Sunday, October 25, 2009
Originally posted on : http://groups.yahoo.com/group/via-francigena/message/1941
by Dave Witson - walkingthroughtime.com and copied here with permission.
What follows is a summary of notes I took while walking the Via Francigena from Lausanne to Roma, from 16 September to 13 October.
This is not a trip diary and probably not of general interest to read straight through, but I hope it might prove to be of use to those as they plan their own walk.
Beyond my personal motivations to be on the trail, I walked this time with the specific intent of checking the route in anticipation of returning with a group of students next summer. As such, I had certain points of emphasis on which my notes focused:
1) Where do the waymarks (WM) work and where do they get you into trouble. Thus, while I read through the Lightfoot Guide (LG) before each stage and during bar stops, I generally consulted it while walking only in times of difficulty (I did not carry a GPS or bring additional route-finding materials or guides);
2) Where supplies are available and, more importantly, where they aren't; and
I think it's also useful to know a little of the personal background of the writer when considering their advice, so: I'm 31, can communicate the basics in Italian and understand the response reasonably well (knowing Spanish helps a lot), train extensively for these walks, and have spent a lot of time on waymarked pilgrimage trails. I think I am probably above-average at finding WM, given that I spoke with a number of pilgrims who were much more frustrated with the route than I was, but I am definitely still more than capable of getting myself into trouble. I walked the VF from Lucca to Roma in 2005 and thus had some familiarity with that part of the route. I only had a month to make the trek this time, which necessitated some longer days.
Before I get to the daily summary, here are some general thoughts on the current state of the VF (from Lausanne to Roma):
1) There have been dramatic improvements over the last four years. Waymarking is significantly better, much more of the route is off-road or at least off highway. Between the WM and the LG, I spent each day walking in confidence, not nervousness. In 2005, I told the students walking with me who had walked the Camino with me the previous year that in Italy they needed to think more like pioneers than pilgrims. Now, it's much easier to be a pilgrim.
2) The unrolling of new VF signs has definitely been uneven. In some places, particularly in the area around Vercelli and Calendasco, the pretty new wooden signs are everywhere, as are larger brown road
signs. In others, though... I was stunned that, in many parts of the last 200km, the waymarks from four years ago were still the only options - even when they lead you on to a sub-optimal route. It is important to know going in that the types of markers you follow will change daily, even hourly. The most consistent and reliable markers were often little stickers on the backs of traffic poles.
3) I found accommodation options to be plentiful, affordable, and quite nice. While I arrived mildly frustrated by the idea of having to call a day in advance, I actually ended up finding this to be very
relaxing when compared with walking in Spain. There were no races for beds, there were no questions about the albergue being filled upon arrival. I had a bed, it was almost always oferta, and it almost always came with a hot shower. Kitchens, sadly, are largely a pipe dream. I stayed primarily in parishes, monasteries, and pilgrim-specific spedales, though I did end up in a few hotels as well. While I don't speak much Italian, the phone calls were never a problem. I basically just said the following: Sono un pelligrino.
Posso dormire nella sua parrochia domani? And generally a "si!" followed. Most commonly, they also wanted to know my name and the time I expected to arrive, so I started just volunteering those after "si,' to preempt the questions and avoid potential misinterpretation (Mi chiamo David e arrivo a quindici. Va bene?). That was, by and large, sufficient, and after seeming a little intimidating the first couple of times it became a simple matter of habit. And, as I'll discuss further later, this 24-hour notice matters.
4) I met a total of 20 other pilgrims, though 6 of them I met only in Rome after I arrived. This included four other Americans who, I believe, are also members of this list and I hope will share their experiences as well. Of those four, remarkably, it included an American couple who I had met previously on the Camino de Santiago in 2002, on what was all of our first pilgrimage. That was a surprising day!
