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How the Via Francigena is Different from the Camino de Santiago

Year of past OR future Camino
Frances(15,16,18)CheminduPuy(16) Portuguese(16 VDLP(17)Primitivo(17)Ireland-3000K(18) Norte18Vasco17
This is one pilgrim’s perspective from a single pilgrimage and biased. However it will hopefully provide future pilgrims and Camino de Santiago veterans a sense of what to expect on Via Francigena (VF).

1. Longer Distance and Time
:

Of course the length is variable depending upon where one starts but the full length of the Via Francigena(VF) is 2,000 kilometers from Canterbury, England to Rome. Camino Frances(CF) is 790K and even if you continue on to Finisterre and Muxia only 907K. Of course the Camino de Santiago can start anywhere in Europe but most begin in Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port or in Spain. I took 86 days to walk from Canterbury to Rome but that included 7 days of rest or side trips. If you are non-European and want to walk slowly it is problematic as Schengen Zone Visas are limited to 90 days.

2. More Difficult:

While any Camino can be described as difficult the VF is made harder by the sheer distance. It seemed like forever we were walking in France and even after walking 10 days through Switzerland to Saint Bernard Pass we were still only half way to Rome. Also the lack of other pilgrims makes it mentally more challenging. On the Camino when tired I would sometimes walk and talk with someone before realizing I had gone another 5K. In France and Switzerland it was rare to see another pilgrim while walking. There were a few more pilgrims in Italy with another increase in Tuscany but nowhere near as crowded as the CF. Walking over the Alps makes for more significant elevation changes and Italy is quite hilly in parts compared to the CF.

3. Cost:

While I averaged about €25-€30 per day on the CF the VF was more like €50 per day. Of course if you camp and buy food at supermarkets and limit your stop at restaurants and bars you can significantly decrease your daily spend. 10 days in Switzerland brought up that average as it is quite expensive relatively. Probably spent €70-€75 per day.

4. Four Countries vs. One or Two
:

This made for a significant difference. Most CF’s are entirely in Spain or a day in France. The VF has included 2 days in England, a month in France, 10 days in Switzerland, and over a month in Italy. In fact, when you reach St. Peter’s you have actually walked through 5 countries as The Vatican is a sovereign state.

5. England:

While you are only in the UK a day or two, it is important as a starting point and also where Archbishop Sigeric began his journey from Canterbury to Rome in 990AD. The VF follows in his footsteps. A recommended side trip is to spend a day walking from Dover to St. Margaret’s Cliffe to take in the White Cliffs of Dover.

6. France:

The walk through France from Calais to Jougne is a long journey in itself. From Calais there is pleasant coastal and forest walking. Within a week you travel through Arras and pass through many WWI battlefields and cemeteries which I found powerful. It was even more special given that both my Grandfathers fought with the Allied forces in The Great War. Of course the walk takes you through some beautiful towns with magnificent cathedrals i.e.; Laon, Reims, Langres, and Besançon. One rarely sees other pilgrims and some of the walking is in relatively flat land through fields of corn, bean, potato, wheat, etc.. making it sometimes a bit boring and mentally tough. The last part after Besançon takes you through the appealing, mountainous Loue River Valley providing a prelude to the Alps. The big difference though in France is the support of local people who take pilgrims into their homes providing dinner, a bed, breakfast along with conversation and kindness. Unlike the Camino in Spain where this is rare because of the volume of pilgrims, it is not uncommon in France. Not just on the VF but also experienced it on the Camino Tours and Chemin duPuy. Sometimes they were donation based but usually the cost was about €30 for bed, dinner and breakfast which was extremely reasonable. Occasionally they would even wash our clothes.

7. Switzerland:

The big difference here is that the path takes one through the magnificent Alps, especially up to Saint Bernard Pass at 2,469 meters before entering Italy. Walking through the vineyards along Lake Geneva was beautiful as well. Unlike in France and Italy where you feel more like a pilgrim, here you feel more like a long distance walker as the Swiss seem somewhat indifferent towards pilgrims. The only exception was at the Monastery of Saint Maurice.

8. Italy:

At 1,000K the Italy segment of VF is longer than the CF on its own. One walks through diverse regions getting an appreciation of how provincial Italy is. Walking down from The Pass into the Aoste Valley was like a breath of fresh air. The Italians were much more enthusiastic in their greetings and support to pilgrims than the Swiss. While there are many beautiful cathedrals and churches on the CF the ones in Italy were a cut above. The artwork; frescoes, statues, altars, etc. were both spectacular and beautiful. Even the small towns and small churches were adorned with great art. One negative though is it seemed there were an awful lot of mosquitoes in Italy versus Spain.

9. Food:

On CF the food is basic but good with most pilgrims opting for fairly consistent 3 course pilgrim meals; usually a first of mixed salad or spaghetti or soup, followed by meat or fish with fried potatoes. And a dessert of a flan or almond cake or commercial ice cream. Of course there are also many fine restaurants on the CF offering delicious food at a higher cost. While on the VF the food is much more diverse given the walk traverses 4 countries. I would say it is one of the real highlights of the VF sampling the many different dishes noticing how the type of cheeses and wines would change in France depending upon the region. The regional cuisine changes in Italy were interesting as well. And how wonderful the food all across Italy with the delicious fresh pasta starters, the delicious hams and cheeses near Parma, and exceptional Tuscany cuisine. And of course the pizza. One grows a fondness for mushrooms and truffles. The wine is excellent and if you stick to the vino de la casa relatively inexpensive. Certainly not as cheap as Spain though where often a bottle of wine is included with your 3 course meals, usually priced in the €9-€12 range. In Italy a 2 course meal with pasta and then a meat or fish dish along with ½ litre of wine averaged €20-€30. About the same in France for a 2 course meal with wine. Higher of course in Switzerland. At my first and only meal at a McDonalds on VF in Lausanne, Switzerland; a Quarter Pounder (Royale) Meal was €13 ($15.31). In Spain €6 or North America $6. And amusingly, I had to pay €.20 for a packet of ketchup.

10. Less Pilgrim Infrastructure and Support:

It is certainly not as strong on VF versus CF but there is decent support. The Via Francigena European Association provides a very handy App including GPS of the entire route as well as a listing of accomodations in each country. http://www.viefrancigene.org/it/app/ . There is also a separate helpful Accommodation Listing for France available from the Federation Française de la Via Francigena(FFVF). My real go to tool was The Confraternity of Pilgrims to Rome Accommodation Listing for the entire walk. They offer that and much more at https://pilgrimstorome.org.uk/. Regarding physical infrastructure there were much fewer parochial, church, and municipal albergues on VF. Just a few in France, a lesser amount in Switzerland, though a decent amount in Italy. On the CF the infrastructure is excellent and it is possible to stay only at albergue’s if one chooses. One caveat is that we walked VF in the time of Covid so there were a substantial number of dormitory accommodations that were closed. That said, if there wasn’t a hostel of some sort available there were reasonably priced guesthouses, B&B’s, and hotels. Via Francigena guidebooks are available from Lightfoot and Cicerone. I used the Lightfoot Guide for Italy after using just the VF App and Accommodation Listings for France and Italy. There are of course a plethora of guidebooks and listings for CF.

11. Not As Strong Spirit on Via Francigena:

Spirituality on a Pilgrimage is an intensely personal matter and each pilgrim’s pilgrimage is unique. That said, while finding VF quite special, It tended to be somewhat more of a long walk and more akin to the Camino Via de La Plata(VDLP) than the Camino Frances which has a stronger spiritual feel. The VF was more a walk in history with an emphasis on Roman but there were some interesting Napoleonic historical sights as well. I also found that ending in Rome was not quite as emotional as ending in Santiago de Compostela. Santiago de Compostela is a town built around the Cathedral whereas The Vatican is in the middle of Rome and was an important city before the time of Jesus. Also St. Peter’s seems to be a monument to the Papacy, more than a place of spiritual worship. Plus very few of the pilgrims to Rome walk there, while on CF most have. As part of my pilgrimage I walked on from The Vatican to a small nondescript church, Santa Maria di Monti, near The Colosseum. The tomb of San Benoît of Amettes, France lies there. San Benoît is the spirit of the VF more so than Sigeric in my opinion. When you leave Canterbury you walk in the footsteps of Sigeric. He was an archbishop who traveled to Rome in 990AD to obtain a Pallium or symbol of authority from the Pope. He documented his return to Canterbury from Rome and his route in his book is what led to the modern Via Francigena. Whereas San Benoît was a humble pilgrim who was not accepted as a monk early in his life and felt a calling to go on pilgrimage and ended up walking 30,000 kilometers to Santiago, Rome, Jerusalem and other holy sites. He was ever helping the needy and poor and became the patron saint of rejects, beggars, and the homeless. One of the most important lessons of a pilgrimage is learning humility and that is best epitomized by San Benoît. What humility you do not find at St. Peter’s perhaps you may find at Santa Maria di Monti.

Final Notes:

-If you are seeking a long pilgrimage and prefer more solitude, diversity, and mountain hiking the Via Francigena is a great alternative.
-If you make it to Rome and still have time and the energy, the VF continues south from Rome as if you were continuing on to Jerusalem going another 861K to Santa Maria di Leuca.
-Another shorter extension to your pilgrimage is to walk on another 12 days to Assisi on the Via Francesco. I did that walk and it had a stronger spiritual feel to it walking in the footsteps of St. Francis vs. Archbishop Sigeric. Arriving in Assisi at the Basilica of St. Francis was an emotionally moving experience for me as was reaching Santa Maria di Monti Church or Santiago Cathedral.
-I walked during the Time of Covid so some Albergue type accommodations were closed. I had hoped to stay in Rome at The San Giacomo Albergue which has a Sister Albergue on The Camino Frances, San Nicolas, 34k before Carrion de las Condes. My stay there was special and I believe staying at the one in Rome would have been equally or more special and enhanced the spiritual aspect of my VF pilgrimage. With Covid, and walking with a partner we ended up staying at a hotel.
-Again this is my own personal perspective. Admittedly, each pilgrim’s experience is unique.

Buen Camino!
 
Last edited:
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Year of past OR future Camino
cf (2), de la plata, cp. (2003 -2018)
This is one pilgrim’s perspective from a single pilgrimage and biased. However it will hopefully provide future pilgrims and Camino de Santiago veterans a sense of what to expect on Via Francigena (VF).

1. Longer Distance and Time:

Of course the length is variable depending upon where one starts but the full length of the Via Francigena(VF) is 2,000 kilometers from Canterbury, England to Rome. Camino Frances(CF) is 790K and even if you continue on to Finisterre and Muxia only 907K. Of course the Camino de Santiago can start anywhere in Europe but most begin in Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port or in Spain. I took 86 days to walk from Canterbury to Rome but that included 7 days of rest or side trips. If you are non-European and want to walk slowly it is problematic as Schengen Zone Visas are limited to 90 days.

2. More Difficult:

While any Camino can be described as difficult the VF is made harder by the sheer distance. It seemed like forever we were walking in France and even after walking 10 days through Switzerland to Saint Bernard Pass we were still only half way to Rome. Also the lack of other pilgrims makes it mentally more challenging. On the Camino when tired I would sometimes walk and talk with someone before realizing I had gone another 5K. In France and Switzerland it was rare to see another pilgrim while walking. There were a few more pilgrims in Italy with another increase in Tuscany but nowhere near as crowded as the CF. Walking over the Alps makes for more significant elevation changes and Italy is quite hilly in parts compared to the CF.

3. Cost:

While I averaged about €25-€30 per day on the CF the VF was more like €50 per day. Of course if you camp and buy food at supermarkets and limit your stop at restaurants and bars you can significantly decrease your daily spend. 10 days in Switzerland brought up that average as it is quite expensive relatively. Probably spent €70-€75 per day there.

4. Four Countries vs. One or Two:

This made for a significant difference. Most CF’s are entirely in Spain or a day in France. The VF has included 2 days in England, a month in France, 10 days in Switzerland, and over a month in Italy. In fact, when you reach St. Peter’s you have actually walked through 5 countries as The Vatican is a sovereign state.

5. England:

While you are only in the UK a day or two, it is important as a starting point and also where Archbishop Sigeric began his journey from Canterbury to Rome in 990AD. The VF follows in his footsteps. A recommended side trip is to spend a day walking from Dover to St. Margaret’s Cliffe to take in the White Cliffs of Dover.

