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.
The Gruppo dei Dodici Association, together with other local associations in Lazio, has set up the Help Pellegrini Network to follow and help walkers and pilgrims passing between Rome and Teano along the Via Francigena in Southern Italy.
The help group consists of 18 people coordinated by Giuseppe Pucci of the Gruppo dei Dodici, who keep updated through a new group on WhatsApp. The aim is to offer support to travellers with regard to accommodation (overnight stays, food, etc.), emergency situations and accidents, loss of the route, or critical situations that prevent or make it dangerous to pass along the route. It is also important to record the number of walkers and pilgrims travelling along the Via Francigena in southern Lazio in order to collect data and promote the infrastructure along this stretch, so the group will be distributing a survey sheet.
If you are in transit along the Via Francigena in southern Lazio, or if you are planning your journey, you can ask for support from the Gruppo dei Dodici at any time via the contacts listed here:
Do you want to walk in winter and enjoy the mountains in a different way? It’s time to go snowshoeing!
The Via Francigena crosses 5 countries and many different landscapes: villages, countryside, cities, plains, forests and mountain areas. It is usually walked or cycled in the summer, spring and autumn seasons, but less so in winter. Its mountain sections crossing the Alps, at the Great St Bernard Pass, and the Apennines at the Cisa Pass, may seem the most difficult. Yet, walking on snow-covered paths has an unusual charm all to discover, even more so if armed with snowshoes!
Thousands of years ago, mountaineers trekked across snow-covered peaks carrying some kind of snowshoes on their feet, which today are attached under their boots. They wore snowshoes, also known as snowshoes, because they offered a number of advantages: they did not sink, and therefore allowed us to float on fresh snow without sinking into it, while metal crampons helped us not to slip on the snow when it was hard.
Today, snowshoeing is a recreational and affordable activity for everyone, suitable for spending a day outdoors even on the coldest days of the year. Snowshoes are indeed an effective way of hiking in fresh snow and being in contact with nature all year round.
When going out in the snow, and on a winter hike in general, keeping warm and dry is essential if you don’t want to risk making the experience truly unbearable!
Here are the 3 essential tips for a warm and safe snowshoe trek:
1. Suitable equipment
Choose snowshoes that are suitable for your weight, foot and outdoor weather conditions; use poles and wear warm, waterproof hiking boots. For the choice of snowshoes and poles, we recommend you visit the website of our technical partner Ferrino Outdoor.
Remember to hydrate often, wear sunscreen and stay as warm and dry as possible. Finally, check the forecast to predict the possibility of avalanches and snow conditions before you go out. When walking in fresh snow, there can be a risk of avalanches: take care to choose suitable routes and days, be accompanied by someone who knows the area and always have a GPS with you. To follow the GPS tracks, download the AllTrails App by clicking here.
Snowshoeing is an intense activity and a little more strenuous than walking. However, it allows us, in a season when we tend to lethargy, to enjoy unparalleled scenery and views that feed the mind and heart with pure wonder!
2023 will be rich with days off from work, so you can already start thinking about your hiking calendar and plan your next walk or bike ride along the route. Especially in Italy, this year will be full of long weekends due to national holidays. By organising yourself properly and optimising your holidays, you can plan several long weekends for walking in all seasons, at any time of year!
The ‘low season’ has many advantages: you have the chance to experience nature without the hustle and bustle of the high season, without the excessive heat, and you can take a real break from tasks and accumulated stress during daily routine at any time.
What better way to start the year than by recharging your batteries and taking in the beauty of the winter landscapes of the Via Francigena? Despite the cold and sometimes snow on the roads, winter is a perfect season to pull out your backpack, rain jacket and walking shoes, and head out to enjoy the charms of the Via’s route, step after step.
Of course, one must always choose carefully which stages to walk, because it can be a demanding experience: you will have to take the necessary precautions to undertake a winter hike in total safety. Here are some tips:
Choose an itinerary appropriate for your experience and physical preparation (between levels T, E, EE, but also the number of kilometres to cover and the altitude difference). To consult the maps and find out the details of the stages, you can use the AllTrails App (try it for free by clicking here).
Equip yourself with appropriate clothing and accessories to stay dry at all times. You can find lots of advice on this topic by clicking here.
Pay attention to signposting and try not to walk in the dark: remember to always check sunrise and sunset times as well as the weather before setting off.
All that is left is to set the next departure date and take the opportunity to enjoy landscapes that are often crowded in summer, immersing yourself in nature, food and traditions of the Via Francigena territories. In spring, the events organised along the itinerary will also return, such as our ever-lasting ‘I Love Francigena‘ group hikes.
