Self Guided Walking Holidays & Cycling Holidays


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Via Francigena: Bourg St Pierre to Pont St Martin
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Highlights

  • Crossing the high mountain pass of Great St Bernard famed for its rescue dogs of the same name
  • Discovering your quaint agriturismo, set amongst pretty vineyards and tasting its own wines, such as Muscat
  • Staggering Alpine views and a backdrop of mountain scenery as you walk
  • Following the “Chemins de Vignobles” a local wine trail
  • Wandering through the ancient streets of Aosta, an old Roman city and whose inhabitants speak both French and Italian

A superb week of walking that begins in the heart of the Alps, crosses the border from Switzerland into Italy and traverses the high mountain pass of Great St Bernard. En route you will be surrounded by a backdrop of magnificent mountain peaks and follow trails through pretty vineyards and orchards.

Bourg St Pierre lies at the gateway of the border between Switzerland and Italy and this is where your week of walking along the Via Francigena begins. Explore its medieval remains before setting off to cross the international border and ascending to the Great St Bernard Pass. Here you will see a hostel that was founded over 1,000 years ago to shelter travellers and pilgrims.

After enjoying the superb mountain scenery of the pass you then reach Rhémy des Bosses, famed for its ham cured with mountain herbs, and Aosta, the principal city of the Aosta Valley. Here you can explore its many Roman remains, such as the Pretorian Arch and theatre. Upon leaving Aosta you will walk along ancient channels known as “rus” which were used to keep the crops on the dry south-facing slopes irrigated. Engineering masterpieces, the “rus” were built between the 13th and the 15th centuries.

A truly delightful section now begins as you follow the “Chemins de Vignobles” a vineyard trail and along which you will encounter many castles and stone houses, wooded hillsides and apple orchards. Pont St Martin, your finishing point, is a small village located on the frontier between the Aosta Valley and Piedmont and lends its name to a photogenic ancient stone bridge.

DAY 1: Arrive in Bourg St Pierre

Begin your walking tour in the Valais region of Switzerland. Bourg St Pierre is the gateway to Italy from Switzerland and is full of charm and history.


Explore the newly restored mill and ancient buildings, such as the Church of St Pierre with its Romanesque tower and the medieval hospice which sheltered pilgrims walking along the Via Francigena in the Middle Ages.


Overnight: Hotel du Cret***, Bourg St Pierre


DAY 2: Bourg St Pierre to Great St Bernard Pass

This morning begins with a sustaining breakfast in your hotel before setting off on today’s challenging walk which has a 750m elevation gain. Not only will you cross the border from Switzerland into Italy, but you will also be walking up to the Great St Bernard Pass, situated at 2473m. The mountain scenery here is stunning and at times you will be completely immersed in nature with only the sound of the wind and perhaps a cow bell or two.  


Upon reaching the pass you will see an historical hostel which was founded by Agostinian Friars more than 1,000 years ago. It was at one time a hospice and famous for its St Bernard dogs that would rescue travellers in distress. Specifically bred to traverse deep snow and sniff out those who were lost, the St Bernard is still used in the same capacity today.


Walk: 11.5km; 750m elevation gain/highest point, 2473m


Overnight: Hotel Italia***, Great St Bernard Pass


DAY 3: Great St Bernard Pass to Etroubles

Sip your morning coffee or tea whilst taking in views of the crown of high mountains surrounding the pass and the lovely crystal clear tarn next to your hotel. Walk along the trail in the direction of St Rhémy en Bosses, a place well known for the production of ham which is cured with mountain herbs.


Descend into Etroubles, a medieval village and where Roman soldiers had their winter headquarters. It is also situated in the Great San Bernardo Valley and you may sit on the terrace of your hotel and taste the food cooked by their expert chef, surrounded by breath-taking views.


Walk: 13km; 1232m elevation loss


Overnight: Hotel Bellevue Gignod, Etroubles


DAY 4: Etroubles to Aosta

Your walk today takes you along the “rus”, ancient irrigation channels built between the 13th and 15th centuries. Engineering masterpieces, they were built to provide irrigation on the dry, south-facing slopes and utilized water from melting glaciers. Some of these “rus” are still in use today, but many were abandoned. Follow these channels until they give way to a steep downhill trail into Aosta.


The town of Aosta is the principal town of the Aosta Valley and where the inhabitants speak both French and Italian. Here you will see that the ancient town walls of Augusta Prætoria Salassorum are still almost intact in their entirety. The Roman Forum also remains and this building is annexed to the cathedral that was built in the 4th century, but replaced in the 11th century with a new edifice.


Walk: 16km; 85m elevation gain/825m elevation loss


Overnight: Hotel Checcin**, Aosta


DAY 5: Aosta to Chambave

For the next few days, as well as following the Via Francigena, you will also follow the “Chemins de Vignobles” a wine trail that takes you through local vineyards. In the past this area was heavily fortified by castles and today you will encounter three, Quart at the highest point, Nus, located on a cliff and Fenis at the bottom of the valley.


This evening you will stay in an agriturismo just outside Chambave which produces its own wine, such as Chambave Muscat. Enjoy dinner here made with their own produce and wines from their own vines.


Walk: 27.5km; 540m elevation gain/590m elevation loss


Overnight: Agriturismo La Vrille, Chambave


DAY 6: Chambave to Verres

On the Via Francigena route today you continue to be surrounded with a backdrop of high mountains and you will also pass vineyards and orchards. The River Evançon flows through the bottom of the valley whilst the imposing and majestic Verrès Castle stands at the entrance to a side valley called Val d’Ayas. This fortress has walls that are 2m thick and can only be reached on foot.  


Tonight will be spent in a hotel in the small town of Verrès overlooked by pretty hills and located close to the Parco Regionale del Mont Avic.


