The Via Francigena was rediscovered around the same time as the Spanish Caminos, but while the latter have exploded in popularity, the Francigena has remained relatively obscure. It starts in England, but I didn’t want to traverse the Alps in November, so I started near Lucca in Italy. Aside from the final 10-mile segment through suburban Rome, every day on this stretch is filled with ancient walled towns and beautiful Tuscan landscapes, with very minimal road-walking.
I also hiked the Cinque Terre, because I had arrived in Italy via a $10 flight to Genoa and it was on the way.
Unlike on previous European walks, I actually got rained on three days out of twelve, so it was lucky that I had brought a rain jacket, rain pants, and pack cover. The temperatures were generally pretty perfect. It typically got dark around 5, which limited me to a mere ten walking hours per day.
I got the sense that there was lots of delicious Italian food to be had, but I had no idea how to order it. I was hoping for daily menus, where one could get a four-course meal of whatever was on-hand for 10 euros, but I only found a few of these. Usually, just the first course alone, with the requisite bread, water, and cover charges, would run around 15 euros for a very meager portion of pasta. I typically subsisted on pizza, which was pretty ubiquitous, and only two bucks for a hefty slice. Coffee was doled out in tiny portions for a dollar a cup. On the last day, I found a chain called 12oz coffee that prided itself on its absurdly voluminous 12oz cups.
I ran into an Australian woman who had hiked all the way from Canterbury and never paid more than $20 for a night’s stay. The cheaper options usually involve calling around and staying at monasteries. Since I was looking to work every night, I largely opted for rooms and apartments in the $30-60 range. Wifi was spotty, but I had a $25 sim that gave me 50gb for the month and worked pretty much everywhere, so I almost always had a fallback. I did stay in one convent - the nuns ignored me for three hours, but eventually gave me a massive dinner, comfy private room, and breakfast for $30.