I was tempted to call this post “All You Need to Know About Walking the Italian Via Francigena”. However as we are all individuals, no doubt we all have quite different experiences of walking 1000km through Italy. Instead, this post has a more modest title.
Modesty aside, what I hope this post does achieve is a comprehensive summary of the planning, the actual experience on a day-to-day basis, and then the obligatory post-walk reflections. I also hope it saves you a bit of legwork as you tackle you own planning.
After walking three caminos in Spain and Portugal, I decided to spread my walking wings, if such a thing exists, and consider some different pilgrim paths. The Via Francigena in Italy immediately grabbed my attention as it:
- is chockful of history
- has similar hostel/pilgrim infrastructure, and
- is Italy after all, with limitless coffee, pizza and gelato.
What is not to love?
With some rejigging of dates, I set off from Great Saint Bernard Pass on the Switzerland/Italy border on 8 August 2018. Yes, it was very hot, but early starts meant that I could finish my walking day before the heat became too unbearable.
But, before I get carried away with too much reminiscing, here is a whole stack of how-to-walk-the-Italian-Via-Francigena links in some sort of chronological order.
The Planning & The Dreaming
- Under the Tuscan Sun In Hiking Boots: A general overview of the Via Francigena, when I will be walking, a background on the walk and a bit of history about the walk. READ
- Via Francigena – Top 5 Information Sources and Resources: A summary of the different information sources I used to plan the walk including websites, apps, books and forums. READ
- The Italian Via Francigena – Scenery & Stages: A more detailed discussion about the different regions of Italy that the Via Francigena passes through. READ
- Ciao, Pronto, Prego – Learning Basic Italian: The resources I used to pick up enough Italian to allow me to order a meal, a beer and find a bed each night. READ
The Walking & Reality Hits
I apologise in advance if these posts are not the World’s best writing. They were very much written on the road, at the end of a long day and some days I hardly had energy to spit let alone energy to construct a grammatically correct sentence. What I hope it does do is convey a little of each day’s journey and magic, including endless breathtaking sunrises.
On each day I have included the kilometres walked (according to my Garmin watch), a description of the terrain and the weather. Also included is where I stayed and the cost in 2018-money.
Some days were fabulous, others were incredibly hard when I truly doubted my sanity, but all were amazing.
Walk with me:
- Day 1, Great Saint Bernard Pass to Aosta, 31km: OMG! Who knew Alps could be so bloody big?? READ
- Day 2, Aosta to Chatillon, 32.2km: With every muscle aching, I pull up my big-girl panties and keep walking. READ
Day 3, Chatillon to Verres, 21.9km: I thought this was supposed to be fun. I am not sure I can take another step let alone walk to Rome. READ
- Day 4, Verres to Pont Saint Martin, 19km: Sun shining, birds singing and all is right with the World. READ
- Day 5, Pont Saint Martin to Ivrea, 23.5km: Mixing it with thunderstorms and kayakers. READ
- Day 6, Ivrea to Santhia, 38.4km: A bigger day than I expected as I run away from lightning. READ
- Day 7, Santhia to Vercelli, 28.9km: Corn, corn, rice, rice, corn. READ
- Day 8, Vercelli to Nicorvo, 25.5km: Rice, rice, rice and lost in translation. READ
- Day 9, Nicorvo to Garlasco, 30km: Wall-to-wall men with tattoos! READ
Day 10, Garlasco to Pavia, 23.4km: Pavia is fantastic with a gobsmacking bridge. READ
- Day 11, Pavia to Santa Christina e Bissone, 29.2km: How to eat a pizza bigger than your head! READ
- Day 12, Santa Christina e Bissone to Orio Litta, 17.1km: Easy peasy. READ
- Day 13, Orio Litta to Piacenza, 18.3km: Paying the Ferryman to cross the River Po. READ
- Day 14, Piacenza to Fiorenzuola Darda, 33.3km: Gloriously flat, but not so nice through industrial estates. READ
- Day 15, Fiorenzuola Darda to Fidenza, 23.2km: Zipping along the flat before tomorrow’s hills. READ
- Day 16, Fidenza to Fornovo di Taro, 32.4km: Lung busting climbs and ice cream for breakfast. READ
- Day 17, Fornovo di Taro to Cassio, 21km: Up, up, bloody up. READ