5) I don't think I'm going out on a limb here when I say that I expect the VF will skyrocket in use over the next five years. The Camino vets in particular are looking for more, yet also turned off by Camino crowds. At this moment, the VF has good guidebooks, sufficient WM, a gorgeous route, access to great food, good accommodation. I realize it doesn't have 20 yellow arrows to steer you away from every potentially misleading driveway, but it otherwise has a great deal of appeal. That said, there is definitely growing tension surrounding the growing pilgrim crowds in some places. I heard about this most clearly in San Gimignano's Augustine Convent, from speaking with Father Brian, an American. When I first arrived, Father Ian told me they are now demanding introductory letters from parish priests to identify potential lodgers as pilgrims (though he didn't actually turn anyone away). But, given that most of the non-hotel/agriturismo lodging is offered on the VF by parishes and monasteries, places which are definitely not hotels and are dedicated to other (more important) work, there is some concern and dialogue over the sense that the people walking are increasingly there for a cheap, active holiday and not there for pilgrimage. Obviously, I'm not looking to start another "Who is a pilgrim?" discussion, but it's enough to say that some are having that discussion on the VF and perhaps considering just how much they want to be in the walker-lodging business. On the flipside, though, there are others quite excited about it. I'm told the priest in Gambassi Terme hopes to have a new pilgrim-specific spedale completed by next summer (*with* showers).
OK, on with the daily outline: BUT FIRST: A disclaimer - every time I mention failed WM or bad directions, or any other route-related problems below, it is worth assuming that "user error" may have also been at work. In other words, it is entirely possible, and in some cases quite probable, that I just blew it. Still, I mention it in the hopes that others will have better luck.
-WM are generally yellow "Tourisme pedestre" stickers on poles
-Lake Geneva obviously provides the major WM, since you're following it for a couple of days. But, it can be mildly tricky to know when to follow its edge directly and when to switch back over to the road. Not a big deal, though.
-The LG is missing "Useful Info" on the Lausanne-Villeneuve stretch.
-I stayed in Vevey at the Notre Dame church. Very friendly reception after having set this up via email. They have a two-bed room around the corner, next to the community center. Bathrooms in the community
center and the priest allowed me to shower in the parish house. He also offered me dinner, great leftovers from an earlier community meeting. The Notre Dame church is on the main road towards the end of town. Upon leaving, continue very briefly down the road and then it is quite easy to rejoin the lake. For those interested in such matters, Vevey has a Starbucks (these are the things my students really want to know).
-Easy walk from Vevey to Villeneuve along lake
-Around 9km you arrive at Chateau Chillon, which is well worth a visit
-Montreux has an HI hostel - http://www.hihostels.com/dba/hostels-Montreux-Territet-055006.en.htm
-The WM in Villeneuve might be a little dicey, though I did leave to hit a supermarket. I just worked my way back to the main road from which I was able to catch the left-turn on to the WM footpath through
-I got spoiled by the abundance of resources from Lausanne to Villeneuve, where it seemed like public restrooms and water faucets were available every 200m. Well, be warned - there aren't a lot of options for water between Villeneuve and St Maurice. Fill up (or empty out!) before you leave.
-It wasn't clear to me from the WM exactly when I needed to leave the canal after Villeneuve and transition over to the Rhone River. Again, fortunately the geographic WM were obvious here when the man-made ones were insufficient
-St Maurice has a surprising amount of things to see, including a "Fairy Grotto"
-I stayed at the abbey, which is almost a hotel, with a set price list, a full floor of rooms and nice bathroom facilities. 30fr/50fr for a single/double. I booked by email.
-WM was generally good out of St Maurice, though the train station is a helpful landmark to work from - get to it and then continue past it
-Take care when following the trails downhill in this stage - some "steps" are held in place by rebar which actually extends a couple of inches beyond the boards and can be hard to see
-I had some route-finding issues around the Pissevache waterfall, but it is easy to just double back to the road briefly
-In Martigny, WM are often missing, but just followe the Grand StBernard road signs
-I stayed with the parish in Orsieres. In their community center, they have four foam mats for pilgrims and a potential kitchen downstairs. No shower here and the only bathroom is the public restroom across the street (it is open 24 hours)
ORSIERES-GRAND ST BERNARD
-A little uncertainty when the trail splits. A Le Monin/Dranse sign goes downhill, yellow markers (including VF markers) point uphill. The downhill is probably preferable. The uphill buys you a lot of
extra uphill which you'll just give back on the downhill soon after (and today already has plenty of uphill).
-Water is available in Dranse
-In Bourg St Bernard, the one potential stop with facilities along the way (though it is 1km off the route), the little grocery store was closed and the bar along the route was closed. But, another was open and seemed the more reliable - when you join the main road in BSB, turn left and you'll see it.
