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Notes from a week on The Via Francigena

Discussion in 'Via Francigena to Rome' started by JAL, Apr 29, 2016.

  1. JAL

    JAL Member

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    Camino(s) past & future:
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    Le Puy to St. Jean 2015
    Via Francigena 2016
    Norte/Primitivo 2016
    Hi All,

    My wife and I just returned from walking the final 6 stages into Rome on the Via Francigena. (They say FranCHEEjayna).I have walked the CF and Le-Puy to SJPdP solo in past years and wanted to share some observations while it is still fresh in my mind.

    The Trail. Wow, is it pretty and historic. We walked through the most stunning ancient hill towns and all alone through hazelnut orchards and olive trees. The surface is mixed, from a barely visible track through grass between fields to long stretches of perfectly preserved Roman roads. It has a fair amount of climbing, but nothing singularly challenging like Roncesvalles. Parts are rough and rocky trail surfaces, and there is a fair amount of gravel and pavement as well.

    Walking the last day into Rome had the most objectionable side-of-the-highway walking than I ever saw in 1500 km of Spain and France, but having said that, it is very cool to see the dome of St. Peters off in the distance and know you are going to walk to it.

    Wayfinding. Mixed. Really well-marked for the most part, but with occasional frustrating gaps of no signs or contradictory signs. A guide is essential, and a map and compass and GPS are very helpful.

    Lodging/Amenities. We went deluxe and stayed in hotels on this trip but I saw very few hostel-type places along the trail. The towns on this stretch are typically a short day's hike apart, often with zero opportunities for cafes or restaurants in between. You need to research each day and plan for providing your own food and water. Italian shops are closed midday like in France and Spain. The food and wine are, predictably, very good.

    People. The local people we met were great, friendly and helpful, but be aware there are very, very few pilgrims on this trail. Outside of a single group of 20 retirement age Italians walking the same route as us ( a hiking club) we saw precisely zero other pilgrims going south toward Rome, which seemed really odd as the weather was cool and pleasant and you'd think the final week into Rome would be packed. Walking from Montefiascone earns you a very official-looking parchment Testimonium from the Vatican, in Latin and with nifty gold seal.

    Overall impression. The Francigena has the feel of a camino that is about to hit a tipping point where more albergue-style lodging is opened and more pilgrims come and more albergues open, etc. For now, it is just incredibly picturesque, historic, and has a do-it-yourself feeling that I suspect might be like the Frances circa 1989 or so. Maybe our experience was anomalous, but despite the beauty, history, pretty towns and great food, this would be a lonely camino traveling solo. A little Italian helps a lot, and Spanish actually works pretty well for certain things.

    Tour Company. I did my other two caminos self-booked and carried all my stuff, but wanted to ease my spouse into this whole camino thing so we used Camino Ways on this trip. They were awesome, all our hotel reservations, many of our meals and all of our luggage transfer went off perfectly. I highly recommend them.

    Buon Cammino!

    John
     
    walkmag, MichaelB10398, NeeT and 3 others like this.
  2. Bradypus

    Bradypus Antediluvian

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    Camino(s) past & future:
    Camino Frances (1990, 2002 and 2016). Camino Ingles (2015). Camino Primitivo (2015). Canterbury to Rome (2015). Camino Portugues (2016). Sundsvall-Trondheim Olavsleden (May 2016). Camino Sanabres (2017). Swansea to Santiago in several stages over 25 years!
    I walked the Via Francigena last summer. I consider myself a fairly experienced road walker but I freely admit that I found parts of the final stage into Rome went beyond objectionable and into the frankly terrifying. I have never walked for any significant distance along a worse road. Sections ran along the side of access roads for the main GRA orbital motorway with no footpath. Apparently there are plans to change this approach route in the near future. Long overdue.

