The Via Francigena is at its core a religious pilgrim walk in Italy, France and Swtizerland. Today people walk the Via Francigena for all sorts of reasons, including tourism and in search of good food and wine. Although many people walking the Via Francigena do of course undertake the pilgrimage to Rome for religious reasons. Along the route of the Via Francigena, there are a number of convents and monasteries that offer accommodation overnight to pilgrims walking or cycling the Via Francigena. During our walk from Lucca to Rome, we stayed at a few. We have also stayed in convents and monasteries along different Camino de Santiago routes. Read on to find out about our experience of what it is like to stay in a convent or monastery on the pilgrim walk in Italy, the Via Francigena.
What is the pilgrim walk in Italy?
The pilgrim walk in Italy, is the Via Francigena. It’s actually a long distance path from the UK, through France and Switzerland that ends in Rome.
You can find out more about the Via Francigena route through Italy here.
What it is like to stay in a convent or monastery on the Via Francigena, the pilgrim walk in Italy?
In short, staying in a convent or monastery on the Via Francigena is a special experience. Even if you are not religious, the warm greeting you receive when you arrive is truly remarkable. After a long day of walking, being welcomed into a clean and hospitable environment is just what you need.
There are not many occasions when you will be invited into a convent or monastery to spend the night, which makes it an even more unique experience on the Via Francigena. You can expect that the facilities are likely to be basic, perhaps with shared bathrooms or shared dormitory rooms but in our experience, the accommodation was always clean and warm.
Do you have to be religious to stay in a convent or monastery on the Via Francigena?
In our experience, you do not have to be religious to stay in convents and monasteries on the Via Francigena. At no point when staying in a convent or monastery were we asked to prove our religious credentials or to declare our faith. But we were expected to present our Via Francigena pilgrim credential!
We found the monasteries and convents on the Via Francigena to be especially welcoming of anyone walking to Rome. That said, we would recommend that anyone looking to stay in a convent or monastery does so with an open mind, is able to respect the nature of the building and act respectfully towards anyone they meet.
Can unmarried couples share a room in a convent or monastery on the Via Francigena?
We are an unmarried couple and we were unsure if we would be able to stay in monasteries or convents together. However, this did not prove to be an issue for us. We were not asked to prove our marital status, nor were we denied the opportunity to share a room together. However, we did meet other unmarried couples walking the Via Francigena who had a slightly different experience. Others have reported being (kindly) challenged to prove that they were married before staying in a private room.
Can you eat dinner at convents or monasteries on the Via Francigena?
Many monasteries and convents will offer dinner or breakfast as part of the overnight rate or for an additional cost. However, in many cases this will only be offered during summer and peak months on the Via Francigena. In any event, it is best to contact the hosts to enquire about this if you are not sure. Monasteries and convents are less likely to have kitchen facilities that guests can use. Therefore you will want to ensure that you have a plan to eat out, if you cannot eat at the accommodation.
Can you drink alcohol in a convent or monastery on the Via Francigena?
If you plan to stay in a monastery or convent on the Via Francigena and you are partial to a glass of wine, you may be wondering whether you can drink alcohol in a convent or monastery on the Via Francigena. In our experience, much will depend on the hosts. If you are staying in the monastery or convent for dinner, then it is possible that wine will be supplied. Or that you can bring some wine to dinner. When we stayed at the monastery in Vetralla on the Via Francigena, we were given a massive 1 litre bottle of red wine between two of us with our supper! But, if you’re unsure, it’s best to follow the lead of your hosts or ask them directly.
Are there are any rules for staying in a monastery or convent on the Via Francigena?
You may be wondering if there are any rules for staying in a monastery or convent on the Via Francigena. In our experience, the only rules that we have come across are “no-smoking“, which seems pretty obvious! And, often monasteries or convents may have curfews that you need to abide by. For example, doors may shut at 22:30 and you may not be able to get back into the building after this. It is best to check with your hosts if there is a curfew and whether you will be given a key or access code to return to the building.
How to book a stay in a convent or monastery on the Via Francigena
We would recommend booking your stay at monasteries or convents in advance. We’ve written more about how to book accommodation on the Via Francigena here. Ideally, you should try to call the accommodation hosts at least one day before your stay. We suggest calling on the phone rather than emailing on the Via Francigena. When we stayed at convents on the Via Francigena, we found booking on the phone was much more effective than email.
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