Self Guided Walking Holidays & Cycling Holidays


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Via Francigena: Fidenza to Aulla
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Highlights

  • Encountering the unusual and rare rock formations of the Salti del Diavolo
  • Enjoying the camaraderie of fellow hikers and pilgrims
  • Paying a visit to the Museo delle Statue Stele which houses fascinating primitive sculptures
  • Absorbing the mesmerizing views of the Apennine Mountains when crossing the Cisa Pass
  • Sampling delicious and famous cured meats and cheeses of the Parma region

This journey along the Via Francigena takes you through the Apennine Mountains, known as the “backbone of Italy” and from the region of Emilia Romagna into northern Tuscany. Originating in Fidenza, known for its duomo of pink stone, you cross the Cisa Pass and finish in Aulla, an important pilgrimage stop at the confluence of the Aulella and Magra Rivers.

En route you will see numerous signs that in the Middle Ages pilgrimages were of vital importance to people of faith. Discover small alters, chapels, crosses, churches and buildings that gave shelter to the thousands of pilgrims that walked along the Via Francigena in their quest to reach Rome. Beginning in the foothills of the Apennines and incorporating pretty villages and towns, you then cross the Cisa Pass, located at 1,040m before descending into northern Tuscany and to Montelungo, Pontremoli and Aulla.

There are captivating sights all along the trail, such as the primitive Stele sculptures, the St Annunziata Church where the Virgin Mary appeared to a young shepherd girl and the Salti del Diavolo; unusual and rare rock formations in the Baganza Valley. At the beginning of your tour you will explore areas near Parma, famous for its cured meats and parmesan cheeses. Be sure to take advantage of these local culinary delights while you walk through these unforgettable areas of Italy.

DAY 1: Arrive in Fidenza

Fidenza is a town situated in the Emilia-Romagna region and originated from a Roman camp called Fidentia. On arrival you should consider visiting the Romanesque Duomo, built of pink stone and dating from the 12th century. See the statue of the apostle Simon Peter at the front of the cathedral which is pointing in the direction of Rome. An inscription reading “I show you the way to Rome" makes this one of the world’s first road signs.


Overnight: Hotel Astoria Fidenza, Fidenza


DAY 2: Fidenza to Fornovo

Today’s walking takes you through hilly terrain as you are now in the foothills of the Apennines which run the length of the Italian peninsula. You will walk through farms, vineyards and gorgeous undulating countryside before reaching Fornovo, a town known officially as Fornovo di Taro as it is located in the Taro River Valley and only a few kilometres from Parma, a city famous for its cured hams (prosciutto) and cheeses. Perhaps you can sample some of these delicious local specialities when dining tonight.


Walk: 32km, 500m elevation gain/450m elevation loss


Overnight: Hotel Cavalieri***, Fornovo


DAY 3: Fornovo to Cassio

This morning a short bus transfer takes you to the beginning of the trail in Sivizzano where you begin your challenging days walk. Challenging because today you begin your climb to the Cisa Pass, situated at 1,040m it divides the Ligurian and Tuscan Apennines.


Superb mountain scenery is a highlight and in addition to this you will pass through the Salti del Diavolo, unusual rock formations which were formed over 80 million years ago. Translated as the Devil’s Jumps, they are located in the Baganza Valley, stand a few metres in height and rise like needles up from the valley floor. When walking through this strange geological landscape you may feel like you are on another planet!


Walk: 21km, 760m elevation gain/200m elevation loss


Overnight: Ostello di Cassio (private room),  Cassio


DAY 4: Cassio to Berceto

This morning we recommend that you take the time to visit the Church of Maria Assunta in the hamlet of Cassio before heading off along the trail. First  take a steep climb through a shady forest and then pass through the appealing little village-street or borga-strada of Castellonchio, whose houses were built next to each other and lined the Via Francigena when pilgrimages were at their peak. Continue until you reach the crest of a hill from where you can see Berceto, your next destination nestled in the valley below.   


Berceto is also located on the Via Romea and used to be a crossroads for commerce between the Po Valley and the Tyrrhenian Sea.