6. France:

The walk through France from Calais to Jougne is a long journey in itself. One rarely sees other pilgrims and much of the walking is in relatively flat land through fields of corn, bean, potato, wheat, etc.. making it sometimes a bit boring and mentally tough. The many vineyards in relatively hillier areas were more pleasant. Of course the walk takes you through some beautiful towns with magnificent cathedrals i.e.; Laon, Rennes, Langres, and Besançon. The last part after Besançon takes you through the appealing, mountainous Loue River Valley providing a prelude to the Alps. The big difference though in France is the support of local people who take pilgrims into their homes providing dinner, a bed, breakfast along with conversation and kindness. Unlike the Camino in Spain where this is rare because of the volume of pilgrims, it is not uncommon in France. Not just on the VF but also experienced it on the Camino Tours and Chemin duPuy. Sometimes they were donativo but usually the cost was about €30 for bed, dinner and breakfast which was extremely reasonable. Occasionally they would even wash our clothes.

7. Switzerland:

The big difference here is that the path takes one through the magnificent Alps especially up to Saint Bernard Pass at 2,469 meters before entering Italy. Walking through the vineyards along Lake Geneva was beautiful as well. Unlike in France and Italy where you feel more like a pilgrim, here you feel more like a long distance walker as the Swiss seem somewhat indifferent towards pilgrims. The only exception was at the Monastery of Saint Maurice.

8. Italy:

At 1,000K the Italy segment of VF is longer than the CF on its own. One walks through diverse regions getting an appreciation of how provincial Italy is. Walking down from The Pass into the Aoste Valley was like a breath of fresh air. The Italians were much more enthusiastic in their greetings and support to pilgrims than the Swiss. While there are many beautiful cathedrals and churches on the CF the ones in Italy were a cut above. The artwork; frescoes, statues, altars, etc. were both spectacular and beautiful. Even the small towns and small churches were adorned with great art. One negative though is it seemed there were an awful lot of mosquitoes in Italy versus Spain.

9. Food:

On CF the food is basic but good with most pilgrims opting for fairly consistent 3 course pilgrim meals; usually a first of mixed salad or spaghetti or soup, followed by meat or fish with fried potatoes. And a dessert of a flan or almond cake or commercial ice cream. Of course there are also many fine restaurants on the CF offering delicious food at a higher cost. While on the VF the food is much more diverse given the walk traverses 4 countries. I would say it is one of the real highlights of the VF sampling the many different dishes noticing how the type of cheeses and wines would change in France depending upon the region. The regional cuisine changes in Italy were interesting as well. And how wonderful the food all across Italy with the delicious fresh pasta starters, the delicious hams and cheeses near Parma, and exceptional Tuscany cuisine. And of course the pizza. One grows a fondness for mushrooms and truffles. The wine is excellent and if you stick to the vino de la casa relatively inexpensive. Certainly not as cheap as Spain though where often a bottle of wine is included with your 3 course meals, usually priced in the €9-€12 range. In Italy a 2 course meal with pasta and then a meat or fish dish along with ½ litre of wine averaged €20-€30. About the same in France for a 2 course meal with wine. Higher of course in Switzerland. At my first and only meal at a McDonalds on VF in Lausanne, Switzerland; a Quarter Pounder (Royale) Meal was €13 ($15.31). In Spain €6 or North America $6. And amusingly, I had to pay €.20 for a packet of ketchup.

10. Pilgrim Infrastructure and Support:

It is certainly not as strong on VF versus CF but there is decent support. The Via Francigena European Association provides a very handy App including GPS of the entire route as well as a listing of accomodations in each country. http://www.viefrancigene.org/it/app/ . There is also a separate helpful Accommodation Listing for France available from the Federation Française de la Via Francigena(FFVF). My real go to tool was The Confraternity of Pilgrims to Rome Accommodation Listing for the entire walk. They offer that and much more at https://pilgrimstorome.org.uk/. Regarding physical infrastructure there were much fewer parochial, church, and municipal albergues on VF. Just a few in France, a lesser amount in Switzerland, though a decent amount in Italy. On the CF the infrastructure is excellent and it is possible to stay only at albergue’s if one chooses. One caveat is that we walked VF in the time of Covid so there were a substantial number of dormitory accommodations that were closed. That said, if there wasn’t a hostel of some sort available there were reasonably priced guesthouses, B&B’s, and hotels. Via Francigena guidebooks are available from Lightfoot and Cicerone. I used the Lightfoot Guide for Italy after using just the VF App and Accommodation Listings for France and Italy. There are of course a plethora of guidebooks and listings for CF.

11. Not As Strong Spirit on Via Francigena:

Spirituality on a Pilgrimage is an intensely personal matter and each pilgrim’s pilgrimage is unique. That said, while finding VF quite special, It tended to be somewhat more of a long walk and more akin to the Camino Via de La Plata(VDLP) than the Camino Frances which has a stronger spiritual feel. The VF was more a walk in history with an emphasis on Roman but there were some interesting Napoleonic historical sights as well. I also found that ending in Rome was not quite as emotional as ending in Santiago de Compostela. Santiago de Compostela is a town built around the Cathedral whereas The Vatican is in the middle of Rome and was an important city before the time of Jesus. Also St. Peter’s seems to be a monument to the Papacy, more than a place of spiritual worship. Plus very few of the pilgrims to Rome walk there, while on CF most have. As part of my pilgrimage I walked on from The Vatican to a small nondescript church, Santa Maria di Monti, near The Colosseum. The tomb of San Benoît of Amettes, France lies there. San Benoît is the spirit of the VF more so than Sigeric in my opinion. When you leave Canterbury you walk in the footsteps of Sigeric. He was an archbishop who traveled to Rome in 990AD to obtain a Pallium or symbol of authority from the Pope. He documented his return to Canterbury from Rome and his route in his book is what led to the modern Via Francigena. Whereas San Benoît was a humble pilgrim who was not accepted as a monk early in his life and felt a calling to go on pilgrimage and ended up walking 30,000 kilometers to Santiago, Rome, Jerusalem and other holy sites. He was ever helping the needy and poor and became the patron saint of rejects, beggars, and the homeless. One of the most important lessons of a pilgrimage is learning humility and that is best epitomized by San Benoît. What humility you do not find at St. Peter’s perhaps you may find at Santa Maria di Monti.

Final Notes:
-If you are seeking a long pilgrimage and prefer more solitude, diversity, and mountain hiking the Via Francigena is a great alternative.

-If you make it to Rome and still have time and the energy, the VF continues south from Rome as if you were continuing on to Jerusalem going another 861K to Santa Maria di Leuca.

-Another shorter extension to your pilgrimage is to walk on another 12 days to Assisi on the Via Francesco. I did that walk and it had a stronger spiritual feel to it walking in the footsteps of St. Francis vs. Archbishop Sigeric. Arriving in Assisi at the Basilica of St. Francis was an emotionally moving experience for me as was reaching Santa Maria di Monti Church or Santiago Cathedral.

-I walked during the Time of Covid so some Albergue type accommodations were closed. I had hoped to stay in Rome at The San Giacomo Albergue which has a Sister Albergue on The Camino Frances, San Nicolas, 34k before Carrion de las Condes. My stay there was special and I believe staying at the one in Rome would have been equally or more special and enhanced the spiritual aspect of my VF pilgrimage. With Covid, and walking with a partner we ended up staying at a hotel.

-Again this is my own personal perspective. Admittedly, each pilgrim’s experience is unique.
Really enjoyed this as it is something I have long wanted to do. Would need to spend a very long time doing it as I am now in my eighties but then , what's the rush! One lottery win, the very latest hip-belt hiking trailer and a nice steady totter of 10kms a day. Bliss! And the food, and the wine, Oh the hardship! :) Many thanks.

samarkand.
 
Year of past OR future Camino
Frances(15,16,18)CheminduPuy(16) Portuguese(16 VDLP(17)Primitivo(17)Ireland-3000K(18) Norte18Vasco17
Really enjoyed this as it is something I have long wanted to do. Would need to spend a very long time doing it as I am now in my eighties but then , what's the rush! One lottery win, the very latest hip-belt hiking trailer and a nice steady totter of 10kms a day. Bliss! And the food, and the wine, Oh the hardship! :) Many thanks.

samarkand.
Haha. Great attitude. There is no rush. You are blessed to have the health to walk in your 80’s. Buen Camino!
 
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jungleboy

Spirit of the Camino (Nick)
Year of past OR future Camino
Francés 2017
Primitivo 2018
Madrid 2019
Kumano Kodo 2019
Português 2020
Excellent post, thank you for enlightening us. I would love to walk the VF and it might be an option for 2022 or 2023.

Sorry that you didn't find finishing in Rome as emotional as finishing the camino in Santiago. I hope and assume that it would be the opposite for me, since I used to live in Rome, met my wife there, got married there, and have visited at least once every year for the last 15 years and 19 of the last 20.

While on Rome, I don't think I've ever been into Santa Maria di Monti, thank you for the information. I guess it is overshadowed by the church that is virtually opposite, San Pietro in Vincoli (St. Peter in Chains), which contains Michelangelo's Moses statue, part of the tomb of his patron Pope Julius II.
 

AlwynWellington

Veteran Member
Year of past OR future Camino
please see signature
I am now in my eighties
I was 76 and a few months when I started from Canterbury. And will be 80 when I can return in 2022 to complete. And consider extensions, like those mentioned above So I am following in your footsteps.

My neighbours couldn't quite get their heads around where I was going. Being 2018 I explained it like this:
My first week in France (to Arras) would have been in British Commonwealth held country.
The second week (to Reims) would have been in German held country.
The third week (towards Switzerland) would have been in French held country.
A simplification I know, but reasonably accurate for most of that war.

On the outskirts of Péronne, two days on from Arras, I could see a memorial that looked different from memorials in the French villages. Drawing abreast (4 September 2018) I could see reasonably recent flowers and that is was for a battle ending on 2 September 1918. Mont Saint-Quentin, at 100 metres above sea level, was very strategic as the surrounding countryside was about 50 metres above sea level. As my home is about halfway up a 130 m hill and less than 2 km from the sea, these differences seem so slight as to not be important.

Days later, approaching Laon, I could see large brown information signs just saying "Chemin-des-Dames". On leaving Laon (towards Reims) I went directly there and encountered military memorials back to 1812. The last was pertinent to the Camino Norte: this was a large area commemorating the Basque Division (?) of 1914-18.

For me there was also more recent history. I found this, for example, at Reims and at Colombey-les-Deux-Églises, where de Charles de Gaulle is buried. And the massive (compared to UK) canals. And very helpful locals, whether or not we had the other's speech.

@Kevin considine , you said you encountered no other pilgrims. That was almost my experience. Towards the evening after leaving Laon, I struggled into Cormichy looking for somewhere to pitch my tent and came across a pizza house. I staggered in and ordered. The owner took one look at me and invited me behind the counter to show me a photo on the fridge. It was of the owner and his pack in Saint-Peter's Piazza.. There was no charge for the pizza or the wine. And I got advice on where to pitch my tent: although with most of a bottle of wine inside me, I didn't make a very good fist of it.

So, to you I say kia kaha, kia māia, kia mana'wa'nui (be strong, confident and patient) and may you continue for many years to come.
 

Mycroft

Active Member
Very interesting and concise information, for which I am grateful.
I wonder if you think vegetarians would have difficulty finding proper meals along the VF.

I will add that when I journeyed to Assisi many decades ago, I wandered into Santa Chiara as I recall. There was a side chapel that had a replica of the St. Francis cross. At the rear of the chapel was a viewing window that held the remains of St. Clare, the long, blonde braid of hair she cut off when she entered the convent, and other articles. I sat in a pew and for no reason at all tears just started pouring from my eyes. I wasn't sad or unhappy in any way or even emotionally moved (other than being happy I finally had arrived), or in pain, but those tears just kept coming, as if someone turned on a faucet. It was very peculiar, and I can only say it felt like I was picking up on someone's feelings (although there was no other person near me).
 

trecile

Camino Addict
Year of past OR future Camino
Francés (2016 & 2017), Norte (2018), Francés-Salvador-Norte (2019), Portuguese (2019)
Great report Kevin! It's very helpful for those of us who have walked Caminos in Spain to have the points of comparison.

I walked during the Time of Covid

I would imagine that was one of the reasons that you saw so few other pilgrims, though I wouldn't expect there to be anywhere near the number of pilgrims as the Caminos in Spain.
 
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gerardcarey

Veteran Member
Year of past OR future Camino
CFx2, CPx1
Really enjoyed this as it is something I have long wanted to do. Would need to spend a very long time doing it as I am now in my eighties but then , what's the rush! One lottery win, the very latest hip-belt hiking trailer and a nice steady totter of 10kms a day. Bliss! And the food, and the wine, Oh the hardship! :) Many thanks.

samarkand.
I'm with you cobber.
That's just the way I did the Swiss section of the VF in 2019. Plus an extra two days that took me down to Aosta. I should have done the further 3 or 4 days to Ivrea which looked wonderful thru the train windows.
Regards
Gerard
 
Year of past OR future Camino
Frances(15,16,18)CheminduPuy(16) Portuguese(16 VDLP(17)Primitivo(17)Ireland-3000K(18) Norte18Vasco17
Excellent post, thank you for enlightening us. I would love to walk the VF and it might be an option for 2022 or 2023.