Walk: 27km; 450m elevation gain/550m elevation loss


Overnight: Hotel Evancon, Verres


DAY 7: Verres to Pont St Martin

Today you will discover many interesting sights, starting with the Echallod Bridge, built by the Romans and which spans over the Dora Baltea River enabling you and other pilgrims and travellers to continue on the road to Rome. Next see the Bard Fortress which now houses the Museum of the Alps, and originally built in the 10th century. This afternoon you will begin to follow an original consular Roman road called the Via delle Gallie.


Enter Pont St Martin, your destination for this section of Via Francigena and a pretty village located on the border between Valle d’Aosta and Piedmont. Famed for its Roman bridge of the same name you may wander through the streets and appreciate this strategic gateway to the Alps from Italy.  


Walk: 14.5km; 750m elevation gain/800m elevation loss


Overnight: Hotel Crabun***, Pont St Martin


DAY 8: Onward travel

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


Accommodation

On this tour you will stay in a variety of accommodations. The properties range from 2 and 3* hotels to an agriturismo and an hostellerie. 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 in the online itinerary description. 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-June to mid- September. This particular section is not available any earlier or later than this time frame as the Great St Bernard Pass is very high and the weather would be too unfavourable. You can start your walk on any date in the season.


Time of Year

Spring in Italy and Switzerland is sublime. However because you are crossing a high mountain pass this tour is not available to book until the middle of June. Autumn is a great time of year as the landscape is made up of a gold and red pallet so early September is unmissable. During the summer months is also an ideal time, as the weather will be at its best.


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. You will be walking through the Alps at the beginning of the tour and therefore you will experience some elevations gains and losses (in particular elevation losses) throughout. No section of this walking tour is flat, and you will have mountain scenery throughout, which gives way to wooded hillsides and vineyards as you travel through the Aosta Valley. As this route tries to remain as true to the original pilgrimage route as possible, not only will you walk on trails and unpaved roads, but also on asphalt part of the way.


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 be 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 Bourg St Pierre

The best airport to fly into in order to reach Bourg St Pierre is Geneva. This airport is served by many airlines from the UK and from further afield. From Geneva Airport it is possible to take a direct train to Martigny and then a bus from the train station in Martigny to Bourg St Pierre. You will find information regarding train schedules and fares at the Swiss National Rail website.


Getting from Pont St Martin

Take a train from Pont St Martin to either Turin Airport or Milan Malpensa Airport. The journey from Pont St Martin to Turin Porto Nuovo Station takes approximately 1 hour and 15 minutes and from Pont St Martin to Milan Central Station (with several changes) around 2 and a half hours. Upon arrival in these cities you would then need to take an airport bus or train shuttle. You will find information regarding train schedules and fares at the Trenitalia website.

Getting to Bourg St Pierre

The best airport to fly into in order to reach Bourg St Pierre is Geneva. This airport is served by many airlines from the UK and from further afield. From Geneva Airport it is possible to take a direct train to Martigny and then a bus from the train station in Martigny to Bourg St Pierre.  You will find information regarding train schedules and fares at the Swiss National Rail website.


Getting from Pont St Martin

Take a train from Pont St Martin to either Turin Airport or Milan Malpensa Airport. The journey from Pont St Martin to Turin Porto Nuovo Station takes approximately 1 hour and 15 minutes and from Pont St Martin to Milan Central Station (with several changes) around 2 and a half hours. Upon arrival in these cities you would then need to take an airport bus or train shuttle. You will find information regarding train schedules and fares at the Trenitalia website.

Included

  • 7 Nights in 2 to 3* hotels, an agriturismo and hostellerie
  • 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 Bourg St Pierre
  • Travel from Pont St Martin
  • 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. You will be walking through the Alps at the beginning of the tour and therefore you will experience significant elevations gains and losses (in particular elevation losses) throughout. No section of this walking tour is flat, and you will have mountain scenery throughout, which gives way to wooded hillsides and vineyards as you travel through the Aosta Valley.

When is the best time of year?

Spring in Italy and Switzerland is sublime. However because you are crossing a high mountain pass this tour is not available to book until the middle of June. Autumn is a great time of year as the landscape is made up of a gold and red pallet so early September is unmissable. 

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.

What is the best airport to fly into?

The best airport to fly into in order to reach Bourg St Pierre is Geneva. This airport is served by many airlines from the UK and from further afield. From Geneva Airport it is possible to take a direct train to Martigny and then a bus from the train station in Martigny to Bourg St Pierre.  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.

Stunning scenery

5

Did this first section as part of our 7/9 walk of the full via francigena. The alps are beautiful, and although some of the hiking is challenging (mostly the long days) it was worth it. At bourg St Pierre the hotel du Cret has a dinner specialty of fondue and 'Potence' which we highly recommend. The food at agriturismo Vrille (in Chambave) was probably the best of the trip and Chantal and Didier were very helpful, informative, kind and hospitable. The family at Hotel Crabin in Pont St Martin also went above and beyond. So kind. There were a few hiccups along the way, but dealt with by via del sole (the macs people in Italy). The only downside were some of the instructions/map walking. There were 9 of us travelling, so it wasn't just two of us incapable of interpreting directions. Particularly the last 5 km of the walk from Acosta to Chambave the directions were terrible, and you're better off following via francigena signs (which are usually very good and frequent) or chatillon centro signs. Also, we were walking in 30 degree heat. The 'drinkable water' will be everywhere one day (to Chambave)and almost nowhere the next (Verres)....so bring enough as many villages have no cafes or stores or happen to be closed as you're travelling through. However, these are minor points, as it really was a fantastic trip. Highly recommended

Alex

Canada

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Via Francigena: Stage 1: Bourg St Pierre-St Martin

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