A 1900 km historic route running north to south from Canterbury to Rome. N.B. The CSJ’s sister organisation, the Confraternity of Pilgrims to Rome, is the leading authority on pilgrimages to Rome. You can visit their website here.

The Route: The Via Francigena is one of the classic pilgrimage routes. A 1900 km journey, through England, France, Switzerland and Italy from Canterbury (or even London) to Rome.  There is also a branch starting in Arles and leading via Vercelli which joins the Caminos de Santiago. It follows the general direction taken by pilgrims to Rome in previous centuries although alternative paths are used in places where the original route has now become a modern road. The Via Francigena (i.e. 'French Way') is first mentioned in a parchment in the abbey of San Salvatore al Monte Amiata in 876 AD.

Waymarking: The route is not waymarked at all in France yet, but it is waymarked as TP70 (a long-distance walking route) all through Switzerland. In Italy the pilgrim route is now reasonably well waymarked in both directions.

Terrain: The surfaces are normally easy to walk on with much on minor roads (a number of farm tracks are, in fact, tarmac now). Much of the initial part of the route through France is quite flat.  The highest point of the route is the Great Saint Bernard Pass at 2469 metres. Cyclists will need to take minor roads or dedicated cycle tracks for much of the route.

Weather/When to go: Allow about three months to walk the entire route (it is about 85 days without stops). May to October is best but remember to time the crossing of the Great Saint Bernard Pass between June – September. The area near the Italian coast is very busy in August.  There is a wide range of temperature according to height, latitude and season.

Accommodation: The Confraternity of Pilgrims to Rome has updated the accommodation information on their website. They now have up-to-date accommodation lists available and an interactive accommodation map.  

There are plenty of B&Bs and hotels, but little refugio type accommodation, especially in France where there are some youth hostels, campsites, and monasteries. In Italy, however, and in a few places in Switzerland, an increasing number of parishes now provide very simple accommodation in church halls, former schools etc., where a sleeping bag will be needed. At present most of them cannot accommodate large numbers of pilgrims at any one time.

  • Eurovia publishes a (hard-copy) guide to accommodation on the Italian section of the route, particularly the simpler end of the scale. This, the Unterkunftsliste, is in German but its layout makes it very easy to use.
  • Details of accommodation (of all types) for the Swiss and Italian sections of the route are given in the Guide-Vademecum, together with places offering discounts to pilgrims, provided by the AIVF (Association Internationale Via Francigena) pilgrim association.

Guide books: The CSJ’s selection of guide books to the Via Francigena are available from our online shop. In addition, there are some resources from the Association Via Francigena.

The Testimonium: A parchment in limited edition, created and offered by the AIVF, is available from the sacristy of St Peter’s Basilica, to pilgrims who have walked at least from Acquapendente (130 km) or cycled from Lucca (400 km).