You don’t wake up one day and decide, “I am going to walk 1000km”.
Or perhaps you do.
I have heard stories of people walking out the front door of their home in Switzerland, and walking all the way to Santiago de Compostela in north-west Spain. So, it does happen
Me? I like to do a little more research.
The via Francigena is a 1 900km pilgrimage route that starts at Canterbury Cathedral in England and finishes with a huge sigh as the pilgrim collapses on the steps of St Peter’s Basilica in Rome, Italy.
On Wednesday 8 August I will start walking the Italian section of the via Francigena from the Great Saint Bernard pass (Yes, where the dogs come from) in Switzerland and I have had great fun researching the ‘ins’ and ‘outs’ of this little-known walk.
Unlike the many popular Spanish caminos only 11 000 people walk the via Francigena each year, but there are still many excellent resources to make planning easier and reduce some of the uncertainty.
Website – via Francigena:
The official via Francigena website is a fabulous information resource and discusses the walk in detail. It includes a range of gorgeous photos which really showcase the beauty of the countryside, and picturesque enough to banish any second thoughts. It is all gentle rolling countryside, historic towns and quaint cobbled streets. (Although I still clearly remember how the many cobbles on the Camino Portuguese nearly did my head in, but I won’t dwell on that.)
The website provides detailed information on:
- History of the walk
- Accommodation options – including updated and downloadable pdfs
- The pilgrim’s credential and the testimonium you can receive at the end of the walk, and
- Excellent maps and apps.
Website – Rome to Rio:
This website was incredibly handy in the early stages of my research as I had to work out the best way to get to the very start of my walk at the Great Saint Bernard Pass. This location is slightly off the beaten track and the road is only open in the Summer months. My plan is fly into Zurich, jump on a train at the airport to Orsieres, and then bus to the Hospice at Great Saint Bernard Pass. We’ll see if that plan is as seamless as I hope it will be.
App – Sloways:
Sloways are a travel company that have obviously invested a lot of time and money developing a series of 45 maps providing detailed coverage of the Via Francigena (VF) for both walkers and cyclists in Italy. Generously, they have provided this for free.
The app can be downloaded to any device. I have set this up on my tablet and downloaded all the maps for offline viewing. I am seriously considering putting it on my mobile phone too. Not that I am going to get lost or anything, but just to be sure, to be sure.
Apps – Other:
Previous VF pilgrims have raved about the usefulness of:
The jury is still out whether I will need those as well.
Facebook has a lot of faults, but it is perfect for connecting like-minded individuals. The Via Francigena group is chock full to over-flowing with generous, passionate and experienced VF pilgrims. Ask a question and you are sure to receive numerous considered and useful responses. Everyone is so keen to share the VF-love that you are overwhelmed with their enthusiasm and knowledge.
I have followed many blog links from this page and it is both inspiring and useful to see what lies ahead of me.
Despite this walk being slightly less travelled, there are some solid print resources available, if like me, you enjoy a solid book first and foremost.
The most recent publication by Roberta Ferraris, The Via Francigena 1000km on Foot From the Gran San Bernardo to Rome, is receiving very positive reviews and has current maps and information.
I have a copy of Alison Raju’s guide book, and while it is quite dated, I am hoping that between it and the Sloways app, I won’t get too lost. I suspect that no resource will ever be 100% accurate for any length of time due to local VT support groups continually upgrading the path and moving it slightly to safer and more scenic locations.
As the days melt away and the excitement builds, I look forward to packing my backpack, lacing on my boots and sharing the journey with you.
Are you a planner? Or do you wing it?
What: The via Francigena is a 1 900km pilgrimage route established in 990AD.
Where: The path starts at Canterbury Cathedral in England and ends in the Vatican City, Rome Italy.
When: The path can be attempted at any time of year, although snow closes the Great Saint Bernard Pass from mid-Autumn to mid-Spring. You must schedule your walk accordingly or use public transport to cover this stage.
Why: Because these boots were made for walking.
How: By foot, car, plane, train, plane, train, bus, foot, foot, foot, foot, foot, foot, (repeat for 40 days), train, plane, train, foot, foot, plane, car, foot. Phew!
Who: Everyone, including you!
Related Posts: For more background on this walk, have a look at my planning post.
Related Blogs: For great photos and quirky writing about the via Francigena, have a look at: https://caminoist.org/
Read About it: Grab your via Francigena guidebook and maps from Book Depository.