Social Media Manager and English translator of the Via Francigena, Sara Louise is a multitasking juggler passionate about nature, music, and mindfulness. She’s writing on the social media on the one hand, collecting suggestions and opinions from the community of walkers on the other. While telling you our story of the Via Francigena, she’s hoping to listen to yours too.
On 26 – 29 June in the cities of Lillehammer, Gjøvik and Trondheim in Norway took place a General Meeting for rurAllure – European Horizon 2020 project and network focused on enhancement of cultural heritage along the European routes.
The EAVF, project partner in charge of communication and research of thermal heritage along the Via Francigena, was represented by Luca Bruschi, director, Elena Dubinina, responsible for international relations and European projects, and Simona Spinola, communication manager.
The event, organized by the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), was attended by 40 representatives of the cultural routes involved in the three-year project, from the Camino de Santiago, Via Romea Germanica, Via Romea Strata, the Way of Mary and the St Olav way together with numerous partners from all over Europe and local stakeholders related to slow tourism.
At the center of the meeting was the launch of the first European Cooperation Network along the Pilgrimage Routes
The rurAllure network was founded on 27 June 2023 in Gjøvik by the Foundation Home Viator for Via Romea Strata, the European Association of the Via Francigena ways on behalf of the Via Francigena and MUTKE – Mária Út Közhasznú Egyesület for the Way of Mary.
The network, open to all stakeholders working on historic walking routes, is focused on promotion of sustainable slow tourism, exchange of best practices at European level, networking and project development.
The Meeting in Norway also provided an opportunity to conduct a study trip along the St Olav Way in Norway, managed by the National Pilgrim Center. The route, which connects Oslo with Trondheim along 640km, has its terminus in the majestic Nidaros Cathedral.
The EAVF team visited a few regional pilgrim centers in charge of the route development in the territories crossed and cultural sites such as house museum of Sigrid Undset, one of the most important writers in the country, winner of a Nobel prize; Maihaugen – an open air museum in Lillehammer and a few traditional stave churches in Norway.
The final event of the meeting was hosted by the Nidaros pilgrim center in Trondheim with opening speeches by Ingeborg Collin, its director and Hans Morten Løvrød, director of the National Pilgrim Center and the European route of St Olav.
Nutrition should always be balanced, both to ensure the right amount of energy and to satisfy the palate. If you practice outdoor activities, such as hiking or cycling for one or more days, you should balance nutrients in the right proportions. Experts recommend considering in your diet 50% carbohydrates, 20% fat and 30% protein for a proper balance and well-being, especially when active outdoors.
During a walk, especially during the more strenuous stretches, it is important not to burden the stomach, but to recharge the body with protein-rich foods, such as legumes, cheese, eggs, fish and meat. These are important foods in the Mediterranean diet, a model considered to be on the safe side for health and longevity, helping to strengthen muscles, containing 40 per cent of the body’s protein, and supplying it with the protein it needs before and after exercise.
So how can a correct food intake help you during your journey?
1. Say yes to ‘Carbohydrates’, but make sure not to exaggerate
Compared to protein, the intake of carbohydrates plays a more important role during physical activity, because they are the necessary fuel for all phases of the walk. A nice plate of rice, accompanied by vegetables and fruit, facilitates the assimilation of starches and thus provides lasting energy. Be careful with your choice and quantity, because in addition to weighing you down, a disproportionate consumption of bread, pasta, rusks, biscuits, etc. can lead to bloating and drowsiness. Better to opt for complex carbohydrates, such as whole-grain and oat products, which do not create glycaemic peaks and give a sense of satiety thanks to their slow-release of energy.
2. Lots of protein before the hike… for your muscle recovery!
In the days before the journey, protein-packed lunches and dinners of legume soups or fish accompanied by a portion of vegetables are essential as they contribute to cellular formation and to stocking up on energy. Pancakes with bresaola and parmesan cheese flakes, yogurt, honey and muesli, boiled, scrambled or soft-boiled eggs, on the other hand, are a good source of protein to start a walk or cycle, because these nutrients have a plastic function, i.e. repairing muscle tissue thanks to their richness in amino acids.
