What to pack for the Via Francigena in Italy

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As well as training, packing for the Via Francigena is one of the most important preparation activities that you will undertake before your trip. Based on our experience of walking from Lucca to Rome, we’ve put together a guide for what to pack for the Via Francigena, specifically in Italy.

If you’d like more information on how to train for the Via Francigena, you can find our detailed guide her.

Best backpacks for the Via Francigena

What to pack for the Via Francigena

Packing for the Via Francigena starts with the backpack. It’s very important to pick the right one for you!

What size backpack do you need for the Via Francigena?

Most people walking a long distance hike such as the Via Francigena or the Camino de Santiago will carry a backpack of between 30 and 40 litres. This should be sufficient to carry all of your essentials including a sleeping bag on the Via Francigena.

If you are planning to camp on the Via Francigena, you may need a larger bag. Perhaps 40 to 70 litres, depending on the size of your tent and weather you are travelling alone.



How much should your backpack weigh on the Via Francigena?

As a guide, your backpack for walking on the Via Francigena should not weigh more than 10% of your body weight. So, if you weigh 80kg, the backpack should weigh no more than 8kg.

There may be exceptions, if for example you are very strong or used to carrying weight whilst exercising. However, it’s important to remember that you are likely to be walking long distances every day on the Via Francigena. Any extra weight on your back is likely to put unnecessary strain on your body and could lead to injury, or at least discomfort.

Best backpacks for the Via Francigena in 2023

There are a few important things to look for when you are trying to find your backpack for the Via Francigena:

  1. Correct fit – backpacks come in different sizes to suit different heights, pick the correct one and find a backpack with adjustable straps
  2. Backpack weight – check the weight of your pack when it is empty
  3. Backpack size – look for something between 30 and 40 litres that you can also carry onto an airplane
  4. Pockets and sections – look for a bag with hip compartments, side pockets and other zipped sections
  5. Hip and chest straps – ensure that your backpack has hip and chest straps to take the weight off your shoulders

Finally, don’t forget to try it before you walk the Via Francigena and return it if it doesn’t feel right. And of course, don’t forget to train with the backpack on.

Here are six of our favourite backpacks for the Via Francigena in 2023:

  1. Best for women – Osprey Sirrus 34 Women’s Hiking Backpack

2. Best for petite women – Osprey Tempest 30 – available in Small Size

3. Best for camping – Osprey 65litre backpack

4. Most stylish backpack – Fjällräven Kaipak 38 Backpack 55 cm

5. Best for men – Osprey Talon 33 litre

6. Best unisex option – Deuter Unisex Futura Pro 36 Backpack

How to pack your backpack for the Via Francigena

It may sound silly, but packing your backpack efficiently can make your trip much easier. Here are our top tips:

Firstly, it is extremely helpful to separate the items in your backpack so that you can get quick access to anything you need when you arrive at your hostel. This would include your toiletries, your power cables, trek towel, and anything you need for sleeping. You can use a carrier bag to separate everything or use packing cubes. Having a separate toiletries bag can also speed things up when you need to get access to your toiletries and jump in the shower.

Secondly, try to keep your dirty clothes and walking clothes separate to your fresh evening clothes. When walking every day, especially in the summer, your walking clothes can get quite pungent!

Next, think about what you might need to get access to during your walk. Look for a backpack with handy pockets for these items. You may want somewhere to stash your phone, sunscreen, lip balm and anything else you want during the walk. Finally, I love using a water platypus which slots into a pocket at the back of my bag. This means I can access my water as I walk.

Best footwear for the Via Francigena in Italy

In our experience, trail shoes are the best footwear for the Via Francigena. The majority of the route in Italy is on road, footpaths and trails. Although there are some hill climbs, the walking surfaces are rarely uneven and therefore walking boots are not really required.

When we walked from Lucca to Rome recently, we chose to buy some new Hoka trail running shoes and we were really delighted with our purchases. Hoka uses innovative technology to create shoes that are really supportive.

The trail shoes are also a little water resistant and have grips that are ideal for walking on footpaths, including muddy surfaces. We have previously tried New Balance shoes and Nike running shoes for long walks, but we definitely feel that Hoka were the best we’ve tried for long distance hiking.

