It’s all systems go as I count down for my next long distance walk. This time stepping out on the Italian leg of the Via Francigena.
If I was really committed (or should that be, “I should be committed”!) I would start at the very beginning of the Via Francigena with my first steps from Canterbury Cathedral in England. But No, I will have to be satisfied with a simple Italian stroll instead.
I have discussed the initial Via Francigena plans in a previous post where I talked about its history and some of the basic logistics of this walk. Here I will describe the stages in a little more detail.
The plan is to set out from the Great Saint Bernard Pass in Switzerland on Wednesday 8 August and 44 days later, arrive in Rome. That is a distance of around 1 027km or 26km per day. I say ‘around’ because no maps or apps seem to agree on the actual distance and I guess it depends on how many ‘scenic’ detours you take or how many times you get lost!
So, this is what my research is telling me…
Day 1: Great Saint Bernard Pass, Switzerland to Aosta, Italy.
The night before I will be staying in the Great Saint Bernard Pass hospice that was set up in 1050AD to provide a haven for pilgrims making their way to/from Rome. Apparently the Swiss/Italian border is only about 100m past the hospice, so it is a quick ‘hello’ and ‘goodbye’ to Switzerland. Day 1 is 30km of downhill all the way to Aosta.
While I am hoping that that word ‘Val’ translates to ‘valley’ and indicates sweeping downhills and glorious flat surfaces, I know I am kidding myself. The elevation maps show that there is a mix of stiff climbs and a few more gentle downhills. I hope my jetlag is starting to wane by then.
Day 6-19: Piedmonte Region
Again the elevation maps show a mixed terrain, but this area is famous for its prolific rice growing industry.
Some experienced Via Francigena walkers moan about the boredom of walking through endless rice fields and even recommend that it is skipped by catching a train or bus to more interesting regions. Not me, I am a bit of a purist and always plan to walk every step.
I am heeding the warnings though, about the quantity and aggression of the region’s mosquitos and will be packing plenty of heavy duty bug spray.
Days 20-32: Tuscany
My introduction to Tuscany commences near Pontremoli. A few gentle days quickly change to numerous rolling hills (this is me being optimistic again) and an equal number of damn stiff climbs.
The good news is that I have two rest days scheduled in Tuscany – one at Lucca and another at Siena. Normally I do not schedule rest days so close together, but when I asked the question on the Facebook forum, everyone said that these cities are not to be missed.
I suspect that by this stage of the journey I will be more than happy to pull the backpack off and kick back for a bit.
Days 33-40: Latium (how very ancient Rome does that sound?)
This region starts around Acquapendente. I would like to describe it as the ‘home straight’, but the maps indicate something entirely different.
By this stage though I will be well-and-truly road-tested and the distances and routines of each day will have become automatic. There will be some nice, shorter days of 17-18km and that will seem quite odd after having walked multiple +30km days. I will be at my destination before breakfast time!
Similar to walking a camino, pilgrims only need to walk the last 100km to be eligible to receive a testimonium at St Peter’s Basilica, but where is the challenge in that?
I am not at all religious, but I find that piece of paper so powerful and so important to provide a significant full-stop to the preceding 40 days of hard yakka.
Having walked over 1 000k before, I know exactly how I will feel as I stand in front of the Basilica. I will be:
- pretty proud of what I have achieved,
- very tired and more than ready to pull that backpack off for a long, long time, and
- desperate for a very large and very cold beer!
Care to join me?
What: The Via Francigena is a 1 900km pilgrimage route established in 990AD.
Where: The path starts at Canterbury Cathedral at Canterbury 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.