Via Francigena … Closer & Closer

I’ve kind of gone overboard on my guide selection. Luckily, I shop at thrift stores.

I’ve kind of gone overboard on my guide selection. Luckily, I shop at thrift stores.

The more I learn about our walking route and the more we prepare, the more excited I’m becoming. David is the even-keeled one in the family. He’s never really down and he’s never really excited. Me? I run the gamut of high highs and somewhat low lows. Just a little over a month now (April 7th) and we’ll be off. I can barely contain my excitement and it’s growing with each passing day.

We actually arrive in London and spend the first couple nights there allowing some jet lag recovery time before we fly to Rome to begin the walk. David worked out a walking schedule, a rather elaborate spreadsheet, that has us walking an average of 12-14 miles/day and includes where we hope to be each night, the date we hope to be there and lay days. Based on this, I’ve been researching things to see and do, possible accommodations and local amenities. I was able to use hotel points for free or nearly free nights on our arrival in London and our first three nights in Rome. Beyond that, no reservations have been made.

I’ve purchased lots of travel guides and language books, but most all have been at our local thrift shops. Some are a bit outdated (vintage 2011+) but really I’m more interested in what to see, not necessarily the current cost to see them. I figure St. Peter’s Square and the Coliseum haven’t gone anywhere between 2011 and now and the language probably hasn’t morphed all that much either.

My Italian lessons are progressing, but not as quickly as I’d like. My reading comprehension is pretty good actually, but as usual, it’s the speaking and understanding of the spoken language that’s the hard part. Nothing worse than asking someone a question in proper Italian, and after a lengthy response, having no idea what the respondent said.

I’ve picked up an Italian for Travelers book and alternately augment my daily Duolingo lessons with reading about what to see along our route, like the ancient Roman walls of Lucca, for instance. Also, basic travel in Italy like dining out, typical meals (pizza and pasta prevail), as well as the national coffee culture. I read that if you order a cafe, you get espresso. Order a latte and you get milk. Order an Americano and you get watered-down coffee. Order a cafe-latte and you get something that resembles what I’m used to drinking. I’m learning all my veggies, fruits, poultry and fish vocabulary and trying to memorize the many sauces that are typically used. Will that be bolognese (nope, meat) or putanesca (yup, everything we love)? We’ve given up thinking we’ll keep to our normal low carb diet. Walking 10-15 miles a day will help offset the carb intake, for sure.

No room at the inn? There are always park benches.

No room at the inn? There are always park benches.

Many of the towns and cities we plan to pass through are small. Our pilgrims’ passes may allow us to stay in the local abbeys or church facilities or perhaps we’ll find a B&B or small hotel or hostel, or just a room in someone’s house. We’re not particularly worried. We plan to take our sleeping bags and mats with us though sleeping out of doors is not in the plan.

Travel will be primarily on foot, though in the cities, trains and Uber are accessible and buses are available between the towns if we need them. We’ve yet to research a SIM for the phone, but we plan to order one before we leave. Any suggestions out there for the most versatile, low cost talk/text plan in Europe? No international calling required. That’s what Skype is for.

Gear is not a problem, but clothing presents a challenge. We’ll be in cool to cold for the beginning of our walk, but it will get progressively warmer as the spring and summer progress. Getting rid of clothing along the way is not an issue, but carrying enough layers to insure we’re warm enough for the coldest weather has given us much food for thought. David reminded me that they do sell clothing in Italy, so we can always buy what we need. Yes, but are there thrift shops? Huh?

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Thus far, I’ve only concentrated my research efforts on Italy. I plan to take the next month to do some research on Switzerland and France. My Italian and French language skills will hopefully get us through Switzerland without too much difficulty. We’ll be heading over the Swiss Alps at St. Bernard’s Pass and only be in Switzerland a couple of weeks. Once we cross the border into France, we’ll be walking through France’s champagne district. I’m hoping David has planned several lay days there as I’m sure I’ll need them to enjoy the ambiance (and the local beverage). It will fortify me to continue on our way to Canterbury.