Via Francigena


My pilgrimage through Europe – from Oslo to Rome

After having walked as a pilgrim along the Saint Olav Way from Oslo north to Nidaros (Trondheim) in 2005, I was asked what next – Santiago de Compostella? My answer was that to me, Rome is a more important goal.

Since 1968, I have been there many times as a pilgrim. Maybe I should walk there once? Between 12 May and 1 October 2015 I did so, around 2.900 kilometres.

In 2010 a friend had proposed we walk some days each year along the Via Romea Francigena, starting in Orsières in Switzerland. In 2014 five of us reached Viterbo. In early 2015 I told the others that I would start earlier, walk from Oslo and meet them in Viterbo so we could walk the final five days to Rome together.

Plans for a pilgrimage relay from Trondheim to Rome in 2015, Pilgrims Crossing Borders, made me aware of the Via Romea Germanica from Stade (near Hamburg) to Rome. Based on the description of Abbot Albert’s return from Rome to Stade in 1237, the road was marked again between 2009-2013, by Italian anthropologist Giovanni Caselli and others.

I chose to follow the Via Romea Germanica some weeks ahead of the relay. I have been told I became the first to walk the entire stretch from Stade to Rome in modern time.

On 12 May 2015, I left our home at Grefsen in northern Oslo, walked to the harbour and took the overnight ferry to Frederikshavn in Northern Jylland in Denmark. The next morning I started walking.

Between Frederikshavn and Padborg on the Danish-German border, I followed the Hærvejen, the ancient road from north to south on Jylland, with very good maps from Through Schleswig-Holstein from Padborg to Wedel on the Elbe, I followed the Ochsenweg,

From Stade to Rome, I used maps from and several guide books. Between Stade and Innsbruck, I used Jochen Heinke’s Der mittelalterliche Pilgerweg Via Romea I og II (Jochen Heinke im Selbstverlag), and also Giovanni Caselli’s and Thomas Dahms’ Via Romea Stade-Mittenwald  (Ostfalia Verlag, Osterwieck). Between Innsbruck and Ferrara, I used Ferdinand Tremls Der Pilgerweg nach Rom. Auf der Brenner-route über Padua und Assisi (Tyrolia Verlag, Innsbruck), which partly also describes the Via Romea Germanica.

I spent two weeks in Denmark, more than two months in Germany, five days in Austria and close to two months in Italy. Each day I published a report in Norwegian on my open Facebook profile. In 2016 these reports were published in my book Pilegrim i Europa – min vandring dag for dag fra Grefsen til Roma i 2015 (Pilgrim through Europe – my walk day by day from Grefsen to Rome in 2015), (Kolofon, Oslo 2016).

All the way I met friendly people. Many said «Gottes Segen!», «Gesundheit!», «Respekt!», «Complimenti!», «Greetings to the Pope!» when they heard my story.

By moving slowly from north to south, I wanted to remind myself and others of the old bonds that bind us Europeans together – whether we come from south or north, are EU members or not, are Catholics or Protestants, have other beliefs or no belief.

I looked for the traces of our Christian heritage – rooted in Jerusalem, Athens and Rome. Over the centuries, these bonds have been exposed to trials, exploitation, wars, reformation and secularisation. But the traces are still there, spiritually and physically. Guard stones along the road are churches, chapels and altars.

While I was walking, refugees continued to come to Europe. Politicians were striving to handle a number of refugees we had not seen in decades. I did not see the refugees, and border crossings had not yet been closed.

The large majority of pilgrims in our time do not walk. They come by car, train, boat or plane. And they are by no means less real pilgrims. Still, recent decades have seen a growing interest in walking slowly again – along old roads to holy places.

Walking on my own, I carried what I needed of clothes, food and water. I chose to sleep in cheap hotels and pensions and to carry just the food and water I needed for the day. With 3-4 sets of clothes, rainwear and light shoes for the evenings, my sack weighed 11-12 kilos with full water bottles. On my feet I had light hiking boots with soft soles. This made it possible to walk long stretches on asphalt. In average, I covered 25 kilometres each day. Making around 4 kilometres an hour, this would often take eight hours – pauses included. After starting out too ambitiously in Jylland, I had to cure a sinew inflammation in the leg with three weeks on bike.

Organised pilgrimages often have a daily rhythm with prayers and meditations. I used a Roman Catholic prayer book in the morning and in the evening. During the day, I would normally visit one or more churches. I would spend time, light a candle; say a Pater Noster and an Ave Maria.

In Jylland, churches were often open during the day, in Northern Germany less often. In the mainly Catholic Bayern, Austria and Italy, churches were almost always open. Here, roadside altars and crucifixes were physical reminders of the Christian faith of those living there and of mine passing there.

Physically as well as mentally a pilgrim should have a day of rest each week. I chose to rest on Sundays and go to church.   

