Walk of the Week: The Via Francigena
Everyone knows about the Camino de Santiago by now, it has become internationally famous over the last 1000 years and for good reason. The spirit in which people walk it is what makes it so special and the grand feeling of accomplishment when you arrive in Santiago is second to none. Or is it? Would the feeling of walking into Rome after traversing the length of Italy be the same? Obviously this is for each of us to discover on our own and discover it you can, by walking the Via Francigena.
Montefiascone from Mt Jugo Slopes
In a Nutshell
Distance: The full Via Francigena actually goes from Canterbury in England, however, we currently only sell the part that covers Italy. So you can start up in the Alps in Bourg St Pierre in Switzerland and walk 1021 km down to Rome. It is a long one, but of course we have it split down into 8 sections should you not have time for the full thing at once.
Grading: Moderate/Moderate - Strenuous. There are a couple of sections that are tougher than others with more inclines, but generally, the level of walking is moderate. Overall the route has around 30% road walking, 30% trail walking and 40% dirt road walking and while some parts are better marked than others because it is a pilgrimage you will always find locals willing to help you out.
Where is it?
So, it goes from the Swiss border, through Piemont, Tuscany and Lazio, to name but a few regions, ending up in Rome. Each of the sections can be walked individually, so if you just want to see the Tuscan part, that is not a problem, though I would recommend seeing as much of Italy as possible, for the food alone if nothing else!
Why walk it?
There are countless reasons for walking the Via Francigena. There is the thrill, the trials and achievement of walking a pilgrimage, of setting yourself such a lofty goal that you discover a lot about yourself and your limits as you walk it. There is the camaraderie of doing a pilgrimage route, the bonding that occurs on such an epic journey and of course the sense of satisfaction when you arrive into Rome is almost unparalleled.
Pizza at Il Monastero Pizzeria, Viterbo
The Via Francigena is a voyage of discovery, not just internally, but the very route itself. It is more of an exploration than the Camino, more rustic in parts, much more adventurous. This doesn't mean that it is tougher and that you should fear it, but you need to immerse yourself in Italy and the way of life far more. The Via Francigena is quieter, you will not have to follow the crowd and this means you have to rely on your wits and your Italian language skills a bit more. But all of this just makes it a more complete experience and will definitely change the way you view yourself and the world around you.
View of Rome from Riserva Naturale di Monte Mario.
Oh, and I did mention the food didn't I? Obviously Italian food is pretty ubiquitous around the world, however, it is not until you go there that you discover just how wide-ranging and immersive it is. Each region has its specialities, for instance, there is not a lot of pasta in the north as it is a rice-growing region, so risotto is more common. And you can discover the different pasta al ragu that each region offers. No matter what culinary delights you discover, I guarantee it will be a highlight of the trip.
Planning to Walk the Via Francigena
The Route is marked, somewhat more erratically than its sister pilgrimages, but the markings are still there. It is just that in different regions people have different design ideas, so you can see anything from the yellow arrows of the Camino to the more prevalent walking pilgrim you can see below. We also provide you with very comprehensive maps and notes and our local partners are the most helpful and generous people you could hope to meet. It is incredibly warm in high summer in Italy, so the best time of year tends to be April - June and then September - October. Spring is amazing, walking through the fields of wildflowers and watching the explosion of growth all around you.
Signs for the via Francigena[/caption] Macs Adventure has a couple of experts on the route and happy to help with the planning or tailoring of your trip along the Via Francigena. With so many sections and regions it can be tough to decide what to do, but first stop would be to browse the options on our website. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d like more information.