Comments from Study Subjects

Comparisons to Camino de Santiago

• Nice countryside, monuments. Welcoming people. Great food. Arrival in Rome, a unique place. Less spirituality than expected (as compared to the Camino de Santiago). Rather high budget needed, could be a problem.

• Few people walk this route, though it is its very beautiful. It is not at all like the path of Santiago.

• It is such a different trail than the Camino Frances in Spain. I guess I thought it would be similar. There we were able to go to mass every night and received special pilgrim blessings from each priest.

• The Via Francigena is a lovely walk and could be developed more fully like the Camino to Compostela. We walked the French Way (500 miles) in 2015. With more markers (in several places there were competing markers from different groups),

• For introvert, a solitary traveler, and me the Via Francigena was an obvious pilgrim’s route. Unlike the way to Santiago de Compostela, the path is not at all well known, and consequently I enjoyed peace in the Italian countryside.

• Go with an open mind. Do not expect it to be along the same lines as the Camino de Santiago.

• The people we met along the trail were very welcoming, the countryside is beautiful, the depth of history is amazing for someone from North America, and the route is not as well developed as the Camino so the collection of stamps was less interesting.

• The Via Francigena now is what the Camino was like 30 years ago. Route marking and accommodation has improved a lot in 10 years but the towns and villages are not as pilgrim savvy as on the Camino.

• Although my friends and I always had a place to stay, there are fewer choices than say on the Camino de Santiago in Spain. There is a greater need to have water and good with you at all times.

• The journey is a true pilgrimage unlike the Disneyworld tourist environment of the modern Camino de Santiago. However, the lack of pilgrims also means that services and resources.

• This was my second pilgrimage; I walked the Camino in 2014. The experience of the VF is different to that of the Camino – although similar in nature, it’s a more rudimentary walk in terms of facilities for pilgrims, and a lot more solitary.

• The scenery was stunning. The people we met and the food we ate was amazing. However, this wasn’t as much of a spiritual journey for me as was the Camino de Santiago. Not sure why exactly. Maybe the hype surrounding the trek?

• The great thing about the VF (especially compared with the Camino de Santiago) was the lack of other walkers, so that I could enjoy the silence, the countryside and the contact with the local people. I met five other pilgrims during the 3 weeks that I walked.

• I felt a true spiritual involvement, but in Spain, you breathe another atmosphere, the people you meet, and willing to do anything to help you in some way. In Italy, you do not find the same participation.

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Sense of Achievement, Reflection, Experience

• This was the trip where I achieved a 50-year goal to visit Italy and see Michelangelo’s works.

• Developed deeper insights about myself

• The journey was difficult at times but also wondrous at times. It was life enhancing.

• I advise everyone to take the Via Francigena at least once in their life. A different person will arrive at the destination than the one who began. Different in spirit and soul.

• It was just an amazing experience.

• The experience was transformative in many ways… physically challenging and empowering emotionally soothing spiritually joyful.

• Because it is impossible to remember pain, I look back on it (2016) with unalloyed pleasure. I was always “looked after”, quite miraculously, and this has helped me learn to trust.

• We walked in July -October 2015. On return back to New Zealand, I realized how half asleep we are living in our society. I felt truly awake on the V.F.

• I enjoyed the outer journey so much that two years later I flew back to Rome in order to walk it in reverse.

• It was peaceful and stressful at the same time. When I went the first time by myself, I did not use any electronic devices to find my way strictly a route map. It was stimulating in the sense that I was exploring a new country for me.

• The experience was much different than I anticipated and much more difficult.

• My last walk ended badly which is reflective of me and not the Via. My first Via was euphoric and was reflective of the whole experience. The Via essentially stays the same, we change as we walk.

• It is wonderful. It must be traveled at least once in life to experience the emotions you feel during the journey.

• For me, a non-believer but brought up as a Catholic and with family connections to Rome, this was an experience that I will never forget. I established remarkable relationships with my companions and learned about other cultures.

• I recommend the route to everyone. Going through the VF is a must-do life experience.

• The experience helps dealing with life.

• To be experienced at least once in a lifetime.

• A fantastic path, one for one’s own spirit but with limited hospitality and poor signage.

• I am desperate to get back to Italy! I fell in love with it all over again and would love nothing more than to do the Via Francigena again.

• A spirit of Christian hospitality and friendliness pervades the path.

• Everyone, at some stage in their life, should walk a pilgrimage path.

• A wonderful journey inside and out. I met “Pellegrini,” and developed close deep friendships, shared frugal meals, laughter, fatigue, fears, crying, joys and rebirths…. the Francigena marked my life in an indelible way.

