Via Francigena Stage 1: Bourg St Pierre-St Martin8 Days & 7 Nights 4.5 Read 2 reviews
- Crossing the high mountain pass of Great St Bernard famed for its rescue dogs
- Discovering your quaint agriturismo, set amongst pretty vineyards
- 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
What To Expect
Pilgrimages | For those looking to follow a path of self-discovery. Our Pilgrimage and Camino routes take you on a journey through diverse landscapes and local flavours, while meeting like-minded adventurers along the way.
Inn to Inn Walking | Walk from place-to-place changing accommodations each night. Generally staying in B&B’s, inns, and guesthouses.
This trip is suitable for:
As a guide, we would suggest that the minimum age of traveller this holiday would be suitable for is: 12 Years
Ideal if you have an interest in:
- Long-Distance Trails
- Alpine Walking
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.
The trail in the most part is well marked but in some of the agricultural areas, such as the cultivated lowlands, this does become sparser. Along the length of the route, it also travels through several different municipalities and the style of the markers can vary between them and not every region has invested in consistently waymarking the trail.
The type of markers includes brown metal plates with two walkers and the route name on them or smaller ones showing a pilgrim and an arrow pointing the right way at road junctions. Red and white signs with a yellow pilgrim on them are also common. There are also signs with little yellow pilgrims on them and a white arrow which points towards Rome (those that are the same but with a yellow arrow lead to Santiago). In the Valle d’Aosta the signs tend to be yellow with Via Francigena written on them along with a route number.
Even if the signs can be lacking or confusing at times, navigation is straightforward as you can use the Macs Adventure Smartphone App which has maps, GPS tracks, and daily route information. Simply download the GPS tracks for offline use and follow the route on your phone with the assurance that navigation will be simple, and you can’t get lost.
Experience & Fitness
You need to be a regular walker and in good physical shape to complete the Full Via Francigena. If you are doing shorter stages then these are less demanding, but the per day mileage still includes longer distances on some days and a couple of the stages include ascents and descents, especially in the foothills of the Alps at the start of the Via Francigena route. We would recommend taking training walks carrying your daypack ahead of going on this trip.
During your trip you will stay in a variety of accommodations. The properties range from private rooms in pilgrims' hostels to 2, 3 and 4* hotels as well as B&B's and guesthouses. At times you will be staying in remote towns and villages, therefore the accommodations in these places are the best that these particular areas have to offer.
If you require single rooms for your party we would be happy to accommodate you. Solo walkers are also welcomed.
Important: Due to the remote location of some of the smaller towns and villages along the way it is possible that some of your overnight hotels will be a few kilometres from the route or in a nearby town or village. If this is the case, you will always receive directions to and from the trail in your route notes. Please be aware that this may result in slightly longer or shorter walking days.
Daily breakfasts are included. Breakfasts are usually continental or Italian-style with a choice of bread, 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 groceries, cafes, and restaurants en route. You can opt to include dinners as well if you wish.
- Overnights in a variety of accommodation
- Door to door baggage transfer as per your itinerary
- Access to maps, GPX tracks and daily route information with the Macs Adventure smartphone navigation app
- Transfers where mentioned in the itinerary
- All your trip documents including a detailed information pack provided digitally through your online Macs “My Account”
- Telephone support from our office in the event of a problem
- Travel to and from the start and finish points
- Public transportation where mentioned in the itinerary
- Lunches, dinners, drinks, and snacks
- Any additional travel en route, should you wish to miss a day's walking
- Travel insurance (required) and personal equipment
- Mountain rescue / emergency assistance
- Tourist taxes (charged locally at hotels)
- Additional nights before, after or during the trip
- Half board upgrade supplement
When To Go
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.
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.
Getting to the Start
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 or Trenitalia website.
Getting from the End
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.
Enjoy the ease of walking with a light backpack and having your main luggage moved for you each day (included). Your bags will be collected from your accommodation and moved onto your next overnight accommodation. We ask you to limit your luggage to one bag of up to 20kg per person.
