The time of year that you decide to walk the Via Francigena will have one of the biggest impacts of any decisions you make. If you are walking the full route, you can expect this to take you between ten and sixteen weeks, depending on your walking pace and your goals. Therefore, the time of year that you depart is crucial. However, even if you are only planning to walk one section of the Via Francigena, you will need to consider the seasons carefully. Here’s our guide to what time of year to walk the Via Francigena.
Walking the Via Francigena in spring
Walking the Via Francigena in spring could be a great option. However, this depends on your appetite for coping with occasionally bad weather and your intentions for the walk.
If you are walking the entire route from England and through France, it’s likely that the weather will be a little inclement at times, especially early on in spring. You can expect some rain. As you travel through Switzerland into Northern Italy across the alps, there’s also a risk of extremely cold weather and snow. The Great St Bernard Pass is open only from June to September too, which will restrict you in travelling this section.
If you plan to walk the Via Francigena in Italy only, for example from Lucca to Rome, then spring is ideal. Temperatures during the day in March remain mild. But the nights can be chilly (between 6 and 10 degrees centigrade.) In April, the weather is warmer but the area is more prone to rain.
One other consideration with regard to walking the Via Francigena in spring is that some of the pilgrim accommodation will not be open. Much of the volunteer run accommodation is either closed, or only partially open, before April. Most accommodation opens in April or May ahead of the busy summer season. However, you will find that private accommodation and some pilgrim accommodation is open. This will be generally quieter than it would be in the summer. Which make private accommodation cheaper and easier to book too.
Additionally, you may want to consider how important it is to you to meet other people on the walk. The majority of people walking the Via Francigena do so in May, June, July and August. When we walked in March, we didn’t meet many people at all. The Via Francigena in general is not a busy walk, compared to the Camino de Santiago, and even less so during the off-season.
Walking from Rome to the UK in spring
If you are walking the route in the North direction, from Rome to the UK, then the spring may be a perfect time to depart. Starting in the south in Rome, it will be relatively warm (between 16 and 20 degrees centigrade in March and a little warmer in April). As you walk further North, the temperatures may remain stable through Italy, Switzerland, France and into the UK as you get later into spring. But once again, note the opening of Great St Bernard Pass from June to September.
You can find our packing list for the Via Francigena, including what to pack in spring here.
Walking the Via Francigena in summer
Summer is the most popular time to walk the Via Francigena. It is also the recommended season. The main reasons for this are:
- All accommodation will be open, including donation-based pilgrim accommodation, convents, monasteries, hostels and hotels
- More people will be walking the route, making it easier to find walking buddies and socialise
- You have the maximum possible day light hours, so you can rise early to start walking when it’s cool
- The weather in the UK, France, Switzerland and Northern Italy will be warm enough to walk
- The final sections of the Via Francigena will be exposed to some hot weather, but it’s possible to walk early in the morning to avoid midday heat as much as possible
- This would be the best time of the year to camp, as night time will be pleasant
- Summer and sitting in vineyards with a glass of wine just go hand in hand don’t they!
However, if you only plan to walk the last section of the Via Francigena (Lucca to Rome), we would suggest May or June (early summer) as the best time to walk. This is to avoid school holidays and the high summer heat.
You can find our packing list for the Via Francigena, including what to pack in summer here.
Walking the Via Francigena in autumn
Weather in early autumn (September/ October), may be perfect for the last 400km or so of the Via Francigena. It’s likely that temperatures in Tuscany will be cooler than in the peak summer but warm enough to walk. This will make conditions for walking much better. Plus, the main Tuscan tourist season will be coming to an end, making it easier to get private accommodation on the Via Francigena.
If you are walking the full route from the UK to Rome, then we would not recommend starting your walk in autumn. Of course, this may suit some hardy walkers. But if you’re looking for pleasant weather conditions, then the autumn may not be the best time. The Great St Bernard Pass is open only from June to September too, which will restrict you in travelling this section.
In autumn, you will find that some accommodation has started to close. This will be the case for much of the “pilgrim” accommodation. Plus, you’re unlikely to meet many other walkers on the way.
You can find our packing list for the Via Francigena, including what to pack in autumn here.
Can you walk the Via Francigena in winter?
The Via Francigena official website warns against walking in winter. It’s likely that weather will be too cold to make the walk comfortable. Plus conditions may make some paths difficult. Accommodation and other required services will be also harder to come by.
That said, we noticed that a far few pilgrims had signed guest books on the Via Francigena in December and January. This suggests that some people do choose to walk sections of the route in Italy around Christmas time. Therefore it may be possible to walk some small sections, even if the entire route is not passable.
Would you like to read more about the Via Francigena?
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