Sorry that you didn't find finishing in Rome as emotional as finishing the camino in Santiago. I hope and assume that it would be the opposite for me, since I used to live in Rome, met my wife there, got married there, and have visited at least once every year for the last 15 years and 19 of the last 20.

While on Rome, I don't think I've ever been into Santa Maria di Monti, thank you for the information. I guess it is overshadowed by the church that is virtually opposite, San Pietro in Vincoli (St. Peter in Chains), which contains Michelangelo's Moses statue, part of the tomb of his patron Pope Julius II.
And thank you. I have been to San Pietro. The Michelangelo statue is magnificent.
 

JohnLloyd

Author of "Go Your Own Way"
Year of past OR future Camino
Francés - SJPDP to SdC - Autumn 2018
Portugués - Porto to SdC - Spring 2019
Francés again - ASAP
This is one pilgrim’s perspective from a single pilgrimage and biased. However it will hopefully provide future pilgrims and Camino de Santiago veterans a sense of what to expect on Via Francigena (VF).

1. Longer Distance and Time:

Of course the length is variable depending upon where one starts but the full length of the Via Francigena(VF) is 2,000 kilometers from Canterbury, England to Rome. Camino Frances(CF) is 790K and even if you continue on to Finisterre and Muxia only 907K. Of course the Camino de Santiago can start anywhere in Europe but most begin in Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port or in Spain. I took 86 days to walk from Canterbury to Rome but that included 7 days of rest or side trips. If you are non-European and want to walk slowly it is problematic as Schengen Zone Visas are limited to 90 days.

2. More Difficult:

While any Camino can be described as difficult the VF is made harder by the sheer distance. It seemed like forever we were walking in France and even after walking 10 days through Switzerland to Saint Bernard Pass we were still only half way to Rome. Also the lack of other pilgrims makes it mentally more challenging. On the Camino when tired I would sometimes walk and talk with someone before realizing I had gone another 5K. In France and Switzerland it was rare to see another pilgrim while walking. There were a few more pilgrims in Italy with another increase in Tuscany but nowhere near as crowded as the CF. Walking over the Alps makes for more significant elevation changes and Italy is quite hilly in parts compared to the CF.

3. Cost:

While I averaged about €25-€30 per day on the CF the VF was more like €50 per day. Of course if you camp and buy food at supermarkets and limit your stop at restaurants and bars you can significantly decrease your daily spend. 10 days in Switzerland brought up that average as it is quite expensive relatively. Probably spent €70-€75 per day there.

4. Four Countries vs. One or Two:

This made for a significant difference. Most CF’s are entirely in Spain or a day in France. The VF has included 2 days in England, a month in France, 10 days in Switzerland, and over a month in Italy. In fact, when you reach St. Peter’s you have actually walked through 5 countries as The Vatican is a sovereign state.

5. England:

While you are only in the UK a day or two, it is important as a starting point and also where Archbishop Sigeric began his journey from Canterbury to Rome in 990AD. The VF follows in his footsteps. A recommended side trip is to spend a day walking from Dover to St. Margaret’s Cliffe to take in the White Cliffs of Dover.

6. France:

The walk through France from Calais to Jougne is a long journey in itself. One rarely sees other pilgrims and much of the walking is in relatively flat land through fields of corn, bean, potato, wheat, etc.. making it sometimes a bit boring and mentally tough. The many vineyards in relatively hillier areas were more pleasant. Of course the walk takes you through some beautiful towns with magnificent cathedrals i.e.; Laon, Rennes, Langres, and Besançon. The last part after Besançon takes you through the appealing, mountainous Loue River Valley providing a prelude to the Alps. The big difference though in France is the support of local people who take pilgrims into their homes providing dinner, a bed, breakfast along with conversation and kindness. Unlike the Camino in Spain where this is rare because of the volume of pilgrims, it is not uncommon in France. Not just on the VF but also experienced it on the Camino Tours and Chemin duPuy. Sometimes they were donativo but usually the cost was about €30 for bed, dinner and breakfast which was extremely reasonable. Occasionally they would even wash our clothes.

7. Switzerland:

The big difference here is that the path takes one through the magnificent Alps especially up to Saint Bernard Pass at 2,469 meters before entering Italy. Walking through the vineyards along Lake Geneva was beautiful as well. Unlike in France and Italy where you feel more like a pilgrim, here you feel more like a long distance walker as the Swiss seem somewhat indifferent towards pilgrims. The only exception was at the Monastery of Saint Maurice.

8. Italy:

At 1,000K the Italy segment of VF is longer than the CF on its own. One walks through diverse regions getting an appreciation of how provincial Italy is. Walking down from The Pass into the Aoste Valley was like a breath of fresh air. The Italians were much more enthusiastic in their greetings and support to pilgrims than the Swiss. While there are many beautiful cathedrals and churches on the CF the ones in Italy were a cut above. The artwork; frescoes, statues, altars, etc. were both spectacular and beautiful. Even the small towns and small churches were adorned with great art. One negative though is it seemed there were an awful lot of mosquitoes in Italy versus Spain.

9. Food:

On CF the food is basic but good with most pilgrims opting for fairly consistent 3 course pilgrim meals; usually a first of mixed salad or spaghetti or soup, followed by meat or fish with fried potatoes. And a dessert of a flan or almond cake or commercial ice cream. Of course there are also many fine restaurants on the CF offering delicious food at a higher cost. While on the VF the food is much more diverse given the walk traverses 4 countries. I would say it is one of the real highlights of the VF sampling the many different dishes noticing how the type of cheeses and wines would change in France depending upon the region. The regional cuisine changes in Italy were interesting as well. And how wonderful the food all across Italy with the delicious fresh pasta starters, the delicious hams and cheeses near Parma, and exceptional Tuscany cuisine. And of course the pizza. One grows a fondness for mushrooms and truffles. The wine is excellent and if you stick to the vino de la casa relatively inexpensive. Certainly not as cheap as Spain though where often a bottle of wine is included with your 3 course meals, usually priced in the €9-€12 range. In Italy a 2 course meal with pasta and then a meat or fish dish along with ½ litre of wine averaged €20-€30. About the same in France for a 2 course meal with wine. Higher of course in Switzerland. At my first and only meal at a McDonalds on VF in Lausanne, Switzerland; a Quarter Pounder (Royale) Meal was €13 ($15.31). In Spain €6 or North America $6. And amusingly, I had to pay €.20 for a packet of ketchup.

10. Pilgrim Infrastructure and Support:

It is certainly not as strong on VF versus CF but there is decent support. The Via Francigena European Association provides a very handy App including GPS of the entire route as well as a listing of accomodations in each country. http://www.viefrancigene.org/it/app/ . There is also a separate helpful Accommodation Listing for France available from the Federation Française de la Via Francigena(FFVF). My real go to tool was The Confraternity of Pilgrims to Rome Accommodation Listing for the entire walk. They offer that and much more at https://pilgrimstorome.org.uk/. Regarding physical infrastructure there were much fewer parochial, church, and municipal albergues on VF. Just a few in France, a lesser amount in Switzerland, though a decent amount in Italy. On the CF the infrastructure is excellent and it is possible to stay only at albergue’s if one chooses. One caveat is that we walked VF in the time of Covid so there were a substantial number of dormitory accommodations that were closed. That said, if there wasn’t a hostel of some sort available there were reasonably priced guesthouses, B&B’s, and hotels. Via Francigena guidebooks are available from Lightfoot and Cicerone. I used the Lightfoot Guide for Italy after using just the VF App and Accommodation Listings for France and Italy. There are of course a plethora of guidebooks and listings for CF.

11. Not As Strong Spirit on Via Francigena:

Spirituality on a Pilgrimage is an intensely personal matter and each pilgrim’s pilgrimage is unique. That said, while finding VF quite special, It tended to be somewhat more of a long walk and more akin to the Camino Via de La Plata(VDLP) than the Camino Frances which has a stronger spiritual feel. The VF was more a walk in history with an emphasis on Roman but there were some interesting Napoleonic historical sights as well. I also found that ending in Rome was not quite as emotional as ending in Santiago de Compostela. Santiago de Compostela is a town built around the Cathedral whereas The Vatican is in the middle of Rome and was an important city before the time of Jesus. Also St. Peter’s seems to be a monument to the Papacy, more than a place of spiritual worship. Plus very few of the pilgrims to Rome walk there, while on CF most have. As part of my pilgrimage I walked on from The Vatican to a small nondescript church, Santa Maria di Monti, near The Colosseum. The tomb of San Benoît of Amettes, France lies there. San Benoît is the spirit of the VF more so than Sigeric in my opinion. When you leave Canterbury you walk in the footsteps of Sigeric. He was an archbishop who traveled to Rome in 990AD to obtain a Pallium or symbol of authority from the Pope. He documented his return to Canterbury from Rome and his route in his book is what led to the modern Via Francigena. Whereas San Benoît was a humble pilgrim who was not accepted as a monk early in his life and felt a calling to go on pilgrimage and ended up walking 30,000 kilometers to Santiago, Rome, Jerusalem and other holy sites. He was ever helping the needy and poor and became the patron saint of rejects, beggars, and the homeless. One of the most important lessons of a pilgrimage is learning humility and that is best epitomized by San Benoît. What humility you do not find at St. Peter’s perhaps you may find at Santa Maria di Monti.

Final Notes:
-If you are seeking a long pilgrimage and prefer more solitude, diversity, and mountain hiking the Via Francigena is a great alternative.

-If you make it to Rome and still have time and the energy, the VF continues south from Rome as if you were continuing on to Jerusalem going another 861K to Santa Maria di Leuca.

-Another shorter extension to your pilgrimage is to walk on another 12 days to Assisi on the Via Francesco. I did that walk and it had a stronger spiritual feel to it walking in the footsteps of St. Francis vs. Archbishop Sigeric. Arriving in Assisi at the Basilica of St. Francis was an emotionally moving experience for me as was reaching Santa Maria di Monti Church or Santiago Cathedral.

-I walked during the Time of Covid so some Albergue type accommodations were closed. I had hoped to stay in Rome at The San Giacomo Albergue which has a Sister Albergue on The Camino Frances, San Nicolas, 34k before Carrion de las Condes. My stay there was special and I believe staying at the one in Rome would have been equally or more special and enhanced the spiritual aspect of my VF pilgrimage. With Covid, and walking with a partner we ended up staying at a hotel.

-Again this is my own personal perspective. Admittedly, each pilgrim’s experience is unique.
Fascinating, and thoroughly well-written. Thank you for your contribution!
 

Harington

Active Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Vézelay/Francés 2011, Primitivo 2012, VdlP 2013, Via Domitia 2014, Inglés 2015, Francigena 2016
This is one pilgrim’s perspective from a single pilgrimage and biased. However it will hopefully provide future pilgrims and Camino de Santiago veterans a sense of what to expect on Via Francigena (VF).

1. Longer Distance and Time:

Of course the length is variable depending upon where one starts but the full length of the Via Francigena(VF) is 2,000 kilometers from Canterbury, England to Rome. Camino Frances(CF) is 790K and even if you continue on to Finisterre and Muxia only 907K. Of course the Camino de Santiago can start anywhere in Europe but most begin in Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port or in Spain. I took 86 days to walk from Canterbury to Rome but that included 7 days of rest or side trips. If you are non-European and want to walk slowly it is problematic as Schengen Zone Visas are limited to 90 days.

2. More Difficult:

While any Camino can be described as difficult the VF is made harder by the sheer distance. It seemed like forever we were walking in France and even after walking 10 days through Switzerland to Saint Bernard Pass we were still only half way to Rome. Also the lack of other pilgrims makes it mentally more challenging. On the Camino when tired I would sometimes walk and talk with someone before realizing I had gone another 5K. In France and Switzerland it was rare to see another pilgrim while walking. There were a few more pilgrims in Italy with another increase in Tuscany but nowhere near as crowded as the CF. Walking over the Alps makes for more significant elevation changes and Italy is quite hilly in parts compared to the CF.

3. Cost:

While I averaged about €25-€30 per day on the CF the VF was more like €50 per day. Of course if you camp and buy food at supermarkets and limit your stop at restaurants and bars you can significantly decrease your daily spend. 10 days in Switzerland brought up that average as it is quite expensive relatively. Probably spent €70-€75 per day there.

4. Four Countries vs. One or Two:

This made for a significant difference. Most CF’s are entirely in Spain or a day in France. The VF has included 2 days in England, a month in France, 10 days in Switzerland, and over a month in Italy. In fact, when you reach St. Peter’s you have actually walked through 5 countries as The Vatican is a sovereign state.

