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.
New year, new events on the Via Francigena together with Coop: our partnership is renewed and the 2023 calendar is enriched with 16 organized hikes, free of charge and suitable for everyone, including two excursions by bike.
Coop is one of Italy’s largest retail chains. By involving its 6 million members, it wishes to promote a healthy and sustainable lifestyle, organising with the EAVF the well-known ‘I Love Francigena‘ events in the Italian regions of Piedmont, Lombardy, Emilia-Romagna, Liguria, Tuscany, Lazio and Apulia across April, May, June, September and October.
The excursions are organised by the European Association of Via Francigena way with the operational support of Francigena Service S.r.l., aiming to explore and promote cultural, historical and natural heritage as well as the products of local gastronomy along the route. The trails we will follow are suitable for everyone and groups will always be accompanied by an expert hiking guide.
Want to participate? Check out the dates below, sign up and join us for the stages you prefer!
◆ HERE IS THE HIKING CALENDAR 2023 ◆
Saturday 15 April – Liguria, from Castelnuovo Magra to Sarzana: sign up here.
Sunday 16 April – Tuscany, from Torrenieri to Bagno Vignoni: sign up here.
Saturday 22 April – Emilia-Romagna, from Fidenza to Salsomaggiore Terme: sign up here.
Sunday 23 April – Emilia-Romagna, from Costamezzana to Medesano: sign up here.
On 25 March 2023, a meeting was held in Milan on ‘Slow tourism, towards the Jubilee 2025: the role of the Via Francigena ways and the routes connecting Rome‘ as part of the ‘Fa’ la cosa giusta!‘ fair, at which EAVF‘s President Massimo Tedeschi and Director Luca Bruschi spoke with the Italian Minister of Tourism Daniela Santanchè.
It was a nice discussion to talk about the development of the Via Francigena as the backbone for the future of the walking system in Italy. It was a meeting organised by Terre di Mezzo Editore and the EAVF on the occasion of the great annual fair dedicated to walking itineraries.
Miriam Giovanzana, director of Terre di Mezzo Editore, led the talk dialoguing with her guests. She also introduced a reflection on the development of the Via Francigena and walking routes in view of the Jubilee in 2025.
This very event will be a great opportunity for the entire network of slow routes and for the city of Rome to welcome travelers from all over the world. In fact, 25 million pilgrims are expected in Rome, but the hope is that at least 100,000 will get there on foot or by bicycle, choosing the slow way of travelling following the ancient bundle of roads of the Vie Romee.
Santanchè’s speech focused on the government’s intention to pursue the slow travel project with determination. It is in fact a motor for tourism and economic development in Italy. A catalogue with the first 35 Italian religious routes has been published on the Ministry of Tourism website: a slow and sustainable form of tourism that becomes even more topical in view of the Jubilee. Santanchè recalled that ‘the Via Francigena can become our Way to Santiago de Compostela, attracting an increasingly international audience. The ENIT offices in the world can become an important promotional tool and a flywheel to make the Way known‘.
The dialogue between the speakers also focused on highly topical issues related to the walking network. Route maintenance, signposting and reception, as well as monitoring the flow of walkers, are increasingly central.
Today, the Via Francigena is preparing for 2025 with significant restyling and safety work on the entire Italian section. This is happening thanks to a 13 million euro investment made available by the Ministry of Culture with the Culture strand of the 2014-2020 Cohesion and Development Plan funds. This is the largest route regeneration initiative to date.
This fund also includes two million euros for communication and digital development of the route, as well as one million euros to advance the candidacy dossier of the Via Francigena as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The city of Calais, source of inspiration for many artists, is a symbolic place of the Via Francigena, where pilgrims arrive after crossing the Channel Strait, embarking from the city of Dover (Kent, England).
The General Assembly, in Calais as in each of its semestral editions, brings together the 224 members and 80 EAVF friend associations operating in the four countries of the Via Francigena: England, France, Switzerland and Italy. The number of members has been growing in recent years, demonstrating the importance of this international network, which was founded in 2001 and has been recognised as réseau porteur by the Council of Europe since 2007.