GRAND ST BERNARD-CHATILLON
-I took the shorter option after St Rhemy and found it quite advisable. There are some briefer sharp downhills, but nothing too bad
-There are no WM in Aoste, but the LG has a helpful map that makes it easy
-The main VF does not enter Nus proper, skipping all facilities (and it is a steep downhill into town and those facilities)
-The Nus parish was under extensive renovation and not available to pilgrims
-I took the variant via Fenis (the castle really is spectacular) and Pontey. All pavement, but very little traffic. Easy walking. The route from Pontey to Chatillon is quite tricky - don't just follow the road-marked route into Chatillon as it's much longer
-Facilities: Gagnod-Bar (B), Aoste-All Facilities (AF), Nus-Bar/Grocery (G), Fenis-B/G, Chatillon-AF
-I stayed at the Hotel Verger (35E) as I had plans change and didn't want to bother the Cappucini late. I know others who stayed there and liked it.
CHATILLON-PONT ST MARTIN
-The VF does not enter St Vincent proper, but it does pass a convenient bar
-WM problematic soon after the bar - I tried and failed to find the right turn where the road curves left (42.018 - these numbers always correspond to the specific turn in the LG). Thought I found it, but
oh boy did I not...a fun adventure followed, eventually leading me back to the WM. I think I just blew this one.
-I took the option via Issogne. All paved and Issogne is pleasant, but not a must-see by any means. Saving 2.6km is nice, though. WM is limited so follow the book closely.
-Hone and Donnas both have sizable parishes, but I couldn't get a hold of anyone in either of them.
-Bard is stunning. I didn't know anything about it beforehand, but I would consider that a must visit.
-Facilities: St Vincent-AF (only B on route), Montjovet-B/G, Issogne-B/G, Hone-AF, Bard-B, Donnas-AF, PSM-AF
-Stayed at Hotel Grabun (45E), again because I arrived later and without reaching the parish. Americans might like to know that this hotel has Sky Satellite tv, on which one can watch the NFL...
PONT ST MARTIN-IVREA
-In PSM and other parts of this route, white pilgrim silhouettes serve as WM, often painted on the curb. Keep a sharp eye out...
-In Montestrutto, when you arrive in the piazza, turn left
-The WM follow a different route out of Montalto, taking a wider loop that leads you along the old route out of town and towards an imposing castle, before arcing back.
-Ivrea was a pain for me - no tourist info center and a challenge to find things in general. The LG tells you to turn R at the city walls and leads you to the center. If your destination is the Ostello Canoe Club, I recommend turning L instead and following the road around the old town (along the way, you will pass an internet point on your R) and then eventually proceeding along the river (Dora Baltea). Turn L on the bridge over the river, and then turn L again on Dora Baltea. The Ostello is kind of hidden - take the first left, past the check point, and go all the way to the back.
-Facilities: Carema-B, Settimo-Restaurant, Borgofranco d'Avrea-B/G, Montalto-B/G, Ivrea-AF
-Stayed at Ostello Canoe Club (15E, Kitchen)
-There were no WM of any kind from 44.008 until Viverone, but plenty before and after. Did they change the official route or does the LG just disagree?
-44.026 tells you to turn R before the San Rocco chapel in Carema and then L soon after. This ended up confusing me at the next crossroads and I suggest ignoring it. Continue straight past San Rocco, keeping it on your R, and then proceed straight on the main road as you merge with it.
-The turnoff to the San Pietro Church (44.032) was unclear - if it is what I think it was, it was badly overgrown. I stayed on the road.
-At 44.042, the guide advises you to turn R after the B&B. The turn is actually immediately before the B&B and very easily missed. I got the feeling that the B&B's owner is used to bailing out pilgrims who
are poking confusedly around his property...
-As you proceed through the next stretch, it would be easy to miss 44.045 - there really are no WM and the poplar trees are your best landmark
-Not sure what happened, but I ended up on the wrong path in the woods several km before Santhia and ended up on the highway. I closely followed the brand new signs - I wonder if one of them is misplaced...follow the book carefully here.
-Facilities: Bollengo-B/G, Palazzo Canavese-B/G, Piverone-G/B/Farmacia, Cavaglia-B/SM (Supermarket) at end of town, Santhia-AF
-Santhia has a new pilgrim ostello right in the Piazza de Roma. Keys from Caffe della Piazza. 5E minimum donation, 8 beds, shower, and they have arranged for a pilgrim menu at a nearby restaurant. Very
pilgrim friendly town.
-Santhia to San Germano Vercellese is very clear, easy to follow
-Leaving SGV, the WM and book lead you south briefly and then double-back to the highway and across it. There is one critical WM (the one telling you to double-back missing) and without the book you would be very sad. I recommend skipping this little section all together - follow the highway out of SGV and then, half a km later, follow the WM left off of it.
