The Next Walk....

Annette london

New Member
We're still going at it despite the weather. It's lunch time today - finally a sunny day again and in the gorgeous town of Pontremoli. We're thinking of continuing to walk as it is early though. Here is yesterday's blog: http://memismsitaliancammino.blogspot.com/2016/05/day-12-cassio-to-montelungo-terme-271km.html
Still enjoying your blog. We are just home since yesterday.A wonderful walk and what scenery and great people.the only stage that we did not like was the one into Rome. I will read you take on it sometime next week! I thought you were an American -- just asking as comments re Manchester United are puzzling!! My husband is watching match at the moment and I need earplugs! We appear to have stayed at a lot of the places you and Melanie have stayed. We found them good value and comfortable. Good luck on your next stage.
 

Annette london

New Member
After the Camino Frances from SJPdP in 2012, the Caminho Portuguese from Lisbon in 2014 and the Camino Ignaciano in 2015, my wife and I were looking for another walk in another country. It looks like we are set for a 850km section of the Via Francigena from Vercelli to Rome in April & May 2016.

I'm still figuring out how to get the right mix of mileage. We are used to about 25km stages and an initial look at the Lightfoot guide seems to suggest a lot of shorter stages mixed in with a good bit of fairly longer ones. We are still digging into that though as well as trying to budget how much beds and meals will be. Finally, it is starting to hit home that all the Spanish I have picked up over the past three years will be close to useless on this walk. C'est la vie! :p Onwards to new challenges.
Just to cheer you up, the fantastic Roman road is tomorrow. That was a long stage for us and we staggered into viterbo on our knees. A lovely place in the centre.
 

MichaelSG

Member
Still enjoying your blog. We are just home since yesterday.A wonderful walk and what scenery and great people.the only stage that we did not like was the one into Rome. I will read you take on it sometime next week! I thought you were an American -- just asking as comments re Manchester United are puzzling!! My husband is watching match at the moment and I need earplugs! We appear to have stayed at a lot of the places you and Melanie have stayed. We found them good value and comfortable. Good luck on your next stage.
Thanks Annette, I am American but I've lived the majority of my life in Asia so I had to support some team in England (as well as Juventus in Italy, Real Madrid in Spain and Dortmund in Getmany. We have liked most hotels and hostels we have stayed in (except the Convento in Sarzana which was awful in every respect), but we got so used to paying 40€/night in Spain. It's all good though. We probably would not have been averaging too much more than that with e the mix of hotels and hostels but I'm trying to keep us both happy too. My Wife has never been that much of a fan of having to listen to more than one person at a time who is snoring.
 

Annette london

New Member
Thanks Annette, I am American but I've lived the majority of my life in Asia so I had to support some team in England (as well as Juventus in Italy, Real Madrid in Spain and Dortmund in Getmany. We have liked most hotels and hostels we have stayed in (except the Convento in Sarzana which was awful in every respect), but we got so used to paying 40€/night in Spain. It's all good though. We probably would not have been averaging too much more than that with e the mix of hotels and hostels but I'm trying to keep us both happy too. My Wife has never been that much of a fan of having to listen to more than one person at a time who is snoring.
Saw the comment on your blog yesterday re entering Rome. I wish we had known there was a different way as going by the via cassia was dreadful. No paths. Rubbish on the road. Traffic. We don't have gps. Just dodgy maps the whole via but thank god we got there anyway. No wonder the days were long. Hope you can go by the alternative route into Rome. Only a few days now!! Best wishes
 