E has a pair of Hoka women’s speed goat 4s, whilst J wears Hoka men’s speed goat 5s.

Women’s packing list for walking the Via Francigena

Clothing for the Via Francigena

Here is a suggested list for clothing to pack for the Via Francigena in Italy:

ItemQuantity
Walking shoes1
Walking shorts1
Leggings or walking trousers1
Walking t-shirts or tops (quick dry)2 or 3
Sports bra (quick dry)1 or 2
Walking socks2 or 3
Pop socks (can help prevent blisters)4
Underwear (quick dry)3 minimum
Rain jacket1
Lightweight sweater1
Bikini or swimsuit *in summer* 1
Change of clothes for the evening – playsuit, summer dress, jump suit work well 1
Change of shoes for the evening 1
Pyjamas or sleep clothes for hostels1
Sunhat1
Sunglasses 1

A word on clothing for the evening, we would recommend packing something smart casual to wear after walking. On the Via Francigena, you will walk through a number of Italian towns and cities, including Rome. If you plan to go out exploring and for dinner, it can be helpful to have something a little smart and clean to wear in the evening. Unlike on the Camino de Santiago, there are not that many pilgrims walking the Via Francigena and wearing hiking gear at dinner may make you stand out a little in Italy!



Toiletries

Here are the essential toiletries that I packed for the Via Francigena:

  1. All in one soap – an excellent thing. You can get it on Amazon. Soap that washes you, your hair and your clothing. It’s marvellous. Pack it in a plastic zip lock bag (not a heavy soap dish!)
  2. Sachets of Conditioner OR a leave in conditioner – a bottle of conditioner may be too heavy, but a few sachets of conditioner or an intensive hair mask are easier to carry. Next time, I’m going for a leave in conditioner spray that I can also use as a serum.
  3. Mooncup – carrying tampax or sanitary towels is heavy, a mooncup is not. I’d also recommend this for ease as sometimes the toilets on the trail are infrequent.
  4. Moisturiser for body and face – an all in one moisturiser will save space and weight in your bag, for me this as non-negotiable especially to moisturise my feet.
  5. Sunscreen – goes without saying. I find a spray easier to use on the trails and lighter to carry too. I love this Le Roche Posay sun stick as it’s lightweight, easy to put in your bag and is a solid stick (meaning it doesn’t count towards your liquid allowance on the plane.) Sunscreen in Italy is very expensive, so it’s best to pack
  6. Bug Spray – during the night in hostels, you may not be control of whether windows or doors are open. If you don’t want to get bitten then I’d suggest taking a small spray. Mosquitos in Italy can be mean!
  7. A trek towel – this will come in super handy along the way. A quick dry towel is a necessity.
  8. A small medical kit – allergy tablets, Ibuprofen, rehydration sachets and blister plasters.
  9. A little makeup for the evening – mascara and a lip balm that also acts as a cheek tint
  10. Cleansing wipes – a lightweight packet of cleansing wipes
  11. Deodorant – something under 100ml and lightweight
  12. Toothpaste and toothbrush

Other essentials

  1. Pegs – something strong to attach clothing to your bag when it’s drying and to hang clothes on the line at the hostel
  2. Small plastic bags – one for your dirty clothing and some smaller ones just in case!
  3.  Ear plugs and eye mask – hostels can be noisy and lights go on and off at different times as everyone is on a different schedule, so it’s best to have these to help you sleep
  4. A waterproof bag cover – it may rain and you want to be able to cover your bag quickly to keep things dry
  5. A deck of cards – something you can play with your walking buddies during breaks or at the hostel at night
  6. A lightweight canvas bag, this is super helpful when you arrive at the hostel in the evening and want to go out without your backpack, also to grab food shopping etc.
  7.  Walking poles – if you choose to take them. Read more here about that.
  8. A lightweight sleeping bag or sleep sheet – it is absolutely essential to pack a sleeping bag or sleep sheet on the Via Francigena in Italy, unless you want to pay to use sheets and blankets in some hostels
  9. You won’t always be able to get access to a plug in your hostel, so I would highly recommend taking a spare battery pack for charging your phone on the go. A long charging cable can also come in handy.
  10. Wireless headphones for listening to music or audio books when you walk, or at night
  11. travel adaptor is also required, unless you already have European plugs. Or, if you just have your phone charger with you you can buy a European plug for that.
  12. A water receptacle – either a large bottle or a water platypus
  13. A pen and small notebook – if you like to keep a journal in the evening