The plenary meeting, at the splendid Town Hall of Calais, will be on Friday 26 May from 14.00 to 18.00 and will bring up the discussion of very significant points for the EAVF and for the future of the Via Francigena: the final balance sheet and the provisional budget, the UNESCO candidacy, the strategic plan 2023-2025, the international planning, the best practices among territories for the promotion of the route. On the morning of 26 May there will be an institutional meeting with the French municipalities for an update on the Via Francigena and UNESCO candidacy.
Here is the programme for the 25 May walk from Calais to Wissant, France:
Departure from Wissant Place de l’église at 9.30 am. To reach Wissant, there are 2 possibilities:
Park your car in Calais, near the train station, then take the line 427 bus from Wissant at 8.16 am (arrival in Wissant at 9 am)
Drive directly to Wissant and then take the bus to Wissant in the afternoon on arrival in Calais (16.45 and 18.23).
The show “La légende de Sigeric” will be performed in Calais at 5 pm. There will be a snack break during the hike.
The Via Francigena, cultural route of the Council of Europe, is growing in popularity with international pilgrims coming from more than 40 countries. In 2022, approximately 50,000 walkers walked at least seven-day on the VF. The passage of these cultural tourists generates great benefits and economic impact for the territories, but at the same time makes it necessary to increase the infrastructure of the route, accommodation, and signposting.
Embarking on a long journey along the Via Francigena is not an impossible quest but is certainly demanding. It requires physical preparation and appropriate equipment. Above all, it is important to choose the right footwear, as the feet become our main means of transport! The trail is suitable for both walking and cycling and on our website, in the ‘itinerary’ section, GPX tracks are available for both modes of travel. This is why our technical partner now offers the new 9.81 HI-RIDE hybrid shoe!
Walking the Via Francigena is becoming more and more hybrid: now even more with the new 9.81 HI-RIDE shoe
The European Association of the Via Francigena ways (EAVF) analysed the flow of pilgrims over the years. 2022 showed a significant increase in the number of those who decided to walk the route. Pilgrims mainly travel on foot, but, in addition to people opting for cycling alone, there is an abundance of ramblers deciding to undertake a mix of these two modes of travel.
The Via Francigena’s technical partner Garmont has hit the nail on the head: by analysing these new trends, it developed an innovative product, suitable for those who love to cycle but who do not give up walking when they get a chance, alternating according to the stretches of the itinerary and varying inclination of the path. Hence, in 2023 Garmont launched the 9.81 HI-RIDE, a hybrid footwear that is rigid and structured for pedalling, but at the same time comfortable and flexible for leaving the bike and continuing the stages step by step. The innovativeness of this product, which is the first of its kind and which responds to a new mobility request, was recognised by the jury of the Design & Innovation Award for the 2023 edition, which awarded the 9.81 HI-RIDE after numerous tests in real conditions.
Garmont comes with us to the Fa’ La Cosa Giusta! 2023 fair in Milan
The Via Francigena will be in Milan for the trade fair on critical consumption and sustainable lifestyles “Fa’ La Cosa Giusta” 2023 from 24 to 26 March, taking visitors at the discovery of the wonders of the path along its entire route and meeting experts in the walking and slow tourism sectors. Many surprises await you, including activities, games and quizzes. The partners of the Via Francigena, such as Garmont, have prepared special giveaways for the participants of the fair. See you there!
Just as every year, ASD IRIDE of Rivoli is working on the organisation of #FMV2023, the Marathon along the Piedmontese section of the Via Francigena. The marathon will start from Avigliana and arrive in Susa, passing through the most characteristic points of the Susa Valley, passing by the Sacra di San Michele through the suggestive Sentiero dei Principi.
The non-competitive recreational-motor walk, now in its 5th edition, will take place on Sunday 25 June 2023 with departure from Avigliana, the medieval city of the 2 lakes, the passage at the Sacra di San Michele and arrival in the centre of the city of Susa, both villages included as Orange Flags by the Italian Touring Club.
Registrations are open until 5 June 2023 or when 3000 registrations are reached.