3. More protein: during and after the hike… but keep an eye on fat levels!
When choosing lunch, make sure you accompany a sandwich with legumes or fish to choose foods that are light and nutritious. Above all, this food is useful because a continuous supply of protein, when exercising, leads your body to produce energy and stabilise the glycaemic curve, preventing your muscles from tearing. Avocado can be useful for maintaining the reserve of ‘healthy’ fats, an indispensable source of energy and protein, but without overdoing! On the way back, to recharge and restore the glycogen energy reserve, a nice plate of legumes s- uch as chickpeas, beans and peas – can complement a well-deserved plate of pasta.
4. A valuable reserve? Build up a mine of vitamins and minerals
Walking or cycling a lot and for a long time, whatever the season, inevitably causes a lot of sweating and a loss of fluids, i.e. mineral salts. This iswhy – in addition to drinking regularly – it is essential to consume small quantities of fresh, dehydrated and dried fruit. In addition to hydrating the organism, fruit is easily digestible, ensures a continuous supply of vitamins that the body is unable to produce itself and offers support in the event of low blood sugar.
5. With ready-made meat, the backpack is lighter and more sustainable
For omnivores, meat protein allows to take in most of the essential amino acids, the ones that the body cannot produce by itself yet contribute to muscle protein synthesis: an excellent solution for muscle maintenance and tissue repair, which the body easily absorbs.
Meat is a source of minerals such as iron (heme), zinc, and selenium, which serve respectively for the formation of haemoglobin and thus oxygenation of tissues during physical activity, for tissue growth and repair, and support the visual and olfactory systems, as well as acting as antioxidants. A low iron intake can reduce your sports performance while travelling, as well as other functions. Another important component of meat is vitamin B12, which is involved in red blood cell formation, protein synthesis, tissue maintenance, and energy conversion.
Carrying meat with you during a hike poses the problem of how to preserve it so that it does not lose its nutritional properties, especially when temperatures rise, and of cooking it without weighing down your backpack. Fortunately, there are ready-made products on the market that can easily solve this dilemma, such as those proposed by Carne Montana. When choosing meat for your trip, always pay attention to the taste but also to the origin, and prefer brands that transparently communicate their commitment to the environment. Carne Montana has created practical, tasty and light products with 100% meat from Italian farms and produced in a short supply chain. A practical solution that fills the stomach, but not the backpack!
From Caselette and Avigliana to Villar Focchiardo in the Susa Valley by bicycle: a dream, called Ciclovia Francigena, has now become reality. With the completion of the first two lots of the cycle path, covering over 35 km, on Saturday 3 June 2023, in the presence of the local administrators, the ribbon was officially cut on this great project for the sustainable promotion of tourism in the area, implemented by the Unione Montana Valle Susa. A cycle-tourist route along the Piedmont section of the Via Francigena – the realisation of which had been started during the previous administration – which joins the great 680 km VenTo (Venice-Turin) and AIdA (Alta Italia da Attraversare) cycle routes.
The resulting itinerary, which winds gently along the valley floor allowing people to enjoy the beauty of the landscape off the busy roads, is still ‘work in progress’. Indeed, work is continuing on the continuation of the cycle path, with the aim of connecting Villar Focchiardo to Bussoleno (the third lot). But the real ambition is to go as far as Moncenisio, creating an overall itinerary of 62 km. In fact, the participatory planning with the municipalities of Val Cenischia will soon be concluded: once completed, it will then be necessary to seek funds for the implementation of the fourth and final lot.
Click here to discover all our advice for preparing to cycle the Francigena.
