Via Francigena

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Homeless, Fearless, Borderless: the nomadic life of Ciriaca+Erre

Ciriaca+Erre is a Swiss-Italian artist from Matera. Since 22 April 2022, World Earth Day, she has begun a life as a nomad and pilgrim, returning to inhabit the planet as her home. She left on foot without money, from the caves of her home town, Matera, and headed for Africa – to the cave where Homo sapiens survived the Ice Age. She thus created her latest performance, which combines art and life: ‘2 years, 2 weeks, 2 days, Homeless Fearless Borderless‘. A slow journey of awareness, back into human history.

Ciriaca discovered her passion for travel at the age of 18, travelling through India. Her artistic practice ranges from painting to photography and urban installation, from performance to video. She has won important prizes and exhibited in various museums, galleries and institutions, from Italy to Switzerland and as far as England. She has exhibited at the Venice Biennale, in New York, Los Angeles, Moscow and Berlin, but has always tried to actively take art outside of museums. She has produced several works on human rights and women’s rights for which she has travelled to Africa in search of remote villages where women condemned as witches are still isolated.

Here is our interview with Ciriaca+Erre:

How did this project come about?

‘It was born during the pandemic in response to the fear that dominated the world and the borders that became increasingly suffocating to the point of exiling us into our homes. It was born to regain courage and confidence in ourselves, in others and in life, overcoming intimate and social boundaries. It is born to return to inhabiting the planet as our true home. It is born in order to ‘experience’ life as a journey of awareness, inspired by the book ‘Siddhartha’ by Nobel prize winner Hermann Hesse – 100 years old this year – written in the very place where I lived the last few years in Switzerland.

It stems from the desire to live at a slower pace as opposed to a world that, after the pandemic, has gone back to speeding up as if nothing had happened. In all this there is the idea of living the present day by day, of letting go and simplifying.

This performance was born as an evolution of another performance I did a few years ago at the Museo della Permanente in Milan, where I donated over 500 personal objects from 80% of my clothes, motor bike, bicycle, chairs and more. Even then I felt that one day I would have gone further, leaving everything behind me.

It took me a year to prepare psychologically, rather than physically, to completely change my life. Of course, you can never really be ready for such a project… because, as in life, you learn as you go. Life is a journey of awareness’.

What are the added values of undertaking this journey alone?

‘A solo trip is a great act of self-confidence. Definitely a great challenge but also a great opportunity. This is a lonely journey but also one of connection with myself, with others and with nature.

Embarking on this journey alone as a woman is very significant for me, since my artistic research has often touched on themes related to women’s rights and their history. One of the milestones in this journey is also a visit to the world’s last matriarchal community in China.

Travelling alone allows you to grow, have confidence in yourself and your strengths, facing your fears. It allows you to open up to a very valuable inner dialogue, opening up internal and external landscapes that may surprise you. When travelling alone, intuition and instinct are awakened: we discover that we are much stronger than we think or others believe. Of course there are moments of fatigue and discouragement, in which the only travel companion that will give us support and motivation to build resilience… is ourselves.

Travelling alone is also a meaningful choice of freedom. But freedom comes with a great burden: that of responsibility. Being able to choose to change, to make mistakes, to respect our own rhythms, what to eat, where to go, what to see, when to stop, gives a wonderful sense of freedom. We are the solo makers of our choices and consequently we also take responsibility for them.

On this journey I do not feel alone – I feel like I am part of a whole again. I must say that sometimes I have felt more lonely being among many people or with the people I love’.

What is your goal?

‘The goal is to unite Life with Art, to return to “being” before “doing”, which is among the most difficult things to do today. The goal is to bring art and culture, which are a heritage of humanity, back to the streets. Just as the philosopher and mathematician Hypatia of ancient Greece also wanted.

Through this project I seek utopia and a more authentic life.

I am looking for new ways of living in harmony with nature, with oneself and with others, inspired by the first utopian ecological and vegetarian community in Europe, born in Switzerland in the early 1900s, on Monte Verità.

The goal is to undertake a sort of march for peace and for the planet.

In this pilgrimage I seek ‘humanity’ in the highest sense of the term. We forget that this name, which we have given ourselves, condenses significant and indispensable values such as solidarity, empathy and brotherhood, which we are losing sight of.