• It was everything I had hoped for, both spiritually and culturally. It was the trip of a lifetime for me.

• The time of my life!

• A walk that allows you to start breathing again.

• I would also recommend to everyone at least a short journey on the path for all the emotions that you feel, both within yourself and with nature.

• Great calm, disconnected from a thousand things to do in contemporary life. I can focus on the present moment.

• My girlfriend and I walked the Via Francigena together. By the end of the walk, we had decided to get married.

• No negative thoughts. Just positive. Before starting, I was hoping to expand in these three areas: friendship with God, cultural understanding, understanding my physical limits. I expanded in all three.

• This is a tough road to travel , during which you will meet and be heartened by so many different people, all of whom will offer you amazing hospitality … reminding you of the wonderful people who exist in the world!! It requires resilience and determination.

• I am so pleased to have taken this incredible journey through a beautiful stunning and remarkable country. The VF was so much more than I expected and the memories of the journey will stay with me forever.

• I had a wonderful trip with my friend. I loved the daily walk and felt like it was meditating every day. I enjoyed the beauty of Tuscany and the friendly Italian people.

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Route Conditions and Signage

• Harder than expected.

• From 72 & 70 year olds, some days were very long for older walkers.

• Difficult to complain about a journey that I could have chosen to end at any time.

• The northern France section is not supported very well. I will restart from Lausanne next year.

• Turned away from a hotel that I had prepaid for because I was a pilgrim.
• The main concern was never whether I could walk the distances needed each day, but in France in particular, the question that tormented me, every single day, was “will I be able to find somewhere (safe) to sleep tonight”?

• Fortunately, I had a GPS; it would have been very hard to find my way without a navigator.

• The route does not have a direct way; it does not have a distinct signage. Too much asphalt.

• Accommodation usually good and at a pilgrim price. Not really a walker’s path in most stages between Milan and Siena. The Italian’s love their cars, which were usually, too near. The journey was almost ruined for me by the roads and traffic.

• Only times I felt unsafe was in relation to car traffic in sections on roads. So many drivers are fast and frequently on their phones. Substantial efforts have been made to get the route off busy but some parts were still hazardous.

• Only 3 days, will go back. Need improvement on some parts. Some roads dicey because of traffic. Need more places to get water. Signage pretty good from Altopascio to San Gimignano. Distances too long, arranged a ride to shorten some.

• Some of the changes in the trail, meant to keep us off the main roads, were a bit isolated for a solo female traveler. I generally loved all of the country roads and beautiful scenery but a few of the trail cuts that went into heavily bushed areas, and this concerned me.

• For my own part, I can say I´m a dreamer, which means that I often forget to look for signposts. So now and then, I have got lost, never though getting scared or nervous.

• Positive: discover parts of my country I didn’t know, meet nice people, made a great experience on my own. Negative: the sometimes very bad conditions of the route (no signals, people didn’t know anything about the route).

• The southern half is filled with religious sanctuaries, relics and holy spots. Travelling through France was filled with cemeteries. Signage was not always the best. It was easier to find food and lodging on the southern half.

• The signs are not constant and the route not direct; some days we walked in circles. Not enough water fountains on the long stretches.

• Travelling alone with minimal knowledge of Italian during the off-season (Oct to Dec) made finding lodging difficult at times. (But, that’s my own fault, and my Italian did improve!) The signs in the Aosta Valley region were extremely frustrating.

• Pleased with the genteel French people. A better appreciation for Switzerland and the Swiss. Enjoyed interacting with locals in their language. Nasty run-in with bedbugs in Vetralla, Italy. Italy could be more beautiful without the garbage dumped along the way to Rome.

• I wanted to see the path through Italy, whatever it was like. Was hoping to see more of the Roman roads. From Rome to Brindisi, there were far too many protective farm dogs that were acting aggressive. Almost no dogs had a leash, but most were fenced in.

• Signage needs improvements especially in the south branch from Rome to Brindisi.

• Walking the Via Francigena was a very positive experience. As for the physical journey, the route through Tuscany and Lazio was very well signed, and the trail conditions were mostly excellent. The pilgrim’s accommodations were easy to find.

• I had a great journey. I stopped in Arras because I did not see another hiker and it rained and rained and the journey was no longer any fun.

• The route is locally very well supported but maybe not a coherent whole.

• Accommodation in rural France is difficult without speaking French.

• Well marked and easy to follow in the half that I did – did not meet many other pilgrims at all.