“Those who preceded me rightly thought of the bicycle as a pioneer for the development of the territory,” explained the president of the Unione Montana, Pacifico Banchieri. “Unfortunately, between thinking and succeeding in realizing such a project, many years pass and many difficulties have to be overcome. So if we manage, with so much effort, to inaugurate this important piece of the cycle path, we can say that it is a success and a great satisfaction for everyone, from the officials who worked on it to the administrations that took turns. I am convinced that this cycle path serves first and foremost as a service for our territory, available to citizens who want to get around by bicycle or do sport. But it can also serve to bring development and tourism and to make the valley richer, more beautiful and more attractive“.
For former president Sandro Plano, “this work is a symbol of how the Mountain Unions truly represent the essence of territorial policies. The cycle path embraces an entire valley and the fact that a body has thought of an infrastructure that links the whole territory is something that makes us reflect. I therefore want to thank the administrators who carried out the project, but above all the technicians, in particular Mauro Parisio and his colleagues, who did an exceptional job“.
[Press release by the Unione Montana Valle Susa Press Office].
In Auchy-au-Bois, a small French municipality of 500 inhabitants located in the Pas-de-Calais department in the Hauts-de-France region, the first square on the Via Francigena dedicated to Sigeric was inaugurated on Saturday 24 June.
It is an important example of how the Via Francigena is increasingly becoming an element of identity and a reminder of the cultural roots among the territories crossed by the European route. Today, a total of 715 municipalities see in Sigeric’s itinerary a uniting fil rouge.
This beautiful square, containing a large green space, a small library to exchange books, a shaded area and benches to rest, therefore becomes a meeting place between local inhabitants and the travellers who arrive on foot from all over the world by following the itinerary.
As Mayor Jean-Francois Del Place mentioned during the opening greeting, this square represents an important symbol for a small village enhanced precisely by the Via Francigena and its international cultural and tourist dimensions.
The square is an important “symbol of renewal for the village of Auchy-au-bois, but also a symbol of modernity, mobility of social inclusion that focuses on the use of public spaces.”
Institutional participation in the event was sustained with speeches by Bertrand Petit, MP for Pas-de-Calais; Olivier Gacquerre, Mayor of Bethune and President of the Agglomeration Béthune-Bruay, Artois-Lys Romane; Amel Gacquerre, Senator for Pas-de-Calais and Regional Councilwoman for Hauts-de-France; and Eddie Bouttera, Sub-Prefect of Bethune. Also present were Didier Depauw, councilor of the Agglomeration Béthune-Bruay, Artois-Lys Romane and Franck Laine, general manager of Bethune.
To testify to the validity of the initiative within the EAVF network, President Massimo Tedeschi, Vice President Martine Gautheron and Director Luca Bruschi attended the ceremony.
The completion of work on the new hostel on the Via Francigena in the Parma section in Felegara (Medesano) was inaugurated in the presence of the Mayor of Medesano Michele Giovanelli, EAVF’s Vice-President Francesco Ferrari, the President of the Province Andrea Massari and the President of the Emilia-Romagna Region Stefano Bonaccini.
The hospice is dedicated to former President of the European Parliament David Sassoli, who passed away last year.
The facility will be fully operational by the beginning of 2024 and will accommodate 24 beds. The project is part of a package of interventions, explains the Emilia-Romagna Region, which concerns, in addition to the hostel for pilgrims, the redesigning of a small section of the route to make it more accessible and connect it to the cycling path between Medesano and Felegara, already completed, and the renovation of an adjacent Tower House that will become a cultural centre – currently being completed, with works due to be completed by 2023.
The hostel, with a total cost of 1.2 million euro, was financed with 452,000 euro of regional contributions from Por-Fesr funds, over 428,000 euro from the Municipality of Medesano, and additional funds from local companies, the Diocese of Parma and Cariparma.
Mayor Giovanelli expressed words of great satisfaction: “We are grateful to all those who contributed because they share the vision of usefulness of this pilgrim reception to improve accommodation and implement services along the Via Francigena. The recovery of disused buildings and urban regeneration are and will always be at the centre of our administrative activity“.
