Self-Guided Walking Tours & Biking Tours


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Via Francigena: Garlasco to Fidenza
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Highlights

  • Crossing the Po River at exactly the same place where Sigeric the Serious crossed thousands of years ago
  • Enjoying the camaraderie of fellow hikers and pilgrims
  • Viewing the ancient splendour of the beautiful city of Piacenza with its impressive Gothic town hall
  • Discovering the Natural Park of the Ticino River with its rich biodiversity
  • Strolling up the Via Dante in Castell d’Arquato to reach the peak of this hill-top medieval village

Cross the fertile river plains of Lombardy and the vineyard-covered foothills of the Apennine Mountains within Emilia Romagna. Discover the exquisite towns of Pavia and Piacenza, both incredibly rich in cultural and artistic treasures.

Begin your journey in Garlasco, a small town in Lombardy, where you will walk beside rice paddies and cornfields. You will be beguiled by this area’s natural beauty and the constant shifts of light throughout the day. This is the Lomellina area where rice crops have been cultivated since the sixteenth century.

Walk alongside four rivers, the Sesia, the Ticino, the Trebbia and finally the Po River, which has its source in Switzerland. One of the highlights is the Natural Park of the Ticino, which has a large diversity of flora and fauna. Cross the famous covered bridge of Pavia and saunter up the Via Dante to reach the fortress in Castell d’Arquato.

Piacenza has so many artistic and cultural gems from many different centuries, most notably the Piazza dei Cavelli which is encircled by local cafés and restaurants. Why not sit here and sip some local wine at the end of your walking day, before your transfer on to Lambrinia. The tour finishes in Fidenza, in the foothills of the Apennine Mountains in the glorious Emilia Romagna region, a contrast to the expanse of fertile plains from the beginning of the week.

DAY 1: Arrive in Garlasco

Your walking tour begins in Garlasco which is situated in the Lombardy region of Italy and specifically in the Lomellina area which historically and geographically is in the Po River Valley.


Famed here is the Sanctuary of the Madonna della Bozzola, visited every year by many pilgrims and believers. It was built after the appearance of the Virgin Mary to a 13 year old girl in 1465.


Overnight: Hotel Il Pino**, Garlasco


DAY 2: Garlasco to Pavia

The beginning of today’s walk takes you over a fertile plain with countryside that is stunning in its raw simplicity. The landscape here does not have the majesty of the Alps or the vivid colours of Tuscany, but you will be inspired by the unobstructed shifts of light as the day progresses. This area is a major producer of rice, so you will walk alongside many rice paddies with farms standing like oasis amidst them.


Upon reaching the Ticino River you then walk along its wide, sandy banks and perhaps stop for lunch in a riverside café. Your destination is Pavia which has a famous covered bridge and also possesses an incredible array of artistic and cultural treasures which we recommend that you explore. Of particular interest is the Duomo and the Basilica of San Pietro in Ciel d'Oro.


Walk: 26km


Overnight: Hotel Excelsior***, Pavia


DAY 3: Pavia to Santa Cristina

Upon departing Pavia you continue to follow the Ticino River, which is a left-bank tributary of the Po River. The origin of this river is in Switzerland and it flows through Lake Maggiore before entering into Italy. Remain on the trail alongside the river for a while before walking through pretty woods and fields. Take a break and visit the Castle of Belgioioso en route, an ancient neo-classical residence built in the 14th century by Gian Galeazzo Visconti.


Arrive in Santa Cristina. From here your hosts in Miradolo Terme will come and pick you up.


Walk: 28km


Overnight: Albergo Castello** Miradolo


DAY 4: Miradolo to Piacenza

This morning you transfer to Lambrinia (20 mins), which takes its name from the River Lambro, your path then crosses the River Po. Amazingly this is the very same place where Sigeric the Serious crossed many thousands of years ago! He was the Archbishop of Canterbury from 990 to 994 and his return pilgrimage along the Via Francigena from Rome to Canterbury is recorded in a manuscript in the British Museum in London.


As you start your walk to Piacenza, encounter the Castle of Chignolo Po, an impressive brick structure which gave shelter to pilgrims during medieval times.


You have now crossed the border from the Lombardy region into Emilia Romagna, area of fertile plains, hills and mountains. At times it is necessary to avoid the official Via Francigena route and walk along routes that have been chosen for their scenic beauty and lack of traffic.