The aim is also to remind us that we are all migrants, as evidenced by the discovery of the so-called traveller gene (DRD4-7R) present in 20% of the population. Human evolution began with migration on foot from Africa: we are all migrants. I want to remind you that in the old days, pilgrims and travellers were not left outside to die but were welcomed into homes and given a hot meal.

I started walking because it is an act that is as much a part of our nature and human history as thought and speech are. It is a ‘symbolic’ act, revolutionary and peaceful at the same time. Every time we take a step forward, we leave our centre of gravity, a pre-established balance to find another. And this is what thought and art does, it questions something pre-established’.

Which stretches of the Francigena have you travelled?

‘I started my journey right from the caves of Matera, my home town, which is part of the Via Francigena. I immediately had to take a diversion to Apulia to visit one of the first utopian communities, where private property does not exist, and that is part of my research.

I was able to resume the Via Francigena in Southern Italy, in Apulia, passing through the significant stage of Monte Sant’Angelo, and from there towards Rome, with some necessary detours to pursue my research.

From Rome, I travelled along the ‘Via di Francesco‘: I would have liked to arrive in Switzerland on the Via Francigena but I had to take another route that touched on places significant to my project.

It was with great joy that I resumed the Via Francigena from Vileneuve, Switzerland. I resumed with a significant peace walk together with a Japanese Buddhist monk who has done walks all over the world and came especially from London.

I am still on the Via Francigena heading to Canterbury. I will miss this historic route that retraces the steps of the ancient pilgrims when I have completed it. A route kept alive today by those who, like me, cherish a different, slow and ecological way of travelling.

On these walking routes, I have had the opportunity to meet extraordinary people from all over the world with great human depth. To cross these small villages, inhabited by a few dozen or a few hundred inhabitants, and to find hospitality in families or municipalities that are sensitive to welcoming pilgrims, is truly precious. To know that you are retracing the steps of ancient pilgrims is exciting’.

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5 tips for walking in the rain

Autumn is one of the best seasons to walk thanks to mild temperatures and the beautiful warm colours of foliage. However, if you set out in autumn you must expect walking at least in one day of heavy rain!

Anyone who has been caught unawares at least once in their life by autumn rain knows how unpleasant it can be: wet clothes that never dry out, cold hands and feet, muddy and heavy shoes… but hey, don’t let it get you down!

Rain requires preparation, that’s all. If you have everything you need with you and take it out at the right time, walking in the rain can be one of the most pleasant and romantic experiences of the season and of your life. It’s an opportunity for deep contact with nature, with our nature as human beings who, before civilisation, lived openly with every weather situation. For some people, rainy days are the best ones – the truly unforgettable ones, the ones of reflection and insight. That’s when important decisions for your life are made, the ones to be taken home after the journey.

We’ve therefore prepared a list of tips to ensure you have a good time even on rainy days:

1. Keep an eye on the weather

It seems obvious, but it is really important to take a look at the weather every night to prepare for the next day. You should also check it in the morning before departing. It is best to rely on official services such as:

2. Pick the right equipment

Whereas on a summer day a k-way is enough to shelter you from the rain, in autumn it’s a totally different story. First of all, it’s a good idea to wear a breathable and UV-proof technical shirt, which will prevent moisture from coming into contact with your skin. On top there should be a fleece layer, or a sweatshirt, and a waterproof jacket, given the autumn humidity even when it’s not raining. A poncho or PVC cape should be added on rainy days: light and foldable, it will not weigh on your backpack. It’s true, you won’t look particularly sexy in this outfit, but we can assure you that this is the most effective way to stay dry: practically, it’s like wearing an umbrella! Always keep your poncho in an easy-to-reach place so that you can quickly find shelter if the rain comes suddenly. Remember to also wear a waterproof hat, perhaps with a visor covering your eyes and glasses from the water.

As for the lower part of the body, shoes should of course be as waterproof as possible. Make sure they are not worn under the sole, to avoid slipping in the wet. Socks can also be waterproof, but bear in mind that your foot does not perspire when wearing them. The best is to wear waterproof ones only when rain comes. You can then remove shoes and socks as soon as you reach the end of the stage, allowing your feet to breathe. Gaiters are also useful, as they prevent water or mud from entering through the neck of the shoe.