Annette london

New Member
Saw the comment on your blog yesterday re entering Rome. I wish we had known there was a different way as going by the via cassia was dreadful. No paths. Rubbish on the road. Traffic. We don't have gps. Just dodgy maps the whole via but thank god we got there anyway. No wonder the days were long. Hope you can go by the alternative route into Rome. Only a few days now!! Best wishes
With best wishes to you both tomorrow on entering Rome. We will be thinking of you both around midday, even as I do my rounds. Such a moment! From your blog today I can only remember bits of the stage as in Fromillo. The rest is a haze and we can't remember that bridge so heavens knows how we got to Le storta. Some school kids pointed out the path and then a guy tried to veer us another way. I do remember however that it was a long solitary way and very beautiful between fields and river. For me, although the journey is still so fresh in my memory, the individual days are a haze, if that makes sense.just enjoy tomorrow now and have a well earned rest in Roma. God bless Annette and Charlie
 

MichaelSG

Member
Ta da. It's been a very hot last few days but we have arrived in Rome, 846km and by foot every step of the way from Vercelli. The walk into Rome is a whole lot better along the new route that we got lucky in discovering today. No dangerous main roads. Thanks to everyone who has helped us along the way or in the planning stages. Your advice and encouragement were invaluable

http://memismsitaliancammino.blogspot.com/2016/05/day-36-la-storta-to-rome-210km-55hrs-28.html
 

Bradypus

Active Member
Congratulations! It has been great to walk the route again in my mind through your words and pictures. Thank you for sharing so much. I hope that you both find your time in Rome is blessed. Sounds as if it has already been interesting :)

Pax et bonum.
 

Annette london

New Member
Ta da. It's been a very hot last few days but we have arrived in Rome, 846km and by foot every step of the way from Vercelli. The walk into Rome is a whole lot better along the new route that we got lucky in discovering today. No dangerous main roads. Thanks to everyone who has helped us along the way or in the planning stages. Your advice and encouragement were invaluable

http://memismsitaliancammino.blogspot.com/2016/05/day-36-la-storta-to-rome-210km-55hrs-28.html
Congratulations! So pleased for you both.A great accomplishment in one go as its not a walk in the park! Have a great time in Rome and a safe journey home. "Slan agus beannact " Annette
 

MichaelSG

Member
While things are still somewhat fresh in my mind, but not as current as when I wrote the daily blogs, let me summarise my thoughts on the Via Francigena:

It really is a fantastic walk, at least where I started from in Vercelli. I am very, very happy we did this one. I needed at least the first week to be somewhat easy and the flat lands from Vercelli to Fidenza provided that.

A local phone is VERY useful in those first two weeks. You need to call a day in advance to make sure you have a bed and someone to give you access to it.

Wi-fi is not always findable in many towns north of Lucca.

Tuscany is extremely gorgeous to walk through but do not count on places to stop along the way. Most days, you leave in the morning and you probably won't see a place to eat / drink / sit on a toilet until your final destination.

We stayed in a mix of ostellos, affittacamere, hotels and albergos but we stopped staying in ostellos on day 24 when it started to look like the Camino Frances' bed race.

We walked with only a few pilgrims and some of the days and some of the kms. It was pretty rare to see other pilgrims on the trail until south of Siena. We did meet up with some at night time though, after the first week.

There were lovely people we met all along the way, both pilgrims and local Italians. As I sit here, all I can remember are the many fantastic people but also one single pair of women who ran the Covento di San Francesco ostello who I did not enjoy meeting at all (really, you should avoid that dump aloughth, to be fair, two friends stayed their and survived) and the daughter of the woman running the ostello in some little town whose name escapes me now.

Learn some Italian before you go. It will make life much easier and more rewarding. At minimum, make sure you can make reservations for rooms over the telephone. That's a bare minimum. I used Duolingo for a couple of months and enjoyed having small conversations with people.

Italian breakfast is always a pastry and a coffee. If you want more than that, you'll need to make it yourself. I think I had more than that at a handful of B&Bs, but not much more. I haven't seen an egg, strip of bacon or sausage since leaving Singapore.

Some stages are long but there are often work arounds. Get GPS / offline maps on a smartphone. Maps.me worked perfect. The GPS tracks I downloaded from the Via Francigena website were not always the most recent but that's okay. Every tiny track is in maps.me and its easy to find your own way.