As a member of the (Lutheran) Church of Norway, I was welcome to participate fully in Lutheran services. In Catholic masses, it was not obvious that I would be welcome to receive the Holy Communion. I could have come early, asked to see the priest and maybe be welcome to participate, or I could have pretended to be a Catholic. I chose not to bother or cheat the priest, remaining an observer during the Eucharist for most of my pilgrimage. Not the least when I reached my goal, this was sad.

Talks have long been held on how to overcome this division between the Christian confessions – where the Eucharist is seen by the Catholic Church as an expression of full communion, while the Lutheran understanding is that the Eucharist is open to all. In my view, however, this is not a relation between two equal parties. We should remember that it was Luther and the other 16th-Century reformers who broke out and came to found new churches.          

Some say the road is the goal for a wanderer. In one way, I may agree; along the road are the views, the meetings and the experiences. Still, my goal, Rome with her churches, saints’ graves and all the other, was what kept me walking. I found rest in the thought that I was walking south in the footsteps of many Northerners during the last millennium – through landscapes and places they saw, along roads Christian church and cultural impulses had followed on their way north.

It is a quiet joy to know that the city with the Holy See and the graves of St. Peter and St. Paul is not farther away than that I have walked there. It took some months, but the road there is marked with a string of churches, chapels and altars still used by those who live there.


Il mio pellegrinaggio attraverso l’Europa, da Oslo a Roma

Il lungo cammino a piedi di Öivind Östang, attraverso l’Europa, da Oslo a Roma. Un’esperienza di viaggio e di vita di 2.900km condivisa con un racconto fatto di storia, incontri, emozioni.

Il racconto di viaggio, in inglese, si trova in allegato con alcune immagini del cammino avvenuto tra maggio e ottobre 2015.

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Il 2016 della Via Francigena: numeri e stime sul flusso dei pellegrini

L’Associazione Europea delle Vie Francigena fornisce dati sul profilo del camminatore, pellegrino ed escursionista in viaggio sull’itinerario europeo.
Il camminatore va a quatto o cinque km all’ora. Il pellegrino ama prendere tempo per sé, fermarsi e sostare in luoghi non conosciuti. Non ama adeguarsi alle scadenze durante il cammino, occasione che diventa momento di incontro, conversazione, ascolto. Un viaggio che si trasforma in scoperta di noi stessi e degli altri, immersi nella grande bellezza della Via Francigena. E come afferma Lacarrière, “Camminare ai giorni nostri, non è tornare ai tempi del Neolitico, ma piuttosto essere profeti”.
L’Associazione Europea delle Vie Francigene ha valutato 2.000 schede auto-compilate da pellegrini che hanno chiesto la credenziale nel 2016, su un totale di quasi 12.000 distribuite, per definire meglio il profilo del viaggiatore della Via Francigena. Parliamo di un campione che non ha le caratteristiche statistiche della significatività rispetto all’universo dei camminatori e dei pellegrini francigeni. Si tratta di una mera valutazione di AEVF sulla base delle  schede e di informazioni provenienti dai membri AEVF dell’itinerario, anche se vengono fornite informazioni utile per conoscere meglio il profilo del pellegrino del terzo millennio. Lo scorso anno sono stati stimati circa 40.000 camminatori.
Dal sondaggio si possono mettere in evidenza i seguenti punti:
  • La Via Francigena accoglie un pubblico sempre più internazionale.
  • Vengono scelte dai pellegrini tutte le modalità di alloggio, dagli ostelli alle strutture che offrono maggiori servizi
  • La Via Francigena è un cammino “intergenerazionale”, con una fascia che si allarga tra 16 e 75 anni
  • Nascono lungo il cammino servizi ed imprese a sostegno dell’itinerario
  • La Via Francigena favorisce il dialogo tra i territori e stimola il senso di appartenenza delle comunità locali
FASCE DI ETA’. La via Francigena diventa sempre più un grande itinerario culturale europeo in grado di attirare persone da tutto il mondo. Un cammino “intergenerazionale” che coinvolge tutte le classi di età, da 16 a 75, con aumento di presenze over 70 ed un forte incremento degli under 20 rispetto al 2015. Le fasce più rappresentate sono tra 40-60 anni (41%). A seguire, non distanti, la fascia 30-40 e 20-30 anni. Chi cammina è un tipo autonomo, ben informato, ama organizzarsi in modo autonomo ed acquista prodotti editoriali dedicati al cammino.

IL MEZZO DI TRASPORTO. Si conferma il trend di pellegrini che si mettono in cammino a piedi (79%), in aumento di 4 punti sul 2015. Sicuramente il numero costante di pellegrini che percorrono in bicicletta la via Francigena (21%) rappresenta una grande opportunità per ampliare maggiormente la fruizione della Via Francigena agli amanti della bici. Necessario aumentare i servizi nel percorso e accoglienza, oltre alla messa in sicurezza del percorso che necessita di investimenti adeguati.
Un pellegrino su tre ama partire in gruppo, o almeno con un altro compagno di viaggio fin dalla partenza.