The distances and ascent/descents are approximations of the recommended routes.
Please be prepared by packing all necessary items. 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, a day pack, sun hat, and sunscreen.
At Macs Adventure we care about the environment. We’re taking action to minimise the impact we have by converting the majority of our tour documentation for online delivery. On this tour, most of your detailed tour information will be digitally delivered. You will have access to this documentation via “My Account” on our website and the Macs Adventure Smartphone App.
There are three main pieces of equipment that are essential to you enjoying your pilgrimage, and they are comfortable walking shoes with good wool or anti-blister socks, and a day pack that gives you good back support.
Most surfaces along the way are smooth and so walking shoes should suffice rather than boots. It is hard surface walking for the most part, so we recommend walking shoes that have a good level of padding or walking socks that offer cushioning. There are a few sections of the route which include mountain paths, in particular in Stage 1 in the Alps. For this part of the route waterproof walking boots with good ankle support and sturdy tread are recommended.
This depends on the time of year you are walking; if travelling in the spring or autumn it can be cool in the morning, but it soon heats up in the late morning and afternoon so make sure and bring some layers with you. During the summer months, the area can be prone to afternoon thunderstorms, so waterproofs are also essential in case of heavy showers, or you may find since it’s still hot that a lightweight rain poncho is more suitable.
You will receive a full kit list as part of your trip documentation.
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.
Your required fitness level will depend upon which section of the Via Francigena you choose to do. Please read the grade and terrain section of each individual section or the full walk to give you an idea of the walking on that particular itinerary. We suggest that you might like to start a regular walking programme before you travel, in order to make the most of your time and walks and Italy.
Certain sections of the Via Francigena, such as the start and end of the trail, are very popular. Therefore it is better to book earlier rather than later to ensure we are able to secure the most suitable accommodation for your trip.
You will need good walking shoes/boots (ideally waterproof), comfortable walking clothes, waterproof jacket and trousers, and a daypack etc. Our information pack has a list of all the equipment you will need, along with some helpful suggestions.
You may be able to take public transport or taxis onto the next accommodation, please check with the accommodation provider or our local partner as they are best able to give you up to date advice.
Each morning where a baggage transfer is required, just leave your main bag in the reception/luggage storage area and we will have them transferred to the next location. Please limit the weight of your baggage to 20 kg per bag (one piece per person).
ItineraryDay 1 Arrive in Bourg-Saint-Pierre
Begin your walking tour in the Valais region of Switzerland. Bourg-Saint-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 Saint Pierre with its Romanesque tower and the medieval hospice which sheltered pilgrims walking along the Via Francigena in the Middle Ages.
This family-run hotel is in a great location for the Great Saint Bernard pass. It has rooms comfortably equipped with television, radio, Wi-Fi, minibar or kettle, safe, bath or shower and private WC. The hotel has a spa with a jacuzzi, steam room, sauna and relaxation room, all of which are free to use for hotel guests. There is also a gift shop, restaurant, café and sun terrace to take in the mountain views from.
This family run hotel and restaurant is located in a stunning location on Route Grand-Saint-Bernard. You can sit in the café and have a cold beer or a hot chocolate and soak-up the mountain atmosphere.
This morning begins with a sustaining breakfast in your hotel before setting off on today’s Swiss alpine walk. You will be walking up to the Great St Bernard Pass, situated at 2,470m. This is one of, if not the most, iconic walks on the whole of the Via Francigena route and the path has served travellers and pilgrims for over 2,000 years. 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 cowbell or two. You will walk along Lac des Toules reservoir with its mighty dam and floating solar panels. You may even spot marmots along the way.
Upon reaching the pass you will see a historical hostel, L’Hospitalet, which was founded by Augustinian 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, St Bernard dogs are still used in the same capacity today. Chance to visit the Hospice Museum and the adjacent kennel whilst here.
