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Via Francigena

Bernie Brunino

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
April (2017)
Hello All. I walked the French Camino last year and had the experience of my life. However, it left me longing to do another pilgrimage. I have been researching Via Francigena and have a couple of questions to anyone that has walked this one before. I intend to do the full walk - Canterbury to Rome. What is the best time to cross the Alps?, Which is better: the Great St. Bernard Pass or the Little St. Bernard Pass? How long does it take to cross it. Best time of year to cross? Any other tips. Thank you.
 

Bradypus

Moderator
Staff member
Camino(s) past & future
Too many and too often!
If you want to follow the "official" signposted route which has more dedicated pilgrim accommodation then you will cross by the Grand Saint Bernard pass. If you prefer the Little Saint Bernard pass then you will have to devise your own route and will not have access to pilgrim hostels.
 

Doogman

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
?
I walked the opening section from Canterbury to Arras last summer and really enjoyed it. It was a short trip, only 11 days, but I wrote up a summary on this Forum last August entitled "VF to Arras". You may want to take a look and see if there is anything there that helps. Good luck!
 

Harington

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Vézelay/Francés 2011, Primitivo 2012, VdlP 2013, Via Domitia 2014, Inglés 2015, Francigena 2016
Hello All. I walked the French Camino last year and had the experience of my life. However, it left me longing to do another pilgrimage. I have been researching Via Francigena and have a couple of questions to anyone that has walked this one before. I intend to do the full walk - Canterbury to Rome. What is the best time to cross the Alps?, Which is better: the Great St. Bernard Pass or the Little St. Bernard Pass? How long does it take to cross it. Best time of year to cross? Any other tips. Thank you.
The VF crosses the Great St Bernard. It is not a difficult climb, just a long uphill slog. From Bourg St Pierre it took me four hours to the Pass, but I got rather lost (my own fault), and was slowed down towards the end by melting snow, too soft to walk on, and did the last two km on the road. As noted above the Pass is usually open from early June (depends on the year) through to September. You don't have to stop at the Pass, but it is a good thing to stay overnight in the Hospice which has been welcoming travellers and pilgrims for more than 1000 years. Downhill towards Etroubles is steepish but not difficult.
 

Viola_Fav

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino portugués (2018)
Via Francigena (2019)
Hi, do you think that crossing the pass at the end of September would be fine? I am not quite sure what to expect! Also, will I need specific gear/clothing for that section of the VF? Thank you!
 

Bradypus

Moderator
Staff member
Camino(s) past & future
Too many and too often!
You will probably be OK to cross at the end of September but it cannot be guaranteed. Early snowfall is always a possibility. If the road is closed to traffic by snow then you will probably need snowshoes for the foot paths. I believe they can be hired locally but I do not have details. Perhaps @timr could help on that question? You will certainly need warm clothing. Even in August it can be very cold - I crossed the pass on 18 August and in mid-afternoon it was only 4C.
 

Viola_Fav

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino portugués (2018)
Via Francigena (2019)
You will probably be OK to cross at the end of September but it cannot be guaranteed. Early snowfall is always a possibility. If the road is closed to traffic by snow then you will probably need snowshoes for the foot paths. I believe they can be hired locally but I do not have details. Perhaps @timr could help on that question? You will certainly need warm clothing. Even in August it can be very cold - I crossed the pass on 18 August and in mid-afternoon it was only 4C.
Thanks for the precious insight! I will keep that I'm mind while planning!
 

timr

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Several and counting...
You will probably be OK to cross at the end of September but it cannot be guaranteed. Early snowfall is always a possibility. If the road is closed to traffic by snow then you will probably need snowshoes for the foot paths. I believe they can be hired locally but I do not have details. Perhaps @timr could help on that question? You will certainly need warm clothing. Even in August it can be very cold - I crossed the pass on 18 August and in mid-afternoon it was only 4C.
What the above have said is correct. Earlier in September would be better than later in September. I was there in May and July last year. Impossible to cross in May, and more or less a "walk in the park" in July. You can hire snowshoes in the sports shop, Cristal Sports, in Orsières. (I didn't go, but they are said to be very helpful and if you ring ahead, they will open for you out of hours if necessary.) Or you can get them "free" on loan from the Bivouac de Napoleon hotel in Bourg St Pierre, if you stay there. In each case you drop them on the far side and the postman brings them back! For the Bivouac de Napoleon it was at a bar in St Leonard. If you cannot get through because of snow, you can get a bus or hitch hike through the tunnel. The bus is not everyday.

