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Choice of shoes

During a long walk, the feet are subjected to abnormal stress. It is therefore important to choose the right footwear.

Once we have solved the problem of the rucksack, how do we choose the shoes, another essential accessory for the walk?

The choice depends on the season and the route you choose: if you have to walk the entire route and then cross the Alps at the Great St Bernard Pass, a high waterproof boot is almost obligatory.
There are very light and comfortable hiking boots on the market, which, compared to low shoes, have the advantage of supporting the ankle, which is very stressed by the weight of the rucksack, preventing sprains and problems with joints and tendons, especially on the roughest stretches. In addition, waterproof boots allow you to tackle the (rare) fords and protect your feet from rain and mud. If the quality is good, the boot will also be happy to accompany you on light dirt roads and asphalt.
The low trekking shoe, especially if it is very breathable (and therefore not waterproof), is a better solution for warmer periods, avoiding excessive sweating which facilitates the formation of blisters. However, it does not support the ankle and is therefore less suitable for more demanding stretches of the route, has to be taken off to cross fords and does not protect well against rain.
Trekking sandals are very useful for those who usually wear other footwear for walking, and are therefore suitable for moments of relaxation, taking a shower, or crossing fords. Some pilgrims also use them for walking during the day: if the sandals are of good quality and have already been used for long walks, they may be a good choice; otherwise it is better to avoid using them in order not to risk blisters. Furthermore, sandals do not protect the foot from accidental impacts against stones and obstacles, and are therefore not suitable for uneven stretches of path.
Other types of footwear should be avoided, especially so-called ‘trainers’, i.e. shoes designed for other sports and not specifically for walking: they may have soles that are too thin, or too soft, or do not support the ankle properly. This applies even if you find these shoes comfortable in everyday use. Using a shoe for a walk is a minimal strain compared to walking 25 km a day for several days.

Where to buy shoes
When buying shoes, it is best to choose a specialised shop where the shop assistants have the appropriate technical expertise to advise you. Take a pair of walking socks with you or wear the ones the shop provides, and spend a lot of time trying them on, comparing different models, wearing them for a long time, walking in them. Some shops have a platform that simulates a descent, where you can check whether the size is correct or “toe touch”.
Bear in mind that your feet will generally swell, especially if it is very hot, and that trekking socks are padded. So choose a large shoe, at least one size bigger than you usually wear.
Avoid boots that are too stiff for high mountain use. However, bear in mind that a well-structured shoe may feel stiff when you try it on in the shop, but you won’t notice it after prolonged use.
Don’t try to save money: a quality pair of shoes costs at least 100 euros, but it is money well spent. Cheap shoes could turn your walk into a torment.
After buying your shoes, wear them for a long time before you leave. First at home, then for short walks, then for longer and longer walks. Don’t risk using new shoes, even if they look comfortable, without breaking them in properly.

Socks
The choice of socks is almost as important as the choice of shoes.
Use special bladder-resistant socks with reinforced toe and heel. They generally cost a little more than normal socks, but the difference in comfort is worth the expense.
We recommend merino wool socks in particular, and there is a light version for the summer.
It is a good idea to take three pairs of socks with you, so that you always have a dry pair.

Caring for your feet
The main problem created by the wrong shoes and socks is the formation of blisters on the feet, which can be very annoying and painful. Blisters are best avoided or limited as much as possible.
Blisters are usually caused by the skin rubbing against the shoe, and are facilitated by sweat and moisture.
A useful first rule can be to keep the feet as dry as possible: for example, foot baths should be avoided while walking, as they soften the skin and make it more vulnerable. This is true even if it is very hot, and it is not easy to resist the coolness of a fountain or stream.
If possible, avoid getting your feet wet even when wading, and dry your skin carefully before putting your shoes back on.
A good habit is to take off your shoes and socks during each stop, even if it is very short, to allow the skin on your feet to ‘breathe’ and dry out. If you need to walk, for example to enter a bar, you can wear sandals barefoot.
Sometimes blisters also form between the toes, due to rubbing. They can be avoided by spreading a little Vaseline between the toes to prevent friction.
An evening footbath, on the other hand, is very healthy, especially if, after washing your feet thoroughly, you spread a special fatigue cream on your skin. This should be repeated the next morning, as soon as you wake up. The results are surprising.