MOTIVO DEL VIAGGIO. La motivazione principale di chi si mette in viaggio sulla via Francigena è il cammino stesso, prima ancora della meta. Ma una delle vere motivazioni è quella deI “saper perder tempo”, oggi considerato nella società moderna quasi inopportuno perché siamo sempre a cercare di recuperare il tempo che ci manca. Emergono la spiritualità, conoscenza dell’io e ricerca intima che avvicina con la natura e con l’ambiente che ci circonda. La Via Francigena offre un tempo per riflettere, per pensare, per scoprire. L’aspetto culturale è altrettanto importante: il cammino riserva un viaggio nella storia, nel tempo e nella cultura europea.  Rimane stabile al 15% la motivazione religiosa. In crescita l’interesse legato alla scoperta dei prodotti gastronomici del territorio che spesso sono in grado di allietare la tappa a fine giornata e diventano un modo per conoscere le tradizioni locali lungo la Via Francigena.

PROVENIENZA. La conoscenza della Via Francigena è in aumento su scala europea. Se è vero che circa il 70% è italiano, sempre più la Via Francigena si rivela un itinerario internazionale che attira pellegrini da tutto il mondo. In Europa i camminatori più numerosi provengono rispettivamente da Francia, Spagna, Germania, Svizzera, Austria, mentre dal resto del Mondo le provenienze maggiori arrivano da Stati Uniti, Canada, Brasile, Norvegia, ma si segnalano presenze in aumento da Giappone, Corea del Sud, Australia, Messico, Perù, Venezuela.

PERIODO E TAPPE DI PARTENZA. Nonostante il clima caldo, la maggior parte delle partenza si concentra nel periodo estivo: luglio ed agosto sono i mesi che vedono sul cammino una maggiore frequenza, anche in relazione alla possibilità di prendere le vacanze per un medio-lungo periodo.  Nel periodo primaverile e autunnale si concentra invece in modo maggiore la presenza di pellegrini non italiani. Da segnalare che si registrano presenze di pellegrini tutto l’anno, anche nei mesi invernali dicembre, gennaio, febbraio.
Alcune località sulla Via Francigena sono ritenute particolarmente strategiche per cominciare il cammino, almeno è quanto emerge dall’analisi dei dati. In Svizzera un numero crescente di pellegrini inizia da Losanna: splendida città sul lago di Lemano, facile da raggiungere e  a due passi dalle Alpi. In alcuni giorni di cammino si arriva ad uno dei luoghi mitici del percorso, il Passo del Gran San Bernardo. Lo stesso Passo è un altro dei luoghi preferiti dai camminatori con luogo di partenza. In Italia le città scelte principalmente per la partenza sono Fidenza, Lucca, Siena, Viterbo.

PERIODO DI CAMMINO E SOGGIORNO. Il periodo medio è di 7-8 giorni (50%), anche se molti scelgono di camminare ad esempio nei weekend o nei “lunghi” ponti primaverili sulla Via Francigena. Oltre il 20% cammina invece più di due settimane.
La metà dei pellegrini preferisce dormire in ostelli comunali, religiosi o privati. Quello che conta è lo spirito di condivisione ed accoglienza, a partire da un pasto a fine tappa che diventa occasione di scambio sulle esperienze vissute. Chi si mette in cammino per un lungo periodo sulla Via Francigena preferisce decisamente queste strutture, più affini alla dimensione del cammino. Chi viaggia per periodi più brevi, preferisce strutture che offrono maggiori confort e servizi, come hotel e/o B&B, dai quali ci si aspetta sempre comunque una attenzione di riguardo verso la categoria dell’escursionista. Sicuramente l’aumento di strutture ricettive a basso costo, in primis ostelli e ospitali, diventa l’elemento più importante per aumentare il flusso di pellegrini.

IL CAMMINO COME FILOSOFIA DI VITA. L’analisi conferma un forte trend in atto in questi anni, in aumento anche in Italia. Quello cioè del cammino inteso in tutte le sue forme e dimensioni, un’ “arte” che da un paio di secoli almeno viene celebrata da autori molto famosi (Rousseau, Hermann Hesse, Thoreau, Leigh Fermor, Ollivier, Muir), ma anche di autori meno noti per lo meno a noi italiani. E’ davvero una bella rivoluzione lenta quella che mette al centro il camminare, la sensorialità, la spiritualità, l’autenticità legata al viaggio. Come segnala uno dei massimi esperti di cammini, lo scrittore francese David Le Breton, è in atto un forte cambiamento positivo della cultura del camminare ed il camminatore stesso ha acquisito una dignità sociale. “Lo statuto del camminare è cambiato moltissimo in una trentina d’anni, affidandosi solo al proprio corpo e alla propria volontà, è un anacronismo in un’epoca di velocità, istantaneità, efficienza, rendimento, utilitarismo.”