Walk: 11km, 300m elevation gain/250m elevation loss


Overnight: La Casa dei Nonni**, Berceto


DAY 5: Berceto to Montelungo

Today you leave the Emilia Romagna region behind and enter Tuscany to enjoy some of the most stunning scenery along the Via Francigena. Upon crossing the Cisa Pass the views will leave you breathless (and not just because of the climb!). Descend through lovely woods with beech and chestnut trees, eventually arriving in Montelungo later this afternoon. Sip a much-needed and refreshing beverage in a local café.


Walk: 13.5km, 650m elevation gain/510m elevation loss


Overnight: Hotel Appennino**, Montelungo


DAY 6: Montelungo to Pontremoli

Along the way today you will see many interesting pilgrimage sites, such as small alters, little chapels and signs that during medieval times faith was so much a part of life. After reaching Cavezzana d’Antena, which has a natural spring, take the trail to the village of Groppoli, after which you cross over a bridge that was built in 300 AD.


This afternoon arrive in Pontremoli, an interesting town which has an important museum full of primitive sculptures called "steles". It is worth visiting this museum and strolling through the streets of Pontremoli where you will find one of the largest castles in the area, built in 9th century. It is here where the little museum is housed. Pontremoli means “trembling bridge” and was so-called because of the importance of the bridge crossing the River Magra.


Walk: 17km, 250m elevation gain/790m elevation loss


Overnight: B&B Chiosi**, Pontremoli


DAY 7: Pontremoli to Aulla

Slowly descend through fragrant Italian hills as your trail reaches the River Magra Valley. It is just outside Pontremoli where you will discover the St Annunziata Church which was built in the 15th century and commemorates a time when the Virgin appeared to a young shepherd girl. Continue descending to the Pieve di Sorano inside which there is an original Statue Stele. Arrive in Aulla, lying in the shadow of the imposing 16th century Fortress of Brunella and at the confluence of the Magra and Aulella rivers. The town was a significant trade and pilgrimage centre and therefore an important place on the Via Francigena.


Walk: 33km, 100m elevation gain/200m elevation loss


Overnight:  Demy Hotel***, Aulla


DAY 8: Onward travel

Today the tour finishes after breakfast and you may make your way independently to Pisa or Genoa for your return journey home.

Accommodation

On this trip you will stay in a variety of accommodations. The properties range from 2 and 3* hotels to B&B’s and agriturismo (farmstays). At times you will be staying in remote towns and villages, therefore the accommodation in these places are the best that these particular areas have to offer.


Alternative accommodation

During the high season you might be booked into alternative accommodations which are not listed on this website. If those listed are unavailable the alternative accommodation will be of the same or better standard as those described.


Single Rooms & Solo Walkers

If you require single rooms within your party we would be happy to accommodate you although there is a single room supplement payable. Solo walkers are also welcome and again a supplement is payable.


Meals

Daily breakfasts at your hotels and B&B’s are  included. Breakfasts are usually continental or Italian-style with a choice of breads, croissants, meats and cheeses. Sometimes it is possible to order packed lunches at your hotel or B&B the evening before or you can buy lunch in grocery’s, cafes and restaurants en route. You can opt to include 5 dinners if you wish (at an additional cost).  


Baggage Transfer

Baggage transfers are not included, however you can pay an additional fee for this service. If you choose to include baggage transfers we request that you have only one piece of luggage per person and it should weigh only 20kg.

Availability

This trip is available from mid-March to the end of October. You can start your tour on any date in the season.


Time of Year

Spring in Italy is sublime and May and June are absolutely lovely. Autumn is a great time of year as the landscape is made up of a gold and red pallet so September is unmissable. July and August can be very hot so you will have to start early to miss the heat of the day and then perhaps have a long lunch and finish walking in the mid to late afternoon.


Single Rooms & Solo Walkers

If you require single rooms within your party we would be happy to accommodate you although there is a single room supplement payable. Solo walkers are also welcome and again a supplement is payable.


Grade & Terrain

This tour is suitable for people that are in excellent physical condition. It is rated moderate to strenuous as you will be crossing the Apennine Mountains. Even though some days have walks of up to 32km, there are other days that are short, giving you time to recover. However, even on the short walking days there may be elevation gains and losses and on some days these are significant.


