We’ve just entered countdown mode for our upcoming Via Francigena (VF) trek. We depart Las Vegas on April 7th, so there’s less than a month to go and there’s still quite a bit to do. Deciding to hike the VF was a big decision and pretty exciting in itself. Buying the airline tickets brought the plan a bit closer to reality. Now, we’re getting down to the nitty-gritty and the excitement sometimes spills over into slight panic mode.
I’ve made the first few nights hotel reservations and just recently, based on input from friends and family, I’ve booked a couple of tours for our two days in Rome. St. Peter’s Basilica is the start of the pilgrims’ walk, so for sure, that is on our agenda. The Sistine Chapel was high on the list, as well as the Colosseum and we’ve booked tours for them as well. Beyond that, I’ve been researching self-guided walking routes, landmarks and highlights that we can explore on our own...several of Rome’s 900+ churches, the Spanish steps, Borghese Gardens, Trevi Fountain, Trastevere and the Appian Way among other sights. With only two days, we’ll cram in all we can, but ‘Rome wasn’t built in a day’ and we can’t see it all. We’ll do our best to see what we can and save the rest for a return visit.
David has researched and found that our ‘3’ SIM card from our trip to England last September/October is still valid. He topped it up and though we might not have cell phone coverage in some rural areas, we’ll have a cell phone everywhere we travel in Europe for the next four months. Though we didn’t make phone calls home (that’s what Skype is for), we did use the phone frequently to make hotel reservations, receive confirming texts, follow our track on the Thames Path app and check schedules.
Speaking of the Thames Path app, I just uploaded Italy on the Maps.me app so that I can easily plot our path in advance and locate nearby lodging en route. I also uploaded the Via Francigena app which, like the Thames Path app, allows us to track our progress en route and plot our current location. This is a real positive when (not if) we get off track and/or lost.
Accessing local currency, the Euro ( € ), might sometimes be a challenge. In the cities it’s not a problem as ATM machines, bancomats in Italy, are easily found and most establishments accept credit cards. Once we’re in more rural areas, things will change and cash will be required. Figuring out how much cash to carry is a little tricky. Italy and France, of course, both accept the Euro. Switzerland, however, is not an EU nation and still deals in their own currency, the Swiss franc. Our credit card from Capital One does not charge a currency conversion fee for foreign transactions which is great. Our Bank of America ATM card can be used without a fee at Barclay banks in the UK, BNP Paribas banks in France and BNL D’Italia banks in Italy. Alas, Switzerland not only uses their own currency, but they do not participate in the bank ATM reciprocity program. We’ll deal with it when we get there.
We’ve been ‘in training’ for the past couple of weeks. We try to follow a 3-day schedule: walk to gym and fitness training one day, long walk (8+ miles) one day, golf course walk (easy 3.5 miles) one day, then repeat. In addition, we’re both in physical therapy at the moment, stretching and strengthening our weaknesses. We’ll continue PT right until our departure date then do the prescribed exercises once we’re on the road. We’ve finished up all of our medical exams for the year except for our 6-month dental check-ups scheduled in early April. No time for toothaches when we’ve got miles to walk and things to see and Italian wine to drink.
We learned quite a bit from our Thames Path trip. We’ve invested in some lighter weight hiking clothing and more layers. David determined, for instance, that one pair of his cargo pants weighed about 3 pounds! Yikes that’s about 16% of his total planned backpack weight. The new pants he purchased weigh less than a pound. We’ve also reviewed our list of ‘must-haves’ and trimmed down a bit. We found that some of the ‘necessities’ (e.g. a skirt for Marcie???) was really quite unnecessary, was heavy, took up too much backpack space and was never used. Walking every day leaves little necessity for dressy clothes. We’re trying to maintain packs that weigh 10% or less of our body weight. It’s a challenge, but we’ll thank ourselves, I’m sure, as we’re heading up St. Bernard’s Pass.
I’ve created a Via Francigena page on our website with all the associated VF blogs thus far, as well as a map of the route. Take a look when you get a chance.