5. England:

While you are only in the UK a day or two, it is important as a starting point and also where Archbishop Sigeric began his journey from Canterbury to Rome in 990AD. The VF follows in his footsteps. A recommended side trip is to spend a day walking from Dover to St. Margaret’s Cliffe to take in the White Cliffs of Dover.

6. France:

The walk through France from Calais to Jougne is a long journey in itself. One rarely sees other pilgrims and much of the walking is in relatively flat land through fields of corn, bean, potato, wheat, etc.. making it sometimes a bit boring and mentally tough. The many vineyards in relatively hillier areas were more pleasant. Of course the walk takes you through some beautiful towns with magnificent cathedrals i.e.; Laon, Rennes, Langres, and Besançon. The last part after Besançon takes you through the appealing, mountainous Loue River Valley providing a prelude to the Alps. The big difference though in France is the support of local people who take pilgrims into their homes providing dinner, a bed, breakfast along with conversation and kindness. Unlike the Camino in Spain where this is rare because of the volume of pilgrims, it is not uncommon in France. Not just on the VF but also experienced it on the Camino Tours and Chemin duPuy. Sometimes they were donativo but usually the cost was about €30 for bed, dinner and breakfast which was extremely reasonable. Occasionally they would even wash our clothes.

7. Switzerland:

The big difference here is that the path takes one through the magnificent Alps especially up to Saint Bernard Pass at 2,469 meters before entering Italy. Walking through the vineyards along Lake Geneva was beautiful as well. Unlike in France and Italy where you feel more like a pilgrim, here you feel more like a long distance walker as the Swiss seem somewhat indifferent towards pilgrims. The only exception was at the Monastery of Saint Maurice.

8. Italy:

At 1,000K the Italy segment of VF is longer than the CF on its own. One walks through diverse regions getting an appreciation of how provincial Italy is. Walking down from The Pass into the Aoste Valley was like a breath of fresh air. The Italians were much more enthusiastic in their greetings and support to pilgrims than the Swiss. While there are many beautiful cathedrals and churches on the CF the ones in Italy were a cut above. The artwork; frescoes, statues, altars, etc. were both spectacular and beautiful. Even the small towns and small churches were adorned with great art. One negative though is it seemed there were an awful lot of mosquitoes in Italy versus Spain.

9. Food:

On CF the food is basic but good with most pilgrims opting for fairly consistent 3 course pilgrim meals; usually a first of mixed salad or spaghetti or soup, followed by meat or fish with fried potatoes. And a dessert of a flan or almond cake or commercial ice cream. Of course there are also many fine restaurants on the CF offering delicious food at a higher cost. While on the VF the food is much more diverse given the walk traverses 4 countries. I would say it is one of the real highlights of the VF sampling the many different dishes noticing how the type of cheeses and wines would change in France depending upon the region. The regional cuisine changes in Italy were interesting as well. And how wonderful the food all across Italy with the delicious fresh pasta starters, the delicious hams and cheeses near Parma, and exceptional Tuscany cuisine. And of course the pizza. One grows a fondness for mushrooms and truffles. The wine is excellent and if you stick to the vino de la casa relatively inexpensive. Certainly not as cheap as Spain though where often a bottle of wine is included with your 3 course meals, usually priced in the €9-€12 range. In Italy a 2 course meal with pasta and then a meat or fish dish along with ½ litre of wine averaged €20-€30. About the same in France for a 2 course meal with wine. Higher of course in Switzerland. At my first and only meal at a McDonalds on VF in Lausanne, Switzerland; a Quarter Pounder (Royale) Meal was €13 ($15.31). In Spain €6 or North America $6. And amusingly, I had to pay €.20 for a packet of ketchup.

10. Pilgrim Infrastructure and Support:

It is certainly not as strong on VF versus CF but there is decent support. The Via Francigena European Association provides a very handy App including GPS of the entire route as well as a listing of accomodations in each country. http://www.viefrancigene.org/it/app/ . There is also a separate helpful Accommodation Listing for France available from the Federation Française de la Via Francigena(FFVF). My real go to tool was The Confraternity of Pilgrims to Rome Accommodation Listing for the entire walk. They offer that and much more at https://pilgrimstorome.org.uk/. Regarding physical infrastructure there were much fewer parochial, church, and municipal albergues on VF. Just a few in France, a lesser amount in Switzerland, though a decent amount in Italy. On the CF the infrastructure is excellent and it is possible to stay only at albergue’s if one chooses. One caveat is that we walked VF in the time of Covid so there were a substantial number of dormitory accommodations that were closed. That said, if there wasn’t a hostel of some sort available there were reasonably priced guesthouses, B&B’s, and hotels. Via Francigena guidebooks are available from Lightfoot and Cicerone. I used the Lightfoot Guide for Italy after using just the VF App and Accommodation Listings for France and Italy. There are of course a plethora of guidebooks and listings for CF.

11. Not As Strong Spirit on Via Francigena:

Spirituality on a Pilgrimage is an intensely personal matter and each pilgrim’s pilgrimage is unique. That said, while finding VF quite special, It tended to be somewhat more of a long walk and more akin to the Camino Via de La Plata(VDLP) than the Camino Frances which has a stronger spiritual feel. The VF was more a walk in history with an emphasis on Roman but there were some interesting Napoleonic historical sights as well. I also found that ending in Rome was not quite as emotional as ending in Santiago de Compostela. Santiago de Compostela is a town built around the Cathedral whereas The Vatican is in the middle of Rome and was an important city before the time of Jesus. Also St. Peter’s seems to be a monument to the Papacy, more than a place of spiritual worship. Plus very few of the pilgrims to Rome walk there, while on CF most have. As part of my pilgrimage I walked on from The Vatican to a small nondescript church, Santa Maria di Monti, near The Colosseum. The tomb of San Benoît of Amettes, France lies there. San Benoît is the spirit of the VF more so than Sigeric in my opinion. When you leave Canterbury you walk in the footsteps of Sigeric. He was an archbishop who traveled to Rome in 990AD to obtain a Pallium or symbol of authority from the Pope. He documented his return to Canterbury from Rome and his route in his book is what led to the modern Via Francigena. Whereas San Benoît was a humble pilgrim who was not accepted as a monk early in his life and felt a calling to go on pilgrimage and ended up walking 30,000 kilometers to Santiago, Rome, Jerusalem and other holy sites. He was ever helping the needy and poor and became the patron saint of rejects, beggars, and the homeless. One of the most important lessons of a pilgrimage is learning humility and that is best epitomized by San Benoît. What humility you do not find at St. Peter’s perhaps you may find at Santa Maria di Monti.

Final Notes:
-If you are seeking a long pilgrimage and prefer more solitude, diversity, and mountain hiking the Via Francigena is a great alternative.

-If you make it to Rome and still have time and the energy, the VF continues south from Rome as if you were continuing on to Jerusalem going another 861K to Santa Maria di Leuca.

-Another shorter extension to your pilgrimage is to walk on another 12 days to Assisi on the Via Francesco. I did that walk and it had a stronger spiritual feel to it walking in the footsteps of St. Francis vs. Archbishop Sigeric. Arriving in Assisi at the Basilica of St. Francis was an emotionally moving experience for me as was reaching Santa Maria di Monti Church or Santiago Cathedral.

-I walked during the Time of Covid so some Albergue type accommodations were closed. I had hoped to stay in Rome at The San Giacomo Albergue which has a Sister Albergue on The Camino Frances, San Nicolas, 34k before Carrion de las Condes. My stay there was special and I believe staying at the one in Rome would have been equally or more special and enhanced the spiritual aspect of my VF pilgrimage. With Covid, and walking with a partner we ended up staying at a hotel.

-Again this is my own personal perspective. Admittedly, each pilgrim’s experience is unique.
I would like to emphasise for anyone who is considering the Via Francigena that northern France is boring only in Kevin's perception, and it is not all flat! The first week or two through France take you through the battlefields of the First World War, and they are deeply moving and poignant. You come across tiny isolated cemeteries with perhaps only 20 or 30 immaculately-maintained gravestones. The ages of the dead make you gasp - some really children, 17 or 18. Further on, as you journey through la France profonde you come to the Jura Mountains, certainly not flat or boring: steep gorges, dramatic waterfalls, forests...all magical. And you walk through some of the great cities of France: Arras, Reims, Besançon. FRANCE IS NOT BORING!
 
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roving_rufus

Active Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Frances (2013-2015) Portugues (2017-2019) Via Francigena (2018-??) Camino from Ireland (2020-??)
FRANCE IS NOT BORING!

Very much agree! I really enjoyed walking through France... there were gems of places to visit, layers of history, and amazing pilgrim hospitality! In fact I was sorry to get to the end of the route in France!
Yes there were days of walking through agricultural France with crop fields, but since others complained about the meseta on the CF (even discussing busing through it) and yet I loved the meseta!
It is a very different route to the CF which is not a bad thing - I enjoyed having less pilgrims (In pre-covid times even in the less travelled French section I met some every couple of days) I enjoyed having greater freedom in France to make up my own route rather than having to stick to the now marked GR route (which tends to meander due to GR rules). I loved the engagement with locals and most especially the pilgrim hospitality of being invited into someone's home - even being trusted to find the spare key and let myself in due to a minor emergency.

I will agree on one thing with the original post - many people seem to under take parts of the route with no intention of ever reaching Rome. I met a young couple in France who just decided to walk for a week on what was a new GR route for them. And there are lots of discussions online in various places about what is the prettiest sections to walk in Italy. This does seem to effect the nature of the route - but I think this is also to do with the marketing of the route by some bodies such as talking of slow travel rather than pilgrimage in relation to the route. This ends up giving a very different feel than to the CF which is marketed as a pilgrimage.
 

LTfit

Veteran Member
What a wonderful report! Many thanks for taking the time to share your write up. One thing keeping me from doing at least a part is the cost. I guess that I have been spoiled by my 10 years walking in Spain!

Being a vegan might also make meals complicated but if I can do it in Spain I assume I can also do it elsewhere.

I must say, the idea of starting before the St. Bernard Pass sounds tempting.
 
Year of past OR future Camino
Frances(15,16,18)CheminduPuy(16) Portuguese(16 VDLP(17)Primitivo(17)Ireland-3000K(18) Norte18Vasco17
I would like to emphasise for anyone who is considering the Via Francigena that northern France is boring only in Kevin's perception, and it is not all flat! The first week or two through France take you through the battlefields of the First World War, and they are deeply moving and poignant. You come across tiny isolated cemeteries with perhaps only 20 or 30 immaculately-maintained gravestones. The ages of the dead make you gasp - some really children, 17 or 18. Further on, as you journey through la France profonde you come to the Jura Mountains, certainly not flat or boring: steep gorges, dramatic waterfalls, forests...all magical. And you walk through some of the great cities of France: Arras, Reims, Besançon. FRANCE IS NOT BORING!
I agree with your Statement that France is not boring. However, you took my statement very much out of context. I said “sometimes a bit boring when walking through the crop fields” and I stand by that statement. And I did go on to mention the beautiful cathedrals and cities. And I mentioned walking through the appealing mountainous Loue River Valley. I also made some very positive statements about the kindness of the French people. Funny. I posted this on Facebook via Francigena page yesterday and have 260 likes and 100+ comments that are all positive. I have found writing on these public forums that there is always someone who is going to react negatively to my writing and misinterpret. Perhaps I am wrong but it seems like you are that person. Buen Camino. Sorry you did not care for my post.
 
Year of past OR future Camino
Frances(15,16,18)CheminduPuy(16) Portuguese(16 VDLP(17)Primitivo(17)Ireland-3000K(18) Norte18Vasco17
Very much agree! I really enjoyed walking through France... there were gems of places to visit, layers of history, and amazing pilgrim hospitality! In fact I was sorry to get to the end of the route in France!
Yes there were days of walking through agricultural France with crop fields, but since others complained about the meseta on the CF (even discussing busing through it) and yet I loved the meseta!
It is a very different route to the CF which is not a bad thing - I enjoyed having less pilgrims (In pre-covid times even in the less travelled French section I met some every couple of days) I enjoyed having greater freedom in France to make up my own route rather than having to stick to the now marked GR route (which tends to meander due to GR rules). I loved the engagement with locals and most especially the pilgrim hospitality of being invited into someone's home - even being trusted to find the spare key and let myself in due to a minor emergency.