The route is signposted very, very well. It's not 100% perfect but second only to the Camino Frances that I know of. That said, because some paths are long with no marking other than the first one saying to enter it, it can be reassuring to confirm your route on the GPS.

Plan your walk so that you go from Fiorenzuola d'Arda to Fidenza on a weekend or school holiday. Stop in to say hello to Massimo and Claudia. Don't shortcut and miss their house. Also, take the ferry across the river after Orio Litta with Danilo. You won't regret it. Sigeric spoke so highly of Danilo that we had to do it. He is a legend but he needs at least 24 hours notice and he won't speak on the phone in anything but Italian.

Expect B&Bs to only serve breakfast before 8:00am by bribing them. Except dinner in a rest arrant no earlier than 7:30pm. Carry some food with you all the time. We had too many days where a single croissant needed to last us until 3:00pm. BTW, one day like that is too much for me. After three hours without food, I'm the kind of guy whose body will think I'm on a hunger strike.

Pilgrims meals don't really exist except in a very few towns. Normal for us was a ham sandwich and lemon soda for lunch and a dinner of pasta then a shared main course and salad. With a second breakfast when we were lucky to nave a town nearby the 1-2 hour mark, meals cost the two of us a total 50-70€ per day.

Either bring euros with you or have a bank card where you can withdraw money from local banks. We happened to have US$ sitting around so we brought them to change to euros. The very few money changers we have seen (and we looked) were in Pisa and Rome. With commissions, they were stealing about 6-9%. ATMs worked flawlessly 10 times so far and they are taking 4% from the interbank rates.

Rome is a big tourist town. Mass with 10,000 people today at St. Peter's Square was awesome. Seeing the Trevi Foutain on Sunday afternoon with 10,000 tourist sucked.

Other than the other pilgrims that you may run into on the hill overlooking Rome, no one else in the Eternal City cares that you walked 2,000km, 850km, 100km or twenty meters. This isn't Santiago. Revel in your own accomplishment silently otherwise people with think you really are crazy.

We were blessed with great weather and I say this despite the very cold rain when crossing the mountains and the hailstorm in Radicofani. The last three days were burning hot with an energy sapping sun and that is what most of our walk was supposed to be. I can't imagine 36 days of that.

Join the Confraternity of Pilgrims to Rome and download their accommodation list. It's rarely up to date on prices but I found it extremely useful, more so than the LightFoot guide. That guide was borderline worth the carrying weight.

Once again, the most useful thing we brought was a parachord clothesline, 20 small paper binder clips and a drybag for washing clothes without getting water and suds everywhere. The least useful things I brought were a small torch, an Italian phrase book and set of hair curlers. I'm kidding about one of those. The curlers were actually quite handy.

I can't think of anything else now but holler if you have questions.
 

MichaelSG

Member
Oops. In my last blog post, I had said "For those following us, you can no longer get a Testamonium at the Opera Romana Pellegrinaggi."

We found out that this is not true. We went there on Saturday and several ladies behind the counter clearly said that they no longer issued testamoniums there. The conversations were in Italian with one person and English with two others. I don't think it was a language issue but we happened to stop by again on Monday and there they were, handing out the testamoniums to two Italian pilgrims. I haven't a clue what happened on Saturday but we proceeded to get ours too.
 

William Marques

Moderator
Staff member
Michael - Great to read your notes. Please send your accommodation notes to the CPR especially the latest accommodation costs so they can update their list. Thanks
 

Paul Twmba

New Member
While things are still somewhat fresh in my mind, but not as current as when I wrote the daily blogs, let me summarise my thoughts on the Via Francigena:

It really is a fantastic walk, at least where I started from in Vercelli. I am very, very happy we did this one. I needed at least the first week to be somewhat easy and the flat lands from Vercelli to Fidenza provided that.

A local phone is VERY useful in those first two weeks. You need to call a day in advance to make sure you have a bed and someone to give you access to it.