Conclusions
The feet are the most stressed part of the body, the main source of discomfort and pain, and it is no coincidence that they are the main topic of pilgrims’ discussions.
The quality of your shoes and socks is essential to prevent most of the problems you may have along the way: spare no expense, therefore, and devote time and attention to choosing the most suitable articles for you.

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The choice and preparation of the backpack

What to bring in your backpack? This is a problem that we face every time we prepare an excursion, but in the case of a long journey on foot it assumes a fundamental importance, and can make the difference between a wonderful experience and hell.

Those who face a long walking trip for the first time tend to put too much weight on their shoulders, without realizing that a heavy backpack greatly increases fatigue, and especially the stress on the back, joints and feet. Usually he realizes the problem after a few days of walking, sometimes when it’s too late to avoid the typical problems of excessive weight: back pain, inflammation of the joints, blisters on the feet.
A classic scene that we witness in the first stages of the Way of St. James is the shipment home of unnecessary items, or donation to other pilgrims who may need them. For this purpose, in each hostel there is a special space where pilgrims leave their shoes, sticks, sweaters, books and other heavy objects.
It is therefore necessary to devote maniacal care to the containment of the weight of the backpack, with the aim of staying well under 10 kg. The ideal solution is that the backpack does not exceed 10% of the pilgrim’s body weight, it seems incredible, but it is technically possible.

Reducing weight to a minimum
The goal can be achieved if:

  • you choose a backpack of excellent quality, lightweight, with a volume of 35-45 liters;
  • you avoid the use of cotton and natural fibers, and use technical synthetic clothing (even at low prices now you can find very light garments);
  • you choose a very light and compact sleeping bag;
  • you use a microfiber trekking towel;
  • carry only what is strictly necessary.

Moreover, it is necessary to keep in mind that along the Via Francigena one encounters inhabited centers at every stage, and therefore it is easy to shop during the trip.
It is necessary to evaluate the lightest solution for every single object that you want to bring with you, from the toothbrush to the guide on the route; for this purpose it is good to weigh every single object with a small digital kitchen scale, for example to compare two pairs of pants and choose the lightest one, or two underwear shirts, keeping in mind that the sum of small differences will make a big difference.
A lot of attention should be paid to accessories such as cameras or cell phones, which require chargers. Many cell phones allow you to take good photos so you should consider carrying only one multifunctional item. There are also super light chargers for cell phones on the market that can save you a lot of weight.
Shampoo, shower gel, detergents and cosmetics should be kept to a minimum: a small piece of Marseille soap can be used to wash yourself and your clothes, and the shampoo should be poured into a small container. What is left over will be used by pilgrims who arrive after us.
All this may seem like a sacrifice, but one of the most interesting aspects of the journey is the awareness of being able to live and travel with the few things you carry on your shoulders. A feeling of freedom without equal in the era of unbridled consumerism.

Wearing the backpack
Once you have lightened your backpack, you need to wear it correctly.
A backpack should not put too much weight on the shoulders, but especially on the pelvis. For this reason the “belt” should be as tight as possible, just above the hips. The shoulder straps should serve mainly to keep the backpack attached to the back and prevent it from moving: any unnecessary movement of the backpack consumes energy, and should therefore be avoided. For this purpose it is important to connect the two shoulder straps with the front elastic webbing.
The most sophisticated backpacks are equipped with adjustments to adapt to the height of the person, and to bring the upper part of the bag closer to the back, both very useful.
It is also important to fill the backpack correctly, in order to lower the center of gravity as much as possible: the heaviest objects must therefore be lower.
The backpack must be perfectly symmetrical: the shoulder straps must be adjusted in the same way, and above all it is necessary to avoid the typical mistake of loading a water bottle in one of the side pockets. The writer tried this on his last trip to Santiago, with the result of dislocating a shoulder blade during the first leg, and suffering severe pain the rest of the way.
The best solution for water is the use of a bag with a straw to insert inside the backpack, in a special pocket. The bag with a straw allows you to drink easily even while walking, improving hydration and decreasing the risk of tendonitis and heat stroke.
It is necessary to avoid hanging external loads that move, such as plastic bags, flasks, etc., again to avoid dissipating energy unnecessarily.