-New WM call for a L prior to the LG's 45.043. This is advisable - it gets you to Montonero more directly
-Montonero has a "pilgrim rest-stop" which is a couple of benches and a fountain.
-Facilities: SGV-B/G, Vercelli-AF
-Slept at Ostello Biliemme, in the Convento Biliemme (10E minimum donation, dinner and breakfast offered). It has 6 beds and a kitchen available. If you want to stay there, follow these directions (from a
local Vercelli VF publication) as you arrive in Vercelli (it's at least 1km from the center of Vercelli and longer from the TI):
Follow the LG to Via Trino. At the roundabout, turn L on the long bridge over the railway (Corso Avogadro di Quaregna) and proceed straight for 1.5km. At the second traffic light (Piazza Sardegna), proceed right along Corso Salamano towards the graveyard. Biliemme is on your left after 400m
-Apparently a bridge is out, so prior to arriving in Palestro, VF detour signs lead you on a somewhat maddening backtrack to the highway, which you follow into Palestro. Sadly, this also results in missing the 720km marker. The detour signs look like they've been there for a little while...
-In Palestro, it's easy to find your way to Via Garibaldi, rejoining the VF proper. But, a brown VF road sign then misleads, guiding you back towards the highway. Ignore this and continue along Via Rosasco -46.023 mentions a footpath. That is stretching the meaning of the word footpath at first, but trust the route - it gets better in a little bit...
-Nicorvo's church has a timbro in it
-Somewhere around 47.023 = Doom. The rice paddies are brutal. No landmarks, mosquitoes everywhere, and during this stage in particular the WM fail (or I really screwed up). Hold the book tightly in one hand and a rosary in the other...
-Facilities: The VF bypasses services in Palestro and Robbio, though both have B/G and more; Nicorvo-B, Mortara-AF (SM to R after last roundabout), Tromello-AF
-Slept at the parish in Tromello - 3 camp beds, hot shower, bar downstairs. Father Carlo is very pilgrim friendly - he was waiting for me in the morning and walked with me to the town limit.
-Not sure if I missed something, but the WM led me to Madonna della Bozzola, not Garlasco
-I think Alt Route #5 should read "with the water on your right" not left. That, or I took a couple of wrong turns...
-After Madonna, WM is quite clear and reliable the rest of the way
-Facilities: Madonna-B, Gropello Cairoli-B, Villanova-B, Canarazzo-B, there are also bars on the river, Pavia-AF
-Slept in Casa della Carita (nice room, oferta). You're locked in until 7am. To reach it, turn R after passing through the covered bridge, then left on Pedotti.
-In San Leonardo, new WM call for a R turn off of the main road through town. I ignored this and followed the book instead, as it could only make the route longer...
-Once again, the book and WM disagree at 49.020. I followed the WM this time and unfortunately so, as they deposited me on the SS234.
Follow the book.
-After Campo Rinaldo, I lost the WM and couldn't find the route called for in the book. It was right around 50.014 - the route seemed to end near the canal. I must have just missed it...
-Danilo's ferry is awesome (5E) - call in advance to coordinate a time and then reconfirm in Orio Litta. He also has one of the finest timbros of the route
-Facilities: Albertano-B, San Leonardo-B/G/F, Ospedaletto-B, San Giacomo-B, Belgioiso-AF (@ on L as you enter town), Santa Cristina-B/G/F, Mirandolo-B, Campo Rinaldo-B, Orio Litta - B/G/F, Calendasco-B/G/F
-Slept in Ostello Le Tre Corone (10E). Very nice hostel that is pilgrim-friendly. They have a 10E pilgrim menu which was one of the best meals I had all trip. English-speaking and can be reserved via email
-Calendasco to Piacenza is all on the road and clear -After following the highway out of Piacenza, the R turn on to Mussina is not marked at all, which stunned me. There are no WM until the exit from I Vaccara , has the route been changed?
-I Vaccara was very tricky for me. I followed the highway into town until reaching a T-junction with Via Rocci. Following the book I turned R and then curved to the L. At another junction, I turned L on what turned out to be Strada I Vaccari. After, to the R, on a pole, I could see an old VF marker, but that didn't jibe at all with the book. I followed the road instead. It curved to the L. Then a R turn kept me on Strada I Vaccari, after which the WM resumed for the first time since before Piacenza.