We remind you that in previous editions we reached 3000 registrations only 3 weeks after the launch, so it is advisable to register as soon as possible. The registration fee has remained unchanged since 2022: € 20.00 + optional shuttle at € 5.00.
New route to the Sacra di San Michele
Once again, there are two different routes, with or without the passage through the Sacra di San Michele. In the first case, you can choose 3 different finish points:
up to the Sacra di San Michele 12 km (Sacra San Michele Marathon);
up to Villarfocchiardo 23 km (Half Marathon);
full marathon up to Susa for 45 km.
As in previous years, you can choose the Easy route without passing through the Sacra di San Michele.
New: the route for this edition includes passing by the Sacra di San Michele, reaching it through the ‘Sentiero dei Principi’. This is a historical route of high scenic and naturalistic value, which starts near the Charterhouse 1515 to the Sacra di San Michele. Compared to the last edition in 2022, this will lead to an increase in kilometre length (approx. 1 km more) and altitude difference (+150 D+). This year you must have even greater commitment and physical preparation to tackle the Marathon, but all efforts are repaid by the spectacular views of the Susa Valley and in particular of the Sacra di San Michele that participants will have as they walk along the “Sentiero dei Principi”.
The rest of the route is on paths, dirt and asphalt roads and will partially follow the official route of the Via Francigena Burdigalense between Avigliana and Susa. The variants inserted by the organisation aim to guarantee the greatest possible safety for the participants by avoiding as much as possible the crossing and/or running along roads with high traffic density.
All the details
The #FMV2023 is open to all. You are required to strictly cover it on foot, without running, to better enjoy the beauty that the route has to offer.
The Civil Defence and the various Associations will guard the entire route. Local Police, Police Forces and Pro Loco association will control the passing through towns and villages. Volunteers will be along the route to support participants and to manage the various refreshment points.
On Tuesday and Wednesday 21 and 22 February, almost 20 representatives of cultural routes from all over Europe joined the meetings to prepare the next Cultural Routes Academy. The academy will be held from 30 May to 2 June in Périgueux (Nouvelle-Aquitaine). Participants discussed three topics: visibility, cooperation and sustainability.
On Thursday 23 February, the French Ministry of Culture invited the Via Francigena and all the Council of Europe’s cultural routes through France. There are 48 Council of Europe cultural routes and 31 of them cross France. Remarkably, more than thirty participants from 24 routes participated in the meeting. The Ministry of Culture confirmed its willingness to support the promotion of cultural routes in France. Moreover, several actions have already been implemented, including the production of a publication on the itineraries: more than 10,000 copies will be printed and distributed to all national, regional, departmental and local tourist institutions. The Ministry is also producing an e-heritage module dedicated to the cultural itineraries, aimed at university students.
The Via Francigena then presented the actions and projects undertaken in 2022 and informed the other itineraries of the activities taking place along the route. Jacques Chevin, head of the Via Francigena France/Switzerland and Sami Tawfik, project manager of the Via Francigena, represented the European Assocation of the Via Francigena ways.
The Ministry presented the ICCE’s interactive map project in France, which allows us to identify the crossroads where different routes intersect. Hence, these three days prepared us to strengthen the links between the routes and to be inspired by the good experiences of others!
The well-established collaboration between the European Association of the Via Francigena ways and FlixBus was created to offer pilgrims of the Via Francigena the possibility of travelling in a simple and green manner, facilitating their trip before and after the walk or cycle. Thanks to our partner, you can ask for a 10% discount on all journeys operated by FlixBus, and thus reach the beginning of the trail at the most strategic point for you to undertake the pilgrimage on foot or by bicycle.
How to take advantage of this discount? You only need to be in possession of the official credential of the Via Francigena, the ‘pilgrim’s passport’, an essential document with which you may access all facilities along the route.
The discount is also valid during the winter season: together with partner FlixBus, we promote a ‘4-season slow tourism‘ that has no limitations due to timing and so-called tourist seasons.
Click here to discover all the advantages (and our tips) for exploring the Via Francigena even in winter.