Finally, we recommend a pair of plastic PVC trousers. Wearing the whole outfit, you can freely do whatever you want while walking in the rain: sit on the ground or on muddy benches, walk in tall grass, do the rain dance or open your mouth to drink the drops in those mid-stage sections where no one can see you.

3. Stay dry

Having survived the rainy day, the most important moment arrives: getting out of your wet clothes! A complete change of clothing is necessary to avoid potential hypothermia, so it is advisable to bring at least one extra change of clothing, including underwear, in this season compared to summer. We recommend that you bring a pair of sandals or flip-flops to immediately free your feet and let them breathe. The skin of the feet in fact weakens when wet, and the risk of having annoying blisters increases.

Even more important is making sure that your clothes and all the contents of your backpack stay dry during rainy days. There is no nastier surprise than finding all your clothes damp when you get under a roof! To this end, we advise you to take precautions from the moment you pack your bag before setting out. Ideally, you should always keep your clothes divided in compartments, using special waterproof watertight bags that you can find in most sports shops. Otherwise, you can use plastic bags. This is also a great trick to keep your backpack tidy during the trip, and to keep your electronic devices sealed away! On top of this, you can cover the entire backpack with the classic waterproof rucksack cover when it’s raining.

4. Watch your step

The ground becomes more slippery with rain. Small streams of water can create along the path, which you should avoid as much as possible. In such cases, it is useful to have a pair of trekking poles or a walking stick.

When the rain is very heavy, it’s not a good idea to walk along the bank of a river, which could swell quickly. Rock walls are also dangerous as debris could fall down along them. The best place to walk during rain is in the forest: leaves provide shelter and roots collect water so that it does not accumulate on the ground surface. In the event of a thunderstorm, however, one must move away from the trees and the wisest choice is to seek shelter.

5. Smile

The rain will test you, that’s for sure, but the way you react to difficulty is your choice and yours alone. A day’s walk in the rain is, in this sense, a metaphor for life. We know how difficult it can be to stay calm when everything seems to be going wrong. If you really can’t cheer yourself up, our advice is… smile! A smile on your face is the first step towards positive thinking 😊

Finally, good physical preparation is even more important in cold weather: take a look at our dedicated section. If you have doubts, need advice or wish to exchange opinions with other walkers, check our Facebook community!

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Pas de Calais: a participatory strategic plan for the Via Francigena

The Agglomeration of municipalities ‘Bethune-Bruay Artois Lys Romane’ in Pas de Calais, France, is preparing the Strategic Plan 2023-2025 dedicated to the Via Francigena – an important resource for sustainable and green tourism in the area.

Imagining and building together the Via Francigena of tomorrow‘ is the title of the meeting held in Allouagne (Municipality that joined the EAVF in 2022), in northern France, Pas de Calais. Local stakeholders were present: municipal administrations, tourism offices, universities, associations, economic categories.

Interesting ideas for working together on research, cooperation, recreation, service management and tourist enhancement on the Via were offered through 5 participatory workshops. Tourism is hence confirmed as an important driving force for the development of the territory from a cultural and economic point of view. The organisers also mentioned the important event ‘Road to Rome 2021. Start again!“. The passage of the event through Pas de Calais strongly rekindled interest in the Via Francigena. Furthermore, it enabled local authorities to work in synergy, with the prospect of its candidature as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

In summary, Sigeric’s itinerary is at the heart of strategic development in a 250 km geographical area, which can be walked in twelve stages, from Calais to the Pays de Saint Omer, passing through the Béthune-Bruay area to Arras.

EAVF’s representatives

EAVF’s Director Luca Bruschi attended the event, stressing the importance of this initiative, which could be replicated in each of the 60 provinces crossed by the Via Francigena. Bruschi recalled that the results of these ateliers will be included in the three-year Strategic Plan that EAVF is working on all along.

Jacques Chevin, EAVF’s responsible for the development of the Via in France and Switzerland, also pitched. Indeed, he animated and coordinated himself the cooperation atelier.

Imagining and building together the Via Francigena of tomorrow‘ is the best slogan for continuing to raise awareness of the route. In 2024, it will celebrate the 30th anniversary of its certification within the Council of Europe.

