Via Francigena. The Road to Rome

Trio travels along the Via Francigena: Cindy, her donkey Nenette and dog Mina

One more beautiful story on the Via Francigena, again from France. Cindy Chopard is a French pilgrim who started her travel in Pontarlier on 10 September on a day of her 35th birthday together with donkey Nenette and dog Mina.

On Tuesday 27 October she had a stopover in Fidenza where she met Luca Bruschi, the EAVF director.

Cindy lives nearby Pontarlier, a French town in the region of Bourgogne – Franche-Comté on the border with Switzerland, in a country house with Nenette, the 16-year-old donkey and a little dog Mina. To keep them company she also has a horse and a few sheep.

The young pilgrim has a great passion for nature, animals and sports. In 2016 she ran the Paris marathon in 4:11’. Since the age of 19 she has been working in a watch company in Switzerland. She took a decision to experience the Via Francigena last summer when she quit her job (though the company would be happy to have her back to the headquarters!).

Slowly walking her way towards Rome, Cindy savours beauty and emotions of an extraordinary journey - a journey that opens the doors to a new life together with dear traveling companions Nanette and Mina. The future is all to be written.

Cindy always wears an inseparable flat cap. Her bright eyes full of light and enthusiasm transmit pure energy to those who meet her on the way.

“I am delighted with this experience on the Via Francigena. We have already crossed the beautiful Swiss part of the path, 200km long, and descended from the Grand Saint Bernard Pass to the plain, where we are now walking. We travel slowly for 15-20km a day, letting ourselves be carried away by what the Via Francigena reserves for us every day”.

Cindy is tall and slender, she carries a 16kg backpack: it’s surely impressive to see her walking so easily with this weight on her shoulders but she says she is perfectly used to the weight. Nenette also does her part by carrying two bags that contain a tent, animals’ equipment and food.

“We are following the official route, perfectly marked. Every now and then I check the app to be sure. We have met many wonderful people along the way: they give us comfort, they walk with us, they welcome us, they offer us something to eat. They are cheering for us”. Up to now, providence has always helped the trio to find a place to stay safely along the route and to rest to beloved Nenette.

"If someone wants to host us, we only ask for a garden or a lawn where we can put the tent, so even the donkey can rest and eat. A possibility to take a hot shower, of course, is also much appreciated. We thank all those who until today have been welcoming us with so much joy!”

In Fidenza Cindy was warmly welcomed by the association "Asino che vola", which is involved in teaching and creative activities with children for many years. Marco and Jenny welcomed Cindy into their home, animated by children and donkeys who reacted well to Nenette's arrival. Tomorrow the French pilgrim sets out for the Apennines. Her goal is to get to Rome, where she will decide what to do next. For now, there are no plans for re-entry.

"Who knows, maybe Cindy, Nanette and Mina will continue the walk on the Via Francigena in the south, towards Santa Maria di Leuca", says Luca Bruschi, the EAVF director, "In the meantime, I'm happy to have shared a fragment of this fascinating trio trip in Fidenza, where the headquarters of the European Association of the Via Francigena ways are located. "

Anyone wishing to host Cindy and her animals, please contact her by email: cindychopard.mirabelle@gmail.com

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