Are these hikes truly beautiful, or are you pulling our leg?
No, we’re not kidding at all! Check out this article that describes a couple of our days as two of the five most amazing town-to-town hikes in Italy. No, we’re not kidding at all. These walks are beautiful.
What’s the schedule of an average day on pilgrimage?
Pilgrims are free to head out at any time, but we suggest being out the door by 8:00am. Everyone walks at their own pace, so the slower walkers among us aren’t rushed even as the fastest among us are not held back. You’ll probably want to stop around 11:00 for lunch, either outdoors with sack lunches you’ve prepared or indoors at a restaurant along the way. It’s nice to be done walking by around 2:00, when it’s time to check into your accommodation for the night, have a rest, do laundry as needed, and then branch out to explore the town’s cafes, museums, castles, churches and shops on our own. If there’s no restaurant available on our itinerary for the following day you will also want to shop for food for your sack lunch. Italians seldom dine before 7:30pm, so just before you’ll have a short briefing about the next day’s adventure and then will shared a relaxed group dinner at that hour or be free to explore the local gastronomy. Afterward head to your room or enjoy conversation until you’re ready for bed. If you would like to go to Mass, let us know and we will give you times and locations of nearby churches.
Why is payment made in Euros instead of US Dollars?
Since Italy is on the Euro and our Italian partner travel agency is making the arrangements, it works out best to pay in Euros. That way participants are protected from exchange rate fluctuations that could occur between the time of their reservation deposit and the time of their final payment.
How difficult are these hikes, and what kind of physical condition should I be in?
The hikes have varying degrees of difficulty, from the easiest — Lucca to Siena — to the hardest — Florence to Assisi. For walks on the Via di Francesco, participants should be in above-average cardio shape with no hip, knee or foot issues and should be prepared for steep uphill and downhill stretches that sometimes are on slippery footing. Our baggage service means packs can be very light. Still, it may be frustrating to be under-trained or physically incapable of enjoying some of the most scenic parts of these hikes. Here’s a helpful elevation profile comparison that shows the ups and downs on the Via di Francesco in comparison to the first 230 kilometers of the Camino de Santiago: pilgrimpathselevationcomparison (pdf)
Do you have resources to help with training for these walks?
Yes! We’re happy to be in partnership with Sheri Goodwin of Transformational Journeys who specializes in helping people train for physically challenging treks. We encourage establishing a relationship with Sheri, who has walked significant stretches of the Via di Francesco and many other pilgrimage walks, who can set you up on a training program so you can more fully enjoy your pilgrimage adventure.
I’m not sure what to bring. Will you help with packing lists?
Yes. We’ll send you a packing list so you’ll be certain to have everything you need for a successful walk. In general, you’ll need a daypack, good hiking clothing, rain gear, and most importantly a good sock/boot/shoe/sandal combination that you’ve proven will protect you from blisters. Blisters are the #1 scourge of pilgrims, so this is probably the most important preparation you’ll make. Besides your hiking gear, you’ll want to have a suitcase or duffel bag for your street clothes. Our baggage service is “lobby to lobby,” and the last steps to your room can be up twisty Italian staircases. For that reason we observe a “maximum 40 pounds (18kg)” rule on our baggage. It helps our driver and it helps you!
Do I need to study Italian in order to participate?
No. When ordering in a restaurant or buying things in stores it does help to have a little Italian. However, we’re there for you and can translate for you as needed so you’re never unable to communicate.
How will I get to the starting place of the trek?
For the Florence trip, we recommend flying directly into Florence. We’ll give you details about taking the bus to the center of town. For Assisi, we recommend either flying to the nearby Perugia airport or taking a train from Rome or Florence. For Pamplona we recommend flying directly into the Pamplona airport or flying into Madrid and taking a train or bus to Pamplona. For Lausanne, we recommend flying into Geneva and taking the 30-minute train ride to Lausanne.
What if I have certain dietary restrictions?
Italy and Spain are meat-loving countries, so life for a vegan or vegetarian can be challenging. Make certain to spell out your needs on your registration form and we’ll do our best to alert kitchens to your dietary restrictions. Note that Italians love to eat bread and pasta, so gluten-free meals require advance notice. Once you share your needs with us we will communicate it to the restaurants and, when necessary, confirm it directly with the cooks themselves. Many of our participants make certain to find good, local fruit to include in their lunches since sometimes fruits and vegetables are scarce in Italian restaurant cuisine.
Beyond my participant fee, what other costs am I likely to need to cover?
Your registration fees cover all ground transportation after your arrival at the time and place of our start, as well as your overnight accommodations, baggage and van service. Breakfasts are included with each overnight stay, and lunches are always on your own. About 2/3 of dinners are provided at the overnight accommodation, but the other 1/3 are left for you to enjoy local eateries to get a better flavor of the village, town or city you’re in. A restaurant lunch can cost €10-15 in Italy, and a sack lunch of bread, cheese and fruit can be as little as €5 or less depending on your taste. Tips to your tour hosts are not allowed. Other incidentals may include occasional laundromat costs, daily afternoon cafe refreshments, toiletries as needed, and of course the beloved midday gelato stop!