Follow us on our channels so you don’t miss the upcoming events!
Here is the message of greetings from the Bishop of Langres for this Christmas 2022:
A little snow has covered the countryside, and I am enjoying staying warm at home. This is not the time to set out on the Via Francigena to face the rigours of winter. But, a few thousand kilometres away, people at war have no way to keep warm and must fight the cold and the anxiety with all means at hand. I think of the child of Bethlehem, fragile and destitute, whose birth is a sign of hope and light. “Peace on earth to the people God loves” sang the angels.
What if I took advantage of this time of pause to work for peace, in my family, my village or my neighbourhood, my professional activity? Great causes begin with small gestures…
It’s hard to say which section of the Via Francigena is our favorite. Certainly each stage contains experiences worth setting out several times, knowing that each time something new will surprise us. We’re pleased to inform you of a new collaboration with DMO, aimed at promoting the Via Francigena in Southern Lazio, from Rome to Teano. This is a section that can be traveled in both directions, either on foot or by bicycle. Let’s get to know this new partner better!
DMO – Destination Management Organization – Francigena sud nel Lazio is an association created on 28 January 2021. It has the aim of managing in a coordinated manner everything that makes up for the Francigena in southern Lazio. From trail maintenance to marketing activities, to reception facilities and attractions, everything is interpreted to develop the route together with the territories involved. Castelli Romani, Monti Lepini, Monti Ausoni and Piana Pontina are all territories to explore. In fact, they are rich in points of interest in terms of landscape, art, architecture and gastronomy. The collaboration stems from the shared desire to give voice to small villages and at the same time enrich the experience of every traveler, helping them to immerse in the typicality of this territory.
On the website you can also download route maps and find logistical information to organize your own walk. In addition, each member municipality can stamp pilgrims’ credentials to attest to their passage at the stage. You can receive the “testimonium” at the Vatican covering at least 100 km on foot or 200 km by bicycle. Along the Lazio stretch there are also 3 sales points authorized to issue the official credential, while on the website it is possible to consult and book the first travel packages for spring 2023.
Public and private entities belong to the DMO network. Participating are the municipalities of Albano Laziale, Castel Gandolfo, Cori, Fondi, Formia, Marino, Monte San Biagio, Nemi, Norma, Priverno, Sermoneta, Sonnino, Velletri, the Appia Antica Regional Park, the Monti Ausoni and Lago di Fondi Regional Park, as well as the Gruppo dei Dodici Association, the ENOLAN Consortium, the Onorato Caetani Association, the Associazione l’Asino e le Nuvole, and the tour operators Promotours Snc and Spirit Of Travel By Travel Store.
On Friday 28 and Saturday 29 October, the Italian ‘General States of Tourism’ meeting was held in Chianciano Terme (SI). This was the first national planning conference organised by the Italian Ministry of Tourism and promoted with the intention of arriving at the elaboration of the Strategic Plan for Tourism 2023-2027, through analysing the statistics, listening to and working together with all the operators in the sector, and increasing the quality and quantity of the national tourist offer.
Among the many strategic themes presented on which to focus to increase the country’s competitiveness in the global tourism scenario, sustainable and responsible tourism was also discussed. Analysing the statistics, the Director of the AEVF Luca Bruschi showed how the travel experience of walking must be considered a competitive asset within the Italian tourism offer. Here are therefore some of the numbers analysed during the meeting.
The numerical trends of tourism linked to the Via Francigena
The number of pilgrims on the Via Francigena is constantly increasing, and they currently arrive on the trail from 70 countries around the world (from Europe, mainly Italy, France, Germany, Holland, the United Kingdom, and the Scandinavian countries; and from outside Europe, mainly the United States, Canada and Australia). 8 out of 10 pilgrims will return to the Via Francigena as tourists to deepen their knowledge of the places and with a longer stay. The economy around the Via Francigena is already worth 25 million euro today and generates enormous cultural wealth for the villages crossed.
Through the AEVF credential distribution, the estimate of pilgrims who walked for at least one week in 2019 was around 50,000. During 2021, given the restrictions due to Covid-19, the estimated pilgrims were around 40,000.
Statistics reveal that the pilgrim who walks along the Francigena route stays in the area for an average of 8-10 days and has a daily spending capacity of 50/60€ for those who walk long distances, while it increases significantly for those who move at the weekend or within the week. 80% travel on foot, 20% by bicycle. There is a slight predominance of women. Age ranges from 16 to over 80 years. AEVF estimated that 500,000 walkers and pilgrims have travelled the route for at least a week in the last decade (’12-’21). The period? People walk all year round, but mostly in spring and autumn: this means that this is qualified tourism in the period of deseasonalisation.