-I Vaccari is your last chance at water until Fiorenzuola.
-There has been significant work in the Nure River, which makes the fording significantly more difficult. Much of the river-side road on the other side has been wiped out so ford as far to the right as you can. Good luck.
-WM follow a new route beginning at 51.035 and it skips Montanaro, reconnecting with the book's route in Zena though entering from the other side of the village (thus 51.039 becomes a L). This route seemed significantly shorter
-Castello di Paderna has a restaurant, but sadly it is only open nights...
-Facilities: Cotrebbia Nuova-B, Piacenza-AF (4km out of Piacenza there is a SM)
-Slept in the parish in Fiorenzuola, which has 4 beds, a cot, and good showers. I emailed in advance
-The route is totally clear to San Rocco, where the WM evaporate
-There is a new VF sign at 52.018, and then nothing more the rest of the way to Fidenza
-Three other pilgrims I met were following a different route from Chiaravalle, south of the freeway and via Saliceto. No idea if this is WM or better, but it must be shorter
-Fidenza has a great VF-friendly TI across from the Duomo, with a timbro. They'll call ahead for you for your next lodging and even take your picture and email it to you, as a "memento" of your time in Fidenza...
-Fidenza to Medesano is perfectly WM
-The VF doesn't enter Costamezzana proper, though a fountain is available at the cemetery
-Facilities: Chiaravalle-B/G, San Rocco-B (limited hours), Castione-G/B/F, Fidenza-AF, Osteria del Sole-B, Cella-B
-Slept in parish - very nice facilities including a great bathroom. 4 beds.
-No idea what happened, but I got totally confused between 53.054 and 53.057. If you have the same trouble, you'll end up passing through a farm, down a driveway, and come out on a T-junction with a paved road heading downhill to your L. Turn R uphill and you'll eventually hit a WM
-WM is limited from Felegara through to the end of the park, but the footpath is fairly intuitive
-Beginning near Sivizzano are concrete roadside markers containing ceramic pilgrims
-A couple of WM changes - after Sivizzano, the WM lead you L off the road, rejoining it eventually. It's longer, but at least it gets you off the road for a bit. Then, after 54.013, when the road turns L, continue straight on a footpath. This will lead you directly to Bardone and save you some walking
-Facilities: Felegara-AF, Fornova-AF (@ near Piazza Tarasconi), Sivizzano-B,G, Cassio-B/G/Ostello Via Francigena and a Hotel with 25E singles, Berceto-AF
-Slept in Casa della Gioventu, run by the parish. Berceto has a VF-TI on the route through town which should be able to place you in the room, but it was closed when I came through (when the hours said it would be open). This was a little scruffier than most of the places I stayed, though I might have had poor timing...
-Great walk, great WM, great old bridges. Awesome day.
-Facilities: Cisa Pass-B/G, Arzengio-B/G (long stretch between those), Pontremoli-AF
-Slept in the castle. So cool. They just gave me the keys to the gate when it closed for the day. Lots of beds, good showers, 18E. A sign in town indicated a pilgrim hostel in the Seminario Vescovile, but I had no luck reaching anyone there
-Pontremoli to Villafranca was all clear, though you do need to ignore an old AIVF sticker calling for you to leave the highway too soon after Pontremoli
-In the woods between VFL and Aulla, I made three wrong turns. Not sure why. Might have just gotten off the wrong side of the bed. WM are not always in consistent locations - some are on wrongs and partially obscured. Take care
-Facilities: Filattiera-B/SM, VFL-AF, Filetto-B/G, Terrarosa-B/G, Aulla-AF (@ around corner from ostello)
-Aulla has a VF Museum near the end of town that is quite nice. They also oversee the parish ostello
-Slept in the parish ostello - it's huge! 25 beds, a great shower, located right at the VF exit to town by the arch
-Aulla to Sarzana has very good WM and probably the trickiest downhill walking of the route -I followed the seaside alternate. I don't recommend it. No WM (though it's not necessary), but more to the point it's all pavement, actual views of the Mediterranean are really limited, and facilities are largely overpriced fare. But, it might be worth it if you plan to spend the night there. A grocery store is available around 6km into the alternate route description