Unlike many of the more well-established Caminos, the Via Francigena has seen a relatively recent resurgence in popularity, meaning that trail marking is intermittent (not every region has invested in consistently waymarking the trail), and you should be confident in navigating with a compass and map, as well as using the route notes that we will provide you with.  A few  of the original sections of the Via Francigena are now (fairly busy) roads, and where necessary you may either follow these roads for a short time, or divert away from the traditional route to enjoy a more relaxed walk. 


Navigation, Route Notes & Maps

You will also be provided with detailed route notes and maps to help you find your way. As always when walking you should be able to read a map and use a compass in case of bad weather. The trail is also marked by the official red and white signs of the Via Francigena, which have a picture of a yellow pilgrim on them. However these waymarks will not appear all along the way but intermittently.


Baggage Transfers

Baggage transfers are not included as standard, however you can pay an additional fee for this service. If you choose to include baggage transfers we request that you have only one piece of luggage per person and it should weigh only 20kg.

Travel Insurance

It is a requirement of booking this tour with Macs Adventure that you have suitable travel insurance which covers you for the activity, emergency evacuation and hospital care.


General Information

The distances and ascents/descents are approximations of the recommended routes. Please be prepared by packing all necessary items, for example, proper rain gear (jacket and trousers), sun hat and sunscreen. Your information pack has a detailed equipment list which includes standard walking gear such as good walking boots or shoes, warm and waterproof clothes for the cooler months and lightweight clothing for summer, and a day pack.

Getting to Fidenza

The best airports to fly into to reach Fidenza are Parma, Bologna or any of the Milan Airports (Milan Malpensa or Milan Linate). From these airports it is possible to take a train to Fidenza. As the first accommodation is outside Fidenza your hosts will pick you up from the train station. You will find information regarding train schedules and fares at the Trenitalia website.


Getting from Aulla

The best airports to fly out of after finishing your tour in Aulla are Pisa or Genoa. From Aulla take a train to Pisa (via Pisa Centrale Station). The journey takes between one and a half and two hours and you can find more information regarding train schedules and fares at the Trenitalia website. Alternatively if you fly from Genoa you can take a direct train from Aulla to Genoa Train Station and then from here take a thirty minute shuttle bus to Genoa Airport.

Included

  • 7 Nights in 2 to 3* hotels, B&B’s and one agriturismo
  • 7 Breakfasts
  • Detailed maps and routes notes and a comprehensive information pack.
  • Organisational assistance and backup from our area manager in Italy and our office

Excluded

  • Travel to Fidenza
  • Travel from Aulla
  • Lunches & dinners
  • Drinks & snacks
  • Baggage transfers
  • Personal equipment
  • Travel insurance
  • Mountain rescue / emergency assistance

Extras

  • Additional nights before or after the holiday
  • 5 Dinners
  • Baggage transfers
  • Single room supplement if single room required
  • Solo traveller supplement (if applicable)

How fit do I need to be?

This tour is suitable for people that are in excellent physical condition. It is rated moderate to strenuous as you will be crossing the Apennine Mountains. Even though some days have walks of up to 32km, there are other days that are short, giving you time to recover. However, even on the short walking days there may be elevation gains and losses and on some days these are significant.

When is the best time of year?

Spring in Italy is sublime and May and June are absolutely lovely. Autumn is a great time of year as the landscape is made up of a gold and red pallet so September and October are unmissable. July and August can be very hot so you will have to start early to miss the heat of the day and then perhaps have a long lunch and finish walking in the mid to late afternoon.

How far in advance do I need to book?

The Via Francigena is very popluar and therefore it is better to book earlier rather than later to ensure bookings at the hotels and B&B's. 

What personal equipment do I need?

Our pre-departure information pack has detailed advice and a kit list on what to take. This includes good waterproof gear, walking shoes/boots, and lots of other useful bits and bobs.

Which is the best airport?

The best airports to fly into to reach Fidenza are Parma, Bologna or any of the Milan Airports (Milan Malpensa or Milan Linate). From these airports it is possible to take a train to Fidenza. As the first accommodation is outside Fidenza your hosts will pick you up from the train station. You will find information regarding train schedules and fares at the Trenitalia website.

How do the baggage transfers work?

Baggage transfers are not included as standard, however you can pay an additional fee for this service. If you choose to include baggage transfers we request that you have only one piece of luggage per person and it should weigh only 20kg.