Be prepared for the possibility of encountering bad weather along the way, so protect your backpack with the appropriate waterproof cover and put all the contents in plastic bags, in case the rains are intense and continuous.
In addition to the upper opening, an opening in the middle of the backpack is very useful, allowing the division of the bag into two compartments.

Conclusions
The choice of the backpack is very important for the success of a walking trip. It is therefore good to devote time and attention, and an adequate budget. Today the market offers excellent t-shirts, pants or fleece at great prices, while a good backpack is usually quite expensive (usually around 100 Euro), but believe me: it’s money well spent!

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Interministerial meeting on The Via Francigena

Il Ministero della Cultura italiano – Direzione Generale delle Biblioteche, Istituti Culturali e Diritto d’Autore ha riconfermato il suo support all’itinerario europeo della Via Francigena nel corso del progetto PER VIAM, come già ampiamente dimostrato negli anni passati, attraverso il suo lavoro di validazione, georeferenziazione del percorso e realizzazione di un portale istituzionale, http://www.francigena.beniculturali.it .

Il Ministero ha portato la sua buona pratica nel corso di alcuni dei workshop del progetto e organizzato un incontro interministeriale a Roma che ha visto la partecipazione del Ministero del Turismo e Ministero dello Sviluppo Economico e permesso altresì un dialogo con gli Enti locali al fine di favorire un coordinamento nazionale a sostegno della Via Francigena.

Programma dell’incontro 

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Network of European Universities for The Via Francigena and the European pilgrimage routes

A network which includes specialists in several subjects and fosters multicultural dialogue through scientific research and exchange of best practices, in support of didactic and research activity on the Via Francigena and pilgrimage routes.

With the coordination of Università di Bologna, PER VIAM academic partners implemented a program of 7 workshops and 1 cartographic and photographic exhibition on the Via Francigena and pilgrimage routes. The last workshop announced the official launch of the European University NEtwork of Knowledge (EUNEK) Via Francigena and pilgrimage routes.

The first technical panel of the network took place in Rimini on January 16th 2013.

 

For more information about the European University Network of Knowledge Via Francigena and Pilgrimage routes and the seminars, please see the attached documents at the bottom of this page and visit the following web site:

http://www.turismo.unibo.it/Turismo/Attivita/EUNeK.htm

1st workshop EUNeK

Religious routes and European Universities, Old Cultural Crossroads of Knowledge . A Francigena project from Midle Age, 6th of June 2012, Pavia (Italy) – organized by Università di Pavia.

2nd workshop EUNeK

Pilgrimage Routes as Cultural and Religious Tourism in European and Mediterranean Destinations: Sharing Experiences and Best Practices, Barcelona and Montserrat-Manresa (Catalonia, Spain), 9 – 10th July 2012 – organized by Universitat de Barcelona / Ibertur.

 

3rd workshop EUNeK

The role of the network in the development of the Via Francigena of the south, 16th July 2012, Rome – organized by Società Geografica Italiana.

4th workshop EUNeK

Colloque itinérant dans Paris, à travers trois endroits du « Carré d’Or » de Paris mis en place par l’UFIC, 12th October 2012, Paris – organized by Université Paris Sorbonne.

 

5th workshop

Politics and tools for the enhancement of the tourist destinations along the Via Francigena, 21th November 2012, Lucca and Altopascio (Italy) – organized by Fondazione Campus Studi del Mediterraneo.

 

6th Workshop EUNeK

The Via Francigena in Southern Italy and the routes in the Mediterranean area, Vaste -Poggiardo (LE) organized by Università del Salento, 7th December 2012.

 

7th Final Workshop EUNeK

Tourism and Landscape along the Via Francigena: a persistent network of knowledge for European territorial development, 16th -17th -18th January 2013, Rimini – organized by Università di Bologna. Scuola Superiore di Scienze Turistiche.

