This section of the Via Francigena will see you pass from Switzerland into Italy via the well-known St Bernard Pass.
Descending the Alps you will traverse the widely known Aosta Valley which is renowned for its spectacular scenery and food and the region where more than 20 wines are originated from. Leaving the Aosta Valley, you will then enter the plain of the River Po before arriving into the European Capital of Rice, Vercelli where the must-try dish is risotto.
NOTE: The pass in Col du Grand Sanbernardo is only open from June to October (those dates are not fixed and may vary depending on the snow fall) outside of the pass being open the accommodations do be closed.
Arrive into Bourg-St-Pierre and soak up the welcoming atmosphere of this alpine village.
From Bourg-St-Pierre you will ascend to Barrage de Toules dam which holds back the Lac des Toules. Climbing up and down while continually ascending the mountains, you will arrive at the famous Col Du Gran Saint-Bernard (Great Saint Bernard Pass). At first you will only see the small cross on the skyline before the café at the pass and the hospice come into view. At the Great Saint Bernard Pass, you are 8114 ft above sea level and at just over halfway through the Via Francigena from Canterbury to Rome. The Hospice was established by Saint-Bernard d’Aoste in 1050 and has been in continuous use for nearly 1000 years, mostly used by pilgrims or those simply wanting to visit the famous pass. Napoleon also used this route to move 40,000 of his troops to enter Italy in 1800.
Going past the lake in Col Du Gran Saint-Bernard, about halfway around, you will cross the border into Italy. From here, you will descend down into Aosta and as you do, warmer weather will greet you. Passing down through alpine villages surrounded by spectacular scenery of green valleys and steep forested mountainsides, you will arrive into Aosta which is located at the centre of the Aosta Valley. Founded at the time of the Romans, this town sits strategically on the major roads leading to France and Switzerland. Rich in historical monuments and buildings, it is easy to spend time here exploring. For food, there are a plethora of restaurants and bars where you can get a hearty meal as well as some local delicacies such as Carbonada, a dish of meat stewed in wine with spices and onions. Be sure to also try the well-known Fontina cheese which hails from the Aosta Valley.
Leaving Aosta, you will walk up and along the undulating mountainside initially pass vineyards, grassy fields, small forests, and hamlets. About halfway through the walk, you will come to Castello de Quart, then winding your way along the hillside through forests and on grassy paths you will arrive down into the town of Nus, going pass the vineyards that produce the Vien de Nus, a red wine. While here, why not take a stroll up to the Parrocchia Di Sant’Ilario e Saint Barthelemy Catholic Church which has sweeping views over the town of Nus and the valley itself.
Another relatively short day walking, from Nus you will continue on the hillside with the Dora Báltea River down below you on the right. Passing by more vineyards, grassy fields and wooded areas you will come to the village of Chambave where you can take a break and grab a snack. Continuing then through similar landscape to earlier in the day, you will make your way up and down to your stop for the night Châtillon. This large town has many historic building to admire and a must see is the Parrocchia Di Chatillon as it provides wonderful views over this hillside town and the surrounding region.
The walk today will be longer than the last two days but on similar terrain and will see you descend further into the Aosta Valley through towns such as Saint-Vincent, a popular summer resort that is known for its mineral springs, or the enchanting village of Montjovet which has traces of human life dating back to the Neolithic times. From here, you will cross the Dora Báltea River to follow it into the town of Issonge. This stopover for the night is known for its castles and wineries so be sure to visit the Issonge Castle and sample some of the locally produced wine.
Leaving Issogne you will continue to follow the Dora Báltea River at it winds its way through the narrowing valley before crossing back across the river and arriving down into the town of Pont St Martin, you will cross the Torrens Lys which joins the Dora Báltea. Here, you can also see the notable Roman Bridge of Pont St Martin that dates back to the 1st Century BC.
From Pont St Martin you will continue down the last section of the Asota Valley before crossing over into the Piemonte region which is much flatter though at times still slightly undulating. Passing by large grassy fields, wooded hillsides and vines clinging to man-made terraces, you will also go through a number of towns where you can stop and take a break and sample some local produce. The final town before your stop for the night will see you climb up the hillside pass two lakes before descending down into Ivrea. This ancient town has many sights for you to find and explore but it is also known for its Battle of the Oranges which is a central part of the towns carnival in the run-up to Lent.
The walk today will have you have you passing through a number of towns and villages with ample opportunity to pick up supplies as well as take a rest at picnic spots along the way. Viverone, where you will stop for the night, is a small town set back just off Lake Viverone and is in the province of Vercelli. Here you can relax after walking down by the lake shore and take in the wonderful view and there are plenty of opportunities to sample the local cuisine in one of the many restaurants.
From Viverone, you are going to leave the lake behind and head into the countryside, passing more vineyards and after the first village you will head slightly uphill and through a small forest before coming back down into the town of Cavaglià. Here, you can take a break and grab a bite to eat. Continuing on, you will then arrive into the town of Santhià your stop for the night.
The walk today is a long walk but the last of this section. Leaving Santhia, the walk may be a little up and down but as the day progresses it will become much flatter. Passing by large crop fields, you become aware that you are now leaving behind the mountainous region of the Alps and are on the plain of the River Po between Turin and Milan. The final stop on this section is Vercelli, which sits on the River Sesia a tributary of the River Po and is known as the European Rice Capital. Risotto, not surprisingly, is a speciality of the traditional cuisine of this area. With the town having been previously occupied by both the French and Spanish it is not surprising that this has also influenced the more popular dishes, such as frogs, beans and polenta. After enjoying a gastronomic feast, be sure to visit the sights such as the Basilica di Sant’Andrea and Vercelli Cathedral and you also have the opportunity to see the Vercelli Book in the Capitulary Library, which is the first known book to be written in Anglo-Saxon.
Today we bid you arrivederci!
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To get from Geneva airport you can get a train and information on the times and prices can be found on the following website here.
Flying to Dublin there is direct flights from Milan with Aerlingus. Flying to London you can fly from either Milan or Turin Caselle with Alitalia, British Airways or EasyJet.
To get to either Milan or Turin Caselle you can get a train and information on times and prices can be found on the following website here.
We can also arrange a private transfer to and from the airport should you require this.