    Your comparison with the Camino Frances of the late 1980's is spot on. A thought I often had while walking. A comparatively small number of pilgrims. Far smaller infrastructure of albergues, cafes and private accommodation than the Frances of today. A need to accept longer stages if using albergues or be prepared to use private accommodation. Provision for pilgrims is still very locally organized, inconsistent and erratic: an ad hoc mixture of parish, monastic, confraternity and municipal albergues of wildly varying size and style. Following the blogs and Facebook comments of other walkers this year it appears that new albergues are opening in a number of places. The situation is very fluid. You may well be right about the tipping point. On my first walk on the Camino Frances there were still a handful of small towns whose refugio offered only a concrete floor to sleep on with access to a cold water tap and a toilet. I didn't come across anything quite so basic on the VF last year though a navigational disaster on my part had me sleeping on the concrete floor in a rubbish bin store in a forest in Switzerland :)

    I am surprised that you saw no other pilgrims apart from one Italian group. I walked the same stages in September and encountered quite a few. The accounts I am reading from pilgrims walking at the moment talk of chance encounters almost every day. Certainly not the jostling crowds of today's Camino Frances but hardly solitary confinement either :) I suspect that with this special Year of Mercy numbers may rise sharply as the summer months arrive.
     
    MichaelB10398 likes this.
  3. NavyBlue

    NavyBlue Active Member

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    Camino(s) past & future:
    2013 : Charlieu-Le Puy (Cluny way) + Le Puy-Espalion
    2014 : Espalion-Santiago (Camino frances)
    2015 : Via Francigena (Gr. St Bernard pass to Rome)
    2016 : Tro-Breiz (Quimper to St-Pol-de-Léon part)
    Hello,

    Have you used this new way into Rome (expected for long, inaugurated in January 2016, and supposedly open...)? http://www.abitarearoma.net/via-francigena-aperto-percorso-nel-parco-dellinsugherata/#.VyMaWb7zt8E
     
  4. Bradypus

    Bradypus Antediluvian

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    That is the new route announcement I was thinking of. Last year the signposting directed walkers along the Via Trionfale rather than the Via Cassia. The junction between the Via Trionfale and the GRA struck me as being very dangerous indeed. If I ever walk the final stages of the VF again it will certainly not be on that route.
     
  5. jirit

    jirit Moderator Staff Member Donating Member

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    My wife and I walked the Via Francigena back in 2008.

    Back then we along with others, we mapped out an alternative route through this same park, that would bypass the busy and dangerous route into Rome.
    It nice to see that after 8 years to see our vision finally come into existence

    "For the Jubilee of Mercy, Rome has been enriched by a new historical-cultural journey with the official inauguration of the section of the Via Francigena in the Insugherata Natural Reserve. The opening of the new "green" entrance in Rome, located at Via Cassia 1081, was curated by Roma Natura, the Regional Agency for the Management System of Natural Protected Areas in the City of Rome, and was made possible thanks to the funding of the Foundation Onlus Giovan Battista and cooperation of the owners of the affected areas.

    Starting from the Via Cassia, the path will cross the Fosso dell'Acqua Traversa, to exit to Via Augusto Conti, and then take the way up to the Triumphal Santa Maria della Pieta, thus arriving in the Natural Reserve of Monte Mario, with an extraordinary overlooking on St. Peter's Basilica, for a total length of about 13 kilometres."
     
  6. Magnara

    Magnara Maggie Ramsay

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    We walked in 2010 and it doesn't sound as if it has changed much. But we only met one other pilgrim the whole way! We loved it, although we echo the comments about last last scary part - we actually hitched a ride across one particularly terrifying looking bridge on the second last day, for fear of being smeared against the side by a truck. The the final walk along the river on the walking/cycle path with the dome of St Peters ahead, amazing!
     
  7. NeeT

    NeeT New Member

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    I am walking my first Camino (Frances) at the end of June and then am looking to fly out to Rome but after reading this I am very tempted to try my hand at the last part of the via Francigena. I have a pretty good grasp of Italian and love exploring the lesser known places in Italy :) I'll definitely be saving this thread...you are all full of such wonderful knowledge and advice!
     
    walkmag and SYates like this.
  8. SYates

    SYates Camino Fossil AD 1999 Donating Member

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    Just back from: Walking the CF in winter 2016/17
    Assisi to Rome is a lovely way - just saying ... Buen Camino, SY
     
    lovingkindness and NeeT like this.
  9. domigee

    domigee Veteran Member

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    I walked the French part of the VF in July and we met no other pilgrims. Not one!
     
