This was my first big walk and there was a fair bit of learning as I went. I hope these intial comments and opinions are valuable for other people considering this (or similar walks).
Walk Duration and Planning
I squeezed the walk down from the standard month to 25 days including 2 rest days because some days looked too easy and others such as the last one into Rome didn’t make sense to me.
So I had some long days with walking over 30km. Also, many of the towns/hamlets shops close during the day and open again after 4pm (or sometimes later). In many towns most shops are closed on Sunday and reopen after 430 on Monday.
If I was doing it again:-
- Build a rest day in every 5 to 7 days. My first rest day at around day 10 was too late – my feet needed rest and recuperation earlier.
- Consider where you will be on Sundays and Mondays as some fabulous places can feel dead on these days.
Shoes and feet
I would take 2 pairs of shoes:-
- The first pair should be robust trail hiking (not trail running shoes). The surface on the walk varies considerably with sharp stones, loose stones, gravel, mud, roads etc. They can be ankle height or boots; this is personal preference.
- There is a lot of walking on bitumen roads. A softer walking shoes is fine for these days. I had a pair of Sketchers Go Walks I used on several days which were effective in reducing the stress of the constant hard surfaces.
- Take a variety of blister bandaids. Compeeds are very effective and enable you to manage and avoid blisters. If something is rubbing stop and fix it.
Now some people in my life were concerned about my safety, so I demonstrated my planning and ability to cope with abnormal weather by having layers of clothes for blizzards, heat waves and other supplies. I started off carrying all of this each day. After the first week, I was much better at managing the weight and depth of items I carried:-
- Check the weather; in Italy you can good forecasts for each hour of the day. These proved pretty accurate with temperature, wind and rain forecasts. I used these to consider early or later starts (#livinginadataledworld).
- Pack your bag accordingly, if there is zero chance of rain and moderate temperatures take ‘the snow gear out’. Ensure you have enough space in your suitcase for easy rotation of gear (I didn’t which was problematic).
- You don’t need to carry 4 l of walk every day. I started carrying 3.5l each day but scaled back to 2 l by the end.
Err on the side of caution when planning food as some places at intermediate points are closed between 2 and 4 and may not be open on Sunday or Monday. I planned to get food from a particular place several times only to find it closed.
Carry food. Most delicatessen’s will make you a fabulous panini for 2 or 3 Euro. Carry fresh fruit – it is easy to buy. Take a plastic container; bananas and grapes are great foods for walking energy but crush easily in the daypack (#bananadisaster)
I bought a pair of these and carried them strapped to the day pack for 4 days before Lenie a fellow pilgrim borrowed one and showed me the way.
Any time it is steep up or down hill these poles are invaluable. You could only carry one if weight was a concern.
Navigation (GPX files)
These are a copy of the walking route which can be overlaid onto one of many GPS apps. Sandy Browns (Author of the Cicerone book St Francis Way) GPX files are available if you buy the book.
They make the walk so much easier in the trickier sections when you are a long way from civilisation and there are a number of paths you have to choose from. Some of the walking in the first week is quite tricky as there are a number of options to take and the signage is not always there or clear. You won’t always get it right but you can backtrack quickly and correct.
I created GPX files and in due course I will upload mine.