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Explor Games®: Sigeric in the land of the 4 rivers

In June 2022, the French Federation of Municipalities of the Four Rivers launched the app “Sigeric in the land of the four rivers”. It’s an Explor Games® game promoting historical, cultural and natural heritage of the area of the four rivers.

The game is mainly based on the important history that connects the Via Francigena with the river Saône. Explor Games® are adventure games
where players are the heroes! In a clever mix of treasure and digital scavenger hunt, participants alternate real and virtual world, game and information content.

You only need a smartphone or a tablet to play. Download the app “Sigeric in the land of the four rivers” for free from Google Play or App Store.

Sigeric, archbishop of Canterbury, is popular for the Via Francigena as we know that he walked it in 990 to get the pallium from Pope John XV. He wrote the 79 stages of his journey back home on a parchment, today kept at the British Library in London.

We imagined that, while passing through the land of the four rivers, Sigeric would be robbed of his belongings. Here starts the adventure, since Sigeric cannot return without the legitimacy of his sacrament!

A game offering 4 paths, with 4 themes and 4 objects to collect, besides a themed walk! You’ll cross Champlitte with the Via Francigena, Ray-sur-Saône with its castle, the forest of Renaucourt and its arboretum, the majestic canal of Savoyeux, Dampierre-sur-Salon and its history.

The CC4R led the project with a total budget of 154,000 €. They were co-financed by the French government, the Region and the Saving Bank of Bourgogne-Franche-Comté.

All you must do is set out with Sigeric on this adventure as you walk along the Via Francigena!

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New information point for the Via Francigena in the Veio Park in Lazio

The Veio Park, on the Lazio section of the Via Francigena leading to Rome, has intensified its information network also outside its territory, with a new information point dedicated to the itinerary.

The Lazio Region is increasingly enhancing and developing services for pilgrims on the Via Francigena, also in view of the Jubilee 2025. Just in these days, in fact, a new information point of the Park has been inaugurated in Nepi, at the Sansoni farm, with new maps and publications dedicated to ramblers to Rome. Within the Veio Park, based in Nepi, there are in fact also 27 kilometres of the Via Francigena: the last stages towards Rome. Nepi therefore represents an ideal ‘gateway’ to the protected natural area for pilgrims on their way to the eternal city.

It is also important to give value and promote,’ said Veio Park President Giorgio Polesi, ‘the points close to our protected area to stimulate knowledge of our places and points of interest. We have 27 kilometres of Francigena within the Park, passing through Campagnano, Formello, Isola Farnese, to reach La Storta and then Rome‘.

The inauguration, in a splendid natural setting along a stretch of the Via Francigena, was attended not only by Polesi but also by the Vice-president of the European Association of Via Francigena Ways, Silvio Marino, the Mayor of Nepi Franco Vita, the town Councillor of Monterosi, Maurizio Tamantini, the Councillor of Campagnano, Pietro Mazzarini, the Director of the Museo del Pellegrino, Michele Damiani, the Councillor Roberta Bellotti and the Councillor of Formello, Roberto Amadio. There were also Ilaria Bartolotti from the Italian Corps of San Lazzaro, Mario Porcu, President of the BCC of the Province of Rome, Danilo Casciani, Director of the Veio Park, and Fabio Neri, Head of security. Doing the honours, Giuseppe and Olivia Sansoni. Also present was the Sutri municipality’s tourism Councillor Claudia Mercuri.

The next information point, on which the Region is currently working, will soon be inaugurated in the municipality of Sutri, along the ancient Roman Via Cassia.

For further information: +39 338 8374598

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Winning shots of the “Share your route 2022” photo contest

After four months, on 31 October 2022, the “Share your route” photo contest officially closed, with the participation of pilgrims, walkers and tourists from all over Europe to document their experience on the Via Francigena and other routes.

The initiative, organized by the European project rurAllure linked to the enhancement of the heritage along the routes, collected over 3,000 photos, of which more than half related to the Via Francigena.

A great result that contributes to improving the experience of those who travel the cultural routes on foot or by bicycle every year: congratulations to all participants!

Below are the names of the winners of the photo contest for the Via Francigena, who can request their prize by sending an email to contact@rurallure.eu:

  1. Nappa Travels
  2. Antonio Mastropaolo
  3. Roy Bella e Papà

You can consult the complete list of winners and view the shots at this link

A special thanks to the partners of the initiative: Garmont®, Ferrino and SloWays.