  10. jirit

    jirit Moderator Staff Member Donating Member

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    If you decide to walk the Via Francigena consider starting in Lucca and walking to Rome (19-21 days) and either go in May or October
     
  11. Bradypus

    Bradypus Antediluvian

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    Walking through France in July/August I met one pilgrim couple from New Zealand - and that was arranged through the Facebook VF group. No others until just before the Grand St Bernard Pass.
     
  12. jirit

    jirit Moderator Staff Member Donating Member

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  13. sillydoll

    sillydoll Veteran Member

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    Bing translation of the link above:

    The urban stretch of the Via Francigena defined by the municipality of Rome. The route begins at the exit of the Veio Park, along the Via Cassia through Insugherata Park and Monte Mario until you reach San Pietro. On the map we placed markers to highlight special features, feedback or suggestions.

    This button in the bottom left, view your position on the map.

    When this icon is present in the top right, you can choose the type of map.

    You can download this path in GPX format and import it to your GPS by clicking on the link at the bottom of the map.

    It will be interesting to see if it is passable. A number of people who have tried to use the path recently have commented on the Via Francigena Facebook page that it was overgrown and gates were locked.
     
  14. jirit

    jirit Moderator Staff Member Donating Member

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    A blog entry from February suggests the gate was removed

    http://www.vignaclarablog.it/2016021136255/rimosso-cancello-cassia-1081-francigena-libera-h24/
     
  15. jirit

    jirit Moderator Staff Member Donating Member

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  16. pat.holland

    pat.holland Member

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    Can I ask a basic question (and apologies if the answer is somewhere on the forum)
    My wife and I are walking the Via F. from Lucca to Sienna in October. We have no accommodation booked. Can you advise? We are happy to stay in albergues, finding them more fun but also small hotels etc. Is it possible to find beds by walking around or are we best advised to book in advance? thanks in advance
    Pat Holland
    (Camino Frances, Le Puy route and Camino Portuguese)
     
  17. jirit

    jirit Moderator Staff Member Donating Member

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    Hi Pat

    The route between Lucca and Siena has a mixture of accommodation. It is poplar section especially with walking tour groups.

    Some are pilgrim style albergues , but most are small pensions and B&B's, the latter limited in terms of availability and proximately to the actual trail. In other words the option of walking around to see what beds are available is limited.

    Therefore I would recommend that you phone ahead to reserve the pilgrim style beds. The albergues are managed by individuals that may or may not be on site.

    I would reserve and book ahead any accommodation that includes a pension or B&B.
     
  18. pat.holland

    pat.holland Member

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    Jirit, thanks for your quick and helpful reply. much appreciated. Buen Camino.
    ph
     
  19. sillydoll

    sillydoll Veteran Member

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    IMG-20160713-00539.jpg
    The official route which passes through two parks has been open for a few months.

    Walk on the Via Cassia keeping left to face oncoming traffic. When the road splits at a fork keep to the left and remain on the Via Cassia facing oncoming traffic.
    Read the numbers on the buildings on both sides as they descend from 1800's until you see 1081 on the right hand side of the road. (About 5.5km from the 1800 mark) This is the entrance to the first park - the Riserva Naturale Dell 'Insugherata.
    Once you exit the park you walk up a very steep but short road to a cross-road at the top. There is a handy café-bar on the left at the top.
    20160726_150426.jpg 20160726_150426.jpg Follow the VF signs all the way to the Monte Mario park and from there onto the Via Angelico which becomes the Ottaviano. This road leads straight to the Vatican wall and St Peter's.

    The red line on the map is the Via Francigena. However, the route through the Monte Mario is the Blue line, whilst the red line after S. Maria Della Pieta follows quiet roads to Monte Ciocci (great views of St Peter's) to the Vatican.
    You can safely walk either route.
     
    mspath likes this.
  20. RRDY

    RRDY New Member

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    John,

    Thanks much for your VF information.

    What guidebook do you recommend? (can you buy it in the USA?)

    Roger
     
  21. JAL

    JAL Member

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    Hi Roger.

    We used notes provided by Camino Ways, who we booked the trip through. I usually self-book, but Camino Ways was great for pre-arranging each days lodging and pack transport.

    John
     

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