• It was more “off the beaten track”, sometimes literally, than expected. Also, we went in early June, which was WAY TOO HOT. Many in our group experienced various heat-related minor issues. We really enjoyed seeing the ancient antiquities and artifacts.

• It was so hard…we wild camped in France and camped wherever we could later on, we got lost so many times.

• Lack of signage in France was a challenge, and I got lost several times. Marvelous signage in Italy. Loved the signs in Switzerland, which gave the approximate length of time to the next place, and I managed to beat all of those times!

• Some parts were not well signposted or a too many roads.

• Very hot in July. Always a concern accommodation may be full, though it never happened.

• This was an amazing opportunity to cast aside normally life and simply focus on walking, eating and sleeping. It was very tough with bad weather and awful blisters in France. The Italian section is really well developed and potentially over used by tourists.

• Too many unnecessary hills. Too many dangerous roads. Very friendly people. Beautiful scenery.

• It was a very positive experience on very busy roads. It would be a good safety to protect the pilgrims from the cars (put in a pedestrian path out of the roadway, with guardrail).

• Positive: The nature, the cities, easy paths for the most part, changing landscapes. Negative: Overprotective dogs, dangerous paths to some cities (arrival to Rome, to Siena), the heat after 12pm.

• We traveled as a couple and a dog from Nuremberg to Rome. We wanted to do from Canterbury but the information on the French section said there was a lot of road. Since it was not ideal with a dog, we decided to leave from Germany.

• I was almost raped when I was between Viterbo and Vetralla, and I was very lucky to get out of it. The next day, during the next stage, while I was trying to recover from my emotions, a man attacked me near a waterfall where I was taking photos.

• Little traveled, poor signage, and not organized as one route. Beautiful memory that I will always carry with me.

• Too much trash left on the streets in Lazio.

• Sometimes I found way markings difficult and confusing. I had guidebook to St Bernard pass but couldn’t get one to Rome. I didn’t rely on GPS or google too much and therefore I had many human contacts asking for directions.

• A path, growing in popularity that must be managed by competent people so that they can keep the experience authentic for the “Pellegrini” and not for the institutions that want to earn money from it.

• Poor indication in France. Little frequented and therefore more livable. Many beautiful welcome. A bit too expensive in Switzerland.

• The VF. in Italy is ‘incredibly well marked and offers the opportunity to see the beautiful Italy outside the main tourist destinations.

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History, Customs and Culture

• The best part was learning the history of Umbria, which I was not as educated about, particularly the Etruscans.

• People interviewing me about my book often ask why I would encourage others to walk this route. I think the route is particularly alluring for those who appreciate connecting with rich traditions of western civilization.

• There is so much history that I was overwhelmed, but in a good way. The down side was the heat. Walking in 90+ degree weather was very difficult.

• I did not like Lucca-Altopascio! I suffered from lack of water and shade. The marked kilometers do not correspond true and the signage in some points and need to be improved. Not enough water available.

• I had high expectations, but the Via Francigena proved to be very interesting, I thought, in terms of history, landscape and people I met.

• I believe that the Via Francigena I to be experienced at least once in life. The V.F. scenic beauty, archaeological, cultural history, not least in food and wine, are not to be missed.

• The Tuscan stretch I crossed has beautiful landscapes rich in history and nature. It is well marked and easy to follow, suitable for most people. We often met interesting people.

• As a 72-year old woman, I felt safe and thoroughly enjoyed the variety, history, and beauty of this trail.

• Loved the historical points of interest in the medieval cities and the lush landscapes. The meals and wineries in Tuscany were awesome too.

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Scenery

• It is a trail of much beauty through golden gently hills. The views are splendid. Many small towns along the way, each with something special just awaiting discovery.

• I visited some beautiful places. I loved being able to visit places calmly and in silence.

• Bad vibes amongst WWI battlefields and graveyards in France Good vibes throughout Italy, except perhaps the rice fields. Mostly good food Inspiring ecclesiastical sites. Mostly solitary crossing the Alps. Maybe I should write a book!
• Walking is a pleasure, you do not worry about the weight on your shoulders and you can always go ahead to see all the beauty that is there after the next corner.

• A tougher route than the other two I have done but so worth it for the beautiful scenery and delicious food!

• Landscapes, nature, villages, all fantastic … track not always clear.

• Absolutely loved the VF in Italy from Aosta to Rome. Beautiful scenery, wonderful cathedrals, friendly pilgrims, adequate accommodations (including some wonderful monastery stays), and just being in Italy…Roman roads, art in the churches, and fresh food.

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