Wi-fi is not always findable in many towns north of Lucca.

Tuscany is extremely gorgeous to walk through but do not count on places to stop along the way. Most days, you leave in the morning and you probably won't see a place to eat / drink / sit on a toilet until your final destination.

We stayed in a mix of ostellos, affittacamere, hotels and albergos but we stopped staying in ostellos on day 24 when it started to look like the Camino Frances' bed race.

We walked with only a few pilgrims and some of the days and some of the kms. It was pretty rare to see other pilgrims on the trail until south of Siena. We did meet up with some at night time though, after the first week.

There were lovely people we met all along the way, both pilgrims and local Italians. As I sit here, all I can remember are the many fantastic people but also one single pair of women who ran the Covento di San Francesco ostello who I did not enjoy meeting at all (really, you should avoid that dump aloughth, to be fair, two friends stayed their and survived) and the daughter of the woman running the ostello in some little town whose name escapes me now.

Learn some Italian before you go. It will make life much easier and more rewarding. At minimum, make sure you can make reservations for rooms over the telephone. That's a bare minimum. I used Duolingo for a couple of months and enjoyed having small conversations with people.

Italian breakfast is always a pastry and a coffee. If you want more than that, you'll need to make it yourself. I think I had more than that at a handful of B&Bs, but not much more. I haven't seen an egg, strip of bacon or sausage since leaving Singapore.

Some stages are long but there are often work arounds. Get GPS / offline maps on a smartphone. Maps.me worked perfect. The GPS tracks I downloaded from the Via Francigena website were not always the most recent but that's okay. Every tiny track is in maps.me and its easy to find your own way.

The route is signposted very, very well. It's not 100% perfect but second only to the Camino Frances that I know of. That said, because some paths are long with no marking other than the first one saying to enter it, it can be reassuring to confirm your route on the GPS.

Plan your walk so that you go from Fiorenzuola d'Arda to Fidenza on a weekend or school holiday. Stop in to say hello to Massimo and Claudia. Don't shortcut and miss their house. Also, take the ferry across the river after Orio Litta with Danilo. You won't regret it. Sigeric spoke so highly of Danilo that we had to do it. He is a legend but he needs at least 24 hours notice and he won't speak on the phone in anything but Italian.

Expect B&Bs to only serve breakfast before 8:00am by bribing them. Except dinner in a rest arrant no earlier than 7:30pm. Carry some food with you all the time. We had too many days where a single croissant needed to last us until 3:00pm. BTW, one day like that is too much for me. After three hours without food, I'm the kind of guy whose body will think I'm on a hunger strike.

Pilgrims meals don't really exist except in a very few towns. Normal for us was a ham sandwich and lemon soda for lunch and a dinner of pasta then a shared main course and salad. With a second breakfast when we were lucky to nave a town nearby the 1-2 hour mark, meals cost the two of us a total 50-70€ per day.

Either bring euros with you or have a bank card where you can withdraw money from local banks. We happened to have US$ sitting around so we brought them to change to euros. The very few money changers we have seen (and we looked) were in Pisa and Rome. With commissions, they were stealing about 6-9%. ATMs worked flawlessly 10 times so far and they are taking 4% from the interbank rates.

Rome is a big tourist town. Mass with 10,000 people today at St. Peter's Square was awesome. Seeing the Trevi Foutain on Sunday afternoon with 10,000 tourist sucked.

Other than the other pilgrims that you may run into on the hill overlooking Rome, no one else in the Eternal City cares that you walked 2,000km, 850km, 100km or twenty meters. This isn't Santiago. Revel in your own accomplishment silently otherwise people with think you really are crazy.

We were blessed with great weather and I say this despite the very cold rain when crossing the mountains and the hailstorm in Radicofani. The last three days were burning hot with an energy sapping sun and that is what most of our walk was supposed to be. I can't imagine 36 days of that.