Walk: 20km


Overnight: B&B San Francesco**, Piacenza


DAY 5: Piacenza to Carpaneto

Continue your route on the Via Francigena. Take time to first explore the Piazza
Cavalli, to admire the facade of the town hall Il Gotico (dating from
1281) with its five pink marble arches. The Duomo di Piacenza, is a
valuable example of Norther-Italian Romanesque architecture, with a
Veronese pink marbel and gilted stone facade. 


Today it is wise to avoid the official route as it runs along the
extremely busy Via Emilia. Take the  trail that runs parallel with it
which will take you along the relaxing landscapes of the Po River plain.
Towards the end of your walk today you will begin to encounter some
undulating trails as you are now approaching the foothills of the
Apennines. Reach Carpaneto, which is a small town set within these
foothills. 


Walk: 22.5km


Overnight: La Maison de Vi, Carpaneto


DAY 6: Carpaneto to Castell' Arquato

A delightful shorter day of walking awaits as you travel through
vineyard-covered hills and an area famed for its Colli Piacentini wines.


Arrive in Castell' Arquato, a charming and picturesque hill
top town which has some of the most imposing Romanesque churches on the
whole of the Via Francigena such as St Mary’s. However, the masterpiece
of the town is the fortress and its tower, up which you can climb for
fantastic view over the surrounding countryside.


Walk: 14km


Overnight: Hotel Leon d'Oro, Castell' Arquato


DAY 7: Castell' Arquato to Fidenza

Today's walk is along a peaceful and flat stretch of the Via Francigena, where you can contemplate your experiences of the previous days - the beautiful countryside, friendly people and great food you'll have experienced!


On arrival in Fidenza we recommend that you visit 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.


Walk: 20km


Overnight: Hotel Astoria Fidenza, Fidenza


DAY 8: Onward travel

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


Accommodation

On your trip you will stay in a variety of accommodations. The properties range from 2 and 3* hotels to B&B’s to agriturismos. 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 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-March to the end of October. You can start your holiday on any date in the season.


Time of Year

Spring in Italy is sublime and April, 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 good physical condition. It is rated moderate. For most of the tour you will be walking on flat terrain alongside rivers and across plains. Towards the end of the tour there will be some slightly hilly terrain as you move into the foothills of the Apennine Mountains.


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.


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. 


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 Garlasco

The best airports to fly into to reach Garlasco are any of the Milan Airports (Milan Malpensa or Milan Linate), or Turin. From these airports it is possible to take a train to Garlasco, changing in Pavia and Vercelli respectively. The journey from Milan Central Station to Garlasco takes about 55 minutes and from Turin Central Station almost 2 hours. You will find information regarding train schedules and fares at the Trenitalia website.


Getting from Fidenza

As your accommodation in Fidenza is outside the town your hosts will drop you off at the train station. From Fidenza it is possible to take a train to either Parma, Bologna or any of the Milan Airports (Milan Malpensa or Milan Linate).  The journey from Fidenza to Parma Central Station only takes about 15 minutes. From Fidenza to Bologna Central Station the journey takes just over an hour and to Milan Central Station one and a half to 2 hours. You will find information regarding train schedules and fares at the Trenitalia website.

Included

  • 7 Nights in 2 to 3* hotels, B&B’s and agriturismos
  • 7 Breakfasts
  • Transfer from Santa Cristina to Miradolo Terme (Day 3)
  • Transfer from Miradolo to Lambrinia (Day 4)
  • Detailed maps and routes notes and a comprehensive information pack
  • Organisational assistance and backup from our local partners in Italy and our office

Excluded

  • Travel to Garlasco
  • Travel from Fidenza
  • 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 good physical condition. It is rated moderate. For most of the tour you will be walking on flat terrain alongside rivers and across plains. Towards the end of the tour there will be some slightly hilly terrrain as you move into the foothills of the Apennine Mountains.

When is the best time of year?

Spring in Italy is sublime and April, 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.

What are the best airports to fly into?

The best airports to fly into to reach Garlasco are any of the Milan Airports (Milan Malpensa or Milan Linate), or Turin. From these airports it is possible to take a train to Garlasco, changing in Pavia and Vercelli respectively. The journey from Milan Central Station to Garlasco takes about 55 minutes and from Turin Central Station almost 2 hours. 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.

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