Men’s packing list for the Via Francigena

Here is a suggested list for clothing to pack for the Via Francigena in Italy:

ItemQuantity
Walking shoes1
Walking shorts1
Walking trousers1
Walking t-shirts (quick dry)3 minimum
Walking socks2 or 3
Pop socks (can help prevent blisters)4
Underwear (quick dry)3 minimum
Rain jacket1
Lightweight sweater1
Swimming trunks *in the summer*1
Change of clothes for the evening – jeans or shorts, t shirt or linen shirt1
Change of shoes for the evening1
Pyjamas or sleep clothes for hostels1
Sunhat1
Sunglasses1

A word on clothing for the evening, we would recommend packing something smart casual to wear after walking. On the Via Francigena, you will walk through a number of Italian towns and cities, including Rome. If you plan to go out exploring and for dinner, it can be helpful to have something a little smart and clean to wear in the evening. Unlike on the Camino de Santiago, there are not that many pilgrims walking the Via Francigena and wearing hiking gear at dinner may make you stand out a little in Italy!

Toiletries

Here are the essential toiletries that J packed for the Via Francigena:

  1. All in one soap – an excellent thing. You can get it on Amazon. Soap that washes you, your hair and your clothing. It’s marvellous. Pack it in a plastic zip lock bag (not a heavy soap dish!)
  2. Deodorant – something under 100ml and not an aerosol
  3. Sunscreen – goes without saying. I find a spray easier to use on the trails and lighter to carry too. I love this Le Roche Posay sun stick as it’s lightweight, easy to put in your bag and is a solid stick (meaning it doesn’t count towards your liquid allowance on the plane.) Sunscreen in Italy is very expensive, so it’s best to pack
  4. Bug Spray – during the night in hostels, you may not be control of whether windows or doors are open. If you don’t want to get bitten then I’d suggest taking a small spray. Mosquitos in Italy can be mean!
  5. A trek towel – this will come in super handy along the way. A quick dry towel is a necessity.
  6. A small medical kit – allergy tablets, Ibuprofen, rehydration sachets and blister plasters.
  7. Toothpaste and toothbrush
  8. A disposable or electric razor

Other essentials

  1. Pegs – something strong to attach clothing to your bag when it’s drying and to hang clothes on the line at the hostel
  2.  Ear plugs and eye mask – hostels can be noisy and lights go on and off at different times as everyone is on a different schedule, so it’s best to have these to help you sleep
  3. A waterproof bag cover – it may rain and you want to be able to cover your bag quickly to keep things dry
  4. A deck of cards – something you can play with your walking buddies during breaks or at the hostel at night
  5.  Walking poles – if you choose to take them. Read more here about that.
  6. A lightweight sleeping bag or sleep sheet – it is absolutely essential to pack a sleeping bag or sleep sheet on the Via Francigena in Italy, unless you want to pay to use sheets and blankets in some hostels
  7. You won’t always be able to get access to a plug in your hostel, so I would highly recommend taking a spare battery pack for charging your phone on the go. A long charging cable can also come in handy.
  8. Wireless headphones for listening to music or audio books when you walk, or at night
  9. travel adaptor is also required, unless you already have European plugs. Or, if you just have your phone charger with you you can buy a European plug for that.

What to pack to walk the Via Francigena in Italy during spring and autumn?

In spring and autumn when walking in Italy, you are likely to find mixed weather conditions for walking. Therefore, there are a few extra items that you may need to pack.