Join the Confraternity of Pilgrims to Rome and download their accommodation list. It's rarely up to date on prices but I found it extremely useful, more so than the LightFoot guide. That guide was borderline worth the carrying weight.

Once again, the most useful thing we brought was a parachord clothesline, 20 small paper binder clips and a drybag for washing clothes without getting water and suds everywhere. The least useful things I brought were a small torch, an Italian phrase book and set of hair curlers. I'm kidding about one of those. The curlers were actually quite handy.

I can't think of anything else now but holler if you have questions.
Michael, Many thanks once again for your interesting and informative blogs. Am hoping I will be able to retrieve these over the coming months as I follow you to Rome. May many blessings come the way of you and yours.
 

MichaelSG

Member
One more piece of information that may help people in planning.... I finally got around to figuring out what we spent. That's probably not a great idea but...

This isn't exactly a cheap walk but it didn't have to be an overly expensive one either. We stayed mostly in B&Bs or affitacamere but also in some ostellos and hotels too. On average, our lodging cost us 58euros for the two of us. If you were staying only at available ostellos, I'm sure you could get that to around 15-20euros per person but for the savings of 18-28euros, we were happy with normally having an en-suite room to ourselves. The good sleep and privacy made it worthwhile.

For meals, we averaged 56euros a day and I am not sure that could be reduced much below 20euros per person, if even that low. Our usual day was coffee or juice and a croissant for breakfast (good luck getting anything else!) and if there was a bar or cafe open along the way, we often stopped in for a lemon soda and maybe another pastry. Lunch was usually a lemon soda and a shared sandwich. Dinner was usually a pasta for each of us, and then we shared a main course and mixed salad. I lost 6 kgs so we weren't overeating, I reckon.

Finally, incidentals were 6.50euros and that included purchases at grocery stores for nuts, fruit and dried fruit, at pharmacies for sun cream, unused bug spray, etc. as well as a couple of laundry runs, trains to Milan, Vercelli, Pisa, Danillo's Ferry and other little bits.

I hope this helps someone figuring out whether to walk it or not, or help with budgeting. Despite the higher costs compared to Spain - particularly the French route - I still think it was a great walk.
 

Domigee

Member
Thank you for all the useful infos and congratulations on finishing the Vf!
I walked the French part (to Besançon) in 2014 but then veered off as I was on my way to Jerusalem.
This Summer I'd like to walk from Besançon towards Rome, not sure where I'll end up though as this year, time is limited.
So planning has started! :):cool:
 

dengyou

New Member
We're still going at it despite the weather. It's lunch time today - finally a sunny day again and in the gorgeous town of Pontremoli. We're thinking of continuing to walk as it is early though. Here is yesterday's blog: http://memismsitaliancammino.blogspot.com/2016/05/day-12-cassio-to-montelungo-terme-271km.html
Hi Michael
We(retired Chinese couple) are preparing for next year's Camino on via francigena ,starting from Piacenza,ending at Altopascio then turning to take St Francis Way from Florence to Roma via Assisi. Going to spend June&July two months on Camino .Could you give us some suggestion such as some website especially about the accommodation ,because here very few reference source we can get about the Camino .
Many thanks
Zibo
 

MichaelSG

Member
Hi Zibo, I'm sorry for the very late reply. Internet in the middle of the sea throughout Indonesia is non-existent. Domineering has given you the only useful link that I know of for the places to stay on the VF. I also used Booking.com while on the trail when we wanted something better, more guaranteed or when we just couldn't get people to answer phones when we tried to ensure a bed a day in advance. The Confraternity's list is very comprehensive, mostly current and provides useful reviews although note that things change with time. The prices certainly do and were the only thing I found that really needed updating. For the portion of your walk that is on the St. Francis Way, I can't comment much as I have not done that walk. I would certainly start with a look at Sandy Brown's blog and book (https://caminoist.org/st-francis-way/ and http://www.cicerone.co.uk/product/detail.cfm/book/626/title/the-way-of-st-francis ). Buen Cammino!
 
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