Built in 1933, this small historic hotel offers warm hospitality and fantastic cuisine. It has just 14 bedrooms, all of which are comfortable equipped in a classic alpine style. There are no TV’s or Wi-Fi available in the bedrooms. There is a relaxation room with a whirlpool tub and sauna. There are also loungers here where you can relax with a glass of wine and take in the mountain vistas. In the living room there is a pool table and board games available. They also have a restaurant and bar.
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. In comparison to yesterday’s uphill climb today the walk crosses the border from Switzerland into Italy and descends out of the mountains and into the valley.
Walking 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. This is a good place to take a break before continuing the descent into Etroubles, a medieval village where Roman soldiers had their winter headquarters. The main street of Via Deffeyes is an open-air art gallery displaying sculptures from artists around the world. It is situated in the Great San Bernardo Valley. This evening you can sit and taste the regional cuisine, whilst surrounded by the mountains.
Peaceful hotel with colourful flower garden. The spacious bedrooms overlook the Gran San Bernardo valley and the Alps, and some rooms have balconies. All have a TV, Wi-Fi access, safe, and hairdryer. Bathrooms have either a shower or bathtub. The hotel also has a bar, restaurant, outdoor solarium, and fully equipped gym.
Today’s walk follows the ‘rus’, ancient irrigation channels built between the 13th and 15th centuries. Engineering masterpieces, they provided irrigation on the dry, south-facing slopes and utilised 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. 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.
Founded in 1982 in the centre of historic Aosta next to the Roman bridge. It’s on the site of what was once an ancient roman building along the Via Francigena. It’s now a comfortable hotel and all bedrooms have LED TV, free Wi-Fi, air conditioning, private bathroom with shower and hairdryer. There is also a restaurant with a terrace.
This locally owned hotel in the heart of Aosta brings modern lodging to the mountains. Alpine style isn't just an aesthetic after all, it's a way of life. Bedrooms are equipped with a LED TV, free Wi-Fi, hairdryer, minibar and safe. The hotel has a spa (additional entrance fee applies). It has a whirlpool tub, Finnish sauna, Turkish stem bath, relaxation room and ice waterfall and emotional shower. Massages are also available; advance booking is recommended.
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, that you can see from a distance.
This evening with dinner why not sample one of the locally produced wines such as Chambave Muscat.
Located a short distance outside Chambave, this small hotel has a restaurant with terrace, bar and lovely garden to relax in. There is Wi-Fi access throughout the property. Bedrooms are decorated in a traditional style.
The route continues to be surrounded by a backdrop of high mountains and you will pass by vineyards and orchards. Near the beginning of today’s walk on the hillside above, Cly Castle can be seen from a distance. This is the first of many castles that can be seen along the route today. 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 2 metres thick and can only be reached on foot.
Tonight, will be spent in the small town of Verrès overlooked by the hills and located close to the Parco Regionale del Mont Avic.
Located on the edge of Mount Avic Natural Park in the town of Verrès, Relais St Gilles offers comfortable air-conditioned rooms. A buffet breakfast is available each morning in the sunny dining room. The 16th-century Castle Verrès is just a 15-minute walk away.
There are many interesting sights to discover today, starting with the Echallod Bridge, built by the Romans and which spans the Dora Baltea River enabling you and other pilgrims and travellers to continue on the road to Rome. Next, see Bard Fortress which houses the Museum of the Alps, and was originally built in the 10th century. The town of Bard has been voted ‘one of the most beautiful in Italy’ due to its houses with frescoed facades. This afternoon you will begin to follow an original consular Roman road called the Via Delle Gallie. Passing through Donnas this town is famous for its vineyards and it’s possible to visit a winery whilst here.
Enter Pont Saint 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. Take a wander through the streets and appreciate this strategic gateway to the Alps.
This traditional hotel is decorated in a classic Italian style with wooden furnishings and warm colours. Bedrooms are equipped with a TV and free Wi-Fi access, and some have a balcony. It has a bar and family-run restaurant with outdoor terrace.
After breakfast your walking holiday will come to an end. See the Travel & Transfers section for some useful details for your onward travel.
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