I will agree on one thing with the original post - many people seem to under take parts of the route with no intention of ever reaching Rome. I met a young couple in France who just decided to walk for a week on what was a new GR route for them. And there are lots of discussions online in various places about what is the prettiest sections to walk in Italy. This does seem to effect the nature of the route - but I think this is also to do with the marketing of the route by some bodies such as talking of slow travel rather than pilgrimage in relation to the route. This ends up giving a very different feel than to the CF which is marketed as a pilgrimage.
That’s a good point and I would agree that there were parts where people were doing one week walks as opposed to doing a pilgrimage.
 
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pipello

Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Camino Francés, Camino del Norte, and the Camino Portuguese (May, 2018)
This is one pilgrim’s perspective from a single pilgrimage and biased. However it will hopefully provide future pilgrims and Camino de Santiago veterans a sense of what to expect on Via Francigena (VF).

1. Longer Distance and Time:

Of course the length is variable depending upon where one starts but the full length of the Via Francigena(VF) is 2,000 kilometers from Canterbury, England to Rome. Camino Frances(CF) is 790K and even if you continue on to Finisterre and Muxia only 907K. Of course the Camino de Santiago can start anywhere in Europe but most begin in Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port or in Spain. I took 86 days to walk from Canterbury to Rome but that included 7 days of rest or side trips. If you are non-European and want to walk slowly it is problematic as Schengen Zone Visas are limited to 90 days.

2. More Difficult:

While any Camino can be described as difficult the VF is made harder by the sheer distance. It seemed like forever we were walking in France and even after walking 10 days through Switzerland to Saint Bernard Pass we were still only half way to Rome. Also the lack of other pilgrims makes it mentally more challenging. On the Camino when tired I would sometimes walk and talk with someone before realizing I had gone another 5K. In France and Switzerland it was rare to see another pilgrim while walking. There were a few more pilgrims in Italy with another increase in Tuscany but nowhere near as crowded as the CF. Walking over the Alps makes for more significant elevation changes and Italy is quite hilly in parts compared to the CF.

3. Cost:

While I averaged about €25-€30 per day on the CF the VF was more like €50 per day. Of course if you camp and buy food at supermarkets and limit your stop at restaurants and bars you can significantly decrease your daily spend. 10 days in Switzerland brought up that average as it is quite expensive relatively. Probably spent €70-€75 per day there.

4. Four Countries vs. One or Two:

This made for a significant difference. Most CF’s are entirely in Spain or a day in France. The VF has included 2 days in England, a month in France, 10 days in Switzerland, and over a month in Italy. In fact, when you reach St. Peter’s you have actually walked through 5 countries as The Vatican is a sovereign state.

5. England:

While you are only in the UK a day or two, it is important as a starting point and also where Archbishop Sigeric began his journey from Canterbury to Rome in 990AD. The VF follows in his footsteps. A recommended side trip is to spend a day walking from Dover to St. Margaret’s Cliffe to take in the White Cliffs of Dover.

6. France:

The walk through France from Calais to Jougne is a long journey in itself. One rarely sees other pilgrims and much of the walking is in relatively flat land through fields of corn, bean, potato, wheat, etc.. making it sometimes a bit boring and mentally tough. The many vineyards in relatively hillier areas were more pleasant. Of course the walk takes you through some beautiful towns with magnificent cathedrals i.e.; Laon, Rennes, Langres, and Besançon. The last part after Besançon takes you through the appealing, mountainous Loue River Valley providing a prelude to the Alps. The big difference though in France is the support of local people who take pilgrims into their homes providing dinner, a bed, breakfast along with conversation and kindness. Unlike the Camino in Spain where this is rare because of the volume of pilgrims, it is not uncommon in France. Not just on the VF but also experienced it on the Camino Tours and Chemin duPuy. Sometimes they were donativo but usually the cost was about €30 for bed, dinner and breakfast which was extremely reasonable. Occasionally they would even wash our clothes.

7. Switzerland:

The big difference here is that the path takes one through the magnificent Alps especially up to Saint Bernard Pass at 2,469 meters before entering Italy. Walking through the vineyards along Lake Geneva was beautiful as well. Unlike in France and Italy where you feel more like a pilgrim, here you feel more like a long distance walker as the Swiss seem somewhat indifferent towards pilgrims. The only exception was at the Monastery of Saint Maurice.

8. Italy:

At 1,000K the Italy segment of VF is longer than the CF on its own. One walks through diverse regions getting an appreciation of how provincial Italy is. Walking down from The Pass into the Aoste Valley was like a breath of fresh air. The Italians were much more enthusiastic in their greetings and support to pilgrims than the Swiss. While there are many beautiful cathedrals and churches on the CF the ones in Italy were a cut above. The artwork; frescoes, statues, altars, etc. were both spectacular and beautiful. Even the small towns and small churches were adorned with great art. One negative though is it seemed there were an awful lot of mosquitoes in Italy versus Spain.

9. Food:

On CF the food is basic but good with most pilgrims opting for fairly consistent 3 course pilgrim meals; usually a first of mixed salad or spaghetti or soup, followed by meat or fish with fried potatoes. And a dessert of a flan or almond cake or commercial ice cream. Of course there are also many fine restaurants on the CF offering delicious food at a higher cost. While on the VF the food is much more diverse given the walk traverses 4 countries. I would say it is one of the real highlights of the VF sampling the many different dishes noticing how the type of cheeses and wines would change in France depending upon the region. The regional cuisine changes in Italy were interesting as well. And how wonderful the food all across Italy with the delicious fresh pasta starters, the delicious hams and cheeses near Parma, and exceptional Tuscany cuisine. And of course the pizza. One grows a fondness for mushrooms and truffles. The wine is excellent and if you stick to the vino de la casa relatively inexpensive. Certainly not as cheap as Spain though where often a bottle of wine is included with your 3 course meals, usually priced in the €9-€12 range. In Italy a 2 course meal with pasta and then a meat or fish dish along with ½ litre of wine averaged €20-€30. About the same in France for a 2 course meal with wine. Higher of course in Switzerland. At my first and only meal at a McDonalds on VF in Lausanne, Switzerland; a Quarter Pounder (Royale) Meal was €13 ($15.31). In Spain €6 or North America $6. And amusingly, I had to pay €.20 for a packet of ketchup.

10. Pilgrim Infrastructure and Support:

It is certainly not as strong on VF versus CF but there is decent support. The Via Francigena European Association provides a very handy App including GPS of the entire route as well as a listing of accomodations in each country. http://www.viefrancigene.org/it/app/ . There is also a separate helpful Accommodation Listing for France available from the Federation Française de la Via Francigena(FFVF). My real go to tool was The Confraternity of Pilgrims to Rome Accommodation Listing for the entire walk. They offer that and much more at https://pilgrimstorome.org.uk/. Regarding physical infrastructure there were much fewer parochial, church, and municipal albergues on VF. Just a few in France, a lesser amount in Switzerland, though a decent amount in Italy. On the CF the infrastructure is excellent and it is possible to stay only at albergue’s if one chooses. One caveat is that we walked VF in the time of Covid so there were a substantial number of dormitory accommodations that were closed. That said, if there wasn’t a hostel of some sort available there were reasonably priced guesthouses, B&B’s, and hotels. Via Francigena guidebooks are available from Lightfoot and Cicerone. I used the Lightfoot Guide for Italy after using just the VF App and Accommodation Listings for France and Italy. There are of course a plethora of guidebooks and listings for CF.

11. Not As Strong Spirit on Via Francigena:

Spirituality on a Pilgrimage is an intensely personal matter and each pilgrim’s pilgrimage is unique. That said, while finding VF quite special, It tended to be somewhat more of a long walk and more akin to the Camino Via de La Plata(VDLP) than the Camino Frances which has a stronger spiritual feel. The VF was more a walk in history with an emphasis on Roman but there were some interesting Napoleonic historical sights as well. I also found that ending in Rome was not quite as emotional as ending in Santiago de Compostela. Santiago de Compostela is a town built around the Cathedral whereas The Vatican is in the middle of Rome and was an important city before the time of Jesus. Also St. Peter’s seems to be a monument to the Papacy, more than a place of spiritual worship. Plus very few of the pilgrims to Rome walk there, while on CF most have. As part of my pilgrimage I walked on from The Vatican to a small nondescript church, Santa Maria di Monti, near The Colosseum. The tomb of San Benoît of Amettes, France lies there. San Benoît is the spirit of the VF more so than Sigeric in my opinion. When you leave Canterbury you walk in the footsteps of Sigeric. He was an archbishop who traveled to Rome in 990AD to obtain a Pallium or symbol of authority from the Pope. He documented his return to Canterbury from Rome and his route in his book is what led to the modern Via Francigena. Whereas San Benoît was a humble pilgrim who was not accepted as a monk early in his life and felt a calling to go on pilgrimage and ended up walking 30,000 kilometers to Santiago, Rome, Jerusalem and other holy sites. He was ever helping the needy and poor and became the patron saint of rejects, beggars, and the homeless. One of the most important lessons of a pilgrimage is learning humility and that is best epitomized by San Benoît. What humility you do not find at St. Peter’s perhaps you may find at Santa Maria di Monti.

Final Notes:
-If you are seeking a long pilgrimage and prefer more solitude, diversity, and mountain hiking the Via Francigena is a great alternative.

-If you make it to Rome and still have time and the energy, the VF continues south from Rome as if you were continuing on to Jerusalem going another 861K to Santa Maria di Leuca.

-Another shorter extension to your pilgrimage is to walk on another 12 days to Assisi on the Via Francesco. I did that walk and it had a stronger spiritual feel to it walking in the footsteps of St. Francis vs. Archbishop Sigeric. Arriving in Assisi at the Basilica of St. Francis was an emotionally moving experience for me as was reaching Santa Maria di Monti Church or Santiago Cathedral.

-I walked during the Time of Covid so some Albergue type accommodations were closed. I had hoped to stay in Rome at The San Giacomo Albergue which has a Sister Albergue on The Camino Frances, San Nicolas, 34k before Carrion de las Condes. My stay there was special and I believe staying at the one in Rome would have been equally or more special and enhanced the spiritual aspect of my VF pilgrimage. With Covid, and walking with a partner we ended up staying at a hotel.

-Again this is my own personal perspective. Admittedly, each pilgrim’s experience is unique.
Thank you for this description. I am reading "Pilgrimage to Eternity" now by Timothy Eagan and considering cycling and or walking at least parts of this route.
 

P Rat

Active Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Camino VDLP/Sanábres April 2019
Camino Mozárabe when we can again...(2021?)
Thank you so much for this well set out post. We walked only the VDLP, which was described to us as having much more solitude than the CF. Maybe we had the wrong expectation, maybe it was the time of year and maybe the secret is out. Whatever...we did still have a great time. But the VF has been on our list since returning from Spain. so your info was very timely! We do have the Cicero guidebook from the later part (Switserland to Rome), and it sounds perfect for us.
Buen Camino to each and all
 

AlwynWellington

Veteran Member
Year of past OR future Camino
please see signature
I walked the Camino Frances in 2017 and still hope to walk the VF

My hope is that you will make a start. While this may seem impractical a European way is to complete a one, two or even three week "go". Then next year return to the last end point and continue.

Yes there were days of walking through agricultural France with crop fields

In my more recent research I have culled the trip blogs of four members and found, including mine, the major point in common with France was an arrival through Calais and a transit into Switzerland somewhere after Pontarlier.

One even avoided nearly all ups and downs by using mostly canal paths.

Kia kaha (take care, be strong, get going when you can)
 

Bob from L.A. !

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Camino Francis 2012, 2014, 2016. Camino Norte 2018. Many more to come in my future God willing !
Outstanding and intricate description. Thank you for taking the time to provide us with this report...
 
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Rex

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Mahalo. Wonderful description. I was planning on starting the VF in May 2021, from Canterbury, but have pushed the start back a year. I came across the VF when I was cycling through the Jura Range in France and Switzerland a few years ago. Having already hiked the CF (2013) and the CP (2018), the VF appealed to me as a great camino for a two part trip. Several of my friends from the CF (Sardinian Italians) also highly recommended the IT portion of the VF.
The links to the supporting orgs will come in handy. I don't start these Camino treks with any expectations of a religious or spiritual experience along the way, but have always found that there are wonderfully serendipitous things that occur along the way that lead me to the next journey.
Mahalo and Aloha
 

Mark Di Marzio

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Thankyou kindly for the wonderful and comprehensive description and comparison between Via Francigena and Camino Frances . I have walked 4 times in Spain & Portugal and would love to walk the way of St Francis in Italia one day . The via Francigena from Canterbury to Rome seems very challenging but amazing . Thankyou kindly for your great post !
 
