a good way of fostering confraternity during times when our options for meeting in real life are severely limited.

Our next Zoom social event has been planned for Sunday 10 January 2021. An invitation will be sent nearer to the time. 

Romeo Cox - a young man with a mission


One of the difficulties which many people have experienced during the varieties of lockdown in different countries during this challenging year has been separation from loved ones. For many of us telephone calls, or  Zoom or Skype calls have become an important means of keeping in touch. During the summer one determined young man found another solution. 

Romeo Cox is 11 years old. Originally from London, he moved to Palermo with his British father and Italian mother. He says that he was missing his Grandma Rosemary so he set out to walk from Sicily to London to greet her. He brought along his father for the walk too - as he said, "He might be handy in any grown up situations, like  crossing borders and stuff!" With their plans including provisions, health precautions, and a determination to avoid aeroplanes, for the good of the planet, they set out on 18 June. They did make use of a sailing ship, bicycles occasionally and a donkey too at one stage, and celebrated Romeo's birthday along the way.  

The great adventure is documented on Facebook and Instagram. They made many friends along the way, especially children, and appeared on a variety of local media channels. They reached London on 20 September after a journey of 2800km - and then had to quarantine for two weeks before an emotional reunion with Granny! 

Living in Sicily, Romeo is well aware of the plight of refugees crossing the Mediterranean in great peril. His mother runs a charity to support vulnerable refugees, especially women and children. You can read more about his trip, and contribute to that work.

Could you help the Confraternity?

The Confraternity of Pilgrims to Rome is a small-scale charity run by enthusiastic volunteers on behalf of enthusiastic members. We draw on the skills and generosity of members to supply the expertise needed to carry out our work.

A particular need at the moment is someone with experience in the field of fundraising. This person would work alongside the Chair and with the fundraising group. If you are interested in helping in this way, or indeed in any other way with our work, please contact our Chair, Carlo Laurenzi,

Download details of the responsibilities of the Fundraising Lead. 



Confraternity members who are confined to the British mainland at present but who are looking for somewhere to walk may be interested to read about Slowways, an initiative which seeks to make use of existing footpaths to create a network of walking routes that connect all of Great Britain’s towns and cities as well as thousands of villages. They are looking for volunteers to test and review routes over the whole of Great Britain. You can get more information here

Re-open EU

This is an official website of the EU which collates information from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control about member states (which still includes UK at the time of writing) to give an overview of the health situation and travel restrictions in each territory. It is available in 24 languages. 

Christmas Shopping

Many of us are looking forward to better times next year and maybe getting back on the road. It could be a good time to get yourself a pilgrim credential, a badge for your lapel of bag, or some cards  or even our accommodation book if you want to start planning. 

Check out our online shop

Membership Renewal

If you haven’t already done so and if your membership has expired or is about to expire, or if by any chance you have not received your reminder, please go online to renew your subscription. With your support and with a strong membership we can do more to promote the Via Francigena, and to assist those who want to take up the challenge of walking, cycling or riding to Rome.

One year: £20 (individual); £30 (joint)
Three years: £40 (individual); £50 (joint)
Lifetime: £100 (individual); £125 (joint)
Buy Now
Copyright © 2020 Confraternity of Pilgrims to Rome, All rights reserved.
You are receiving this email because you are a subscribed member of the Confraternity of Pilgrims to Rome or a courtesy recipient of our publications.
Our mailing address is:
Confraternity of Pilgrims to Rome
13 Chapman Place
London, London N4 2PD
United Kingdom
Want to change how you receive these emails?
You can update your preferences or unsubscribe from this list.