Via Francigena - part 2

April - June 2024
A 56-day adventure by Carmel Read more
  • 57footprints
  • 4countries
  • 56days
  • 1.0kphotos
  • 4videos
  • 17.8kkilometers
  • 16.7kkilometers
  • Day 1

    Sydney Airport

    April 19 in Australia ⋅ ☁️ 17 °C

    I've checked in, and my bag was a very disappointing 8.1 kg! I'm blaming all of the warm clothing that I'm taking for the mountains. Luckily, that part of the journey is first, so I'll be able to send a lot of that home. I'm nervous and tired, as I did not sleep well last night, and have my fingers crossed that I will sleep well on the plane. I have added a photo of the Vegvisir, a norse compass or way pointer, and a tiny metal box with three angels that will keep me on the right path and protect me as I'm walking.Read more

  • Day 2

    Doha Airport

    April 20 in Qatar ⋅ 🌙 22 °C

    I'm sitting in a smoking room at Doha airport. The 14 hour flight was surprisingly good, and I did manage to get the most sleep I've ever had on a flight. It's just after 5 am here, and the sun has not yet come up. As you can imagine, the airport is fairly quiet. There is a waterfall that is enclosed in massive glass arches, surrounded by real trees. A lot of people are enjoying the space.
    P.S. I just ordered a latte - not bad, but I did need to add a sugar. They also offered a "Spanish Latte"; it comes with condensed milk. Perhaps I should have given that a go?
    P.S. check out the amazing information kiosk in my pictures; I scanned my boarding pass and it tells me my gate!
    Read more

  • Day 2

    Milan

    April 20 in Italy ⋅ ☀️ 16 °C

    I've made it safe and sound to Milan. My second flight seemed to pass in no time at all. I caught some wonderful sights of snow-capped mountains on the few occasions that the clouds cleared away. I decided not to sleep on my second flight to make sure that I was tired enough to get a good nights rest tonight. That may have been a mistake as I'm sitting here eating dinner feeling a little shaky. I managed to hop on the wrong train from the airport to the city, and I also managed to lock myself out of my hotel safe (staff had to help me regain access). But I was able to recover both mishaps without too much drama. I heard from the BBC tonight that it has been snowing on the Alps. That may impact my ability to get to Grand Saint Bernard Pass. Also, I've had no luck getting tickets to see the Last Supper. I'm pretty heart broken. As I never give up, I will try again tomorrow in person.Read more

  • Day 3

    Milan

    April 21 in Italy ⋅ ☁️ 10 °C

    I exhausted myself today walking all over Milan. Thankfully, I'm travelling most of the day tomorrow on train and bus, so I should be rested to start my pilgrimage the day after. I was lucky enough to get a ticket to see the Last Supper, and it was, as expected, the highlight of the day. The tour guide really did enhance the entire experience. I was mistaken; I thought the French had super cute little cars. Well, the Italian's, if Milan is anything to go by, beat them hands down. I've added just one photo so that you can see what I mean. I really have a lot to say about today, but I'm too tired to make the effort. Rest assured, it was memorable and included a lot of churches. I have to add that the hotel I'm staying at has free beer on tap, Heineken, I'm enjoying one in my room right now.Read more

  • Day 4

    Day 0: Milan to Echevennoz

    April 22 in Italy ⋅ ☁️ 2 °C

    The day started out wet and cold. I managed to catch two trains and two buses today without a hitch - I am very pleased. The only mishap was a broken clip on my backpack. It broke this morning on my way out of the room (I'm obviously not used to having the backpack on yet). Fortunately, I have a crocodile clip that will keep the strap in place. That stap secures my water supply! Thankfully, the rain cleared up as I was making my way through the Aosta Valley (amazingly beautiful. I can'twait to begin walking). The mountains were misty, and as we approached Aosta on the first bus, I saw a lot of snow on the peaks. It was cold in Aosta, and now that I am in Echevennoz, where I am staying tonight; it is freezing! I've decided against taking on Grand Saint Bernard Pass as the forecast for tomorrow is overcast and for Wednesday rain. I have no snow walking experience in good weather, so I have no confidence at all in taking on the mountain in less than ideal conditions at this time of year.Read more

