Italian grandmother sets off on 22,000km hike in footsteps of Marco Polo

Seventy two-year-old has already walked the length of Nepal and travelled the Biblical route of Jesus through Palestine

Lucy Thackray
Wednesday 27 April 2022 13:41 BST
Vienna Cammarota on her travels
Vienna Cammarota on her travels (Vienna Cammarota/Facebook)

An Italian grandmother of three has set off on an epic 22,000km hike, following the trail of her hero, Marco Polo.

Seventy-two-year-old Vienna Cammarota left Venice on Tuesday for the extraordinary journey, which follows a route the Italian explorer took 750 years ago all the way to Beijing.

It will take her through 15 countries and along the ancient Silk Road route through Eurasia to China, featured in his book The Travels of Marco Polo.

If every stage of her hike goes to plan, Ms Cammarota should reach the Chinese capital by December 2025.

This isn’t her first rodeo, either: the septuagenarian has already walked the length of Nepal to Everest, travelled the Biblical route of Jesus through Palestine and followed German philosopher Goethe’s trail across the Alps.

Ms Cammarota - who is from the Campania region - has three daughters and three granddaughters who will send her care packages at various stages of her route.

The experienced hiker will carry a 20kg backpack, and told local press she had saved €40,000 for the voyage, “But I will look for hospitality to save as much as I can and where I can.”

“I love history, culture and archaeology, and I walk in order to see and recount, but above all to listen,” she told reporters.

She has taken a copy of Marco Polo’s diaries to read along the way, and plans to keep her mind active by doing mental arithmetic.

“The idea comes from curiosity and history… I fell in love with Marco Polo and I realised that he is not well known by Venetians and all Italians,” she added.

She says she will be accompanied by “a physiotherapist, who is following me from a distance” but emphasised the importance of “psychological preparation” for the three-year journey.

“Never more than in this period of conflict at the gates of Europe, do we need examples like that of Vienna,” proclaimed the mayor of Naples, Gaetano Manfredi.

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