2017: ANNO DEL BOOM E OPPORTUNITA’ PER I TERRITORI. I pellegrini sono già in cammino sulla Via Francigena da inizio anno. Per il 2017 ci si aspetta un vero boom in grado far aumentare la conoscenza di questo percorso europeo, anche grazie ad impegno sempre maggiore di istituzioni, associazioni e operatori privati. Si accendono i riflettori soprattutto sui piccoli comuni, quelli che compongono l’Europa “minore” e che sono stati celebrati al recente Forum sulla Via Francigena a Monteriggioni lo scorso 28 gennaio.
I territori possono giocare un ruolo molto importante per favorire la messa in rete dell’humus imprenditoriale e creativo attirando energia positiva e fiducia. Il tema dell’occupazione (non solo giovanile) oggi è più che mai al centro delle politiche europee,nazionali e regionali. La Via Francigena e tutti gli altri cammini ad essa collegati, possono diventare ottime piattaforme sperimentali per generare flussi occupazionali intorno a temi culturali, declinati in tutte le loro molteplici forme di sostenibilità ed accessibilità.
Luca Bruschi

Qui marche sur la Via Francigena? Analyses et reflexions

L’Association Européenne des Chemins de la Via Francigena fournit des données sur le profil du marcheur, pèlerin et randonneur en voyage sur l’itinéraire européen.

Le marcheur va à quatre ou cinq km/h. Le pèlerin aime prendre son temps, s’arrêter dans des lieux inconnus. Il n’aime pas se conformer aux délais pendant le voyage, c’est une occasion qui devient un moment de rencontre, de conversation, d’écoute. Un voyage qui se transforme en découverte de nous-même et des autres, immergé dans la grande beauté de la Via Francigena. Et comme affirme M.Lacarrière : « Marcher de nos jours, ce n’est pas revenir aux temps du Néolithique, mais plutôt au temps des prophètes ».

L’Association Européenne des Vie Francigene a étudié environ 2.000 questionnaires remplis par les pèlerins qui ont demandé la crédenciale en 2016 (passeport du pèlerin), sur un total de presque 12.000 distribuées, pour mieux définir le profil du voyageur de la Via Francigena. Nous parlons d’un échantillon qui n’a pas les caractéristiques statistiques significatives par rapport à l’univers des marcheurs et des pèlerins francigeni. Il s’agit d’une simple évaluation d’AEVF sur la base des questionnaires et des informations provenant des membres AEVF de l’itinéraire ; des informations utiles sont fournies pour mieux connaitre le profil du pèlerin du troisième millénaire. L’année dernière nous avons estimé à environ 40.000 la présence des marcheurs.

Du sondage, émergent les points suivants :

  • La Via Francigena accueille un public toujours plus international.
  • Toutes les modalités d’hébergement sont choisies par les pèlerins, des auberges aux structures qui offrent plus de services.
  • La Via Francigena est un chemin « intergénérationnel » (entre 16 et 75 ans).
  • Des services et des entreprises qui soutiennent l’itinéraire naissent le long du chemin.
  • La Via Francigena favorise le dialogue entre les territoires et stimule le sens d’appartenance des communautés locales.

Fourchette d’âge. La Via Francigena devient de plus en plus un grand itinéraire culturel européen en passe d’attirer des personnes du monde entier. Un chemin « intergénérationnel » qui engage toutes les classes d’âge, de 16 à 75 ans, avec une augmentation de la présence des + de 70ans et une forte croissance des – de 20 ans par rapport à 2015. Les groupes les plus représentés sont les 40-60 ans (41%). Suivi de près des 30-40 ans et des 20-30 ans. Le marcheur est une personne autonome, bien informée, qui aime s’organiser de façon autonome et achète des produits consacrés au chemin.

Le moyen de transport. La tendance des pèlerins qui se mettent en chemin à pied (79%) est confirmée, en augmentation de 4 points par rapport à 2015. Le nombre constant de pèlerins qui parcourent la Via Francigena en vélo (21%) représente une grande opportunité pour élargir l’utilisation de la Via Francigena aux amoureux de la bicyclette. Il est nécessaire d’augmenter les services dans le parcours et l’accueil, en plus de la sécurité du parcours qui nécessite des investissements adéquats. Un pèlerin sur 3 aime partir en groupe, ou au moins avec un autre compagnon de voyage.