The motivations that drive modern pilgrims to undertake the long itinerary that leads to Rome and continues to the ports of Apulia are manifold and reflect the varied needs of contemporary society: for some, an albeit significant minority, the journey is a religious experience; others are driven by spiritual, cultural, landscape, gastronomic and sporting motivations, motivations strongly associated with the principle of slow mobility that contrasts with the frenzy that characterises modern life.
The IRPET data
According to a recent IRPET (Istituto Regionale per la Programmazione Economica Toscana – Regional Institute for Economic Planning of Tuscany) study, in the ten-year period 2010-2019, against an average regional increase in overnight stays of 23%, in the 28 municipalities along the route there were increases in the tourist sector of 49%, while in the municipalities within a radius of 5 km from the itinerary there were increases of 43%. These statistics prove that there is a competitiveness differential generated by the presence of the route in an area.
The Via Francigena as a promoter of slow tourism in Europe
It is important to continue to promote the tourist offer on the Via Francigena by strengthening the system of reception, route, maintenance and promotion. At the same time, we must enrich the network of partners with targeted collaborations designed for pilgrims’ flow. Among the latest partnerships activated by the Association is a special discount dedicated to those with a credential so that they can travel along the itinerary at a discounted price on one of Flixbus buses: an agreement emerged from analyses of pilgrims, who can now easily move between over 40 stages of the itinerary or return home at the end of their journey enjoying a 10% discount, with the possibility of transporting their bicycle. A best practice which could be extended to all 4 countries crossed by the trail, thus promoting the itinerary as a national ‘flagship product‘.
We must also keep in mind the two upcoming goals that will give even more visibility to the route: the candidature of the Via Francigena as a UNESCO heritage site and the Jubilee of 2025, for which we hope to see at least 100,000 pilgrims arriving on foot and by bicycle in St. Peter’s Square in Rome.
“La Settimana della Terra” (Earth Week) is a popular science festival addressing the topic of GeoScience in Italy. The festival, now in its 10th edition, took place this year from 2 to 9 October 2022.
How many times have you walked through breathtaking landscapes and wished you knew more about your surroundings? Or have you been on a hike and only learnt later that around you, close by, there were wonderful caves, ancient lakes, rivers and prehistoric settlements to be discovered… We often simply appreciate the beauty that surrounds us, but have no deep knowledge of the land we are walking through.
In order to make the Italian territory known to the general public, through its extraordinary geological, environmental and natural heritage, ‘The Earth Week’ was born 10 years ago. The Week is the brainchild of two passionate and experienced university professors, geologist Silvio Seno and palaeontologist Rodolfo Coccioni. It is an annual event lasting an entire week in October. Professionals including geologists, researchers, climatologists, archaeologists, astronomers, and researchers participate and create popular events throughout Italy. For the occasion, the events are called ‘Geoevents‘.
Since 2012, over 1,800 ‘Geo-events’ have been created in many locations. The festival offers open doors at museums, research centres and astronomical observatories, educational and experimental workshops, exhibitions and shows, conferences, lectures and seminars, artistic and musical activities, food and wine, as well as many hikes and walks for walkers and nature lovers.
As well as an experience across science, The Earth Week is also an opportunity to raise environmental awareness. We are facing an uncertain future due to ongoing climate change caused by our lifestyles. Are we sure of what lies ahead? What can we do to recover the relationship we have with nature and improve our quality of life?
Given its aims, the Festival embraces and supports slow, sustainable and responsible tourism. Such tourism respects environmental resources and, through slowness, generates knowledge and care for local treasures. The appreciation of natural heritage is often enjoyed together with other cultural attractions and local products.
Discover here our section on environmental responsibility and the role of walking routes in sustainable development.
‘Italy has a unique quantity and variety of situations to learn about, and we have a responsibility to preserve and protect them. Getting close to these jewels of nature and experiencing them means contributing to sustainable tourism, the promotion of which is one of the objectives of our Association,‘ says the festival co-founder Silvio Seno.
A unique festival, inviting people to discover the wonders of our country and to take care of our planet. Only in this way can we truly protect Italy’s heritage.
The Via Francigena south of Rome is an extraordinary journey in time and space, allowing us to see historical memories from different periods juxtaposed among each other. In this article, we will present 12 unmissable places, presented in the order you will come across them as you travel along the route from Rome to the border with Campania.