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Hiking backpack: how to choose and what to put in it for a long-distance trip

The departure date is approaching; you feel like you took everything but can’t help repeating the list of “I’ve got it, I’ve got it, I’m missing it!”, tempted to empty your backpack and do it all over again… Calm down! First of all, we want to tell you that it’s perfectly normal to have doubts about what to take with you (and what to leave at home) on a walking or cycling trip. Fear not: today we will take a look together at which backpack to choose for a long-distance trip and what to put in it.

Choosing a backpack

Let’s start with the first step: which backpack to choose?

The backpack is one of the most important pieces of equipment: it is our “home” during the trip and must be chosen with great care (second only to the shoes). A careless purchase could put you in more or less difficulty during the walking experience.

There are many models of backpacks, with different capacities and shapes. We distinguish at least three categories, suitable for different experiences and uses:

  • 20/40 litres: small but sufficient for a 1-day hike;
  • 40/60 litres: suitable for multi-day hikes, usually without a tent, with an overnight staying in hospitality centres along the route;
  • 60/100 litres: ideal for long walking trips, where a tent, cooker and sleeping bag are required.

To choose a backpack, attention must also be paid to the season, picking a larger model in winter, due to the bulkier equipment to carry, and a lighter and more breathable summer model, given the high temperatures. Pay attention to weight too! The backpack should not exceed 10% of our body weight and it is best to limit it to a maximum of 7-8 kg, well distributed.

We have long been using Ferrino Outdoor‘s backpacks for their practicality, compactness and colourful, elegant style. In particular, we have become fond of the ‘Finisterre’ model, designed specifically for pilgrims who travel long distances. The Association’s staff had the opportunity to try them out during the 4-month Road to Rome 2021 and we couldn’t be happier with our choice!

Click here to discover all the models on the Ferrino website

What to put (or not) in your backpack?

Ok, here we go back to the crucial question. After choosing the model, let’s try to work out together what to take with us for a long-distance trip:

  • Clothing in lightweight, technical material: we usually carry a maximum of three pieces for a week-long walk. You will also need a (light) fleece, a k-way, a woollen cap (or sun hat in summer) and gloves. Pay attention to the choice of socks: choose the most suitable for your shoes to avoid annoying chafing on your feet.
  • Foot cream: to prevent blisters, you can put talcum powder on your feet before setting off and, at the end of the stage, a cooling, refreshing mint cream or shea butter.
  • First emergency kit: to keep at hand at all times.
  • Utility knife with hacksaw, headlamp and a small sewing kit.
  • Map and practical information on the route: we recommend downloading GPX tracks (tracks for those walking the Via Francigena are available at this link) but also to bring a map in case you have to cross areas with poor coverage or to avoid unforeseen low battery problems. It is also important to have all the information related to reception facilities, water points and refreshments.
  • Tent and sleeping bag, for those who decide to walk for several days without relying on reception facilities. You will often find organised campsites or private areas where you can easily set up your tent (take a look at our Accommodation & Facilities section).
  • Walking stick or trekking poles, which are useful for several reasons: to give rhythm when walking, mobilise the arms and provide support on ascents and descents. Many walking sticks have the option of being shortened to fit into the outer side pockets of your backpack when not needed.

When preparing your backpack, we advise you to pay attention to how you store objects. There are a few basic rules you can stick to: heavy objects should be placed either on top or in the middle, all close to the spine; never put sharp or hard objects in direct contact with your back; keep your first-aid kit and water bottle within easy reach (in the pockets of your backpack), as well as all those objects you take out and put back in several times a day while walking.

What are you waiting for, now? Get your backpack ready, all that’s left to do is set off!

‘Buon cammino’ and… don’t forget to share your journey on your social networks by tagging us!

Facebook: @ViaFrancigenaEU

Instagram: @viafrancigena_eu

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From Paris to Jerusalem walking the Via Francigena

On 1 October 2022, Edgar Le Bras set off from Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris with the aim of arriving in Jerusalem. Edgar knows the Via Francigena very well: he worked with us in 2021 as an AEVF intern, preparing the great Road to Rome 2021 march!