-Facilities: Ponzano-B (not on VF), Sarzana-AF, 58.020-B, constant bar-restaurants along the coast, Pietrasanta-AF
-Slept in Casa Diocesana La Rocca in a pilgrim ostello, a very nice 4-bed little building. It's just uphill from the duomo
-Bad WM from Pietrasanta. Look for the little white and yellow stickers and tiny neon green arrows, along with VF tape
-Particularly tricky for me was 59.005-9. 59.006 calls for taking the R fork; it's actually the middle of three tines. You will be walking past private property signs
-Red/white markers appear near Via Aquarella, which makes me wonder if there's a new route leading to this point. When they do join, though, it's easy to make a wrong turn - ignore a possible R turn where the first R/W are visible
-In Camaiore, turn R on Oberdan, not L
-The R-turn off of the river-side trail leading to Lucca is not marked. Look for a soft, paved fork. This road will make a U-turnand then another L soon after, leading straight away from the river. Right before a soccer field, turn L (you may be able to see an old VF sticker at this point) - this is 59.059
-WM out of Lucca stinks. It exists, but you're better off just following the book closely
-The 2km shortcut to Porcari seems to be the standard, WM option at this point
-The R at 60.023 is almost totally unmarked and easily missed
-Facilities: Camaiore-AF, San Macario Piano-B, Lucca-AF, constant food options between Lucca and Altopascio, Cappanori-G/B, Porcari-B/SM, Torchetto-B/SM, Altopascio-AF
-Slept in Altopascio's pilgrim hostel - access through TI behind church, phone numbers on door if closed. Great, great timbro. 8 beds in 3 rooms
ALTOPASCIO-SAN MINIATO BASSO
-Timbro available in Galleno at Cartolibreria Felix
-WM is not always clear, but generally follow the canal to Fucecchio and then the embankment from there
-Prior to arriving in SMB, at 61.021 the route calls for a big arc to avoid the highway. I understand the desire to not follow the highway here, as there's a minimal shoulder. I still think I would prefer the highway here, as the detour seems to double the distance
-Slept at Misericordia - 7 beds, more foam pads, cold shower, friendly reception including pilgrim certificate
-Facilities: Galleno-B/G, Ponte a Cappiano-B/G, Fucecchio-AF, SMB-AF
SAN MINIATO BASSO-SAN GIMIGNANO
-Worth noting that the VF in San Miniato Alto doesn't pass through the nicest part of town - well worth seeing
-Beware some potentially misleading R/W stripes. Make sure you're following VF markers
-Timbro at bar in Calenzano - also your last chance for water until Borgoforte
-The WM is excellent in this section - a huge, huge improvement overfour years ago
-The VF in Gambassi Terme skips the commercial center
-The 1km shortcut en route to San Gimignano seemed well worth it-Facilities: SMA-B/G, Calenzano-B/G, Borgoforte-B, Gambassi Terme-AF, SG-AF
-Slept in Augustinian Convent - nice room, great company with the priests. A letter from a priest may be required. Can be coordinated over email - be sure to contact in advance
SAN GIMIGNANO-MONTARONI D'ARBIA
-The recommended route to Gracciano is an excellent walk and worth the extra km
-WM to Abbadia Cuneo is excellent, but then they evaporate. Proceed to the R of the abbey. Follow the dirt road (not paved, as the book says) on the right side of the lot downhill through a livestock fence. At the bottom, there are dirt roads at 2 o'clock, 5 o'clock, and 9 o'clock. You want the 2 o'clock option; WM will reappear in a km or so.
-I took the shorter option to Siena since I already had a long dayahead of me. Extra pavement, but it generally seemed fine
-The L turn immediately after the Ponte Romano leaving Siena would be easy to miss
-Big disagreement between the WM and book at 64.014. The book calls for a R, the WM call for a L. I followed the WM - they eventually lead you around the fringes of a farmer's fields, making for tricky walking as many of the footpaths have been wiped out. It drops you in central Isola d'Arbia. At the end of town, after the last bar, WM lead you back to the VF proper. I would recommend following the book
-Facilities: Quartaia-B/G, Gracciano-AF (thought not on the VF), Abbadia Isola-B, 63.028-B (probably a better option for a snack than eating in Monteriggioni), Monteriggioni-Restaurants, Alt #3-B, Alt #6-B/F, Isola d'Arbia - AF, Montaroni - AF (VF skips entirely)
-I arrived in Montaroni late, so I stayed in Albergo Bella Napoli (20E). The city of Naples should sue.
