IMPORTANT NOTICE: this entry is outdated since early March 2017. You can get updated information about the issue in this other entry.
This blog entry is a bit hard to write as the terms used are contradictory, but we shall try to explain you what the situation is like at the moment (Summer 2016).
For many years, the pilgrim arriving at San Roman de Retorta in the Primitive Way had to take a decision: to proceed on through the official path, following the jacobean signposts marked with the shell and the kilometres left to Santiago, or take the detour (and shortcut) to the right, known as the “via romana” or “roman path”. Both paths met again further ahead, at the Roman bridge of Ferreira, but the pilgrim choosing the “via romana” would walk almost two kilometres less, and through a bit less of roads and a bit more of foot paths. There is not much of “Roman” in the path itself, besides the Roman stone milepost that was found here, a reproduction of which is situated in the central area of San Roman.
Since 2012 the officially recognized and delimited by the Xunta de Galicia path between San Roman and Ferreira is the one known as the “via romana”, which goes through Burgo de Negral, Vilacarpide and Pacio; thus, the other path, going through Vilamaior de Negral, stopped being maintained and having any of the protection and privileges (along with obligations) of the places which the Camino de Santiago goes through. However, the old path is still nowadays referred to as “camino oficial”, and the currently official camino is still known as “via romana”. And here is where we find the little chaos and contradiction, as:
The “camino oficial” is not the official camino anymore, while the “via romana”, which for years was considered as a meer detour and shortcut, is indeed the official camino
Thus, when the pilgrim reaches the church at San Roman de Retorta (which he/she will do from its rear side), he/she shall not continue straight, but take the small path that starts to the right just before the church, which will lead us to the central area of San Roman in just 200 metres, where the reproduction of the earlier mentioned Roman milestone and a bar can be found. If we go on, we shall find the public albergue of San Roman in just 700 metres, with capacity for only 12 persons, and if we proceed for another 7 to 8 kilometres we shall reach Ferreira, more and more often used as the end of this stage by pilgrims, and where we shall find two albergues, a bar and a rural house.
This way, if we take the path that has been the official one for the Primitivo between San Roman and Ferreira since 2012, we will walk through the hamlets of Burgo de Negral, Vilacarpide and Pacio, walking nearly 2 kilometres less, with less road walking and with more services for the pilgrim (which will only be found, however, at the very beginning and at the end of the 8 to 9 kilometres long walk).
How come that in the last four years the relevant Administration has yet not removed the jacobean signposts from the former path and placed them on the new one, this way driving hundreds of pilgrims to mistakenly take a longer and harder route in their Camino Primitivo? We don’t know, but our guess is that burocracy has played its role… The latest news we have is that the coming Winter or Spring finally the Diputacion is going to remove the posts from the old path and place them in the “via romana”, at the same time that they change all the posts of the Primitive Way for the new ones. Meanwhile, from Albergue Ponte Ferreira we keep the yellow paint arrows in good shape along the “via romana”, so no pilgrim is lost between San Roman and Ferreira.
Actually, most pilgrims since a few years ago take the “via romana”, but those few who mistakenly take the old route get quite upset when they find out that they walked longer than needed and through unmaintained paths, with vegetation covering the way or owners of land detouring the route, tired of missled pilgrims going through their land.
Additionally, the Diputacion recently installed some (very much welcome) signs for both cars and pilgrims along the Camino from Lugo to San Roman, but they mistakenly signed the way to proceed from the church of San Roman through the old route, as can be seen in the next image:
If you still have any doubts about how true the information we are giving you is, you can check the next map, which we have composed by adding up the maps in Pdf found in the Xunta de Galicia’s web site for the official route of the Camino Primitivo (to access them, click where it says “serie de planos” for each of the three towns affected: Guntin, Friol and Palas de Rei); you can see the map in higher size and resolution by clicking on it:
We finish this blog entry with a message for pilgrims, another one for editors of Camino guides, and a final one for the Administration:
PILGRIM: in San Roman de Retorta make no mistake and take the path to your right at the church, the so called “via romana”: you shall walk less kilometres, will do less of road walk, will enjoy a nicer landscape and will have more services.
EDITORS of Camino guides: please, stop mentioning at all the former official route in your guides, as this makes pilgrims take a route that is not good in any way, walking longer and (hopefully not!) maybe causing some incidents, as the path is not maintaned, some land owners detour it, and cars driving do not expect to find pilgrims; actually, please write a couple of lines in your guides discouraging pilgrims from taking that route!
ADMINISTRATION (the relevant one, which ever it may be: Xunta de Galicia, Diputacion, etc…): place the jacobean signposts along the “via romana” as soon as possible; but in the meantime, at least remove the existing ones from the former official camino, and certainly stop indicating that the camino goes that way (as the Diputacion recently did!)