The magnificent St Peter's Basilica in Rome | Kerren Knighton
The last section of the Via Francigena in Italy is one of the most popular sections of this ancient pilgrim path. Starting from Orvieto, just over 100km from Rome, is sufficient for walkers to qualify for a ‘Testimonium’ of pilgrimage to the Eternal City of Rome. This is one of the reasons Kerren from our Auckland office chose this section. She tells us about her highlights and top tips for people thinking about completing the Orvieto to Rome Walk in this interview.
What were your highlights?
The beautiful towns that you visit along the way were the firm highlights of this walk. Orvieto, Bolsena, Montefiascone and Viterbo still have city walls surrounding their old, medieval towns. Orvieto and Montifiascone are built on top of volcanic Tufa cliffs that give you wonderful views of the surrounding area. While not as high, Bolsena is a stunning town on the lakefront that you can stroll around with the locals and sample gelato. Being a volcanic lake, the water is pretty cold though!
The Duomo of Orvieto is considered to be one of the best examples of Italian Gothic architecture
Italy's old towns are often home to the remains of an old castle begging to be explored, and ancient cobble-stone streets that are perfect for getting lost in. Viterbo's historic centre is considered one of the best preserved medieval towns in central Italy. Although every town in Italy seems to have an amazing church, the 14th Century Orvieto Cathedral is truly spectacular.
There were so many food highlights on this trail, from complex dishes to simple antipasto platters
What was the food like?
There were so many food highlights on this walking holiday. Lake Bolsena is known for its Coregone, a white fish that we tried pan friend and thoroughly enjoyed. Orvieto's menus feature a lot of game, for example wild boar sausages. At our farm stay near Sutri we had wild pork that had been caught locally and cooked by Mama in the kitchen. The 'classico' white wine in Orvieto is excellent, and Montefiascone is famous for its Est, Est, Est! wine - both go down extremely well after a day on the pilgrim trail.
After a long day of walking, a cold beer by the pool of our agriturismo in Sutri was a real treat
What was the most memorable place you stayed?
Overall, the accommodation was fantastic - a nice blend of 3-star hotels and farm stays. My favourite was our farm stay or 'agriturismo' near Sutri, which was a working hazelnut farm and had a pool. After our walk that day, a cold beer by the pool was a real treat. The farm stay was run by a mother, daughter and their golden lab, who all made us feel welcome (especially the lab!). Another highlight was staying in the wings of a 10th century monastery operated by Cistercian Monks in Rome.
How did you train for your walk?
Knowing that some of the towns are on hilltops, we did plenty of walks on hilly terrain. If you're preparing for a walk on the Via Francigena, ensure you do some walks carrying a day pack so you can get a feel for what it will be like.
The breathtaking St Peter's Basilica is the ending point of your walk and that of many pilgrims through the centuries
What are your tips for people planning to cycle or walk the final 100km into Rome?
While a tourist industry has sprung up around the Camino de Santiago, with restaurants offering pilgrim meal deals and plenty of cafes and shops, the Via Francigena is yet to be touched by mass tourism. This meant that on the first few days in particular, we had to take food with us as there wasn't anywhere to buy lunch. Our detailed trip notes advised which days we needed to pack food for the day. We tried to buy lunch supplies the night before, or failing that in the morning before we left the town we were based in. Italian supermarkets are great for this, with plenty of deli meats, cheeses and wonderful fresh produce on offer. I would recommend bringing a container and cutlery with you. Containers stop your food from getting squashed or spilling over things in your day pack. In my opinion, Italy was made for picnics!
Orvieto and Rome are both fascinating towns that are worth extending your stay in. Orvieto is so picturesque and full of arty shops, the spectacular Duomo, interesting museum and 440 caves that you can visit on an underground tour. You could happily base yourself in Rome for a few days to explore its art, architecture, food and culture that contribute to it being one of Europe's most visited cities.
>> Find out more about the Self Guided Francigena Way: Orvieto to Rome
>> This September, Walk & Write
your way from Orvieto to Rome with author Stephanie Dale
>> Discover the differences between the Via Francigena and the Camino de Santiago in this blog post