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@Kevin considine could you tell us the dates that you were walking and what the weather was like?
We left Canterbury July 29 and walked into Rome October 23. France was hot as we walked there in August. Very little rain. The Jura Mountains in France and Alps in Switzerland and Italy provided a respite from the heat and mid September on in Italy was pleasant. Of course one never knows with Mother Nature.😊
 
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Thankyou kindly for the wonderful and comprehensive description and comparison between Via Francigena and Camino Frances . I have walked 4 times in Spain & Portugal and would love to walk the way of St Francis in Italia one day . The via Francigena from Canterbury to Rome seems very challenging but amazing . Thankyou kindly for your great post !
You are most welcome. Buen Camino!
Mahalo. Wonderful description. I was planning on starting the VF in May 2021, from Canterbury, but have pushed the start back a year. I came across the VF when I was cycling through the Jura Range in France and Switzerland a few years ago. Having already hiked the CF (2013) and the CP (2018), the VF appealed to me as a great camino for a two part trip. Several of my friends from the CF (Sardinian Italians) also highly recommended the IT portion of the VF.
The links to the supporting orgs will come in handy. I don't start these Camino treks with any expectations of a religious or spiritual experience along the way, but have always found that there are wonderfully serendipitous things that occur along the way that lead me to the next journey.
Mahalo and Aloha
Mahalo. Wonderful description. I was planning on starting the VF in May 2021, from Canterbury, but have pushed the start back a year. I came across the VF when I was cycling through the Jura Range in France and Switzerland a few years ago. Having already hiked the CF (2013) and the CP (2018), the VF appealed to me as a great camino for a two part trip. Several of my friends from the CF (Sardinian Italians) also highly recommended the IT portion of the VF.
The links to the supporting orgs will come in handy. I don't start these Camino treks with any expectations of a religious or spiritual experience along the way, but have always found that there are wonderfully serendipitous things that occur along the way that lead me to the next journey.
Mahalo and Aloha
Mahalo and Aloha. I miss Hawaii. Serendipity is a cousin to spirituality I think.😊
 

TMcA

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Pamplona to Santiago (2013)
Le Puy to Pamplona in segments (2013 - 2016)
Pamplona to León
@Kevin considine Was curious about how much hardscape you encountered on the Via Fr. Walked the coastal route from Porto north in 2019 and it was way too much asphalt, concrete, and cobblestones for my feet. Maybe just a rough estimation or comparison with the Camino FR. Thanks.
 
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Ernesto.IT

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This is one pilgrim’s perspective from a single pilgrimage and biased. However it will hopefully provide future pilgrims and Camino de Santiago veterans a sense of what to expect on Via Francigena (VF).

1. Longer Distance and Time:

Of course the length is variable depending upon where one starts but the full length of the Via Francigena(VF) is 2,000 kilometers from Canterbury, England to Rome. Camino Frances(CF) is 790K and even if you continue on to Finisterre and Muxia only 907K. Of course the Camino de Santiago can start anywhere in Europe but most begin in Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port or in Spain. I took 86 days to walk from Canterbury to Rome but that included 7 days of rest or side trips. If you are non-European and want to walk slowly it is problematic as Schengen Zone Visas are limited to 90 days.

2. More Difficult:

While any Camino can be described as difficult the VF is made harder by the sheer distance. It seemed like forever we were walking in France and even after walking 10 days through Switzerland to Saint Bernard Pass we were still only half way to Rome. Also the lack of other pilgrims makes it mentally more challenging. On the Camino when tired I would sometimes walk and talk with someone before realizing I had gone another 5K. In France and Switzerland it was rare to see another pilgrim while walking. There were a few more pilgrims in Italy with another increase in Tuscany but nowhere near as crowded as the CF. Walking over the Alps makes for more significant elevation changes and Italy is quite hilly in parts compared to the CF.

3. Cost:

While I averaged about €25-€30 per day on the CF the VF was more like €50 per day. Of course if you camp and buy food at supermarkets and limit your stop at restaurants and bars you can significantly decrease your daily spend. 10 days in Switzerland brought up that average as it is quite expensive relatively. Probably spent €70-€75 per day there.

4. Four Countries vs. One or Two:

This made for a significant difference. Most CF’s are entirely in Spain or a day in France. The VF has included 2 days in England, a month in France, 10 days in Switzerland, and over a month in Italy. In fact, when you reach St. Peter’s you have actually walked through 5 countries as The Vatican is a sovereign state.

5. England:

While you are only in the UK a day or two, it is important as a starting point and also where Archbishop Sigeric began his journey from Canterbury to Rome in 990AD. The VF follows in his footsteps. A recommended side trip is to spend a day walking from Dover to St. Margaret’s Cliffe to take in the White Cliffs of Dover.

6. France:

The walk through France from Calais to Jougne is a long journey in itself. One rarely sees other pilgrims and much of the walking is in relatively flat land through fields of corn, bean, potato, wheat, etc.. making it sometimes a bit boring and mentally tough. The many vineyards in relatively hillier areas were more pleasant. Of course the walk takes you through some beautiful towns with magnificent cathedrals i.e.; Laon, Rennes, Langres, and Besançon. The last part after Besançon takes you through the appealing, mountainous Loue River Valley providing a prelude to the Alps. The big difference though in France is the support of local people who take pilgrims into their homes providing dinner, a bed, breakfast along with conversation and kindness. Unlike the Camino in Spain where this is rare because of the volume of pilgrims, it is not uncommon in France. Not just on the VF but also experienced it on the Camino Tours and Chemin duPuy. Sometimes they were donativo but usually the cost was about €30 for bed, dinner and breakfast which was extremely reasonable. Occasionally they would even wash our clothes.

7. Switzerland:

The big difference here is that the path takes one through the magnificent Alps especially up to Saint Bernard Pass at 2,469 meters before entering Italy. Walking through the vineyards along Lake Geneva was beautiful as well. Unlike in France and Italy where you feel more like a pilgrim, here you feel more like a long distance walker as the Swiss seem somewhat indifferent towards pilgrims. The only exception was at the Monastery of Saint Maurice.

8. Italy:

At 1,000K the Italy segment of VF is longer than the CF on its own. One walks through diverse regions getting an appreciation of how provincial Italy is. Walking down from The Pass into the Aoste Valley was like a breath of fresh air. The Italians were much more enthusiastic in their greetings and support to pilgrims than the Swiss. While there are many beautiful cathedrals and churches on the CF the ones in Italy were a cut above. The artwork; frescoes, statues, altars, etc. were both spectacular and beautiful. Even the small towns and small churches were adorned with great art. One negative though is it seemed there were an awful lot of mosquitoes in Italy versus Spain.

9. Food:

On CF the food is basic but good with most pilgrims opting for fairly consistent 3 course pilgrim meals; usually a first of mixed salad or spaghetti or soup, followed by meat or fish with fried potatoes. And a dessert of a flan or almond cake or commercial ice cream. Of course there are also many fine restaurants on the CF offering delicious food at a higher cost. While on the VF the food is much more diverse given the walk traverses 4 countries. I would say it is one of the real highlights of the VF sampling the many different dishes noticing how the type of cheeses and wines would change in France depending upon the region. The regional cuisine changes in Italy were interesting as well. And how wonderful the food all across Italy with the delicious fresh pasta starters, the delicious hams and cheeses near Parma, and exceptional Tuscany cuisine. And of course the pizza. One grows a fondness for mushrooms and truffles. The wine is excellent and if you stick to the vino de la casa relatively inexpensive. Certainly not as cheap as Spain though where often a bottle of wine is included with your 3 course meals, usually priced in the €9-€12 range. In Italy a 2 course meal with pasta and then a meat or fish dish along with ½ litre of wine averaged €20-€30. About the same in France for a 2 course meal with wine. Higher of course in Switzerland. At my first and only meal at a McDonalds on VF in Lausanne, Switzerland; a Quarter Pounder (Royale) Meal was €13 ($15.31). In Spain €6 or North America $6. And amusingly, I had to pay €.20 for a packet of ketchup.

10. Pilgrim Infrastructure and Support:

It is certainly not as strong on VF versus CF but there is decent support. The Via Francigena European Association provides a very handy App including GPS of the entire route as well as a listing of accomodations in each country. http://www.viefrancigene.org/it/app/ . There is also a separate helpful Accommodation Listing for France available from the Federation Française de la Via Francigena(FFVF). My real go to tool was The Confraternity of Pilgrims to Rome Accommodation Listing for the entire walk. They offer that and much more at https://pilgrimstorome.org.uk/. Regarding physical infrastructure there were much fewer parochial, church, and municipal albergues on VF. Just a few in France, a lesser amount in Switzerland, though a decent amount in Italy. On the CF the infrastructure is excellent and it is possible to stay only at albergue’s if one chooses. One caveat is that we walked VF in the time of Covid so there were a substantial number of dormitory accommodations that were closed. That said, if there wasn’t a hostel of some sort available there were reasonably priced guesthouses, B&B’s, and hotels. Via Francigena guidebooks are available from Lightfoot and Cicerone. I used the Lightfoot Guide for Italy after using just the VF App and Accommodation Listings for France and Italy. There are of course a plethora of guidebooks and listings for CF.

11. Not As Strong Spirit on Via Francigena:

Spirituality on a Pilgrimage is an intensely personal matter and each pilgrim’s pilgrimage is unique. That said, while finding VF quite special, It tended to be somewhat more of a long walk and more akin to the Camino Via de La Plata(VDLP) than the Camino Frances which has a stronger spiritual feel. The VF was more a walk in history with an emphasis on Roman but there were some interesting Napoleonic historical sights as well. I also found that ending in Rome was not quite as emotional as ending in Santiago de Compostela. Santiago de Compostela is a town built around the Cathedral whereas The Vatican is in the middle of Rome and was an important city before the time of Jesus. Also St. Peter’s seems to be a monument to the Papacy, more than a place of spiritual worship. Plus very few of the pilgrims to Rome walk there, while on CF most have. As part of my pilgrimage I walked on from The Vatican to a small nondescript church, Santa Maria di Monti, near The Colosseum. The tomb of San Benoît of Amettes, France lies there. San Benoît is the spirit of the VF more so than Sigeric in my opinion. When you leave Canterbury you walk in the footsteps of Sigeric. He was an archbishop who traveled to Rome in 990AD to obtain a Pallium or symbol of authority from the Pope. He documented his return to Canterbury from Rome and his route in his book is what led to the modern Via Francigena. Whereas San Benoît was a humble pilgrim who was not accepted as a monk early in his life and felt a calling to go on pilgrimage and ended up walking 30,000 kilometers to Santiago, Rome, Jerusalem and other holy sites. He was ever helping the needy and poor and became the patron saint of rejects, beggars, and the homeless. One of the most important lessons of a pilgrimage is learning humility and that is best epitomized by San Benoît. What humility you do not find at St. Peter’s perhaps you may find at Santa Maria di Monti.

Final Notes:
-If you are seeking a long pilgrimage and prefer more solitude, diversity, and mountain hiking the Via Francigena is a great alternative.

-If you make it to Rome and still have time and the energy, the VF continues south from Rome as if you were continuing on to Jerusalem going another 861K to Santa Maria di Leuca.

-Another shorter extension to your pilgrimage is to walk on another 12 days to Assisi on the Via Francesco. I did that walk and it had a stronger spiritual feel to it walking in the footsteps of St. Francis vs. Archbishop Sigeric. Arriving in Assisi at the Basilica of St. Francis was an emotionally moving experience for me as was reaching Santa Maria di Monti Church or Santiago Cathedral.

-I walked during the Time of Covid so some Albergue type accommodations were closed. I had hoped to stay in Rome at The San Giacomo Albergue which has a Sister Albergue on The Camino Frances, San Nicolas, 34k before Carrion de las Condes. My stay there was special and I believe staying at the one in Rome would have been equally or more special and enhanced the spiritual aspect of my VF pilgrimage. With Covid, and walking with a partner we ended up staying at a hotel.

-Again this is my own personal perspective. Admittedly, each pilgrim’s experience is unique.


Congratulations, Kevin considine, although my path has been done in reverse, I could not have told it better.
 

domigee

Veteran Member
Year of past OR future Camino
2020? Looks like.... nowhere! 😁
I would imagine that was one of the reasons that you saw so few other pilgrims, though I wouldn't expect there to be anywhere near the number of pilgrims as the Caminos in Spain.
i didn’t walk during Covid times and for the first part of the journey - England and France - I met NO other pilgrim. There were a few from the Gd St Bernard and more as you approached Rome, but probably no more than 10 at a time and only met in the evenings if staying in ostellos. There were about 7 of us when crossing the Po river. (It was in Summer, July/August).
I walked again 2 Summers ago a short part of it - Gd St Bernard to Santa Cristina e bissonne - and I only met 2 pilgrims, on and off (One had walked all the way from Scotland! 😳😎).
 
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Excellent post, thank you for enlightening us. I would love to walk the VF and it might be an option for 2022 or 2023.