He set a goal of 8 months to reach Jerusalem on foot, walking stages of around 25 kilometres per day. Once in Rome, he will continue on the Via Francigena in Southern Italy to Bari, where he will take the boat to Tirana in Albania and continue his expedition following the Via Egnatia through Macedonia, Greece, Turkey and Syria, to finish the last stretch from northern Israel to Jerusalem.

A few days ago, he joined the Via Francigena in Bar-sur-Aube. On 17 October he arrived in Haute-Saône and received a warm welcome in Leffond before arriving in Champlitte, headquarters of the EAVF, the following day. Together with the town hall, we organised a warm welcome for him!

To prepare for the journey, Edgar contacted the municipalities along the route and the network of scouts and guides to which he belongs. EAVF actively supports Edgar’s project as a promoting partner, and invites all municipalities and friend associations along his route to welcome him and organise meetings to support the important motivation of his journey: to highlight the theme of peace between peoples.

You are all invited to join, walk part of the itinerary and get to know Edgar, help him find hospitality and share with him part of this great adventure.

If you would like to follow him and/or walk a few kilometres, do not hesitate to contact him on his social networks!

Facebook: En avant Jerusalem 2023

Instagram: enavantjerusalem2023

Good luck and buon cammino!

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From Rome to Finisterre covering 2,700 km at the age of 70

Joaquin Balibrea, pilgrim by profession. “Chimo” is from the Spanish city of Murcia, and in July 2022 he completed an itinerary of almost 3,000 km that took him from Rome to Finisterre in four months, at an average of 22 km per day. And this was certainly not his first walk: ‘Chimo’ has walked a dozen routes or so, of around 1,000 km each, to reach the same destination over the years: the Tomb of Santiago in the famous cathedral that attracts millions of pilgrims every year. This time, intersecting stretches of the Via Francigena between the Alps and the Via Aurelia with the Spanish Way, Chimo went further to reach Finisterre, believed to be the end of the world in ancient times.

I started walking 20 years ago out of curiosity and now I can say that I spend more time walking than at home!” he said in a recent interview published in a local magazine. A way of exploring the world, which has become his life: “it’s a much cheaper trip than the plane or the car, depending only on your feet and allowing you to challenge your fears“.

The staff of rurallure.eu, with which the EAVF association works to promote cultural heritage along the main European routes, contacted him for an exclusive interview, which you can read here.

May Chimo’s story be an inspiration to all those who would like to embark on a walk but don’t know where to start: good physical preparation, a light but complete backpack (here are our tips) and… all that’s left is to put one foot in front of the other and set off!

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Via Francigena speaks at the Stati Generali del Turismo Italiano

On 28 and 29 October in Chianciano Terme (SI) Luca Bruschi, director of the European Association of Vie Francigene, will speak at the Stati Generali del Turismo Italiano to talk about sustainable and responsible tourism and to share the good practices of the Via Francigena.

The Italian Ministry of Tourism is promoting the organisation of the Stati Generali del Turismo (States General of Italian Tourism), the first national technical meeting to discuss with operators and trade associations of the tourism sector. The initiative is configured as the first important moment in the process of elaboration and adoption of the Strategic Plan for Tourism (STP) 2023-2027, a planning and programming tool envisaged by the national legislation to be submitted to the Government for adoption. Within the planning document there is a section dedicated to slow tourism with a focus on cycle tourism, historical trains, food and wine and walking journeys.

This is the context for the Stati Generali del Turismo in Chianciano, attended by representatives of the Ministry of Tourism, institutions, economic and tourism categories, and the world of associations. On 28 October, Luca Bruschi, director of the EAVF, will speak about the experience and good practices along the Via Francigena.

Walking is not just physical activity, but a way of discovering ourselves or a tool for taking care of our psychophysical well-being. It is a green, responsible tourism, which has no impact on the environment but has a profound effect on local communities and the territories it crosses, often located in rural areas. Walking is a new trend that can also generate a significant economic and social impact, also offering new job opportunities in the sector.

The whole of Italy is a Land of Routes that favour territorial sustainable development policies. Italy already has its own Way of St. James, namely the Via Francigena with its 2,000 national kilometres that attract thousands of pilgrims and hikers from 70 countries around the world‘, Bruschi explained.

Click here for the full programme (in Italian)