Based on our recent walk from Lucca to Rome, we’ve put together a list of tips for walking the Via Francigena in Tuscany and Lazio. Here are our best tips and tricks to help you get the most from your hiking adventure in Italy.
Beware of restaurant closing times
When walking the daily stages of the Via Francigena , you will often find that you arrive to the town you plan to stay overnight in between 15:00 and 18:00. This can be particularly problematic if you’ve skipped lunch or arrive hungry!
In our experience, most restaurants in Italy close at 15:00 and may not open again until 18:00, 19:00 or later. Therefore, if you arrive looking for a late-lunch, you’re likely to be disappointed. Our first tip for walking the via Francigena is to plan ahead around your meal times!
You can read more about what to eat on the Via Francigena here. And find out about the best restaurants on the Via Francigena here.
Stock up on food and snacks
Many of the daily stages of the Via Francigena are on rural routes. This can sometimes mean that there is nowhere to buy food during the course of the day. It isn’t always the case, but we would recommend taking some emergency snacks in your bag. And, if you’re able to plan ahead and know there are no shops or cafes on route, then pack a lunch too.
You can read more about what to eat on the Via Francigena here.
Check water access for the day
We found that the Via Francigena was actually very good in Tuscany and Lazio when it came to free water access points. There were reasonably regular water fountains on route. More so than we had experienced when walking the Camino de Santiago. However, be sure to check your route on the day and plan around water. This is especially important in the summer.
Contact accommodation providers in advance
For the majority of the route from Lucca to Rome, we found that we had to book accommodation in advance. It’s best to contact hostels at least a day ahead of your planned stay. We also found that it helped to contact hosts on the day and to confirm our arrival time, as most hostels don’t have manned reception desks. Our top tip for walking the Via Francigena is to contact hotels and hostels on the phone rather than email.
You can find out more about accommodation on the Via Francigena here.
Get an Italian SIM card
If you’re walking for at least a week or two, we would recommend getting access to an Italian tourist SIM card. Alternatively, you could ensure that you have access to data remaining in Italy on your current SIM.
Firstly, a SIM will help if you need to call accommodation hosts. If you stay in hostels, this is inevitable. Secondly, although the route is well way-marked, there were a few times when we wanted to double check our navigation. Finally, having data on your mobile phone can help to find restaurants, shops and amenities on route.
We purchased Italian SIM cards for around 30 Euros. These had 50GB of data and some call data and were active for one month. You can buy Italian tourist SIMs in airports or phone shops. We found ours in Lucca easily.
Expect to pay a little more for accommodation and food
In our experience, walking the Via Francigena is more expensive than the Camino de Santiago if we compare the two. Tuscany can be expensive, it is a popular tourist area. This will also depend on the type of accommodation you choose. Pilgrim accommodation will not always be available, therefore you may need to anticipate paying a little more for your overnight accommodation sometimes.
Find out more about the cost of walking the Via Francigena in Italy here.
Beware of animals
Tuscany and Lazio have some interesting wildlife. Look out for wild boars, wolves and snakes. But you may also come across farm dogs that are not tethered. We encountered a farm dog, albeit a friendly one, who followed us for a few kms on the trail. And, we also stumbled upon a pack of wild boar (which was a little bit of an adventure!)
If you plan to camp, you may want to consider this in more detail. Find out more about camping here.
Plan for a variety of weather conditions
Depending on the time of year that you walk in Tuscany, you may experience different weather conditions. April can be rainy. And of course, the summer will be quite hot! Our top tip for walking the Via Francigena is to pack carefully, with lots of layers. And whatever time of year you go, take sunscreen and a hat.
Find out more about the best time of year to walk the Via Francigena here.
Pack some smarter evening clothes
Pack a change of clothes for the evening. Ideally, take something smart-ish that you can wear to a restaurant. In our experience, Italian’s dress quite smartly. Plus, you may feel more comfortable changing out of hiking clothes for the evening.
You can find out more about what to pack for the Via Francigena here.
Download the Via Francigena app
The Via Francigena official app is a very helpful resource. The navigation on the path is very good. Although the route is signposted, having the app provides extra help. We don’t think the app is as good as it can be yet, for example accommodation and amenities are not well integrated to the daily stages, but nevertheless it is useful.
You can find the app in your mobile phone app store. Details on the Via Francigena website.
Look out for road and path closures
When we walked from Lucca to Rome, the Via Francigena app also showed us when particular stretches of the path were closed. This meant that we could plan ahead and change our route. So, download the app and check it regularly. Also, keep an eye out for signs to direct you of route changes.
Don’t be afraid to get public transport if needed
We found that due to path closures, we were occasionally directed to walk on busy stretches of road.
When you’re walking a pilgrimage, it may feel as though you have to walk every single step. Therefore, having to walk on a dangerous road may feel like the only option. However, public transport is quite good on the route and we would suggest using it if you ever feel that the road you are being directed to walk along is too dangerous. Better to do this than take any unnecessary risks!
Learn a little Italian
A few words of Italian can go a long way. You don’t need to speak much, but being able to say a few words in a restaurant, or to book a hotel can be very helpful.
You can find out more about speaking Italian on the Via Francigena here.
Would you like to read more about the Via Francigena?
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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
Compeed Callouses 6 Medium Plasters
Montem Ultra Strong Trekking, Walking, and Hiking Poles – One Pair (2 Poles)
Most of our planning is done using other blogs, but you can’t beat a guide book at the bottom of your case.
Find them here on Amazon.
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