After the great success of the first edition, on 1 June the photo contest dedicated to the most striking photos and videos along cultural routes in Europe starts again. “Share your route” is the initiative launched by the European project rurAllure, which communication is managed by the EAVF. The contest is aimed at pilgrims, walkers, cyclists and tourists who want to document and share their experience on the Via Francigena and other paths on their social media networks.
Participating is very simple! Just follow these 3 simple steps:
Publish by 30 September a post or reel on your Instagram, Facebook or Twitter profile sharing your travel experience and the cultural heritage along the route.
Tag the location of the shot, like and tag the @rurAllure page (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram), and don’t forget to include the contest hashtag #rurallure. It is essential that your profile is public, so to be certain that we will not miss your post.
Don’t hesitate to share a short text describing your experience, your emotions on the road, or your tips and tricks for other travellers: we will take it into account as well!
Via Francigena and many other itineraries
If you are travelling along one of the following routes, you can enter the photo contest:
Via Francigena. Don’t forget that you can be guided along your walk by the AllTrails App, which reserves a discount on the premium version for walks during this high season. The app, allows you to get the ‘trails’, i.e. the routes in the area for easy walking according to difficulty or other characteristics.
Via Romea Strata
Via Romea Germanica
Camino de Santiago
Sant’Olav Way – the pilgrimage routes to Trondheim (Norway) across Norway, Denmark and Sweden
Paths to Csíksomlyó / Mary’s Way / Via Mariae / Mária út
If there are too many photos to choose from, you can publish them all: a special prize will be awarded to the person who posts the highest amount of photos, while another category will reward the author of the most interesting publication.
The deadline for posting photos and videos is 30 September 2023. After that date simply stay tuned through rurAllure’s website and social media channels for the announcement of the winners: the announcement will take place on 16 October 2023.
Eating well along the route is very important – not only to recover after walking several kilometres, but to stay healthy throughout the journey. The Via Francigena and its partner Montana continue to promote slow tourism throughout the Italian peninsula, together with an idea of sustainable nutrition, without giving up tasty flavours, with the Cammini Montana initiative.
The right nutritional intake during the journey
With the Cammini Montana initiative, the company intends to enhance the experience of a pilgrimage, such as the journey on the Via Francigena. This happens through the stories of a large community of walkers who love outdoor activity or have recently discovered this passion and want to undertake the itinerary with the right amount of energies, proteins and taste – to make the journey even more enjoyable.
Hence, Montana meat, accompanied by a slice of crunchy bread, can be a good compromise between a dish rich in ingredients – which can however make you feel heavy and lead to drowsiness – and a meal that is too poor or unbalanced in terms of nutrients and energy.
For a proper protein intake and a tasty meal, what is the best way to eat canned meat? You can combine different elements and create quick recipes such as garlic, coriander, beans, chickpeas, olives, feta, mozzarella… there are no limits to imagination, never forgetting to keep quality and sustainability in mind! So, watch out for the best products and above all, don’t leave any waste behind you!
Flavoured meat, yes or no?
How to season your meat without adding excessive fat or salt, is a recurring question that becomes even more pressing if you want to prepare a dish that is nutritious but not too caloric for the walk.
To overcome this, there is no need to think of incredibly unexpected versions of spiced meat. The secret is always simplicity and a balance between an appropriate nutritional intake and a yummy flavour. Montana has thus come up with a product that combines meat and vegetables and is a great Italian classic: gluten-free and preservative-free veal stew with peas, ready for use in only a few minutes (because it is already cooked!). Perfect to take on hikes and suitable for the entire family.
We can only wish you bon appetite…and buon cammino!
The Mauri Area of Banca Generali Private has been supporting the Via Francigena for many years now, organizing and supporting a number of initiatives such as the walk-events “I Love Francigena”. We interviewed Enzo Ruini, Sales Manager of the banking company, to delve into the ongoing collaboration with the EAVF.