An increasingly sustainable journey for new travelers
The results from year 2022, collected by EAVF through the purchased credentials during the year, highlight some important growth trends for the Via Francigena. It is very interesting to note that the average age of pilgrims setting out on the route is getting younger and younger, with a sharp increase in ramblers aged between 25 and 34 (22%). There is also an increasing number of people coming from all over the world, reaching the Via Francigena from 40 different nationalities.
FlixBus, in cooperation with EAVF, therefore plays a key role in the creation of a comprehensive service that satisfies travelers and tourists from all continents. The company has a special focus on those travelling on foot or by bicycle, and is increasingly highlighting slow, responsible and sustainable tourism. Offering an integrated solution for moving along the trail in all seasons, the popular green buses support tourism in all the territories crossed by the itinerary, making them easily accessible. This is a great solution to reach the first stage of your route or to return home at the end of your trip, even when carrying your bike!
AllTrails and Via Francigena united by their passion for outdoor activity and sustainability
In AllTrails there are more than 300,000 trails located in over 100 countries, accompanied by hand-curated maps in which every detail is fine-tuned to provide you with all the information you need to undertake your route. Maps are generated via GPS thanks to user input and then verified by the company’s team. From the ‘Explore’ section, you can take a look at places and trails in the area where you live, as well as destinations to visit. All this is accompanied by photos, information on altitude difference and road surface, weather, and many comments from users who have travelled on the same route. In addition, selected options make it possible to take your choices and understand whether the routes are suitable in terms of time, length, presence of natural or cultural points of interest such as lakes or waterfalls, as well as their accessibility, as this short video shows.
AllTrails and AEVF share the desire to make the Via Francigena an inclusive and truly sustainable route: the App, besides being an inclusive tool, has an environmentalist vocation. As stated on the homepage, AllTrails is a member of One Percent for the Planet with which it donates 1% of its annual revenue to benefit organisations working for sustainability.
AllTrails personalises and shares your trip along the Via Francigena!
Within the AllTrails App, you can record and download the Via Francigena route even in offline mode, entering details on modes and timing, publishing photos, and mapping routes and their variants. In addition, you can insert customised alerts which are useful, for example, for birdwatchers or cyclists.
A community of over 45 million users interacts in real time through the App, exchanging tips and updates on the route, weather conditions and, why not, arranging to walk parts of the route together!
The path tracks are available directly in the AllTrails application. Alternatively, in the ‘Route’ section of our website, you can download GPX tracks which can then be imported into the AllTrails platform for viewing.
The EAVF relaunches the “International Via Francigena Award“, which collects and provides value to the best practices for the development of this Cultural Route of the Council of Europe along the territories it crosses.
Members and Friends of EAVF are invited to submit their candidature by 10 March 2023 concerning various themes enhancing the development of the Via Francigena: from slow tourism and sustainable development, to accessibility, the enhancement of cultural and natural heritage, art and entertainment, youth and culture.
The 3 winning best practices will be awarded and publicly presented at the next AEVF General Assembly scheduled in Calais, Hauts-de-France (France), next Friday 26 May.
A maximum of one application can be sent for each of the 5 proposed themes, relating to activities carried out on participant’s competent territory in the period from 1.01.2021 to 31.12.2022. A maximum of 5 forms can therefore be sent.
The collection of best practices will constitute an important international database available to all Members and Friends of the Via Francigena, as well as available on this website in a special section under construction.
The European Association of the Via Francigena ways (EAVF) sums up the numbers and results of year 2022 by analysing data from 3,985 respondents who filled in the survey at the time of purchasing their credentials.
In 2022, pilgrims returned in large numbers to the Via Francigena, showing strong signs of a recovery in the international attendance of the route. Despite Covid-19 restrictions, slow outdoor tourism showed a remarkable growth.
The 3,200 km of the Via Francigena, passing through more than 700 municipalities, and for 80% through rural areas, were covered by wayfarers from all over the world, with overall figures close to 2019’s trends.
As every year, the EAVF analysed the numbers obtained from the credentials distributed by the association. The emerging data builds for indicative estimates, not as absolute numbers. The following considerations should also be made: today, there is no official observatory that detects the flow of walkers on the Via Francigena; statistically, 30% of pilgrims use the same credential over several years; 20% of ramblers do not use the credential at all; other credentials besides EAVF’s are also in circulation.