  • Day 5

    Day 1: Echevennoz to Aosta

    April 23 in Italy ⋅ ⛅ 8 °C

    I had the most delicious meal last night in the trattoria a few steps from my accommodation. The meal was cooked by my host Erik's parents. I ate my plentiful and also delicious breakfast to the sounds of Erik playing the accordion (video attached). What a wonderful way to start the day. The walk today wasn't long (17.53 km) but descended about 600m. My knees really felt it. The Way started right outside my accommodation and followed an impressive irrigation canal (Ru Neuf) filled with pristine water for quite some time. Then, I made my way down into the valley. It was a beautiful sunny day with the snow capped peaks changing minute by minute as the clouds moved across them. Aosta is a reasonably sized town so I gathered some food supplies for the walk tomorrow, took in some sights and visited both the Cathedral and a smaller church. Three things impress me about the Italian churches I have seen so far: the incredible variety and colour of the marble, the interior and exterior frescoes, and the detailed painting on the ceilings and arches.Read more

  • Day 6

    Day 2: Aosta to Châtillon

    April 24 in Italy ⋅ ☀️ 5 °C

    Today was a long one (30.6 km) and the hardest walk I've done in a long time. I don't mind admitting that I'm sore all over. I literally took the scenic route - there were so many amazing things to see, and I took advantage of every photo opportunity. I'm sure it delayed my arrival, not to mention all the breaks I took, which let me soak in the views and was worth any delay. The Way today ranged from sealed road (a fair bit of that) to goat tracks. Again, I walked alongside an irrigation canal (the Ru Mazod). As you can imagine, there is a good amount of water around here. One bit of excitement: a dog came at me. I must have startled it when I suddenly appeared around the corner. I gave it a fierce stare and said "no" in my bossy voice, and it backed right off - what a relief. Funny, lots of dogs barked at me in France (even a goose had a go), not one dog that I recall barked at me in Switzerland, but here in Italy, the dogs seem to be territorial as well. One last thing; Saint Christopher is a big deal around here!Read more

  • Day 7

    Day 3: Châtillon to Verrès

    April 25 in Italy ⋅ ⛅ 10 °C

    A shorter walk today (21.73 km). The guide said it was challenging, and I was finding it easy! I even joked to myself that the end section was going to have to be tough to warrant the designation. Well, truer words have never been spoken! The last 6 - 7 km was an absolute howler. I didn't help myself by going the wrong way up a really steep incline only to have to turn around and retrace my steps to rejoin the Way! What a dill. Not long before I reached Verres, I was telling myself that there was no way this was the original pilgrim route when there was a perfectly flat and reasonable valley below to walk along LOL. I met an Australian this morning, Ann, in Chatillon. She now lives in Mexico and has walked all the way from Santa Maria di Leuca. When I asked why she chose to walk the VF in reverse, she replied that she had started in Rome, hated walking with the sun in her face, and then made her way to Santa Maria di Leuca. I believe she will finish today in Aosta. What a legend! I wore my skirt for the first time today (my standard for Part 1 of the VF). I had my tights underneath but took them off after the first 2 km - it was another sunny day and the sun is warm.Read more

  • Day 8

    Day 4: Verrès to Pont-Saint-Martin

    April 26 in Italy ⋅ ☁️ 8 °C

    I woke this morning to a fully overcast sky and light rain. I got to test out my new poncho, which will be known from now on as the "Great Pumpkin" (I'm a Peanuts fan) as that's exactly what I look like with it on. It did the job perfectly, and even though the wind was bracing, I never felt too cold (or hot). Today was one of those perfect walking days (26 km), even with the rain, I was filled with joy all day. There is something magical about the ever moving mist and low-lying clouds around mountains. Oh, and I got to walk in the valley itself and for some time beside the river. Everything was lovely. It was quite a steep hike to my accommodation, but it was worth every step. I listened to the book "A pilgrimage to eternity: From Canterbury to Rome in search of faith" by Timothy Egan, which was recommended to me by Andrew from Victoria whom l walked a little of the VF with last year. We reconnected a couple of days ago, and he's about a week behind me on the VF as he restarted in Switzerland. Anyway, I would highly recommend the book, especially for anyone who was raised Catholic.Read more

  • Day 9

    Day 5: Pont-Saint-Martin to Ivrea

    April 27 in Italy ⋅ ☁️ 11 °C

    My accommodation last night was wonderful. My host drove me higher up the mountains to a place called Barmet so that I could eat dinner in a fabulous restaurant. The staff drove me back home! I have now left the beautiful Aosta Valley and am in the Piedmont region. Today's walk (26.94 km) was almost entirely joy filled. The scenery was picturesque and the waymarkers plentiful. I was just complimenting myself on not getting off track once, after passing yet another waymarker, when I checked the VF App to see how much farther the end point was, to discover to my horror, I was no where near the route! I backtracked, took a local path, and rejoined the Way! Oh, and it's official; I hate cobblestones! My calves are aching, and my hip is sore! Not to mention my poor feet. Also, it rained again today. A light rain; nothing dramatic - just cold really. The Great Pumpkin is serving me well.Read more