Back in the summer I took a road trip through northern Spain. For much of that journey my boyfriend and I followed various routes of the Camino de Santiago; a popular pilgrimage in northern Spain that ends in Santiago de Compostella.
Before this year, I never even realisedpeople took on pilgrimages so often. Sure I knew people went on long hikes and obviously about the pilgrimage to Mecca, but pilgrimages all over Europe? I suppose I’d never really thought about it.
I think pilgrimages in Europe, the ones that happened more often centuries ago, are still pretty unkown to the masses.
Driving the Camino de Santiago and reading about others’ experiences of this trek has made me want to do such a walk. I really want to get better at being active this coming year.
But where to begin? How on earth do you even start to plan a pilgrimage of such a scale? How do you know which route to take?
Recently I got my hands on a copy of the newly released ‘The Way of St. Francis’ by Reverend Sandy Brown. Perhaps the easiest to follow guide and one of the most thorough guides I’ve come across for an adventure of this kind.
The Way of St. Francis.
The Way of St. Francis is one of Italy’s most popular pilgrim routes. You’ll journey from Florence through picturesque Tuscan countryside and hill towns of Umbria, before a climactic arrival in Rome. Towns you’ll pass along the way include Assisi, Trevi and many other smaller, lesser known, but equally as beautiful Italian towns.
The trek of 550km can be completed in as short a time as one month if you’re up for it!
More often than not, guide books which follow a laid out itinerary can be a pain to follow.
They’ll fail to include certain information (where to sleep, eat etc) and focus more so on the journey istelf, or they’ll focuse too much on accommodation and eateries, and not enough on the trip. They tend to be pretty unachieveable too, demanding that you somehow transport yourself hundreds of miles in one day.
Fortunately, this guide for The Way of St. Francis is easy to follow and includes enough of both directions and more practical information. Something that publisher’s Cicerone are pretty good at in general having published numerous guidebooks of this type for adventurers to follow in countries around the world.
Rev Brown’s guidebook is split into stages; each one representing on day on the pilgrimage. In total there are a month’s worth of stages. This equates to around 30km of walking a day.
Each day is introduced with a map of the route, an elevation map and key points such as where you’ll start and finish, how far that day’s walk is, and a small summary of what your walk will be like. Great information that prepares you for the following day whilst you’re eating your dinner or getting ready for bed.
Following on from this are clear directions which talk you through the day interspersed with facts about the historic sights you’re passing before ending with some accommodation listings in the town you’ll finish the day’s walk in.
You won’t find yourself on the road and running low o food and water either. Where stops to refuel are few and far between Rev Sandy Brown forewarns you. There are also handy pointers on every day’s map as to where you can fill up your water, or stop off at a shop for provisions.
If more guidebooks were so thoughfully put together and so easy to follow, it might just keep worries at bay and get more of us out there doing instead.
Now, when shall I get started?