CREDENTIALS IN 2022: LET’S HAVE A LOOK AT THE NUMBERS
In line with global trends, there were more walkers on the route last year than in 2021, a year marked by the success of the ‘Road to Rome’ relay march on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the EAVF. Around 50,000 pilgrims walked the Via Francigena in 2022 (compared to an estimated 40,000 in 2021) with an average stay along the route of seven days. This is what emerges from the overview of key indicators. In the following analysis, data from 3,985 respondents who filled in the survey at the time of receiving credentials were considered.
The amount of EAVF credentials’ distribution points throughout Europe increased from 95 in 2021 to 115 in 2022. According to data from the distribution points, around 17,500 credentials were distributed to pilgrims in 2022.
Mode of travel
Data shows that most pilgrims choose to walk the route (87%), while others prefer to travel by bicycle (13%).
Most pilgrims are between the ages of 25-34 and 55-64, making up for 22% and 21% of the total sample respectively. The consolidation and increase of a young audience on the Via Francigena is a significant and relevant indicator.
Following are the 45-54 (19%) and 35-44 (15%) age groups. Together, these four age groups remain the most active pilgrims compared to 2021 levels. The number of walkers under 24 years is 10%, while those over 65 make up for 11%.
The percentage of female and male hikers remains stable compared to 2021 and is 44% and 56% respectively.
In 2022, the Via Francigena again attracted pilgrims from all over the world, with well over 40 countries represented. Travellers from Italy remain the largest group, even if their share drops to 70%, while the international presence on the route increases, partly due to the easing of travel restrictions caused by the outbreak of the pandemic. The top five nationalities found among credential holders are Italy, France, United States, Spain and United Kingdom, followed by Netherlands, Germany, Canada and Australia. It is important to reveal interest in the Via Francigena outside Europe as well: during the last year, pilgrims from Philippines, India, Brazil, Argentina, Chile, South Africa, Japan and New Zealand were also welcomed along the Via Francigena.
In 2022, pilgrims still choose to set off mainly in the summer period, even though the attendance of the route is now to be spread over all twelve months of the year: August has become the most popular departure period (17%), followed by July (15%) and June (14%). High numbers are also recorded for May (14%), April (13%) and September (12%).
Lucca, Gambassi Terme, Ivrea, San Miniato and Siena are the most popular departure points. Tuscany confirms itself as the most frequented land by ramblers considering the entire European route. For those who set out on the road for many days, the most popular starting points were Canterbury (England), Calais, Besançon (France), Lausanne, the Great St. Bernard Pass (Switzerland) or Aosta (Italy).
Motivation to travel
Sharing experience (42%) and spiritual reasons (41%) are cited most frequently as motivations for the pilgrimage, followed by the cultural and tourist appeal of the visited locations, chosen by 36% and 35% of the sample respectively. The least frequent motivations are environmental (26%), sports/physical (24%), religious (13%) and wine and food tourism (12%).
Alone or in company?
In 2022, most pilgrims still choose to travel in a group of 3 or more (54%), 31% prefer to walk with a partner and 15% alone.
VIA FRANCIGENA: WEBSITE AND APP ACTIVITY
The website statistics highlight the growing interest in the itinerary: in 2022, the website attracted around 700,000 users and recorded almost 4 million page views, with an average visitor presence on the site of 3′ 54″.
As for the App, this tool proved to be very popular with pilgrims, who downloaded it 15,113 times (main months: April 1,886, August 1,825, May 1,802). Top 5 origin of users: Italy (7,779), United States (1,185), United Kingdom (881), France (872), Switzerland (670). The App is produced by the EAVF and is free of charge for all pilgrims.
THE NEW VIA FRANCIGENA COMMUNITY
One of the initiatives that was launched by the EAVF after Road to Rome 2021 was the development of a new Facebook community dedicated to the Via Francigena. The page registered 8,046 followers last year, reporting remarkable numbers: 2,235 contents published, 9,011 comments, 39,757 reactions. The languages used by the public are three: English, French, Italian.