Motifs du voyage. Le motif principal de celui qui se met en chemin sur la Via Francigena est le chemin lui-même, bien avant le but. Mais une des vraies raisons est celle de « savoir perdre son temps », aujourd’hui considéré presque inopportun dans la société moderne parce que nous cherchons toujours à récupérer le temps qui nous manque. Emergent la spiritualité, la connaissance de soi-même et la recherche intime qui rapproche de la nature et de notre environnement. La Via Francigena offre du temps pour réfléchir, pour penser, pour découvrir. L’aspect culturel est tout autant important : le chemin réserve un voyage dans l’histoire, dans le temps et dans la culture européenne. Le motif religieux reste stable à 15%. L’intérêt lié à la découverte des produits gastronomiques du territoire est croissant, souvent ils sont capables d’agrémenter l’étape en fin de journée et deviennent une façon de connaitre les traditions locales le long de la Via Francigena.

La nationalité. La connaissance de la Via Francigena est en augmentation sur l’échelle européenne. S’il est vrai qu’environ 70% sont italiens, la Via Francigena se révèle de plus en plus un itinéraire international qui attire des pèlerins du monde entier. En Europe les marcheurs les plus nombreux proviennent respectivement de la France, de l’Espagne, de l’Allemagne, de la Suisse, de l’Autriche alors que les provenances les plus importantes dans le reste du monde sont des Etats-Unis, du Canada, du Brésil, de la Norvège mais nous signalons une augmentation de la présence du Japon, de la Corée du Sud, de l’Australie, du Mexique, du Pérou et du Venezuela.   

Périodes et étapes de départ. Malgré le climat chaud, la majeure partie des départs se concentre en été : juillet et août sont les mois les plus pratiqués sur le chemin, liés surement à la possibilité de prendre des vacances pour une période moyenne-longue. Au printemps et en automne nous constatons une présence plus importante de pèlerins non italiens. A signaler que la présence de pèlerins s’étale sur toute l’année, même durant l’hiver : décembre, janvier et février.

Certaines localités sur la Via Francigena sont considérées comme particulièrement stratégiques pour commencer le chemin, c’est ce qui est apparu des analyses des données. En Suisse un nombre croissant de pèlerins part de Lausanne : splendide ville sur le lac Léman, facile à rejoindre et à deux pas des Alpes. En quelques jours de marche, nous arrivons à un des lieux mythiques du parcours, le Col du Grand Saint Bernard. Le même Pas est un des lieux préférés des marcheurs comme étape de départ. En Italie, les villes choisies principalement pour le départ sont Fidenza, Lucques, Siennes et Viterbo.

Période de marche et séjour. La période moyenne est de 7-8 jours (50%), même si beaucoup choisissent  de marcher par exemple les week-end ou les « longs » ponts printaniers. Plus de 20% marchent plus de deux semaines.

La moitié des pèlerins préfère dormir dans des auberges communales, religieuses ou privées. Ce qui compte c’est l’esprit de partage et d’accueil, en partant d’un repas en fin d’étape qui devient une occasion d’échanger des expériences vécues.  Ceux qui se mettent en chemin pour une longue période sur la Via Francigena préfèrent décidément ces structures, plus conformes à la dimension du chemin. Ceux qui voyagent pour des périodes plus brèves, préfèrent des structures qui offrent plus de confort et de services, comme des hôtels et/ou des B&B, desquels on attend quand même une attention particulière envers les excursionnistes. L’augmentation des structures d’accueil à bas coût devient sûrement l’élément le plus important pour augmenter le flux de pèlerins.

Le chemin comme philosophie de vie. L’analyse confirme une forte tendance ces dernières années, en augmentation en Italie aussi. Celle du chemin, sous-entendu dans toutes ses formes et dimensions, qui serait un « art de vie », qui depuis deux siècles environ est célébré par des auteurs très connus (Rousseau, Hermann Hesse, Thoreau, Leigh Fermor, Ollivier, Muir), mais aussi par des auteurs moins connus du moins pour nous italiens. C’est vraiment une belle révolution lente que celle qui met au centre la marche, la sensorialité, la spiritualité, l’authenticité liées au voyage. Comme le signale un des experts du Chemin, l’écrivain français David Le Breton, un grand changement positif de la culture de la marche est en cours et le marcheur lui-même a acquis une dignité sociale. « Le statut de la marche a beaucoup changé ces 30 dernières années, en se fiant seulement à son propre corps et à sa propre volonté, c’est un anachronisme dans une époque de vitesse, d’instantanéité, d’efficacité, de rendement, d’utilitarisme. »

2017 : l’année du boom et d’opportunité pour les territoires. Les pèlerins sont déjà en marche sur la Via Francigena depuis le début de l’année. Pour 2017, on s’attend à un vrai boom capable d’augmenter la connaissance de ce parcours européen, grâce aussi à l’implication toujours plus importante des institutions, des associations et des opérateurs privés. Les projecteurs s’allument surtout sur les petites Communes, celles qui composent l’Europe « mineure » et qui ont été célébrées récemment au Forum sur la Via Francigena à Monteriggioni le 28 janvier dernier.