- Day 18, Cassio to Passo della Cisa, 18.8km: Finished before breakfast, but no food. READ
- Day 19, Passo della Cisa to Pontremoli, 23.9km: Down, down, down and more down. READ
- Day 20, Pontremoli to Aulla, 33.1km: Running on empty and little sleep. READ
- Day 21, Aulla to Avenza, 35.9km: Going with the flow and adjusting to flexible. READ
Day 22, Avenza to Pietrasanta, 31km: Marble wonder and falling in love with Pietrasanta. READ
- Day 23, Pietrasanta to Lucca, 30.5km: Thunder, lightning and horizontal rain. READ
- Day 24, Lucca to Altopascio, 19.4km: Not the nicest of walking, but blessedly short. READ
- Day 25, Altopascio to San Miniato Alto, 31.1km: Getting high in Tuscany. READ
- Day 26, San Miniato Alto to Gambassi Terme, 24.2km: Rolling hills and Tuscan views. READ
- Day 27, Gambassi Terme to Colle di Val d’Elsa, 27.8km: Gorgeous valleys and more lung-busting climbs. READ
- Day 28, Colle di Val d’Elsa to Siena, 37km: Same, same as Day 27. Thank goodness for stunning Siena. READ
- Day 29, Siena to Ponte Darbia, 27.2km: Tuscan strolls with new friends. READ
- Day 30, Ponte Darbia to San Quirico Dorcia, 27.1km: Dazzling sunrises and delicious coffee and donuts. READ
- Day 31, San Quirico Dorcia to Radicofani, 32km: What a ^%$#@ day! READ
- Day 32, Radicofani to Acquapendente, 25.7km: Marvelling at farmers and farming. READ
- Day 33, Acquapendente to Bolsena, 23.8km: Meeting up with old friends for cold beer. READ
- Day 34, Bolsena to Montefiascone, 18.5km: The husband drops in! READ
- Day 35, Montefiascone to Viterbo, 18km: Our walking family has grown. READ
- Day 36, Viterbo to Vetralla, 19.4km: Making new friends around the dinner table. READ
- Day 37, Vetralla to Sutri, 23.1km: Enjoying the local festivities. READ
- Day 38, Sutri to Campagnano di Roma, 26.2km: Almost there. READ
- Day 39, Campagnano di Roma to La Storta, 24.7km: Trying to cope with city life again. READ
- Day 40, La Storta to Rome, 21.1km: Ta da!!! READ
The Completion & Rich in Hindsight
We can never complete something like this and not be altered by the experience. I will say right here that this was one of the hardest physical challenges I have ever completed (and here I was thinking I would simply amble through Italy eating gelati and drinking chianti). It was a truly awesome experience, perhaps enjoyable is the wrong word. It was simply awesome.
Here are a few post-walk thoughts:
- The Italian Via Francigena – The Nuts and Bolts: A summary of distances, weather, terrain, maps, accommodation and stages. READ
Going to the Dogs in Switzerland: More detailed information about Great Saint Bernard Pass. READ
- Top Tips for Walking the Italian Via Francigena: Learn from my mistakes. READ
- Review of the Official Via Francigena App: Don’t leave home without it. READ
- Spanish Camino or Italian Via Francigena – which one is for you?: Comparing the Via Francigena to walking Caminos in Spain. They are two very different strolls. READ
- The Power of Hindsight – Via Francigena Reflections: The mistakes I made and how you can avoid them. READ
When the time comes, I will look back on my life and know that walking the Italian Via Francigena was one of life’s highlights. And who knows? One day, I may forget the really tough days and continue the journey from Rome on the Via Francigena del Sud, all the way to the Adriatic Sea at Brindisi.
Ah, the temptation…
If you have specific questions about the Via Francigena, pop them in the COMMENTS box below. I am more than happy to chat and help where I can.
What: The Via Francigena is a 1 900km pilgrimage route established in 990AD.
Where: The path starts at Canterbury Cathedral in England and ends at St Peter’s Basilica 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, etc, train, plane, train, plane, car, foot.
Who: Not for the faint-hearted, but doable by anyone with a bit of fitness and a tonne of determination.
Related Posts: To understand what it takes to walk 1000km, have a look at my post about walking the Camino via de la Plata in Spain.
Related Blogs: For great photos and quirky writing about the Via Francigena, have a look at what Sandy has to say.
Read About it: Grab your Via Francigena guidebook and maps from Book Depository.
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