After a great walking adventure along the Via Francigena in Switzerland, the EAVF team conducted a roadshow on the Via Francigena in France on 24 – 28 August 2020.
Tourism tendencies of the summer 2020 were largely proximity travel, natural sites and “off the beaten track” discoveries as well as high health standards and safety. The Via Francigena perfectly accommodates these demands and offers an opportunity of slow travel and local adventures to pilgrims, wayfarers and amateurs of culture and nature.
France, a well-established destination for outdoor, trekking and cycling tourism, is crossed by the Via Francigena along1,200 km. 48 stages of the Via Francigena in France run through 8 departments (Pas-de-Calais; Aine; Somme; Aube; Marne; Haute-Marne; Haute-Saone; Doubs) in 3 regions: Hauts-de-France, Grand Est, Bourgogne-Franche-Comté. They account for one third of the entire Via Francigena route from Canterbury (Kent, GB) via Rome (Lazio, IT) to Santa Maria di Leuca (Puglia, IT).
Roadshow 2020: EAVF on the road
The team of the European Association of the Via Francigena ways (EAVF), composed of the president Massimo Tedeschi, the vice president Martine Gautheron, the director Luca Bruschi, international relations advisor Elena Dubinina, in collaboration with Leslie Maussang, Via Francigena development coordinator in France, completed the first roadshow along the entire French section.
The meetings were held in Calais (Hauts-de-France); Péronne (Hauts-de-France); Saint-Quentin (Hauts-de-France); Chalons-en-Champagne (Grand East); Châteauvillain (Grand East); Besançon (Bourgogne-Franche-Comté).
These meetings focused on the presentation of the Via Francigena, the EAVF and its activities, as well as the provided space for exchange and discussions, bringing together local authorities, regions, departments, municipalities and urban communities, tourism offices and local associations.
During the Roadshow the EAVF team presented the recently published guide “The Via Francigena from Canterbury to the Grand Saint Bernard Pass” published by Favre in cooperation with the EAVF. The section dedicated to the French section of the route was prepared in collaboration with the French Hiking Federation FFR, which made available traces of the route, and with French Departments – Doubs, Haute-Saône, Haute -Marne, Marne, Aube, the urban agglomeration of Grand Besançon and the Swiss region Bas-Valais, which provided support by pre-purchasing several copies.
The EAVF network in France is ever growing
In Calais the EAVF met Natasha Buchart, mayor and vice-president of the Hauts-de-France Region, and Dominique Darré, municipal councilor in charge of heritage and the Via Francigena focal point in Calais. In Péronne the EAVF met Michel Dreville, towns councilor in charge of associations and heritage; and in Saint-Quentin – Alexis Grandin, vice-mayor in charge of international relations. In Châlons-en-Champagne, the EAVF met Gérard Lebas, delegate for European relations and finance, while in Chateauvillain the team had a chance to exchange with Marie-Claude Lavocat – mayor and vice-president of the Department of Haute-Marne and Fabienne Schollhammer, Haute-Marne departmental councilor and the president of the Maison du Tourisme of Haute-Marne.
The final meeting took place on Friday 28 August in Besançon in the presence of Anne Vignot, the newly elected mayor and president of Besançon Metropole; Pierre Simon, the departmental councilor of the Grand Besançon Metropole, the mayor of Champlitte Patrice Colinet, the president of the Communauté Communes des 4 Rivières Dimitri Doussot, the vice president of the Haute Saône department Jean Jacques Sombstay and numerous representatives of local institutions, departmental and associations. The meeting was also attended by Benoit Vuillemin, a mayor of Saône (Doubs; Bourgogne-Franche-Comté) – the latest adherence to the EAVF, becoming the 186th member of the association.
Representatives of the French Hiking Federation FFRP (regional and departmental committees) and of the French Federation of the Via Francigena (FFVF) also participated in the meetings.
In the afternoon on 28 August, the EAVF president Massimo Tedeschi, accompanied by Montfaucon mayor Pierre Contoz, attended a concert in a framework of the 14th Besançon / Montfaucon / Orbe Music Festival on the Via Francigena in Montfaucon. He was welcomed by the President of the Festival and by Arthur Schoonderwoerd, festival’s co-founder and director.
The Via Francigena in France
Including Saône, the EAVF unites 25 French municipalities and departments. The French network has a high potential to grow bigger as the Via Francigena crosses 230 municipalities in France and the EAVF membership provides an opportunity to associate to an international network of the European cultural route and a UNESCO World Heritage candidate.
Route sections of Canterbury-Arras, Arras-Reims, Reims-Langres, Langres-Besançon, Besançon-Lausanne present hight development potential in enhancement its historical and cultural heritage and creation of a network of accommodations, offering pilgrims an authentic personal experience.
The French stretch of the Via Francigena is called GR145 according to the French Hiking Federation FFR, which oversees route’s maintenance and signage. As highlighted during the roadshow, attended by the FFR representatives, cooperation between FFR and EAVF is of vital importance for the development of this historic route.
The FFR Regional Committee of Hauts-de-France together with three departmental committees of Pas-de-Calais, Aisne and Somme became a full EAVF member in October 2019.
The Via Francigena often retraces the historic route indicated in the Sigeric’s diary, which takes pilgrims to picturesque villages in rural areas, providing local authorities with an opportunity for territorial development. The high development potential of the Via Francigena in France is to be untapped thanks to the strong commitment of stakeholders – institutions, associations and services along the route.