Itinerary The Road to Rome: Our Via Francigena – 268km 22 Days: The Via Francigena is an ancient pilgrim path through the heart of Europe. The Christian origins of this ancient route date back to the seventh century. The Latin name Via Francigena (the Frankish Route) was given to the route first documented by Sigeric the Serious, Archbishop of Canterbury who returned from Rome to Canterbury along the route in 994AD describing the main stopovers in his journal.
The full walk (2000km) can be done in about 3 months, but we recommend shorter sections, as they are easier to fit in to people’s travel schedules. In planning an itinerary, some of the considerations in determining the distance for each day should include the type of terrain, the accommodation, weather, time of year and how fit one is. We chose a simpler, shorter itinerary.
- Where to Start: Canterbury Cathedral, UK.
- How to get there: Trains or buses from Victoria Station London.
- How to get back from Rome: Fly out of Rome’s Fiumicino Airport.
Section 1 England
Walking itinerary: (in sections rather than days)
England: Canterbury to Dover (33 km)
Good, simple English walking.
Day 1. Arrive in Canterbury We stood on the platform at Canterbury East Station on a warm August afternoon having just arrived from Heathrow Airport.
Day 2. Canterbury It was fascinating to walk along the cobble-stone streets of this ancient town. Next to visit the Cathedral. We marvelled at the size of the Church of England’s principal Cathedral. At the information office we received our first pilgrim’s passport stamp, – an “I X” – the ancient Greek letters for Christ.
Day 3. Shepherdswell (18km) From here we followed the signs showing “North Downs Way” to Shepherdswell. Once known as Sibourt’s Wold (Sibourt’s Forest), it was now a quiet village situated in the heart of Kent.
Day 4. Dover (15km) We walk to Pandy and then up Hatterrall Ridge, part of the Black Mountain.Take care if the weather is bad. From here we make our way down to the ancient village of Llanthony.
Section 2 Switzerland
Switzerland: St Croix to Grand St. Bernard Pass (150 km)
Flight from Heathrow to Geneva, train to St. Croix. Walking in Switzerland is magic.
Heathrow to Geneva. Train to St Croix: We arrived in St. Croix which was situated on a terrace sheltered by the slopes of Mont Chasseron. It was an attractive centre for skiers in the winter and hikers in the summer.
To Lausanne: Lausanne’s Cathedral of Notre Dame was a huge, tidy gothic structure which had somehow been drained of most of its ambience. Consecrated in 1275 as a place of Catholic worship, it was never fully finished. For centuries pilgrims journeyed to kneel in front of a miraculous golden statue of the Virgin.
To Martigny: From Lausanne we caught a ferry to Vevey and then continued on foot to Montreux, visiting the Castle of Chillon. Then to Aigle and St Maurice, nestled in the Rhone Valley. At Martigny, we found the old Roman amphitheatre.
To St. Bernard’s Pass: Having tired of difficult walking, we took the bus to Orsieres where a Swiss cheese fondue was suggested. Onwards to the Hospice at the St Bernard Pass. This was the historic pass used by the Romans in the conquest of their empire.
Section 3 Italy
Italy: Acquapendente to Sutri (85 km) Bus from St. Bernard Pass to Aosta, train and bus to Acquapendente. Stay at the Italian villages, Bolsena, Montefiascone, Viterbo.
From the Alps to Siena: We were now in Italy and the summer heat had returned. Arriving in the large city of Aosta, we transferred to a train, one of three which would ultimately take us to the Tuscan city of Siena. We found our seats and sat down, pleased to have kept to today’s tight transport schedule.
A Visit to Assisi: Assisi is one of Europe’s major pilgrimage sites. On its outskirts, looking like a church built upon an aqueduct was the Basilica of St. Francis. The town has been a sacred place since ancient times.
Tuscany and Umbria: We rejoin the Via Francigena after Assisi at Acquapendente. Then to Bolsena, where a miracle occurred, initiating the Feast of Corpus Domini. Montefiascone with its famous wine and Viterbo, a largely undiscovered medieval city.
Lazio: A comfortable walk to Vetralla, then Capranica and hence to Sutri, an ancient Etruscan town with its own amphitheatre and Mithraeum. Isola Farnese and Veio, the old Etruscan capital and then to La Storta to catch our train to the outskirts of Rome.
Section 4 Rome
Rome: Bus or train to Rome. Spend a week here at least. Affordable accommodation is available.
Day 1-2. St Peter’s Basilica: We walked across the historic Milvian Bridge where Constantine defeated Maxentius. Then to our first port of call, St. Peter’s. Without a doubt, most pilgrims travel to Rome to visit the famous basilica of St. Peter’s as well as the ancient Roman ruins. St. Peter’s is situated in the Vatican, a speck of prime Roman real estate, a separate sovereign state to Italy.
Day 3-4. Vatican Museums: We arrived early one morning, bought tickets and rented portable electronic audio guides. These provided a running commentary on each room and much of the artwork. The 12-museum complex is the largest in the world with 1,400 rooms, connected by seven kilometres of galleries which housed Egyptian, Roman, Greek and Etruscan artworks.
Day 5-6. Catacombs: The catacombs were the first Christian burial grounds near Rome. They were official burial grounds, not hiding places for Christians during times of persecution. The pilgrim church of St. Sebastian Outside the Walls was built above the Catacombs of St. Sebastian.
Day 7-8. Testimonium – Return flight: A pleasant lunch at one of Trastevere’s cafes and then back to St. Peter’s. After asking two attendants for the whereabouts of the sacristy, we were led to it. At the desk in the large chapel
another attendant stamped our pilgrim passports and then led us downstairs to a room, where shortly
after, an elegantly dressed woman appeared and asked us to be seated at a table. She had a folder from which she produced two pieces of thin, yet rigid parchment and took our details. We showed her our pilgrim’s passports after which she signed the Testimoniums.
the road to rome – via francigena
Food: A fascinating variety of foods are available to the walker throughout the countries on the Via Francigena. Just think – English, French, Swiss and Italian.
When to go? The northern spring or autumn seasons are recommended as accommodation is easier to obtain and the tourist numbers are lower.
Walking Gear: Good walking boots and socks are critical. Your boots should have been worn in. Take appropriate rain gear. Make sure it’s made from a breathable material such as Gore-Tex.
Our Take: This walking journey takes you across historic Europe, in the footsteps of all those who had to cross the alps to find their way to Rome. Truly, a contemporary walk through European history – and even better than a history course!
TRAVEL Via Francigena. ISBN -978-0-9578968-6-4 (251p):
A fully illustrated account of highlights of the pilgrim’s journey from Canterbury to Rome. The e-book is compatible with any PDF capable e-book reader or computer.
Across Europe To Rome
In this eBook you will find many of the places and sites of interest, both from a historical and a traditional perspective. Cities, such as the magnificently undiscovered Viterbo, Montefiascone – the home of Est Est Est! wine and the marvellous Swiss countryside will encourage you to make this journey yourself. TRAVEL the Via Francigena includes:
- Visit Canterbury Cathedral.
- Follow the ancient pilgrim path.
- Learn about the history of the Rome pilgrimage.
- Cross the alps.
- Sites to Visit.
- Explore Assisi the home of St. Francis.
- Discover how early Christianity was transformed to a world power.
- Learn Handy Travel Hints.
- Walker’s Information.
- Section by Section itinerary.
- Fully Illustrated – 230 Images.
- Overview Maps – 26 maps.
- Discover Pilgrims’ duties in Rome.
- Explore St. Peter’s Basilica – the world’s most visited church.
- Visit the Seven Traditional Pilgrim Churches of Rome.
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