Self-Guided Walking Tours & Biking Tours


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Via Francigena: Pont St Martin to Garlasco
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Highlights

  • Encountering the natural crystalline and clear waters of Lake Viverone
  • Savouring a taste of “Salame d’Oca”, or goose salami, a local delicacy
  • Crossing the border from Valle d’Aosta to Piedmont, which is translated as the “foot of the mountain”
  • Beginning in picturesque Pont St Martin and absorbing the incredible views of the nearby Alps
  • Appreciating the wonderful hospitality of the monks at your Monastery Guest House

This stage of the Via Francigena is full of contrasts, from the snow-capped Alps, to the cultivated hills around Vercelli, and beyond to the vast wide plains of the Po River Valley. Walking through three different regions of Italy; Valle d’Aosta, Piedmont and Lombardy, you visit medieval towns, see ancient towers and churches and shimmering Lake Viverone.

Pont St Martin is a small village located on the frontier between the Aosta Valley and Piedmont and lends its name to an photogenic ancient stone bridge. Be inspired by views of the rugged Alps which provide the backdrop for the beginning of your walking tour. Ivrea, your next destination, used to be protected by medieval walls, but evidence shows that it dates back even further to Roman times.

Sparkling in the distance you encounter the natural lake of Viverone, where in the Bronze Age its inhabitants used to live in stilt houses. Your accommodation is situated next to the lake and you can enjoy dinner “al fresco” on the terrace with waterside views. Travelling between Santhia and Vercelli you discover that this area is famed for its rice cultivation. In spring when the fields are filled with water it becomes a boundless expanse mirroring the peaks of the Alps on clear days.

Cross the border from Piedmont into Lombardy and walk along the banks of the River Sesia before arriving in Robbio, a town that has been inhabited since Neolithic times. Walk to Mortara, the capital of the Lomellina region and where geese have been raised for centuries resulting in the local delicacy of “Salame d’Oca”, or goose salami. Finally you reach Garlasco, and the end of this stage of the Via Francigena.

DAY 1: Arrive in Pont St Martin

Pont St Martin is a pretty village located on the border between Valle d’Aosta and Piedmont and where this section of the Via Francigena begins. Upon arrival you will see the snow-capped Alps in the distance as this village is nestled in its foothills and stands at 345m above sea level. 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. 


Overnight: Hotel Crabun***, Pont St Martin



DAY 2: Pont St Martin to Ivrea


On your walk this morning you truly experience this region’s beauty as you pass through little villages and wooded hills. As you cross over the border into Piedmont you will follow the banks of the Dora Baltea River and pass by Montalto Dora Castle, a huge fortress with magnificent towers that dates back to the 12th century.



In many of the towns and villages you pass there are important remains from both medieval and Roman times. Your destination today, Ivrea, used to be protected by its medieval walls and divided into “rioni”, which were town quarters in Roman times. This town also has a man-made canal constructed in 1498 and stretching all the way to Vercelli. It was built in order to irrigate the surrounding rice crops. You may also wish to visit Ivrea Cathedral, originally a church that was built in the 4th century, and in 1000 AD was rebuilt in the Romanesque style.


Walk: 26km


Overnight: B&B Spazio***, Ivrea



DAY 3: Ivrea to Viverone


Upon departing from Ivrea you will walk through open countryside and the interesting little village of Bollengo before passing by many small lakes created during the glacial era.



The second part of your walking day offers exquisite views over the valley and before long the crystalline Lake Viverone glistening in the distance. The lake is also an important archaeological site and during the Bronze Age villages made of stilt houses were present here.



Fortuitously your hotel this evening is located on the shores of the lake. Enjoy dinner “al fresco” on the terrace with the mountain peaks on the horizon.


Walk: 23km


Overnight: Hotel Royal*** Viverone



DAY 4: Viverone to Santhia


You are able to appreciate this stunning lake even more this morning as the route takes you alongside. Perhaps you will see local wildlife such as coots, grebes and mallards. Continue on through a wooded area before heading over one of the last hills before you reach the Padana Plain below, also known as the Po River Plain. This area stretches 400 miles wide in an east-west direction and is an important agricultural area in Italy.



Santhia, where you will spend the night, is at an important junction on the Via Francigena as it is where two branches join; one that goes to the Gran San Bernardo Pass and the other towards the Susa Valley, the longest in Italy. You are now in the heart of Piedmont.


Walk: 17km


Overnight: Hotel Vittoria**, Santhia



DAY 5: Santhia to Vercelli


The initial stage of your walk today takes you along tracks through the flat plains and in sight of an expanse of fields water-logged for the rice cultivation. There is a complex network of water channels as rice has been cultivated here for over 300 years and the countryside is broken up by large brick red farmhouses, framed by rows of poplars. In the spring the flooding of the paddy fields results in an area that resembles a large lake, which on clear days mirrors the snow-capped Alps.



