We recently had the delightful opportunity to walk a 400km section of the Via Francigena in Italy. Walking from Lucca to Rome on the Via Francigena was a fantastic experience, which we hope many of you will get to enjoy too! If you are thinking about doing it, you may be wondering if you need to speak Italian to walk the Via Francigena in Italy?
Find out more in our short guide below.
What language do most pilgrims on the Via Francigena speak?
In 2022, people from 40 different countries walked or cycled part of the Via Francigena. The top five nationalities were Italian, Spanish, British, American and French.
In our experience, we met fewer people than expected when we walked the Via Francigena. This may have been because we walked in March, which is not a busy time on the route. In fact, the main months of departure are May, June, July and August.
Nevertheless, we met a handful of people – less than 20 on the entire route from Lucca to Rome. Of these, only three were Italian speakers. Others were American, English and Australian. We also met one Frenchman and a South Korean. In general, English seems to be widely spoken by pilgrims waking the Via Francigena.
Do you need to speak Italian to walk on the Via Francigena in Italy?
In our experience, being able to speak a little Italian definitely paved the way for us on the Via Francigena. But, to be clear, we really do not speak much Italian or well for that matter! We can just about get by ordering a few coffees, asking for the bill and making a hotel reservation. That said, there were many occasions when we we weren’t sure if we had actually made a reservation for the right day!
We think that being able to say a few words helped to show that we were making an effort in the language, which may have made people friendlier towards us.
In general, we found that most people working in restaurants, bars and hotels in touristic areas could speak English and seemed happy to do so when they realised we didn’t speak Italian. In smaller villages and when speaking with older generations, English was less widely spoken. But, we only had to resort to using Google Translate on one occasion.
What are the most useful phrases to know to walk the Via Francigena in Italy?
If you can learn a little Italian, there are a few phrases that may help you to get by more effectively when walking the Via Francigena in Italy.
As mentioned, we are certainly not good Italian speakers so we won’t try to provide the Italian phrases! But below are the general topics that that we tried to learn in Italian to help us on the Via Francigena.
For any language tuition, we would highly recommend the language app Duolingo. For Italian specific learning, we follow Intrepid Italian, Learn Italian with Luna and Ines Tutoring on Instagram and love their fun and informative accounts!
Suggested phrases to learn for the Via Francigena
- Booking accommodation – how to make a reservation, days of the week, and numbers of people, confirming if the hotel serves food
- Ordering coffee, drinks and food – the main drinks that we like, how to ask for a menu, saying please and thank you
- Checking the price of something and asking for the bill – numbers, asking for the cost, asking to pay on card
- Asking for directions – right and left, asking where something is
How to pronounce Via Francigena?
The final thing that we learnt (on our first day in Lucca) is how to pronounce Via Francigena. This is actually quite important, because if you need to ask for directions to the path, then locals will not understand you if you say it incorrectly.
It is not pronounced “Fran-geena”, as we thought. But it actually sounds likes “Fran-chi-gena”. This is with an i like in “it”, g like in “gem” and an e like in “pen”.
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Would you like to read more about the Via Francigena?
Most of our planning is done using other blogs, but you can’t beat a guide book at the bottom of your case.
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