MONTARONI D'ARBIA-SAN QUIRICO D'ORCIA
-In Buonconvento, the book calls for a L on Via Roma and R on Via Percena, which have you going directly against the WM. Nonetheless, soon after the WM are with you again
-WM call for you to stay on Via Cassia at 65.011. Better to follow the book unless you're in a hurry
-Near where the Via Romana and Via Cassia draw close en route to San Quirico, insistent WM call insistently for a R turn, leading you on a gravel road under the Via Cassia and then to the L. I really like this route, as it takes you offroad all the way to San Quirico. It's probably longer, but much nicer
-Slept in the parish - a great facility with lots of beds, good shower, and an excellent kitchen. The priest speaks English
-Facilities: Ponte d'Arbia-AF (VF skips entirely), Buonconvento-AF, Torrenieri-B/SM, San Quirico-AF
-In Bagno Vignoni, WM lead you L around a spa, through the parking lot, and then along a jogging trail, eventually dropping you much later on the Via Cassia. After a few km of highway, you end up in Gallina and soon after reconnect with the book's trajectory. The book's option is advisable, I think - follow it closely in Bagno
-Route to Radicofani is quite clear, and remains clear to Ponte a Rigo
-In Ponte a Rigo, newer WM tell you to go L on the highway, the book calls for a R. Follow the book's instructions; you will eventually follow older WM along this route
-67.027 is hard to catch, so take care
-Facilities: Gallina-B (not on book's route), On Cassia, before turn-off to Radicofani - Bar, Radicofani-AF, Ponte a Rigo-B, Proceno-B/G, Acquapendente-AF
-Acquapendente has a great pilgrim hostel - 8 beds in three rooms, very well-equipped. They even have signs advertising this as you enter town. Phone numbers are on the door and they respond quickly! It's on Via Roma 51. Follow the VF through town. Eventually, it will lead you on to Via Roma - turn L there and it's on your L
-Acqua to San Lorenzo Nuovo is very clear
-Leaving SLN, take great care - old VF signs take you on an earlier route, down to Lake Bolsena and then following the Via Cassia from there. This is not advisable; the route in the book is far superior
-When leaving Bolsena, LG calls for taking the first left. It is not the first left, but it is clearly WM
-The alternative shortcut described in LG again seems to be the official, WM option now
-In Montefiascone, the route is a little maddening and circuitous, but it will eventually deliver you to the historic core - take care not to miss the R turn into the historic center, which is uphill at a church and easily passed
-Going to Montefiascone was a late change in plans, so I couldn't contact a parish in advance. Instead, I stayed at Albergo Dante, just off the central piazza (30E)
-Facilities: SLN-B/G, Bolsena-AF (@ in Libreria in old town and MIT Computer after the arch), Montefiascone-AF
-WM is very limited after reaching the cemetery in Viterbo and non-existent in town
-Facilities: There is a SM leaving Montefiascone and then nothing until Viterbo aside from one fountain. Take plenty of water for this route in the summer as you are totally exposed
-Stayed at Hotel Tuscia - a great breakfast included, but otherwise didn't seem worth it
-A confusing day, with often disagreeing WM and limited facilities -After crossing the Via Cassia (70.027) is tricky - WM directs you to follow the Via Cassia for a number of km; the book's recommendation was hard to catch but would be far superior.
-Before Vetralla, the WM split. Take the L option and you miss the city (though you still have access to a Coop/Bar combo)
-WM also splits before 70.066 - white arrows with yellow pilgrim silhouettes guide you through an orchard and alongside the railroad
-The WM also split before Botte
-Just hold the book right in front of your face all day today
-The VF does not enter Sutri, but there are roadside bars
-Facilities: Vetralla-AF, Capranica-AF, Sutri-AF
-Slept in Carmellite Monastery - nice room, 20E
-Sutri to Montarosi has good WM
-At 71.031, WM tell you to turn R. Eventually, the WM on road guide you to join the Via Amerina, a 3rd century road which seems to be in the process of being cleared. Some stretches are more clear than others. At its best, it's a glorious walk and highly enjoyable. At it's worst, you're wading through sticker bushes. It drops you on a local road, which you follow to the Via Cassia, which you walk along briefly before turning on to the highway toward Campagnano. Eventually, you will turn R on to a gravel road. Follow the book's suggested route instead.