 

Pavia workshop

Colloque Paris Routes Culturelles

La Via Francigena nella cartografia storica e nel patrimonio fotografico della società geografica italiana

Lecce workshop

Lucca workshoop

Barcelona workshop

Il ruolo della rete nello sviluppo della Via Francigena del Sud

Rimini workshop

 

 

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Network of European regions along The Via Francigena : meetings in Florence (IT) and in Châlons-en-Champagne (FR)

The project Per Viam strongly encouraged a coordinated dialogue on a European dimension among the regional administrations crossed by The Via Francigena (14 regions) in order to encourage a common approach and find shared solutions on issues concerning all The Via (signposting, hospitality, European events, information and communication policies, etc.). Regione Toscana has developed in these years very good practices on planning and implementation of The Via Francigena product in the region. This action was thus lead by Regione Toscana and EAVF.

Two meetings took place in Florence, on 18th May 2012 and in Châlons-en-Champagne, on 24th and  January 2013, the latter hosted by Région Champagne-Ardenne. These meetings let all regional administrations and associations present the state of art of Via Francigena implementation in all European regions and increase a coordinated and integrated dialogue among them.

All the regions having participated at these meetings (10 regions out of 14) affirmed the importance to create a European interregional coordinating committee for The Via Francigena. The priority axis of cooperation within the Interregional Coordinating Committee were defined and approved in Châlons-en-Champagne.

Agenda Meeting Chalons-en-Champagne

Meeting presentations:

 

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Festival Via Francigena Collective Project 2012

The project PER VIAM – Pilgrims’ routes in Actions supported the Festival Via Francigena Collective Project 2012. The European Association of Vie Francigene, in cooperation with Civita Association promoted the second edition of the European Festival “Via Francigena Collective Project”, a great festival which gathered many activities organized by the territories, enhancing their outstanding cultural, religious and artistic features linked to the ancient pilgrimage route.

The second edition of the Festival took place from June to September 2012 and gathered more than 200 events. Via Francigena partners in all four countries crossed by this pilgrimage route – Italy, Switzerland, France and England – participated through actions enhancing the local living culture and benefited from a European common communication and targeted promotion of the axis “from Canterbury to Jerusalem”. The final event took place in Canterbury on September 30th 2012.

The Festival represents an important European initiative encouraging active participation of the whole network of Via Francigena. Therefore, the Festival was a fundamental step in the implementation of the European Project “PER VIAM Pilgrims’ Routes in Action” leaded by the EAVF.

Find the brochure of the 2012 edition at the following link:
http://www.francigena.provincia.siena.it/attachments/brochure_francigena_collective_project.pdf

 

Final press conference

Walk in the footsteps of pilgrims

 

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The project PER VIAM – Pilgrims’ Routes in Action was launched in Turin

The kick-off meeting of the European project Per Viam – Pilgrims’ Routes in Action was held in Turin at the headoffice of SiTI- Higher Institute on Territorial System for Innovation, on 4th April 2012.

The project PER VIAM is coordinated by the European Association of Via Francigena in partnership with Italian Ministry of Cultural Affairs, European Institute of Cultural Routes, Regione Toscana, Canterbury City Council, Università di Bologna, SiTI – Higher Institute on Territorial System for Innovation, Nidaros Pilgrim Center.

During the meeting project partners could exchange about project objectives, expected results as well as planning project activities during the 12 months of project implementation. Project PER VIAM aims at improving European governance of Via Francigena as well as launch a platform of exchange with other pilgrimage routes certified by the Council of Europe: Saint Olav Way, Saint James of Compostela Pilgrims’ Routes, the Route of Saint Martin of Tours, Saint Michael’s Way.

 

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Myra Stals will be the face of the EAVF for the event “Via Francigena Road to Rome 2021. Start Again!”

Dutch, polyglottal and cosmopolitan 36-year-old Myra Stals has just joined the staff of the European Association of the Via Francigena Ways – the EAVF. She will be the Social Media Manager of the event “Road to Rome 2021” as will walk and cycle along the entire 3,200-km route from Canterbury to Rome and Santa Maria di Leuca.

