The Via Francigena – Classic Walks

Via Francigena: A Classic pilgrimage trail through Europe:

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An old Italian olive grove on the Via Francigena

The Via Francigena is one of the most interesting walks in Europe. This walk takes you along one of the most historic and longest pilgrimage paths.

The Way begins in Canterbury and makes its way to Dover. A ferry takes the walker to Calais, where the land journey resumes. Across France to Switzerland. Then down to Lake Leman and along the Rhone Valley, up to the Alps and down to Aosta in Italy. Along the Italian peninsula, before arriving in Rome.

Paul Chin and Babette Gallard have written a guidebook ‘The complete 2010 LightFoot Guide to the via Francigena’, which is a four part series illustrated book, with detailed maps and route directions.

The Via Francigena route is 2000 km long and for those contemplating this trail for their walking journey, a certain amount of planning is required. The way is fairly well marked in most of the countries it passes. Due to its length, planning is required.

Some general information about the walk: Via Francigena Route: Starting from Canterbury, the walk to Dover is relatively flat. Once in France the path traverses some valleys before arriving in Switzerland. The Alps are a bit of a challenge, and then there’s the hilly section of Italy.

Some Highlights: So many historic sites to visit. Canterbury Cathedral, Dover, Calais, the French villages and towns. The Swiss countryside and the Great St Bernard Pass. Italian villages and churches. Lake Bolsena and Montefiascone. Rome’s churches and ancient ruins.

Walking Route Planner:

The number of days required depends on how fit and how quickly or leisurely you want your walking journey to be. Work out the average number of kilometres you are prepared to do in a day, taking into account the landscape and the town or village in which you will end your day.  It’s also nice to plan on arriving a little earlier in a village if there are interesting attractions you may like to visit, such as in Viterbo or Assisi.  The full walk takes around three months. We did sections of the walk in four weeks.

Luggage transfer: This service is available to guided walkers for some sections of the walk and can be organized through a number of tour operators. Independent walkers will have to take their own packs.

Your Via Francigena Accommodation: This is usually in B&Bs or inns and should be booked in advance. It is also possible to stay at some monasteries. The AIVF organisation, based in Rome can help with accommodation lists; you have to become a member for this.

Food: A fascinating variety of foods are available to the walker throughout the countries on the Via Francigena. Just think – English, French, Swiss and Italian.

When to go? The northern spring or autumn seasons are recommended as accommodation is easier to obtain and the tourist numbers are lower.

Walking Gear: Good walking boots and socks are critical. Your boots should have been worn in. Also important is what rain gear to take. Make sure it’s made from a breathable material.

Our Take:

There is a lot to see on this 2000 km historic journey through Europe. This walk will eventually become as popular as the Camino, so why not get in early. Be prepared for rain and wonderful walking. See you on the track.

See the Via Francigena itinerary here

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