-The route is all clear from Campagnano to Veio Park. There, it is very easy to get into trouble. In Veio Park, R/W stripes (and a printed VF sign) call for a turn off of the main road and deep into the park. I decided to follow the markers. Eventually, these led me across a river (at which point the route seemed partially blocked, but I couldn't determine if this was intentional and continued), across a second river (pretty deep), through sticker bushes, and ultimately deposited me on a gravel road where the markers evaporated. I found someone and asked how to get to central Formello (the next stop on the itinerary) - he described a circuitous 8km route (in Veio I was within
a couple of km of Formello). Anyway, I finally figured out a better option, reaching Formello's commercial center on the New/Old Via Cassia interchange and then just following the Cassia to La Storta from there. All told, it was probably a short-cut and the route through Veio was a heck of an adventure and I had a lot of fun. More
Via Cassia in the end, but I was mainly laughing about my good fortune having ended up so close to La Storta. As is probably clear, I thus can't advise on the route between Veio Park and La Storta, though I walked through there in 2005 and had no difficulty at that time. The main point here - don't take that right turn in Veio Park!
-I couldn't really figure out what the LG wanted me to do in Monte Mario Park. Here's what I did (and what the WM suggest) – upon reaching the entrance, I followed the steps uphill and then the path to the viewpoint. After enjoying the spectacular view, I turned around and turned left down the road, rejoining Triunfale and then continuing on that into Rome (though be sure to take advantage of the steps cutting downhill through the Triunfale). WM quickly disappear. When you hit Andrea Doria, continue straight on Via Leone IV. Eventually you'll reach the Vatican's walls and you can figure it out from there...
-Facilities: Montarosi-AF (but none on VF, which skips the town), Campagnano-AF
That's it for the day-to-day. Finally, here are some general thoughts on the Lightfoot Guides:
What was great...
1) Reliable directions! Such a huge difference. The authors show their expertise in particular when they guide the walker away from the WM, as their recommendations are almost always superior to the official option
2) The maps - accurate, reliable, and (particularly important to me) provide a lot of detail for the surrounding area, making it easier to correct a mistake if you do make one. No need to also purchase the Topofrancigena - this guide has you covered. The altitude chart is also quite handy
3) The timeliness. It is clear that this guide is as up-to-the-moment as a guide can get. Making a guide is hard enough - annual updates that provide the details this guide does is a massive commitment.
4) GPS coordinates - I don't use them, but that's a heck of a feature.
5) Accommodation lists - while changes are frequent in this area, they have a great collection of places to crash.
What I didn't like as much / would change / or is worth noting...
1) Make the arrival in each town/village explicit in the list of directions and put the name in bold.
2) Explicitly indicate when their recommended route runs counter to the existing waymarks. I don't want to walk with the book always in my hand - it would help greatly if I knew that, say, 6km into the walk I needed to ignore the WM. It might also be nice if they could present these other routes with a subtle outline on their maps, just so that one could consider the option or place himself when he follows those marks by mistake. No need to include turn-by-turn directions, of course
3) As noted above, I wasn't fond of how they dealt with facilities in each town, with some identified and others apparently non-existent. They have a Grocery icon, but it's not used at all in the Vercelli-Roma book, after being used quite regularly in the Besancon-Vercelli book. Not sure that the icon is necessary, but they might consider a subtle way of noting where food (or, more importantly, coffee) is or is not available.
4) Arrival in big towns was always tricky. Waymarks often disappear and finding the preferred accommodation can also be difficult. Perhaps they could include walking directions to the tourist info office - once you have a map in hand, those cities become simple.
5) Make sure you get the newest edition (or the updates). I met some other pilgrims who had the 2008 edition (I had 2009). Some huge differences.
6) I hesitate to mention this, but the "cultural and historical overview of the region" advertised in each section is often non-existent and what does come is generally quite limited. I'm not complaining, though - a guidebook's size is a huge concern and the necessary step-by-step instructions take up a lot of space. I don't want the guides to be much thicker and so some things have to go. It's just worth noting that you won't learn much at all about sights worth seeing or the region's history from these guidebooks. They are almost exclusively route-finding and bed-finding tools but they excel in those areas.
7) The distances don't always add up and there are a lot of errors in this particular area in general. It's not a crisis, but it's always a little discouraging when a secret, additional km appears during your walk. It would be nice to get this tidied up.
As a whole, though, this is such a fantastic and necessary tool. It's more expensive, certainly, than what those walking the Camino are used to paying, but I think the reasons for the cost are understandable and, when you consider what you are spending on the rest of the trip, $45 (or whatever it was) to dramatically improve the quality of the experience is a very small price to pay. I'm very grateful to these books and the authors.
That's it. If anything is unclear, let me know. I hope this is of use to some.