Tell us about your personal passion for the world of walking and cycling itineraries and the Via Francigena in particular
I grew up in the countryside surrounding Florence with a passion for geographyas a relationship between man and nature. Despite the countryside was mostly neglected at the time, I developed such an attention to slow travel in the mid-1970s, at the point that I decided to involve my family and friends. Since then, many routes and paths have become central to slow tourism. The Via Francigena – of which I appreciate the richness oflandscapes and cultural heritage as well as the state of maintenance and accessibility – is certainly an example, and can be a driving force to revive the areas of Italy that are off the beaten tracks.
What does “sustainability” mean to Banca Generali Private and what pillars does the company lay upon to create a long-term system of values?
Even though we have a future-oriented attitude, we cannot forget about sustainability, which is the first pillar of the Bank’s corporate strategy as well as our modus operandi to relate with stakeholders; it is a core value, linked to the growth and enhancement of people, to the care for social contexts and environmental impacts. The other pillar is the trustful relationship between customers and their financial advisors. Their role goes beyond business goals in order to spread responsible investment principles and to contribute to sustainable development based on integrity, social responsibility and innovation.
The Via Francigena creates a network of local communities, people and companies. How do the values of Banca Generali Private intersect with the sustainable development of the areas crossed by the Via Francigena?
Banca Generali, which ranks first in the world – according to Sustainalytics – in the asset manager category as for the new ESG rating (Environmental, Social and Governance), cannot avoid walking side by side with the Association; in fact, we share the same respect for the land and its diversity, for natural and human biodiversity and for those values enshrined by ancient routes like the Via Francigena.
In the end, as the American entrepreneur James Rohn once said: “the key factor that will determine your financial future is not the economy; the key factor is your philosophy”.
The beautiful Town Hall of Calais (Hauts-de-France, France) was the setting for the General Assembly of the European Association of the Via Francigena ways (EAVF), held on 26 May.
The EAVF network, réseau porteur of the Council of Europe for the protection and development of the Via Francigena, extends to 232 members along the entire European route and 92 friend associations.
The Assembly was introduced by EAVF’s President Massimo Tedeschi, and the Mayor of Calais Natacha Bouchart gave the official welcome on behalf of the entire local administration. On the agenda was the approval of the final balance sheets 2022 of EAVF and the subsidiary Francigena Service S.r.l. and the forecast balance sheets 2023. The balance sheet was presented in detail and transparently to all members and those who attended the proceedings. Among the other items discussed: an update on the activities in the English, French, Swiss and Italian sections; the presentation of the EAVF Strategic Plan 2023-2025; updates on the Council of Europe’s evaluation for the renewal of the certification to EAVF and on the progress of the project for the candidature of the Via Francigena as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Two significant moments
Two particularly significant moments also took place during the meeting. Firstly, the presentation of the public aknowledgements that AEVF awards to personalities who have distinguished themselves for their great work in support of the Via Francigena. The award went to Rev. Sandy Brown, pilgrim, writer and author of the three official guides on the Via Francigena from Canterbury to Rome published by the Cicerone Publishing House in London. Also awarded were Didier Morel, contact person of the Arras Compostela Francigena Association, for his great support for the ‘Road to Rome 2021‘ project and the development of the route in France, and Brigitte Soulary, President of the French Hiking Association (FFR) with whom the AEVF has signed a promotion agreement to promote the VF – GR 145 in the French section.
This ceremony was accompanied by the awarding of the prizes for international good practices along the Via Francigena. From over 80 proposals received, three initiatives were selected that combined culture, tourism and territorial development. The good practices collected by AEVF will be made available to all members to make them known internationally. The three prizes were awarded to the Kent Pilgrims Festival 2022, organised by the Confraternity of Pilgrims to Rome, to the theatrical performance ‘The Legend of Sigeric‘ by the Amata Compagnie, and to the project ‘Your step is already history‘, promoted by the association ‘La Via Francigena in Tuscia-APS‘ and the municipality of Viterbo.