Be guided by the priests at the hospice whom you can phone. DO NOT IGNORE THEIR ADVICE about the state of the path. If possible, I would recommend the footpath - much nicer than the road. I got a good distance along it in May with snowshoes before I wisely gave up. It is potentially VERY dangerous And it was bitterly cold, although I managed just with my everyday clothing in layers. I returned in July after having arrived at Rome to do the bit I had missed.

When I arrived in May, there was relatively little snow remaining on the path although the road (though not the tunnel) still resolutely closed, and I had planned to walk, but a heavy snow shower came down in the night and I waited an extra day, on advice and tried on the third day. It was neither foolish nor unconsidered, and half a dozen people had walked through in pairs the previous week. But the conditions change fast. Once the road is open (June-September) (this is not the road that goes through the tunnel) you have the option of the path or the road and once the road is officially open they keep any snow cleared. There was a heavy but very short snow-ice-hail storm the night I spent in the hospice in July!! But it is a truly wonderful part of the journey. Beware - Switzerland is more expensive than you could probably imagine!
 
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suzanne perron

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
Past: Frances, Norte, Primitivo, Aragones, 1/2 Via Plata. Future: Italian part of Via Francigena
Hello, Am leaving from Aosta (to Rome) in April. Day 1 is a tough (they say!) 29km to Chatillon. Nus is half way. I cannot find an ostello there. Any ideas? I have no trouble with tough days as have walked several Caminos but for Day 1 ... well, just not decided. Thanks (sorry this is not a reply ... I am new to this and can't find how to start something new!!!)
 

Donovan

Active Member
Hi Suzanna, I also started from Aosta (in September 2019) and decided that 27 km on day 1 would be a bit too far. I stayed in Nus at B&B L’Antico Borgo in Via Risorgimento 42 and it was excellent. I don’t remember the cost, but think it was about €30. I don’t know of an ostello in Nus. You could make for easier walking by following the very flat cycle track from Aosta to Chatillon. I thought about it but am glad I opted for the hill route and the stopover in Nus.
 

gerardcarey

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
CFx2, CPx1
Hello All. I walked the French Camino last year and had the experience of my life. However, it left me longing to do another pilgrimage. I have been researching Via Francigena and have a couple of questions to anyone that has walked this one before. I intend to do the full walk - Canterbury to Rome. What is the best time to cross the Alps?, Which is better: the Great St. Bernard Pass or the Little St. Bernard Pass? How long does it take to cross it. Best time of year to cross? Any other tips. Thank you.
As I intended to stay at the Hospice at the Great St Bernard's Pass, I phoned the Hospice and asked their advice.
They said to attempt the pass before the end on August to ensure a safe and trouble-free passage.
I left Lausanne mid August. There was little snow around at the top. I had a most enjoyable journey.
I have since heard tales of woe from others who started in September.
All it needs is for winter storms to arrive a little early and you are in trouble.
Play it safe.
Regards
Gerard
 

suzanne perron

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
Past: Frances, Norte, Primitivo, Aragones, 1/2 Via Plata. Future: Italian part of Via Francigena
Hi Suzanna, I also started from Aosta (in September 2019) and decided that 27 km on day 1 would be a bit too far. I stayed in Nus at B&B L’Antico Borgo in Via Risorgimento 42 and it was excellent. I don’t remember the cost, but think it was about €30. I don’t know of an ostello in Nus. You could make for easier walking by following the very flat cycle track from Aosta to Chatillon. I thought about it but am glad I opted for the hill route and the stopover in Nus.
Hi Donovan. Thanks alot. I think it is a wiser after all not to start with a really challenging 30km on Day 1. Besides one needs to have time to look around and smell the flowers! I have walked many caminos over the last 10 years and should have known better! I have already looked up your B&B and will probably book it today. It seems the week I start out is just after Easter and just before May 1st and lots Italians take the week to enjoy spring (good for them) but it also means places fill up. If you have any other tips as this is my first Italian walk (France and Spain in the past) I am open to suggestions. Thanks again
 

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