Following are some of the highlights of our itinerary:
Milan to Fidenza- about 70 miles, 5 days. This portion of the hike goes through the Po River valley, a rich agriculture area of rice and corn. The geography is very flat and is similar to the American Midwest. This should be a good way for us to start our hike, allowing us to get over jet lag and acclimate our bodies to long walking days. On the Camino last year, our first several days were through the steep mountains of the Pyrenees and just about killed our feet and bodies in those early days. On this section, we will also take a day off the trail to visit Parma, one of the food capitals of Italy. Think ham and cheese...
Fidenza to la Speiza- about 75 miles, 5 days. This portion of the walk goes over the beautiful Apennine Mountains, with daily climbs of almost 3000 feet. 500 feet of climb equates to an extra mile of walking. So, a day of walking 15 miles with a climb of 3000 feet is equal to a flat walk of 21 miles. For the entire trip, our total climb is about 80,000 feet, or the equivalent of an additional 160 miles of walking!
Cinque Terre- we are taking two days off the Via Francigena to hike the Cinque Terre. This is one of the most beautiful places in the world, and is comprised of 5 small villages on the Mediterranean, linked by hiking trails and also a train. No cars are allowed. The total distance from the first village to the last is around 12-15 miles. We have visited the Cinque Terre a couple of times before- once with Linda's Mom and her brother Corey and once with my brother Bruce and his family. A truly stunning place and one that we are looking forward to visiting again.
Northern Tuscany- from Cinque Terra to Siena, about 135 miles. Although not mountainess per se, this is a very hilly area. Highlights include the medieval walled city of Lucca, the beautiful villages of San Miniato, Gambassi Terme and San Gimignano and finally, fantastic Siena. We have visited these places by car a few times, but are looking forward to seeing them on foot.
Southern Tuscany- from Siena to Procena, about 85 miles. Lots of climbing over spectacular rolling countryside and vineyard, through the Orcia valley (Val d'Orcia). In this area, we pass through many small walled villages. We may take a day or two off the trail to visit Montepulciano and Montecino. This is also a well known wine region, with the hike often going through vineyards.
Procena to Rome- about 100 miles. Highlights include the resort town of Lake Bolsena, the medieval cities of Montefiascone and Viterbo. Unfortunately, the last 30 miles or so is through suburban Rome, with lots of traffic and very few hiking trails.
Rome- one of our favorite cities in the world. We once spent a week at Chrismas with our family, and have visited several other times. I had the good fortune of being in Rome in 2006 on the night Italy beat France to win the World Cup. Glorious bedlam! By this time, we will have walked over 450 miles, so we will spend a few extra days there to get some rest and explore. While in Rome, we will also visit the Vatican, where we will receive our "Testimonium" for completing the walk!
Lake Geneva- we will fly from Rome to Geneva on June 19. After a short train ride from the airport we will begin our Swiss hike. The first 40 miles or so will be around Lake Geneva and will include nights in Lausanne and Montreaux, home of the famous Jazz festival. When we lived in Spin in the late 90's, I visited Geneva almost every month, as that was the home of HP's European headquarters. A very scenic place and the walk around the lake should be terrific.
Alps- we then begin our ascent into the Alps, through the Great St Bernard Pass, a total of about 60 miles over 5 days. Yes, it is the home of the famous St Bernard dogs! Late June should be a beautiful time in Alps, with all the flowers in bloom. This will be a very challenging few days, with some extreme climbs, reaching a peak of almost 9000 feet. Apparently the Great St. Bernard Pass defeated Napolean and other military leaders in the past; hopefully the same won't happen to us!
Northern Italy- we then descend from the Alps into Italy. In this portion of Italy, the language is French. This area is also very mountainess, and the home of many ski resorts. We will walk about 90 miles over 6 days, with several very challenging climb days mixed in. As we have discovered before, steep descents can as hard on the body as ascents, particularly the knees. We also will stay in several medieval villages along the way.
Milan- we will spend one day in Milan before flying back to the US on July 2.
Wow, I'm tired just thinking about all this!