The new EAVF members
At the end of the assembly, 17 new members were welcomed: Union of Municipalities of the Pays de Lumbres, municipalities of Zudausques, Allouagne, Bruay-la-Buissière (Pas-de-Calais, Hauts-de-France); municipalities of Framont, Autet, Etuz (Haute-Saône, Bourgogne-Franche-Comté); municipality École-Valentin (Doubs, Bourgogne-Franche-Comté); municipalities of Cossonay and Villeneuve (Vaud); municipalities of Saint-Vincent and Issogne (Valle d’Aosta); municipalities of Capranica (Viterbo, Lazio) and Bassiano (Latina, Lazio); municipalities of Martano, Andrano, Tricase (Lecce, Puglia). The growing number of local authorities joining the EAVF (1 English, 42 French, 16 Swiss, 173 Italian) testifies to the level of awareness of the local territories to work together to continue to grow the Via Francigena in all its dimensions.
Finally, four new friend associations are also welcomed: L’Abbaye de Mormant revivra (Leffonds, Haute-Marne, Grand Est), Iride ASD (Rivoli, Turin, Piedmont), Asini nel Cuore APS (Sala Baganza, Parma, Emilia-Romagna), Toscana Vie Francigene 2.0 APS (Monteriggioni, Tuscany). Finally, the variant to stage 16 Orio Litta-Piacenza and the variant to stages 36-37 for Abbadia S. Salvatore were approved.
At the end of the meeting, it was announced that the next members’ meeting will be held in Pavia, on 20 October 2023, with the support of the municipal administration.
From 18 to 21 May 2023 the town of Fidenza hosted the Francigena Fidenza Festival, an event entirely dedicated to the Via Francigena and European cultural routes. Among the numerous activities taking place during the third edition of the Francigena Fidenza Festival was the photographic exhibition “Cammini in Europa“, which shared shots taken by pilgrims from all over Europe during their walking or cycling trips with institutions and the public.
Share your route
The exhibition is combined with the “Share your route” photo contest organised by the European Horizon2020 project rurAllure, which last summer launched a call on social media to involve pilgrims and tourists walking along the routes: the three Vie Romee, the Way of St. James, the Way of St. Olav and the Way of Mary. More than 3,000 photos were collected during the summer of 2022, which recounted on Instagram and Facebook the “on the road” experiences through images of the most significant moments.
During the exhibition in Fidenza, some shots from the routes were projected in loop on a canvas positioned at the apse of the church, while the winning images of each category were displayed on roll-ups accompanied by the biographies and stories of each traveller. More than 50 people took part in the inauguration, which opened with greetings from Mayor Andrea Massari and the Councillor for Culture Maria Pia Bariggi, and continued with musical accompaniment by singer-songwriter Jack Jaselli, author of the book ‘Torno a Casa a Piedi‘. One of the highlights of the inauguration was the award ceremony for some of the winners of rurAllure‘s photo contest, such as @Nappatravels who shared their experience with the present public.
rurAllure and the promotion of European cultural routes
More than 50 events enlivened the four-day festival, including exhibitions, walks, guided tours, in-depth studies, projects for schools, concerts and entertainment. “The beautiful way of Europe” is the claim chosen this year, a reminder of the thread between the past and the future that celebrates the union between the realms of itineraries, culture and spirituality, food and wine and the promotion of the territory.
The Festival was also an opportunity to present a Council of Europe Cultural Route, and this year’s choice fell on the Saint Olav’s Way through Norway. The second edition of the rurAllure photo-contest returns on 1 June 2023 with the aim of giving space for expression to pilgrims on their way across Europe.
EAVF General Assembly, Pavia (Italy) | 20 October 2023