The community of enthusiasts around the Via Francigena grows stronger. Proof of this can be seen in the data collected by the European Association of Via Francigena Ways (EAVF) with the coordination and development of the Cultural Routes of the Council of Europe.
The association, to date includes 155 European territorial communities but interacts daily with those who travel the route or live in the territories crossed by the route. These are tens of thousands of pilgrims, tourists or ordinary citizens interested in learning about and enhancing Sigeric’s route.
The most significant data is that of Pilgrim Passports. The Pilgrim Passport is a fundamental document for those who want to travel the Francigena. In 2018, the Association distributed over 16,000 EAVF Pilgrim Passports through 90 distribution points in the 4 European countries crossed by the route. A positive sign that proves the interest of people in the area.
Among the new distribution points, in France we can find important stops, such as Calais and Arras, and Orsières in Switzerland, and the Regional Office of Tourism in Aosta to cite some examples. In addition to distribution through the official website, distribution sites most often range along the entire route: from the Tourist Information Office in Champlitte in France, to the Great St Bernard Hospice in Bourg-Saint-Pierre (Switzerland), from the Association La Via Francigena di Sigerico (Ivrea), to the IAT Office of Fidenza, and from the Museum of the Cathedral of Lucca, to the Tourist Information Office of Monteriggioni in Santa Maria alla Scala in Siena.
Not only that, the relationship with users of the Francigena is also made up of reports and requests for information that reach the Association through multiple channels and in different languages. In 2018, the EAVF responded to over 700 messages via e-mail or telephone received and, in the first six months of 2019, over 300 reports were received at the dedicated address: firstname.lastname@example.org.
The most popular questions? Curiosity about the route on foot and by bicycle, feedback on the EAVF app, how to obtain the Pilgrim Passports, reception, and finally on the commercial aspect of the route. The EAVF portal is an opportunity for visibility for tour operators and managers of hospitality and catering through the Visit Vie Francigene network.
Then there’s the virtual part where the Francigena community has no borders. In addition to the official EAVF website, an international reference point, the driving force on social networks is the Facebook page, which today has over 48,000 followers; followed by the Instagram profile with over 5,000 followers. Also noteworthy are the numbers relating to the free smartphone app launched by the EAVF in January 2018. In the last year, we’ve had over 18,000 installations on Android and iOS devices and the distribution of the official “Terre di Mezzo” guide of the Italian section continues: 25,000 copies of the Italian, English and French editions have been printed in in the last 3 years.
Who formed the Francigena community? The data published by Terre di Mezzo in March, provided a general picture of the Italian walker profile, the majority of whom are over-45s and 43% are women. A trend confirmed also by an internal sample analysis carried out by the EAVF in 2018 on 1,000 surveys and Pilgrim Passports. The average age of Francigena walkers stands at 51 years. The starting points most chosen are: Aosta, Siena, Fidenza. The three countries with the highest amount of pilgrims, in addition to Italy: France, Germany, Switzerland. The busiest months to get started are April, May, July and September, 70% travelled the Francigena on foot and 30% by bicycle. It’s a journey that has no age: among the collected data it emerged that the youngest pilgrim in 2018 was 8 years old and the oldest 87 years old.