Extra items to pack for walking in spring and autumn

  • A waterproof backpack cover
  • Plastic waterproof covering for important documents and wallet
  • A waterproof jacket and waterproof trousers or a poncho that covers part of your legs
  • Walking trousers or leggings – you may find you wear shorts during the day, but mornings can be cooler and trousers may be more suitable
  • A warm hat for mornings and evenings
  • A warm layer, such as a long sleeve walking top or a lightweight sweater
  • A headtorch in case you plan to walk before or after sunrise
  • Extra pairs of socks and underwear (in cooler weather it can be harder to wash and dry clothes quickly so you may need extra essentials)
  • A deck of cards or small game – in the spring and autumn, you may spend more time indoors in the evening and it can be fun to have a game to play with others

In spring and autumn, the weather in Italy can still be warm. Particularly as you mover further south into Tuscany and Lazio. We would still recommend packing sunscreen, a sun hat and sunglasses even if walking in the off-season.

The tree pollen count in Italy in spring can be particularly high and buying allergy tablets in country, can be expensive. We would recommend taking allergy tablets (as well as any other medications) with you when you travel.

What to wear in the evening on the Via Francigena in spring and autumn?

The evenings in Italy can be cool throughout spring and autumn. Therefore, it is not recommended to pack dresses or shorts for the evening. However, we do suggest that you pack a smart-casual change of clothes for the evening if possible. In Italy, restaurant clientele tend to be quite smart at dinner.

When we walked the Via Francigena in March, we packed a pair of jeans for the evening, a simple top / t-shirt and a lightweight jumper each. We also had a change of shoes (lightweight canvas shoes like this) for the evening, so that we could enjoy taking off our walking shoes at the end of the day!

What to pack to walk the Via Francigena in Italy during the summer?

In the summer, you will probably find that you can get away with packing less for walking the Via Francigena than you would if you were walking in spring and autumn. With hot weather, you can easily wash clothing and dry it before the next day. Therefore, we would recommend packing the minimum viable quantities of clothing – we would suggest:

  • One pair of shorts
  • Two walking tops
  • One sports bra for ladies
  • Two pairs of socks
  • Three pairs of underwear

With the hot weather, you will definitely need the sun essentials (sun screen, a hat and sun glasses). We would also recommend ensuring that you have a large water receptacle, such as a water platypus. These are especially handy as you can drink them whilst you walk and it’s very important to stay hydrated in hot weather.

There are a few rivers and lakes on the Via Francigena in Italy, in the summer you may wish to pack a swimsuit or bikini so that you can take a dip!

Finally, in the summer, it may be possible to travel with just a sleep sheet rather than a sleeping bag. Most hostels will charge you for blankets if you don’t have any sort of sleeping bag or sleep sheet with you. But, you’re unlikely to need a thick sleeping bag in the summer when nights are warm.

What to wear in the evening on the Via Francigena in summer?

We would suggest packing a smart-casual change of clothes for the evening if possible. In the summer, the evenings in Italy will be almost guaranteed to be warm.

For ladies, a lightweight jump suit, play suit or summer dress would work really well. Linen fabrics can be great for the summer. For men, a t shirt or linen shirt and a pair of smart lightweight shorts would be great. Remember to pack some shoes too, sandals in the summer would be your best option. But avoid beach style “flip flops”, these tend to look pretty bad in Italian cities!

What to pack for camping on the Via Francigena?

If you’re planning to camp when walking the Via Francigena, you can find our detailed guide to camping in Italy on the Via Francigena here. This includes a packing list for camping.


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John and Emma’s hiking gear. These are items we love to use when we go hiking, find them here on Amazon.

Osprey 40L, Multi, O/S

HOKA ONE ONE Mens Speedgoat 4 Textile Synthetic Trainers

HOKA ONE ONE Women’s Clifton 8

CWVLC Unisex Cushioned Compression Athletic Ankle Socks Multipack

Dr. Scholl’s Blister Cushions, Seal & Heal Bandage, 8 Cushions

Montem Ultra Strong Trekking, Walking, and Hiking Poles – One Pair (2 Poles)

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One response to “What to pack for the Via Francigena in Italy”

  1. […] You can find our packing list for the Via Francigena, including what to pack in spring here. […]

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