Les territoires peuvent jouer un rôle très important pour favoriser la mise en réseau du terreau entrepreneurial et créatif en attirant énergie positive et confiance. Le thème de l’emploi (pas seulement des jeunes) aujourd’hui est plus que jamais au centre des politiques européennes, nationales et régionales. La Via Francigena et tous les autres Chemins reliés à elle, peuvent devenir de bonnes plates-formes expérimentales pour générer des flux d’activité autour des thèmes culturels, déclinés en toutes leurs multiples formes de durabilité et d’accessibilité.

Luca Bruschi



Walking on the via Francigena. Analysis and consideration

The European Association of the Vie Francigene provides data on the profile of the walker, the pilgrim and the excursionist who travels on the European route


Fidenza – The walker travels 4 or 5 km per hour. The pilgrim loves taking time for themselves, stopping and taking a break in unknown places. They don’t like adapting to deadlines during the walk, which is an occasion to meet, talk and listen. A journey that becomes a discovery of ourselves and others, absorbed in the great beauty of the Via Francigena. And, as Lacarrière says, “To walk these days does not mean to go back to the Neolithic era, it rather means to be a prophet”.

The European Association of the Vie Francigene analysed about 2.000 of the almost 11.000 distributed forms, which were completed by pilgrims who required the credential in 2016, in order to better define the profile of the walker of the Via Francigena. We are talking about a sample that hasn’t got the statistic characteristics of significance, compared to the universe of walkers and pilgrims of the Francigena. It is a mere evaluation by EAVF on the basis of the forms and the information coming from EAVF’s staff along the route; however, it provides useful information to better know the profile of the 3rd Millennium pilgrim. Last year, a flow of about 40.000 walkers has been estimated.

By the survey, the following points can be highlighted:

  • The Via Francigena greets an always more international public
  • All the modalities of accommodation, from hostels to facilities that offer more services, are chosen by pilgrims
  • The Via Francigena is an “intergenerational” walk, with a slot that spreads between the age of 16 to 70
  • Services and businesses are created along the route, to support it
  • The Via Francigena promotes the dialogue between territories and encourages the sense of belonging of local communities

Age groups. The Via Francigena becomes an even bigger European cultural route, which can attract people from all over the world. An “intergenerational” walk that involves all the age groups, from 16 to 70, with an increased presence of over-70 people and a strong under-20 growth, if compared with 2015. The most represented groups are the one between 40-60 years (41%). The 30-40 and 20-30 groups follow, not very distant. Walkers are autonomous, well informed, they love getting organised in an autonomous way and buying editorial products dedicated to the path.

Means of transport. The trend of walking pilgrims is confirmed (79%), increasing by 4 points with regards to 2015. The constant number of pilgrims who travel along the Francigena by bike surely represents a great opportunity to mainly broaden the usability of the Via Francigena for bike lovers. It is necessary to increase the services on the path and on accommodation, together with adequate investments on the safety of the route.

A pilgrim out of three loves travelling in group, or at least with a travel partner, since the start.

Reason for travel. The main reason for people who decide to travel on the Francigena is the walk itself, even before the destination. However, one of the true motives is the one of “learning how to waste time”, which in the modern society is almost considered inappropriate, because we are always trying to retrieve the time we don’t have. Spirituality, knowledge of the self and intimate research emerge, all of which move us closer to nature and the environment that surrounds us. The Via Francigena offers time to reflect, to think, to discover. The cultural aspect is important just as much: the walk offers a journey through history, time and the European culture. The religious reason is fixed at the 15%. The interest connected to the discovery of the territorial food and wine industry grows; it is able to cheer the stage at the end of the day and it becomes a way to know the local tradition along the Via Francigena.

The provenance. The knowledge of the Via Francigena is growing on a European scale. If it is true that about the 70% is Italian, the Via Francigena is becoming more and more an international route, that attracts pilgrims from all over the world. In Europe, the most numerous walkers come respectively from France, Spain, Germany, Switzerland, Austria; while, from the rest of the world, the main provenances are from the United States, Canada, Brazil, Norway; however there are increased numbers coming from Japan, South Korea, Australia, Mexico, Peru, Venezuela.

Period and starting stages. Despite the hot weather, most of the departures focuse during summer time: July and August are the months that see a greater attendance on the walk, also related to the possibility to go on vacation for a medium-long period. In spring and autumn, the presence of non-Italian pilgrims is higher. It is interesting to point out a presence of pilgrims all year round, even during the winter months of December, January, February.