Myra’s face and voice will be on the social media of the Association every day to tell us about her long journey. Pictures, livestreaming, podcasts, videos and radio interviews – she will have a number of tools available to get people to follow her on the journey. Video makers, bloggers, influencers will always be with her, along with all the pilgrims that the cheerful “Road to Rome 2021” group will meet on the Via Francigena. Members of the EAVF staff will also be present along the itinerary: Luca Bruschi, Luca Faravelli, Angelofabio Attolico, Jacques Chevin, Edgar Lebras, Elena Dubinina, Sami Tawfik, Micol Sozzi, Eleonora Martinelli, Marika Massotti, Martina D’Agostino, Sara Louise Costa, Nicole Franciolini, and Garance Potier.

“I’m in trepidation. I can’t wait to start this big adventure! Mentally, I’m more than ready. Physically, I know I must train carefully for the event because I know it will be demanding”. It is not the first time that Myra has embarked on such an adventure: in the last years she has travelled 16,000 km throughout Europe by bicycle for her project Cycle 2 Recycle.

“I’m super happy I have received my new Garmont shoes and my Ferrino backpack, so that I can start using them in training and make them perfect for me in these last weeks before the departure. I’ll be more than ready on the 16th of June!“, she says enthusiastically. “Anyway, I know that the mental challenge will be the hardest part because I will have to speak with many different people every day and I won’t have any quiet moment to recharge my batteries – very different from what I’m used to when travelling by bicycle. However, people will be my strength, not my weakness”. Myra says she feels the responsibility to represent the EAVF during such an important event; however, there’s not single hint of concern in her words, only huge pride. After all, she is the perfect ambassador for the Via Francigena: a world citizen speaking several languages and knowing different cultures, a “slow” traveller with an eye for sustainability. In other words, she embodies all that EAVF values.

Have a nice long journey, Myra!

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A tastier Via Francigena, with MITO single portions of Parmigiano Reggiano

Three new “Stop & Taste” spots are now open where pilgrims can have a taste of delicious Parmigiano Reggiano thanks to an agreement between the European Association of Via Francigena ways (EAVF), the Consortium of Parmigiano Reggiano and the Official Via Francigena Magazine emitted by editor Studio Guidotti.

We may hypothesise that Sigeric, archbishop who travelled between Rome and Canterbury in 990 a.d. describing his 79 itinerary stages in a diary – now base for the development of the route of the Francigena – had a chance to taste one of the earliest forms of Parmigiano Reggiano during his passage in the province of Parma.

This leads to the idea that modern pilgrims should have an experiential visit along the Via Francigena, devoted to the discovery of Parmigiano Reggiano. The title “Stop & Taste” already underlines the nature and the intention of the project: pilgrims are now able to stop at locations that take part in the initiative and taste this product, discover its characteristics, such as various aging techniques, and explore the variety of production sites spread across the thirteen municipalities in the province of Parma along the Via Francigena.

The list of locations taking part in the initiative is quite long, building a flavourful network of actors who want the Via Francigena experience to be increasingly special and tasty. The list can also be explored on the official EAVF website, in the purposely made section “Sosta e Gusta”.

  • Twenty cheese factories
  • Five markets
  • Fourty-one restaurants

The real news for Spring 2021 is the inauguration of three “Stop & Taste” spots in

  • Fidenza: Ufficio Turistico IAT Casa Cremonini Piazza Duomo, phone +39 524 83377
    From April to October: every day, from 9.30 to 12.30 and from 15.00 to 18.00.
    From November to March: from Tuesday to Sunday, from 9.00 to 12.30 and from 15.00 to 17.30. Closed on Mondays. Closed 25 – 26 December and 1 January.
  • Fornovo di Taro: Ufficio Turistico IAT Via XXIV Maggio 2, phone + 39 346 9536300
    Open year-round from Monday to Sunday. From Monday to Friday 8.30/12.30- 15/17; Saturday 8,30/12,30; Sunday 9/12
  • Berceto: Info Point, Piazza Don Giovanni Bosco 2, tel. +39 5251939109
    Open every day from 9:00 to 13:00

Pilgrims who visit these three “Stop & Taste” locations will receive a ‘MITO’ single portion of Parmigiano Reggiano and an informative pamphlet about the collaboration, explaining where to find this precious cheese along the Via Francigena. Whoever feels comfortable with it will also be photographed with their special sample, to share images on EAVF’s social media and with project partners.