1. The Regional Park of the Ancient Appian Way
The largest protected urban area in Europe and a green belt following the Regina Viarum, south of Rome. History and nature come together and create a unique landscape, containing remains of mausoleums, Roman villas and aqueducts.
2. Castel Gandolfo
A town famous for having been the summer home of various Popes for centuries. As well as admiring the wonderful panorama of Albano Lake, walkers can visit the gardens and the papal villas: unmissable places.
Another village built in a beautiful panoramic location is Nemi, overlooking the volcanic lake that shares the same name. In the town, you can visit the ancient Temple of Diana Aricina and the Museum of Roman Ships, built in the 1830s to hold the two gigantic ships of Emperor Caligula (37-41 AD) that were recovered from the lake, unfortunately lost in a fire in 1944.
The townis a hub of historical and natural attractions: along the route, walkers will pass through the beautiful green space surrounding Giulianello Lake, and on arrival in the historical town centre, they can visit the Chapel of Santissima Annunziata, which holds one of the most important paintings in Lazio from the late-gothic period. They can also visit the Saint Oliva monumental park, where a medieval church incorporates the remains of an antique temple, a 14th century chapel featuring frescoes, a renaissance cloister and a convent.
5. The Norba Archeological area
The area was founded in the 5th century BC, in an area dominating the entire Pontina plain. It had been destroyed in 81 BC, in an incident where the residents preferred to kill each other and set fire to their houses rather than let the area fall to enemy hands and leave them with something.
Dominated by Caetani castle, it is another marvellous town along the Via Francigena in Southern Italy. Before taking on the climb towards the historical centre, you can visit the Valvisciolo abbey, one of the most impressive masterpieces in Romanic-Gothic-Cistercian style. At the foot of the town, the Ninfa Garden is worthy of a visit, a typical English garden constructed in the 1920s in the area occupied by the medieval town of Ninfa, of which today only some ruins remain.
7. Fossanova Abbey
The abbey is situated within the municipality of Priverno and is one of the oldest examples of Gothic-Cistercian art in Italy. The complex was completed at the end of the 12th century after transforming a pre-existing Benedictine monastery, and was later given over to the Monks of Burgundy guided by Saint Bernard of Clairvaux.
The historical centre of Terracina is a place where the marks of Roman, medieval and modern history can all still be seen, such as the ancient Appian Way which passes through Piazza del Foro, and is still cobbled to this day. Further examples are the Roman Theatre, the Capitolium, the Cathedral of Saint Caesarius built on the ruins of a Roman temple, Castello Frangipane, Palazzo Braschi. The town is dominated by the Temple of Giove Anxur, built in the Roman era on Mount Saint’Angelo, in a beautiful position from which you can admire the beautiful panorama looking out over to Mount Circeo and to the Pontine islands.
9. Valley of Saint Andrew
One of the most suggestive parts of the ancient Appian Way south of Rome is through the Valley of Saint Andrew, between Fondi and Itri, forming a three-kilometre path parallel to the modern Via Appia. The Roman Road was built on the rocky side of the mountain, held up by strong walls up to 12m high, which date back to the third century BC, the era of Appio Claudio, the builder of the road.
Gaeta offers visitors a spectacular view from the historical centre and from the Angevin-Aragonese Castle, made up of two linked buildings that were built in two different historical periods. The lower building was built during the period of Angevin governance, and the higher building was ordered to be built by Sovrans during the reign of the Kingdom of Naples, part of the Aragonese dynasty. Before arriving in the town centre, the Via Francigena passes by Serapo Beach, from which you can see the Sanctuary of the Montagna Spaccata. The sanctuary was built in the year 930 by the Benedictine Fathers on the ruins of a Roman General’s villa.
11. Cicero’s tomb in Formia
Although around 1.5km from the Via Francigena, the tomb in Formiais worth visiting: it can be found along the Via Appia and is a mausoleum dating back to the Augustan era. It is where Cicero, the famous Roman politician and orator, is supposedly buried. Additionally, in the town hall building dating back to the 1700s, Formia plays host to the National Archeological Museum, which displays an impressive collection of excellent sculptures dating back to the period between the 1st century BC to the 1st century AD.
12. Minturno Archaeological Area
Before leaving the Lazio area, you cannot miss the Minturno Archaeological Area, an ancient port city that was part of the Pentapolis Aurunca, destroyed by the Romans in 314 BC and subsequently rebuilt. Next to the archaeological area, the bourbon bridge which crosses the Garigliano river was the first iron suspension bridge ever to be built in Italy, built between 1828 and 1832.
EAVF General Assembly, Pavia (Italy) | 20 October 2023