This day on the Great St Bernard Pass, Saturday the 2nd September, was no ordinary day. The “Compagnons” of the Via Francigena, after 20 years since the opening of the Pass to pilgrims, celebrated the anniversary with a particular event: the gathering of a Swiss and Italian delegation that, with walking boots and rucksack at the ready, climbed both sides of the mountain to meet at the peak.
An exciting anniversary from the moment the two groups of pilgrims met and greeted one another at the foot of the hostel, which for centuries has been present in this place. After initial institutional greetings, the main advocates of this initiative and local authorities of both sides, as well as representatives of associations that for years operate in this sector: the “Compagnons” represented by Bernard Delasoie and Willy Fellay for the Canton of Valais, and Palmira Orsieres and Laurette Proment for the Aosta Valley. Present and speaking at the event were the president of the European Association of the Vie Francigene, Massimo Tedeschi, the regional counsellor of tourism, Claudio Restano, the vice-president of the region of the Aosta Valley, Laurant Viérin, and the ex-state councillor, Maurice Tornay, returning from a pilgrimage on the Via Francigena from his home town of Orsieres, which he followed until arriving in Rome.
The Aosta Valley is becoming a real cultural and touristic product and hikers observe these improvements as they travel along the route. The event taken place, in which many participated, is proof of this: the synergistic work of various realities, restorers and hotel owners, permits the region to develop from a cultural perspective, of tradition and gastronomy, ensuring the presence of the services necessary for pilgrims and those who pass through these areas of rare beauty on foot.
The Via Francigena is not blocked by administrative borders, nor is it intimidated by linguistic differences. In addition to the citizens of the two sides of the mountain a delegation from Ivrea was also present at the Great St Bernard Pass, from the Franche-Comté and the Savoia departments, as well as a few native pilgrims.
Also present at the gathering was the Australian pilgrim, Carol Neville: “I was visiting Switzerland, but when I found out about this event through the EAVF website, I had no choice but to take part! It’s these moments that bring people together which make you fall in love with pilgrimages and the Via Francigena!”