Every walking journey, like every walker, is different: you can leave without booking accommodation and see how far your feet can take you, you can use luggage transport services (if you lack training or have other physical problems), you can leave with an “empty” rucksack and buy what you need as you go along…
Without belittling any of these styles of walking (a walk is always an admirable, as well as unforgettable, endeavour), it was clear to us right from the start that we didn’t fit into any of them.
Our backpacking journey had to be organised and carried out in the most sustainable way possible. We thought carefully about each item we were going to bring, so that we would have to buy as little as possible during the trip. For meals, we tried to organise ourselves in advance so that we could eat something simple during the stage and not have to wait until we arrived at the next village exhausted.
In fact, although the Via Francigena does not pass through remote places, it often happened that during the stages we did not encounter any villages or we came across very small hamlets where every shop was closed. In addition, we had brought food storage containers so that we could take fruit with us without bruising it or to use them for our lunch.
If we realised before leaving that we were missing something necessary for the journey, whenever possible we borrowed it. This was not out of stinginess, but we wanted to try to reuse and consume as little as possible. On a trip like this, where almost every gram counts, you can’t, of course, do without technical, comfortable and lightweight clothing and accessories. However, you don’t always have to buy a newer, lighter backpack or T-shirt to reach your final destination.
We wanted to rely on our own strengths first, without attributing exaggerated value to external objects, as we are unfortunately all prone to do in our daily lives. We think that with that dress we will finally be the person we want to be, with that new mobile phone we will finally be accepted by our friends…
This is why we have trained ourselves by going on many hikes before departure. Many people underestimate the importance of training for a long backpacking journey, yet it should be done just as if we were preparing for a race. A walking trip without adequate preparation is not sustainable!
And by that, we don’t just mean physical preparation, but also mental. During the journey there are bound to be moments of discouragement, rainy days, sore feet… You can stop, take a day off, but sooner or later you have to walk till the next destination.
On the last day of our adventure we set off from La Storta (a hamlet of Rome), heading towards the center of Rome, in the pouring rain. The weather forecast didn’t give precise indications: it was going to be a rather unpredictable day.
We could have stayed an extra day in La Storta and left the next day, but we had decided that we would arrive in Rome that same day.
We never thought walking in the rain would be so much fun! Of course, you need waterproof clothing, but once we were well equipped, we were almost happy to walk in that weather. Our legs had been sore for days, but we were still determined to get to our destination: St Peter’s Square (where the Vatican is) in the centre of Rome.
We imagined arriving in St Peter’s among people who did not know that we had walked 300 kilometres. This thought was enough to lift our spirits and make us sing even louder when the cars splashed down on us. Yes, we were singing – or at least, Amber was. She had discovered that if you sing at the top of your lungs in the heavy rain, along a busy road, no one can hear you. Or almost.
Luckily, after two hours the rain stopped, giving way even to sunshine. We took off our soaked clothes and clothing covers and continued on through the hill park of Monte Mario: it was from there that we saw the dome of St Peter’s for the first time!
And so, with sore legs and soaked clothes hanging off our rucksacks, after climbs, breath-taking views and sheep, after 13 days of backpacking from Siena, we arrived at the final destination of the Via Francigena!
The arrival was an emotion indescribable in words – which is why we can only recommend everyone to try an experience like this to understand it. We also made videos for each stage, so that we would never forget the best moments of this adventure and show everyone the unique views and villages we passed through.
For us, the end of this trip meant only one thing: the beginning of many more adventures!