Sorry that you didn't find finishing in Rome as emotional as finishing the camino in Santiago. I hope and assume that it would be the opposite for me, since I used to live in Rome, met my wife there, got married there, and have visited at least once every year for the last 15 years and 19 of the last 20.

While on Rome, I don't think I've ever been into Santa Maria di Monti, thank you for the information. I guess it is overshadowed by the church that is virtually opposite, San Pietro in Vincoli (St. Peter in Chains), which contains Michelangelo's Moses statue, part of the tomb of his patron Pope Julius II.
I am sure it will be. A Camino experience is intensely personal and spiritual, special, and emotional moments can happen anywhere and anytime if we are open and aware.🙏
 
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@Kevin considine Was curious about how much hardscape you encountered on the Via Fr. Walked the coastal route from Porto north in 2019 and it was way too much asphalt, concrete, and cobblestones for my feet. Maybe just a rough estimation or comparison with the Camino FR. Thanks.
I don’t pay too much attention to that but I suppose on a percentage basis there would be less asphalt on VF. That said, it’s 2,000k so there is much more overall.
 
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I was 76 and a few months when I started from Canterbury. And will be 80 when I can return in 2022 to complete. And consider extensions, like those mentioned above So I am following in your footsteps.

My neighbours couldn't quite get their heads around where I was going. Being 2018 I explained it like this:
My first week in France (to Arras) would have been in British Commonwealth held country.
The second week (to Reims) would have been in German held country.
The third week (towards Switzerland) would have been in French held country.
A simplification I know, but reasonably accurate for most of that war.

On the outskirts of Péronne, two days on from Arras, I could see a memorial that looked different from memorials in the French villages. Drawing abreast (4 September 2018) I could see reasonably recent flowers and that is was for a battle ending on 2 September 1918. Mont Saint-Quentin, at 100 metres above sea level, was very strategic as the surrounding countryside was about 50 metres above sea level. As my home is about halfway up a 130 m hill and less than 2 km from the sea, these differences seem so slight as to not be important.

Days later, approaching Laon, I could see large brown information signs just saying "Chemin-des-Dames". On leaving Laon (towards Reims) I went directly there and encountered military memorials back to 1812. The last was pertinent to the Camino Norte: this was a large area commemorating the Basque Division (?) of 1914-18.

For me there was also more recent history. I found this, for example, at Reims and at Colombey-les-Deux-Églises, where de Charles de Gaulle is buried. And the massive (compared to UK) canals. And very helpful locals, whether or not we had the other's speech.

@Kevin considine , you said you encountered no other pilgrims. That was almost my experience. Towards the evening after leaving Laon, I struggled into Cormichy looking for somewhere to pitch my tent and came across a pizza house. I staggered in and ordered. The owner took one look at me and invited me behind the counter to show me a photo on the fridge. It was of the owner and his pack in Saint-Peter's Piazza.. There was no charge for the pizza or the wine. And I got advice on where to pitch my tent: although with most of a bottle of wine inside me, I didn't make a very good fist of it.

So, to you I say kia kaha, kia māia, kia mana'wa'nui (be strong, confident and patient) and may you continue for many years to come.
Thanks for the informative response. Very interesting.
 
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Thank you so much for this well set out post. We walked only the VDLP, which was described to us as having much more solitude than the CF. Maybe we had the wrong expectation, maybe it was the time of year and maybe the secret is out. Whatever...we did still have a great time. But the VF has been on our list since returning from Spain. so your info was very timely! We do have the Cicero guidebook from the later part (Switserland to Rome), and it sounds perfect for us.
Buen Camino to each and all
Buen Camino!
 

Raggy

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Spirituality on a Pilgrimage is an intensely personal matter and each pilgrim’s pilgrimage is unique. That said, while finding VF quite special, It tended to be somewhat more of a long walk and more akin to the Camino Via de La Plata(VDLP) than the Camino Frances which has a stronger spiritual feel.

I am sure it will be. A Camino experience is intensely personal and spiritual, special, and emotional moments can happen anywhere and anytime if we are open and aware.🙏

I regularly come across comments about the Camino Frances having a more spiritual feel. I'm curious about that, since I guess I think of the spiritual dimension of a pilgrimage as an internal thing. Having not walked the Camino Frances, I wonder what it is that makes it feel more spiritual.

I met a pilgrim on the Camino Mozarabe, who had previously walked the Camino Frances. When I asked him how the experience compared, he told me that he loved both but he missed the experience of participating in a pilgrims' mass every evening as he did on the Frances. Is that what makes it feel more spiritual, I wonder? I can understand that the opportunity to celebrate mass regularly with other pilgrims was such an important element of the pilgrimage for him, but I suspect that's not what most people are talking about when they refer to the uniquely "spiritual feel" of the Camino Frances.

I'll walk it eventually, so perhaps I'll know one day.
 
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I regularly come across comments about the Camino Frances having a more spiritual feel. I'm curious about that, since I guess I think of the spiritual dimension of a pilgrimage as an internal thing. Having not walked the Camino Frances, I wonder what it is that makes it feel more spiritual.

I met a pilgrim on the Camino Mozarabe, who had previously walked the Camino Frances. When I asked him how the experience compared, he told me that he loved both but he missed the experience of participating in a pilgrims' mass every evening as he did on the Frances. Is that what makes it feel more spiritual, I wonder? I can understand that the opportunity to celebrate mass regularly with other pilgrims was such an important element of the pilgrimage for him, but I suspect that's not what most people are talking about when they refer to the uniquely "spiritual feel" of the Camino Frances.

I'll walk it eventually, so perhaps I'll know one day.
You hit the nail on the head I
I regularly come across comments about the Camino Frances having a more spiritual feel. I'm curious about that, since I guess I think of the spiritual dimension of a pilgrimage as an internal thing. Having not walked the Camino Frances, I wonder what it is that makes it feel more spiritual.

I met a pilgrim on the Camino Mozarabe, who had previously walked the Camino Frances. When I asked him how the experience compared, he told me that he loved both but he missed the experience of participating in a pilgrims' mass every evening as he did on the Frances. Is that what makes it feel more spiritual, I wonder? I can understand that the opportunity to celebrate mass regularly with other pilgrims was such an important element of the pilgrimage for him, but I suspect that's not what most people are talking about when they refer to the uniquely "spiritual feel" of the Camino Frances.

I'll walk it eventually, so perhaps I'll know one day.
You hit the nail on the head I think. Spirituality is intensely personal. I find it everywhere; to a lesser extent in churches, more in nature and most in interaction with people. You need to walk yourself; be open and aware and magic can happen anywhere, anytime!
 
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Very interesting and concise information, for which I am grateful.
I wonder if you think vegetarians would have difficulty finding proper meals along the VF.

I will add that when I journeyed to Assisi many decades ago, I wandered into Santa Chiara as I recall. There was a side chapel that had a replica of the St. Francis cross. At the rear of the chapel was a viewing window that held the remains of St. Clare, the long, blonde braid of hair she cut off when she entered the convent, and other articles. I sat in a pew and for no reason at all tears just started pouring from my eyes. I wasn't sad or unhappy in any way or even emotionally moved (other than being happy I finally had arrived), or in pain, but those tears just kept coming, as if someone turned on a faucet. It was very peculiar, and I can only say it felt like I was picking up on someone's feelings (although there was no other person near me).
I am sorry. I am not vegetarian so not the best person to ask. But I think there are plenty of vegetarian options. And yes Assisi is quite special.🙏😊
 

domigee

Veteran Member
Year of past OR future Camino
2020? Looks like.... nowhere! 😁
I regularly come across comments about the Camino Frances having a more spiritual feel. I'm curious about that, since I guess I think of the spiritual dimension of a pilgrimage as an internal thing.
I agree with the Camino francés feeling ‘more spiritual’ and yet I have no explanation... Maybe it is just because of the sheer number of pilgrims who walked the same path... or maybe the history... In France you learn in primary school of Roland in Roncevaux (Roncesvalles) Etc.
When I first walked it, it felt magical. I never felt the same when walking the Via de la Plata for instance.
Who knows?
 

NavyBlue

Active Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Le Puy and Camino Frances. Via Francigena. Tro-Breiz in progress.
I agree with the Camino francés feeling ‘more spiritual’ and yet I have no explanation... Maybe it is just because of the sheer number of pilgrims who walked the same path... or maybe the history...
Hi,

Maybe all that. Also limited contacts with the local Church, as I mentioned here. Few masses during the week, little (apparent) interest from the clergy, religious accommodation run more like hotels than places for sharing spirituality (with some exceptions)...
 

Mark Di Marzio

Active Member
Year of past OR future Camino
2015 -SJPP- Santiago .Oct/Nov
2017 -Porto to Santiago.Oct
2017- Santiago- Finesterre. Nov
I regularly come across comments about the Camino Frances having a more spiritual feel. I'm curious about that, since I guess I think of the spiritual dimension of a pilgrimage as an internal thing. Having not walked the Camino Frances, I wonder what it is that makes it feel more spiritual.

I met a pilgrim on the Camino Mozarabe, who had previously walked the Camino Frances. When I asked him how the experience compared, he told me that he loved both but he missed the experience of participating in a pilgrims' mass every evening as he did on the Frances. Is that what makes it feel more spiritual, I wonder? I can understand that the opportunity to celebrate mass regularly with other pilgrims was such an important element of the pilgrimage for him, but I suspect that's not what most people are talking about when they refer to the uniquely "spiritual feel" of the Camino Frances.

I'll walk it eventually, so perhaps I'll know one day.
I have walked the Portuguese Caminho once and the Camino frances 3 times . I think it’s the spiritual aspect that has drawn me to the frances . It definately feels spiritual and magical in that it has this long history of so many pilgrims having walked it and continue to do so -the infrastructure is great in terms of many beautiful donativo’s and churches with community oracions and bars where pilgrims can come together socially and interact . It can also be deeply contemplative . I’m not exactly sure what makes it so spiritual but a special kind of feeling is definately there . Maybe it is present on many other camino’s as well -I don’t really know i guess it also depends on what our mindset and where our heart is -but if we are open to it all -it definately brings many lessons & blessings . It has for me anyway .
 
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Frances(15,16,18)CheminduPuy(16) Portuguese(16 VDLP(17)Primitivo(17)Ireland-3000K(18) Norte18Vasco17
I agree with the Camino francés feeling ‘more spiritual’ and yet I have no explanation... Maybe it is just because of the sheer number of pilgrims who walked the same path... or maybe the history... In France you learn in primary school of Roland in Roncevaux (Roncesvalles) Etc.
When I first walked it, it felt magical. I never felt the same when walking the Via de la Plata for instance.
Who knows?
I have done many different Caminos as well and I think it’s a combination of factors that make the Frances most “spritual”:

1. The History and Legends of The Camino
2. The Power of the Meseta to Facilitate Deep Meditation.
3. The unique qualities and diversity of pilgrims and their interactions. To walk with people with one arm, cancer, in wheelchairs, +90 years of age, blind is both inspiring and humbling.

But spirituality is intensely personal. Each of us finds it in our own unique way and if we are open and aware we can find it anywhere.
 
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Ernesto.IT

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2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018
I agree with the Camino francés feeling ‘more spiritual’ and yet I have no explanation... Maybe it is just because of the sheer number of pilgrims who walked the same path... or maybe the history... In France you learn in primary school of Roland in Roncevaux (Roncesvalles) Etc.
When I first walked it, it felt magical. I never felt the same when walking the Via de la Plata for instance.
Who knows?

When i walked the VF,
my feeling back then was to keep a promise made to Sant James when I hugged him on the altar of the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela Every year I promised to bring him the greetings of Sant Peter, so from Proceno I
I went down to Rome and then up the Via Francigena towards Santiago, having honored my promise, I continued on to Fisterra ending in Muxia.
Yes on the way I loved all the villages and town and the people but my only
thought was to get to James. In all it took me 98 days for a total of 3300Km but when I went up to James I felt released.... I don't know what I felt I just know that I was crying.
 
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jungleboy

Spirit of the Camino (Nick)
Year of past OR future Camino
Francés 2017
Primitivo 2018
Madrid 2019
Kumano Kodo 2019
Português 2020
Anybody know of a blog or good English language description of walking that southern route starting in Rome?
Our own @timr has walked Rome-Brindisi as part of his ongoing Canterbury-Jerusalem walk. Here is a post of his with links from this thread:

@Barbara06 If you go to the Confraternity of Pilgrims to Rome page here and go to the bottom of the page you will get a link to what is essentially my accommodation list with one or two additions. I have given you the page link, as the CPR pages may be helpful in other ways too! This is a direct link to the excel file.

If you go here on this forum you can find what I put together about guide books. There is a steady trickle of guide books slowly coming out, mostly in Italian. I have not kept up wholly, (as my sights have moved on...!)

