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By Peter Francis Browne

This is often Peter Francis Browne's account of his stroll from France to the Italian capital, which fulfilled his ambition to stroll in Hilaire Belloc's footsteps. He exhibits that the panorama has replaced dramatically from Belloc's day, however the humans stay consistent of their outstanding variety.

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Extra info for Rambling on the Road to Rome

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So I flung off my rucksack and, deprived of its weight, toppled several involuntary paces forward. The bed of the trough was a mosaic of rotting leaves but, as I cupped my hands, the man shouted, ‘No, no! ’ And there, set into the wall above the trough, was a pump handle. Translucent spring water gushed from a 38 Toul to Flavigny-sur-Moselle spout I had not noticed and I drank my fill, allowing the icy liquid to dribble down deliciously inside my shirt. Beyond this hamlet my quiet tributary of a lane joined the flow of heavy traffic, and I had no option but to follow this busy highway the final few kilometres into Flavigny-sur-Moselle.

And by stopping I had contravened yet another Law for I had unburdened myself and rested. Even at lunchtime I should have kept my rucksack on and leaned against a wall. But at least I had not talked to anyone for longer than half an hour; a heinous crime, which could not only have induced a desire to stop walking but could keep me behind schedule. Well behind schedule, having concocted a shandy in my stomach by the addition of Alsace beer, I set out along the road to Neuves Maisons. 34 Toul to Flavigny-sur-Moselle The sun was now beaming from a cloudless sky and the feeling of claustrophobia brought on by following the enclosed bed of the valley was dissipated, not only by the heat but by my first overall view of the region’s topography.

I was reminded of certain nineteenth-century English paintings in which well-heeled artists had portrayed squalor through rainbow-coloured palettes. Find a peasant. Stick her in front of a cart or village pump. Add a cow or some geese. Light the scene with a setting sun (good for atmospheric shadows) and hey presto! A genuine evocation of rustic contentment. Cross her palm with silver and off to find another subject. A fisherman perhaps? Mending his nets. What a handsome sailor’s beard. What piercing blue eyes reflecting the sea.

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