Settle into your B&B in the town of Vercelli with its medieval Cavour Square surrounded by ancient houses. Be sure to visit the Basilica of St Andrew, a masterpiece of Gothic architecture.


Walk: 30km


Overnight: Al Viaggiator Leggero** B&B, Vercelli



DAY 6: Vercelli to Mortara


Walk out of Vercelli and through the countryside  before arriving at the banks of the River Sesia. As you cross the border from Piedmont into Lombardy you are getting closer and closer to Rome. The area here becomes wooded and you will also walk through the village of Palestro, which is located on the banks of the river. Here you leave the river behind and make your way to Robbio, a place that was settled in Neolithic times. Take the train (15 mins, payable locally) to Mortara, with its historical palio dating back to 1400.


Walk: 22km


Overnight: Albergo San Michele***, Mortara



DAY 7: Mortara to Garlasco


You will see the countryside of the Pavese Plain where farmhouses dot the way along the wide cultivated fields. This area is also the home of the local delicacy “Salame d’Oca” (goose salami). The raising of geese is a very ancient  tradition here and was inspired by the numerous Jewish communities in the Lomellina region as this was an alternate to pork products. This is a good area to raise geese due to the widespread availability of natural fresh water springs and the presence of abundant tender grasses.


Walk: 24km


Overnight: Hotel Il Pino**, Garlasco



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 your trip you will stay in a variety of accommodations. The properties range from 2 and 3* hotels to B&B’s. 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. At the beginning of the tour you will be in the foothills of the Alps, so expect some elevation gains and losses. Then as you cross into Piedmont and the Po River Valley the terrain will flatten out. On the final day of walking you can shorten the walk by taking a train (payable locally, making this day 19km instead of 32km).


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 Pont St Martin

The best airport to fly into to reach Pont St Martin is Turin Airport as there are good connections. You can take a Sadem shuttle bus (please see the airport website for information regarding this shuttle bus) to the Torino Porto Nuovo station and from here a train (via Ivrea) to Pont St Martin. The journey takes around 1 hour and 15 minutes. You can also fly into Milan Malpensa Airport. From here you can take a shuttle bus to Milano Central Train Station and then a train to Pont St Martin. However there are a couple of changes involved and the journey takes around 2 and a half hours. You will find information regarding train schedules and fares at the Trenitalia website.


Getting from Garlasco

The best airports to fly from when leaving Garlasco are any of the Milan Airports (Milan Malpensa or Milan Linate), or Turin.
Garlasco by train to Milan Central Station takes 1-2 hours (you will
have to take a shuttle bus from central Milan to Milan Malpensa or
Linate Airports and there are also at least one or two changes
involved).
From Garlasco to Turin Central Train Station it takes about 2 hours,
changing in
Vercelli. (Again there is a shuttle bus from the main
train station to Turin Airport). You will find information regarding
train schedules and
fares at the Trenitalia website.

Getting to Pont St Martin

The best airport to fly into to reach Pont St Martin is Turin Airport as there are good connections. You can take a Sadem shuttle bus (please see the airport website for information regarding this shuttle bus) to the Torino Porto Nuovo station and from here a train (via Ivrea) to Pont St Martin. The journey takes around 1 hour and 15 minutes. You can also fly into Milan Malpensa Airport. From here you can take a shuttle bus to Milano Central Train Station and then a train to Pont St Martin. However there are a couple of changes involved and the journey takes around 2 and a half hours. You will find information regarding train schedules and fares at the Trenitalia website.


Getting from Garlasco

The best airports to fly from when leaving Garlasco are any of the Milan Airports (Milan Malpensa or Milan Linate), or Turin.
Garlasco by train to Milan Central Station takes 1-2 hours (you will
have to take a shuttle bus from central Milan to Milan Malpensa or Linate Airports and there are also at least one or two changes involved).
From Garlasco to Turin Central Train Station it takes about 2 hours, changing in
Vercelli. (Again there is a shuttle bus from the main
train station to Turin Airport). You will find information regarding train schedules and
fares at the Trenitalia website.

Included

  • 7 Nights in 2 to 3* hotels, and B&B's
  • 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 Pont St Martin
  • Travel from Garlasco
  • Train from Robbio to Mortara (payable locally)
  • Lunches & dinners
  • Drinks & snacks
  • Baggage transfers
  • Personal equipment
  • Travel insurance
  • Local public transport
  • 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. At the beginning of the tour you will be in the foothills of the Alps, so expect some elevation gains and losses. Then as you cross into Piedmont and the Po River Valley the terrain will flatten out.

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 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.

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 to reach Pont St Martin is Turin Airport as there are good connections. You can take a Sadem shuttle bus (please see the airport website for information regarding this shuttle bus) to the Torino Porto Nuovo station and from here a train (via Ivrea) to Pont St Martin. The journey takes around 1 hour and 15 minutes. You can also fly into Milan Malpensa Airport. From here you can take a shuttle bus to Milano Central Train Station and then a train to Pont St Martin. However there are a couple of changes involved and the journey takes around 2 and a half 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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