I would offer you every encouragement - it is a very nice walk, reasonably well signposted, especially in those two or three places where there are local associations.

Confusingly, there are three or four different FB groups for VF del Sud.
 

Stephan the Painter

Active Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Frances(2020)
Our own @timr has walked Rome-Brindisi as part of his ongoing Canterbury-Jerusalem walk. Here is a post of his with links from this thread:
Thank you, I think our cyber space time paths must’ve crossed, because I actually edited my Post to delete my question and then posted the question on a similar thread, because it seemed more relevant. timr answered there, thank you again.
 
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I don’t pay too much attention to that but I suppose on a percentage basis there would be less asphalt on VF. That said, it’s 2,000k so there is much more overall.
My husband and I walked from near Milan to Siena on the VF in 2017. We loved it but it seemed to us to have more road walking and a bit of it with narrow shoulders and quite scary with fast cars zooming by.
 

MichaelC

Active Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Aug 2017: Le Puy to Santiago
Nov 2018: Kumano Kodo (part)
2021 (?): Via Francigena, Aosta to Rome
Great post, thanks! If I could pick your brain ...

The big difference though in France is the support of local people who take pilgrims into their homes providing dinner, a bed, breakfast along with conversation and kindness.
This for me was one of the many wonders of the Chemin du Puy, and something I missed in Spain. How would you say the VF in Italy compares to the Chemin in France?

I'm planning on walking at least Lucca to Rome once the era of Covid is over. I've delayed twice now, but feel more confident that it will be possible in Spring 2022.

If I save, and budget, and depending on work furloughs, I might be able to start before Lucca. What would be your thoughts on starting in Pavia or Piacenza? I like the idea of crossing the Apennines, but from other's blogs I get the sense that this section and the Po Valley are more of a 'connecting path' between the highlights of Aosta Valley and Tuscany.
 

OZAJ

New Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Mozarabe/VdlP/Sanabres (2008) Norte (2009) Vezelay/Frances/Salvador/Primitivo (2010) etc.
I walked the VF in 2011 and agree with most of the original post. I had no rest days and took 67 days. I started from Canterbury on Easter Sunday.

I met no other pilgrims before St Bernard's Pass, where there were two. Later in Italy (Radicofani I think) I met an Italian couple, Spanish family of three and a French woman. We arrived in Rome together. The Italian man, who we called Santo Paulo worked out what we had to do to get into St Peter's in order to get our Testamonium.

As for spirituality, I found no difference between the VF and the Camino Frances, but then I would distinguish spirituality from emotion and sentimentality. The latter tend to be encouraged by togetherness with other pilgrims.
 
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Great post, thanks! If I could pick your brain ...


This for me was one of the many wonders of the Chemin du Puy, and something I missed in Spain. How would you say the VF in Italy compares to the Chemin in France?

I'm planning on walking at least Lucca to Rome once the era of Covid is over. I've delayed twice now, but feel more confident that it will be possible in Spring 2022.

If I save, and budget, and depending on work furloughs, I might be able to start before Lucca. What would be your thoughts on starting in Pavia or Piacenza? I like the idea of crossing the Apennines, but from other's blogs I get the sense that this section and the Po Valley are more of a 'connecting path' between the highlights of Aosta Valley and Tuscany.
Good question. I suppose walking in Italy on VF was more like the Chemin du Puy than the Frances. Not as many people. More mountains. We were lucky as we had some Italian peregrinos we met take is out for dinner and other friends that we met for dinner. Plus getting to Rome was an ending which the Chemin did not have imo. Some French people seem perfectly content ending in SJPP or Roncevalles but I could never stop there. I would have to continue. In either case they are 2 excellent Ways.
 
Year of past OR future Camino
Frances(15,16,18)CheminduPuy(16) Portuguese(16 VDLP(17)Primitivo(17)Ireland-3000K(18) Norte18Vasco17
Good question. I suppose walking in Italy on VF was more like the Chemin du Puy than the Frances. Not as many people. More mountains. We were lucky as we had some Italian peregrinos we met take is out for dinner and other friends that we met for dinner. Plus getting to Rome was an ending which the Chemin did not have imo. Some French people seem perfectly content ending in SJPP or Roncevalles but I could never stop there. I would have to continue. In either case they are 2 excellent Ways.
Also I think the farther you start from Rome the better. But anywhere is good. It’s all wonderful.
 

Dickwilbur

New Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Frances 2011, Primitivo, 2013, Via Francigena 2014, 2015 VDLP, 2016 Via de la Costa and Via San Francesco
Not to brag, but I have walked the VF in it's entirety, twice. First time 2014 and again in 2017. I mention this only in the context of growth of the VF. The difference between the two walks in terms of other pilgrim contact was significantly higher the second time. 2014 a total of 15, 12 of whom i met in Italy. The second time around i gave up counting, but it was close to 70 with a marked increase in France. I concur with a lot of Kevin's post and enjoyed following him on the VF fb page but would say that the lack of interaction with other walkers would be down to nothing more than Covid and I would anticipate that come the vaccine and easing of travel restrictions that numbers will increase to at least the levels I experienced in 2017.

Come 2022 and I hope to be one of them again 🤔
 

PaulG

New Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Via Francigena (2015)
Via de la Plata (2016)
Via Romea Germanica (2018)
Camino del Norte (2019)
As well as the Via Francigena, there are many other pilgrim trails in Italy. All though have common characteristics such as incredible scenery, fascinating architecture, wonderful food and friendly people but little pilgrim infrastructure, higher cost than Spain than far fewer pilgrims. A few examples - La Via Romea Germanica, la Via di San Benedetto, la Via Francigena del Sud, La Via Lauretana the list goes on and on!
 

JabbaPapa

"True Pilgrim"
Year of past OR future Camino
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Well, from where I would start (home, on the French Riviera) --

Distance and Time

It's about 2000K to Compostela, 800K to Rome.

Difficulty

The Way from here to Rome is FAR easier than the Camino to Santiago.

Cost

Broadly equivalent, except for the Spanish sections of the Camino. But Italy is less expensive than France, so on average it balances out. But there is a greater possibility, at least for a single male pilgrim, to find shelter at the religious institutions in Italy than in France or on the Francès or other major routes in Spain, which leads to a larger proportion of one's budget for the food.

Countries

For the coastal Francigena from here, that's just under 20 kilometres in France, then Italy, plus the two microstates Monaco (maybe, it did last time) and Vatican City.

My current home-to-home Camino will have involved France, Spain, Andorra, Portugal, and possibly Monaco but that will be a last minute decision on my final day.

Not from Here

England :
While you are only in the UK a day or two

Well, that would greatly depend on your starting point -- Canterbury is NOT the only starting point for the Way to Rome in the UK. Or for that matter a Camino.

Switzerland :
The big difference here is that the path takes one through the magnificent Alps, especially up to Saint Bernard Pass at 2,469 meters before entering Italy. Walking through the vineyards along Lake Geneva was beautiful as well. Unlike in France and Italy where you feel more like a pilgrim, here you feel more like a long distance walker as the Swiss seem somewhat indifferent towards pilgrims. The only exception was at the Monastery of Saint Maurice.

Crossing the Alps here takes just a few hours, as here is right by the sea, and the Pass at La Turbie is about 400 metres, bearing in mind I live at about 200 metres altitude for starters.

But depending on which route you take, there can be long mountainous stretches either way, the waymarked route in Italy leading through the mountains above the Mediterranean until you reach Tuscany (which has its own, gentler, mountain ways) ; and some stretches of mountain being unavoidable in France no matter which route you choose from here, Alpine foot-"hills", Alpilles, Massif Central on the Arles Way, Pyrenees either Way (and for a lot longer via Catalonia than via SJPP) -- though of course, without the particular quality of the Alps themselves.

And for much of the Way on either of the Coastal routes Rome-ward or towards Santiago, you can be outside of the typical Pilgrim experience, walking among people unused to seeing pilgrims, and often through places without dedicated pilgrimage infrastructures.

France

The southern Coastal route between the Italian border and the Spanish/Catalan at Le Perthus after Perpignan is in a very different France than on either the Francigena from England or the Camino from Le Puy.

It is a LOT more touristy generally, so that you will be subjected to tourist prices far more often than is typical in rural France. And the character of the land is different, as you will be walking more frequently through vineyards and olive & other fruit tree groves, sun-drenched rocky hills, and far greater expanses of suburbia. And apart from the stretch between Aix-en-Provence and Montpellier and even Béziers on the Coastal Route, as there you will find yourself on the Arles Way, one of its variants, and a bit of the Piémont Way, you will likely not come across any other pilgrims -- though there are a few hospitaleros, and you will come across a fair number of former or forthcoming pilgrims, keen for a bit of a chat.

Unemployed and vagrants etc do tend to congregate along the Mediterranean Coast in France, so you will have encounters with them more frequently than on the other French routes ; and depending on your kit, there's even a chance that you could be mistaken for and treated like one (though probably not if you're decked out in hiker sports gear).

Languedoc after Béziers and French Catalonia (and some of Catalonia proper) are a bit tough ; not only because the terrain gets more difficult and the daily stages longer, but also because between Béziers and Manresa, there's just the one single (excellent) Pilgrim Albergue at Perpignan.

Food

Little to add, except that hands down the best food on a pilgrim budget is in Italy. Yes, you can be lucky in France, and the food in Spain is often quite palatable. The food in France was once just as good, but sadly many of the traditional village restaurants have gone, and there are no more ordinary & inexpensive family ones ; whereas these still thrive throughout Italy.
 
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Stephan the Painter

Active Member
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Frances(2020)
My current home-to-home Camino will have involved France, Spain, Andorra, Portugal, and possibly Monaco but that will be a last minute decision on my final day
If you’re walking from the French Riviera why would you end up going through Portugal? I’m assuming you’re Camino destination is Santiago de compostella. Just curious.
 

JabbaPapa

"True Pilgrim"
Year of past OR future Camino
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If you’re walking from the French Riviera why would you end up going through Portugal? I’m assuming you’re Camino destination is Santiago de compostella. Just curious.
Walking via Fatima. My plan is to go southwards from Astorga on the Via de la Plata towards that Marian Sanctuary, before heading up from there to Santiago.
 

Jomas

Active Member
Year of past OR future Camino
VF many times. Monaco-Lindau '15. Assisi-Pietralcina '17. CF '18.
magnificent post! and great feedback from what you list.
I can only testify for the Italian section where the costs are slightly higher than the CF but not as you "tried". My average daily shopping was around 35/40 euros, with frequent stops in bars and restaurants. it is a matter of asking for as much information as possible, even from the managers of the hostels or accommodation facilities. The fact of being Italian certainly helps me a lot.
on the question of spirituality I believe and I am convinced that it is something subjective, given by personal experiences and the "episodes" of one's life. Risky to make comparisons ;-)
But you said so too :)
 

kiwiDavid

Member
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Camino Frances 2012 - SJPP-Finisterre
Great post Kevin - interesting - one question if you don't mind.
Did you speak Italian and can you get by with basic phrases in Italy ?
 
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Great post Kevin - interesting - one question if you don't mind.
Did you speak Italian and can you get by with basic phrases in Italy ?
I am an English speaker and speak a little Camino Spanish, but not Italian or French. One can by without much trouble with help from kind locals and other pilgrims.
 
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Risky

Member, Brisbane Australia.
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Portuguese, VDLP, Le Puy, Del Norte, Primitivo, Vezelay, Frances & Via Francigena - C'bury to Rome
Hi Kevin,

Thanks for the share.

My wife and I have walked a number of French, Spanish and Portuguese ways. In 2019 we walked the VF from Canterbury to Rome.

I enjoyed reading the review and felt it fairly consistent with our experience. We were restricted to the 90 day Schengen limit but that wasn't an issue. Yes, the VF was different to other pilgrimages, but that is good. It was a fantastic experience with varied geography, people and cultures. For us the hardest part was walking the rice fields, I think it was for about 9 days or so and was really quite flat and dull, ......... but then ..... almost like meditation whilst walking, so not so bad.

Over the years we have walked over 8,000kms of paths, some busy and some quiet, across Europe. Each journey has offered different experiences to be gained, and friendships to be made, so it's more about the journey than the destination. Every time we have walked in to our destination be it (SdC or Rome) we have had walkers lament with the end of another adventure. Then, our thoughts turn to planning our next adventure.

In 2020 we had planned to walk from Gstaad through Geneva to Arles and then across France and Spain on to SdC but then Covid hit so we hope that in 2022 or, more likely, 2023 we will be able to go on this adventure across Europe.

Like many we are making the most of the moment but can't wait to rub shoulders with our old friends the backpacks to walk another pilgrimage together. :)

Once again, thanks for the share.

Be kind and stay safe.
 

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