Some locations on the Via Francigena are particularly strategic to start the walk, or at least this is what emerges from the analysis of data. In Switzerland, an increasing number of pilgrims starts from Losanna: a wonderful city on the Lemano lake, easy to reach and close to the Alps. In a few days of walk it is possible to reach one of the mythical location of the route, the Great St. Bernard Pass. The Pass itself is one of the other most beloved starting point location for walkers. In Italy, the main chosen cities to start are Fidenza, Lucca, Siena, Viterbo.

Walk period and accommodation. The average period is 7-8 days (50%), even if many choose to walk on the Via Francigena during, for example, weekends or spring “long” weekends. More than the 20% walks more than two weeks, instead.

The half of the pilgrims prefer to sleep in town hostels, whether religious or private. What matters is the sharing and welcoming spirit, starting from a meal at the end of the stage, which becomes an opportunity to exchange experiences. People who walk for a long period on the Via Francigena definitely prefer these buildings, more similar to the true aspect of the walk. People who travel for a shorter time prefer facilities that offer more services and comforts, such as hotels and/or B&Bs, from which a special consideration is expected towards the category of the excursionist. Surely, the increase of low-cost accommodating facilities, as hostels and hospitals, becomes the most important element for the rise of the pilgrims’ flow.

The walk as a philosophy of life. The analysis confirms a strong trend happening these years, increasing also in Italy. That is to say, the one of the walk intended in all its forms and dimensions, an “art” that since at least a couple of centuries is celebrated by very famous authors (Russeau, Herman Hesse, Thoreau, Leigh Fermor, Ollivier, Muir), but also by less known authors, at least to the Italians. It is actually a beautiful slow revolution, the one that focuses on walking, sensory, spirituality, authenticity connected to the journey. As signalled by one of the greatest expert on walks, the French writer David Le Breton, a strong positive change of the culture of walking is happening and the walker itself is acquiring a social dignity. “The foundation of walking has greatly changed in the last 30 years, relying only on its body and will and this is an anachronism in a era of speed, immediacy, efficiency, production, utilitarianism.”

2017: year of the boom and opportunity for territories. Pilgrims are already walking on the Via Francigena since the beginning of the year. For 2017, a true boom is expected, which is going to be able to increase the knowing of this European route, also thanks to an always greater commitment of institutions, associations and private operators. The lights turn on especially on small Municipalities, which compose the “minor” Europe and which have been celebrated during the recent Forum on the Via Francigena in Monteriggioni, on the last 28th January.

The territories can play a very important role to support the put online of the entrepreneurial and creative humus attracting positive energy and faith. The theme of occupation (not just the young one) is at the centre of European, national and regional politics, now more than ever. The Via Francigena and all the other routes connected to it can become great experimental platforms to create occupational flows around cultural themes, declined in all their multiple forms of sustainability and accessibility.

Luca Bruschi



Les convergences entre les expériences des pèlerins et des touristes sur la Via Francigena à Rome et dans le Latium

Linsen Lu Pilgrim Settembrini a récemment conclu un Master sur le Patrimoine Culturel Durable à l’Université américaine de Rome. Son projet final traite de la recherche quantitative et qualitative des lieux historiques sur la Via Francigena et leur impact dans la communauté des pèlerins et des touristes. La recherche s’est conclue par un stage dans la région de Latium, où une recherche sur le recueil des données liées au passage des pèlerins a été lancée.

Son dévouement pour le patrimoine culturel vient de ses études supérieures, couronnées par un diplôme en Histoire de l’Art. Originaire de Brooklyn (New York), Lu est une voyageuse passionnée qui vit maintenant à Rome. Son plan de travail est de continuer à animer et à engager les communautés locales à travers le patrimoine culturel italien et mondial.

Vous pouvez la contacter à :

Ci-joint un extrait de sa thèse


Betwixt and Between: Convergences between tourist and pilgrim experiences on the Via Francigena in Rome and Lazio

Linsen Lu Pilgrim Settembrini is a recent Master of Arts degree graduate of Sustainable Cultural Heritage at the American University of Rome. There, she mastered the fundamentals of effective management and communication between the various components of a cultural organization for its longevity. Her final project involved in-depth research utilizing the mixed-method approach of collecting quantitative and qualitative data on the linear cultural landmark, The Via Francigena, and its impact on pilgrim-tourist communities. Her research also included an internship at the Regione Lazio where she initiated a uniform method of collecting demographic data on Via Francigena pilgrims who travel through central Lazio. 

Her dedication to the field of cultural heritage originates from her arts and cultural studies background in high school, which culminated in a Bachelor’s of Art in Painting and Gender Studies.  Originally from Brooklyn, New York, she is an avid traveller currently based in Rome. She plans to continue working towards a revitalization of local communities through the maintenance of cultural heritage in Italy and the world. 

She can be contacted at
You can find the abstract of the thesis in attachment.


