From home to Rome: Woman completes six-month walk

Geraldine McFaul poses in front of hills with her hiking gear.
Geraldine McFaul said the hardest part of the trek was the "hills and the heat"

A woman who challenged herself to walk from her home in Glasgow to Rome has arrived in the Italian capital after six months.

Geraldine McFaul, 54, arrived in Vatican City's St Peter's Square on Saturday morning to a welcome party of loved ones who flew to Italy from Glasgow to celebrate with her.

Ms McFaul walked about 12 miles a day to cover the 1,400-mile route.

She said there were difficulties along the way but she would always tell herself "don't worry about tomorrow, just get through today".

The freelance risk management consultant from Balarnock had dreamed of visiting Rome for seven years before setting off on foot in May.

She made the decision to travel after her friends urged her to "just get on with it".

A woman stands with her trailer in a residential street.
Geraldine has travelled through Scotland, England, France and Switzerland on foot, with her trailer, to get to Italy

She told BBC Scotland News: "I've done long walks before, but by that I mean 300-mile walks, not 2,000-mile walks."

She has been roughly following the Via Francigena, a historical walking trail which connected pilgrims with the Holy City of Rome in Medieval times, but admits she has been "making it up as she goes along".

The journey has taken her through the UK, France, Switzerland, and even over the Alps, which she originally planned to skip.

She describes the Alps as her "nemesis" and said she was in "disbelief" at conquering them.

The hills and the heat were the most challenging, she said, as she walked on despite three heatwaves.

However, she said: "Not once did it occur to me to get a bus or train."

"There's been no big disasters. Everything just seems to have happened and worked.

"I had three blisters in the whole journey, and it took me 1,000 miles before I got the first blister."

Geraldine has befriended locals and fellow walkers along the way and said kind strangers had offered her food and a bed to sleep in.

Her 94-year-old godfather has been keenly following her progress on video calls and will fly to Italy to celebrate with her on Wednesday.

They look forward to being in a general audience to see the Pope on Wednesday and will visit the Vatican Gardens with representatives of Mary's Meals Italy on Thursday.

She plans to take a "hop on, hop off" bus tour around Rome and find some nice wine in the meantime.

Geraldine will then spend a week sightseeing in Rome. She said it would be strange to come home to Scotland after what felt like "six months of summer".

Geraldine sits on a bench with a round arch.
Geraldine poses along the scenic route

Geraldine has raised a combined total of over £6,500 through her efforts for Mary's Meals and Dementia UK.

She said the charities were very dear to her heart and kept her moving.

Her mother was supported by Dementia UK nurses before she died in April 2022.

The funds raised for Mary's Meals were to honour her father.

He was a taxi driver in Glasgow and she recalled donating his spare change for similar causes as a child.

Geraldine thinks her parents would be "quietly proud" of her.

She said she was still processing completing such a monumental challenge and does not know if she will ever be able to top it.

Dr Hilda Hayo, chief executive at Dementia UK, says: “Everyone at Dementia UK has been blown away by Geraldine’s fundraising efforts, and the whole charity sends our heartfelt thanks and congratulations as she crosses the finish line in Rome."

Gemma Love, Supporter Engagement Officer at Mary’s Meals, added: “We are incredibly grateful for her support, which will help us feed more hungry children."