What happens if I can't walk a stage?

You can use public transport or local taxis to continue to your next overnight stop.

Irresponsible

2

This is the worst tour we have been on. The scenery is beautiful but the details and plans from Macs have been very poor. Accommodations are passable although some rooms are tiny and/or dreary. We are on day four and have not yet had a day with clear or accurate details of where to hike. We now ignore the directions from Macs because they are confusing and totally wrong, and instead follow the posted signs. It's very frustrating to trust your vacation and your safety to an organization that evidently has never walked the trail! We are experienced hikers/backpackers and every day we find ourselves befuddled by the ridiculous and inaccurate directions from Macs. I thought all the slow responses during planning would be our only frustration, but sadly the disappointments had only started. We will never do another trip with them.

JP

Boston

false

A Winner

4

This Stage of the Via Frangigena crossed the Cisa Pass and was in the Apennines. The weather was cool and lovely. We crossed into Northern Tuscany and the villages became more beautiful and more ancient. There were days with some pavement and that was the only regrettable part. Not seeing another American for 8 days and only hearing English once were big pluses and indicative of how remote we were. All in all we saw 20 other "pilgrims" on this Stage over 7 days. There is a real camaraderie about being a Pilgrim and that is a special part of this journey.

Lucy - Sunday Walker

Boulder, CO. - USA

true

'Real' Italy

4

The Via Francigena had a reputation for being poor sign-posted. Recently, however, there has been a great deal of investment in marking the trail. It is generally very well marked now. There are a few improvements too, such as an Indiana Jones suspension bridge over one stream and a steel cable over another. The landscape is stunning. I don't know why Brits are so addicted to Tuscany, a lot of Emilia Romagna is just as nice. Note well, if you go in late May or June it will be exhausting; walks of up to 9/10 hours in intense heat. We drank up to three litres of water on several days. Still, if a 70 year old can cope, younger walkers should not be intimidated. Earlier in the year there will be a lot of mud in places. Macs route notes were very out of date. I have notified them of where they go wrong, so this, plus the new trail signage, means that route finding should not be a great problem now. Macs have also stopped using one hostel were we had an appalling experience. I have been to Italy many times, but this is the first time I felt I had seen the 'real' Italy. The people were marvellous. Unlike tourist towns, where they fleece tourists unashamedly, here people were friendly, helpful, generous and kind. In addition, you can eat incredibly well. In relatively small towns we found restaurants that we do not have the like of in all Sussex. The local wines are marvellous. My wife discovered Aperol (an alcoholic drink), and is now a great fan. The food and wine were a joy. The Via Francigena is both a walking holiday and an education. It would be a shame not to add on a day or two for sight-seeing at the end of the holiday. We went to Lucca. It was very enjoyable. Trains are comfortable and incredibly cheap. Tip: Although you may have sensibly purchased a continental adapter to charge your mobile phone etc, in Italy electrical sockets come in two sizes. You may find that your adapter does not fit. Use the one attached to the hairdryer in your room.

Peter

Lewes, East Sussex

true

The appenine passes of italy

4

This was a section that we did walking 7/9 of the via francigena. It can be quite difficult in places. Lots of up and down. After a rain, some very slippery descents. Most hotels okay. Berceto, was a gem. We got to stay 2 nights and macs provided transport. The casa dei nonni was wonderful, amazing food there and very inexpensive. Highly recommended! The appenine hotel in Montelungo is a great place for supper, and the hosts are lovely people, but accommodation not great. This walk goes through some lovely forests, a few ridge walks with lovely appenine mountains. Scenery is quite beautiful, but you work for it! Other than Berceto, I found the towns quite underwhelming. The directions are good, for the most part, although, again, some directions are poorly translated (I'm sure these were written in Italian, then translated...would be better if an English person walked and documented trail). The last day was 33 km with lots of up and down. All 9 of us decided to take a train partway (to villa Franca) and others with other tour took taxi. Seems like very few people want to walk this far (and still lots of ascending and descending). There were a few hiccups, but were dealt with quickly and efficiently by macs people in Italy. Overall a good experience, although maybe not my favourite part of the via francigena (which, by the way, is really well marked)

Alex

Canada

true

Via Francigena: Stage 4: Fidenza to Aulla

3.5 4

75.0

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