Convergenze tra le esperienze dei pellegrini e turisti sulla Via Francigena a Roma e nel Lazio

Linsen Lu Pilgrim Settembrini ha recentemente concluso il Master sul Patrimonio Culturale Sostenibile presso l’Università americana di Roma. Il suo progetto finale riguarda la ricerca quantitativa e qualitativa lungo i luoghi storici sulla Via Francigena ed il suo l’impatto nelle comunità di pellegrini e turisti. La ricerca si è conclusa con uno stage presso la regione Lazio dove è stata avviata una ricerca sulla raccolta dati legata al passaggio dei pellegrini nell’area laziale. 

La sua dedizione nel campo del patrimonio culturale parte dai suoi studi superiori, culminati nel diploma in Stoira dell’Arte. Originaria di Brooklyn (New York), Lu è una appassionata viaggiatrice che ora risiede a Roma. Sta pianificando di continuare a lavorare per animare e coinvolgere le comunità locali attraverso il patrimonio culturale in Italia e nel mondo.

Può essere contattata a:
In allegato un abstract della tesi


Francigena, le processus pour la candidature comme patrimoine mondial UNESCO a commencé

FLORENCE – vendredi 10 février, le processus pour la candidature de la Via Francigena italienne à la Liste de Patrimoine UNESCO (World Heritage List) a commencé avec l’engagement des Régions.

Voilà le résultat de la rencontre qui s’est tenue cette après-midi à Florence, auprès du ministère régional de la culture. En plus de la vice-présidente Monica Barni, titulaire de la délégation à la culture, de l’assesseur au tourisme Stefano Ciuoffo, du conseiller régional toscan délégué Francesco Gazzetti et du directeur de Toscana promotion touristique Alberto Peruzzini, sont intervenus les assesseurs et les représentants compétents des Régions engagées dans le projet.

Pour la Région Lombardie, l’assesseur Cristina Cappellini était présente ; pour le Val d’Aoste, l’assesseur Emily Rini est intervenu ; la Région Piémont était représentée par l’assesseur Antonella Parigi. Comme représentant de l’Emilie-Romagne, est intervenu Andrea Massari, maire de Fidenza. Lazio et la Ligurie ont adhérés à l’initiative.

La rencontre, qui a lancé le processus pour la présentation de la candidature, a servi aussi à définir dans les détails le protocole commun qui établit la finalité et l’implication des divers sujets engagés .

Parmi les points discutés : la nomination de la Région Toscane comme coordinatrice de la phase de préparation à la candidature, l’implication de l’Association Européenne des Vie Francigene et l’engagement à un débat constant entre les Communes, le MiBact et la Commission Unesco.

Cette confirmation de l’engagement des Régions en faveur des lieux, des communautés et des marcheurs de la Via Francigena veut être une invitation et une garantie à tous les niveaux institutionnels de travailler ensemble à la promotion, à la tutelle et au développement d’un des principaux chemins d’Europe.

Le prochain rendez-vous pour la signature du protocole est fixé au 4 mars à San Miniato dans le cadre des deux journées consacrées à « La Francigena et les chemins. L’empreinte durable de la Toscane ».

Source : Toscana Notizie, F.Taverniti 




FLORENCE – Today, Friday 10th February, started the procedure to nominate the Italian Via Francigena to the World Heritage List with the commitment of the Regions.This is the result of the meeting that was held this afternoon in Florence, at the regional department of culture. Beyond the vice president Monica Barni, owner of the culture mandate, and the tourism assessor Stefano Ciuoffo, the regional representative counselor of Tuscany Francesco Gazzetti and the executive director of the touristic promotion of Tuscany Alberto Peruzzini, also assessors and expert delegates of the Regions involved in the project, attended the meeting.

The assessor Cristina Cappellini was present to represent Lombardy Region; for Aosta Valley the assessor Emily Rini participated, while for Piedmont Region the assessor Antonella Parigi attended. To represent Emilia-Romagna participated Andrea Massari, mayor of the municipality of Fidenza. Lazio and Liguria also adhered to the initiative.

The meeting, that actually starts the iter for the presentation of the candidacy, was also useful to define in detail the common procedure that establishes purposes and obligations of the different subjects involved.

Between the most discussed points, the identification of Tuscany Region as coordinator of the preparatory phase for the candidacy, the involvement of the European Association of the Vie Francigene, the commitment for a constant comparison with Municipalities, the MIbact and the UNESCO board.

This confirmation of the commitment of the regions in favour of the locations, the communities and the walkers of the Via Francigena is also aimed to be an invitation and a warranty -at every institutional level- to work together for the promotion, the safeguard and the development of one of the main paths of Europe.

Next appointment for the signing of the protocol is established on 4th March in San Miniato, in the field of the two-days meeting on “The Via Francigena and the routes. The sustainable footprint of Tuscany”.

Source: Toscana Notizie, F. Taverniti