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?
In general, we’d like to be done walking each day by 2:00pm in order to avoid the hottest part of the day and so we can enjoy the day’s destination. That means we’re at breakfast by 7:00 and out the door by 7:45-8:00am. 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. Around 11:00 we stop for lunch, either outdoors with sack lunches we’ve prepared or indoors at a restaurant along the way. At around 2:00 we check into our 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 we also shop for food for our sack lunches. Italians never dine before 7:30pm, so just before we’ll have a short briefing about the next day’s adventure and then will shared a relaxed dinner at that hour. Afterward we either head to our rooms or enjoy conversation until we’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, and our van service means that there are lots of opportunities to cut short the day or skip the most difficult stretches. 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?
Most people fly into Rome and then take a train to their starting point. We’ll give you detailed directions on how to catch a train directly from the Rome airport to our starting points at Lucca, Siena, Florence or Assisi.
What if I have certain dietary restrictions?
Our restaurant hosts are excellent at meticulously following the dietary restrictions of our participants. Make certain to spell out your needs on your registration form. Note that Italians love to eat bread, pasta, beef and pork, so preparing vegetarian or gluten-free meals requires 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. Dinners and breakfasts are included with each hotel stay, so you only need to plan on your own lunches. 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. At the end of the trip it is customary to tip the driver and tour leader between €15-30 each per person per week. Other incidentals may include occasional laundromat costs, daily afternoon cafe refreshments, toiletries as needed, and of course the beloved midday gelato stop!