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Courtesy of "Council of Europe"



The Via Francigena (‘the way of the Franks’) is an historic 2000-kilometre pilgrim way from Canterbury to Rome.

It follows the route described by Sigeric, Archbishop of Canterbury, on his journey back from Rome in AD 990 after receiving his pallium, or cloak of office, from Pope John XV.

Many would have made similar journeys, but Sigeric had the foresight to instruct one of his party to record the 79 stages or mansiones of the return to Canterbury. Sigeric’s De Roma ad usque Mare, which is preserved in the British Library, thereby forms the basis of today’s Via Francigena from Canterbury to Rome across southern England, France, Switzerland and Italy.

This historical route was revived and put back on the map in the late 1980s and early 1990s by a group of enthusiasts who faithfully followed Sigeric’s stopping places, only adapting his itinerary where the old Roman road had become a modern highway.

Pioneers on the ground were as important, and perhaps none more than the ferryman of the River Po, Danilo Parisi. Danilo has been operating his ferry since 1998, and he has kept a record of every pilgrim journey on the four-kilometre stretch of river between Corte San Andrea on the north bank and his home Caupona Sigerico on the south bank at Soprarivo di Calendasco. Just two pilgrims signed his magisterial Liber Peregrinorum in 1998 when Danilo first revived the ancient river crossing, but his pilgrim log has grown each year since, and it now runs into several volumes and has become a treasure trove of information about the Via Francigena. In 22 years he has ferried some 9000 pilgrims.

Brian Mooney - Confraternity of the Pilgrims to Rome


Distance Chart

(Courtesy of "The Via Francigena by Roberta Ferraris")

Stage To Distance Time Elevation in meters
Gain Loss Max Min
Start Point: Gran San Bernardo Pass
1 Echevennoz 14.9     60 1,300    
2 Aosta 13.6     100 750    
3 Chatillon 27.8     590 660    
4 Verres 19     570 740    
5 Port Saint Martin 14.8     180 150    
6 Ivrea 21.5     350 450    
7 Viverone 20.1     150 125    
8 Santhia 16.7     40 145    
9 Vercelli 26.8     10 50    
10 Robbio 18.6     25 35    
11 Mortara 14.3     5 15    
12 Garlasco 20.7     5 20    
13 Pavia 24.5     25 55    
14 Santa Cristina e Bissone 28     40 40    
15 Orio Litta 16.1     30 40    
16 Piacenza 22.1     35 30    
17 Fiorenzuola d'Arda 31.7     65 45    
18 Fidenza 22.3     35 40    
19 Fornovo di Taro 34     600 530    
20 Cassio 20.9     1,090 440    
21 Cisa Pass 17     780 340    
22 Pontremoli 21.7     563 1,294    
23 Aulla 32.5     505 692    
24 Saranza 17.5     608 646    
25 Massa 29.3     586 544    
26 Camaiore 26     515 550    
27 Lucca 23.8     412 432    
28 Altopascio 18.5     20 20    
29 San Miniato 29     250 115    
30 Gambassi Terme 24     400 220    
31 San Gimignano 13.4     350 350    
32 Monteriggioni via Val dElsa 27.5     610 400    
33 Siena 18.9     300 250    
34 Pont d'Arbia 25.8     130 300    
35 San Quirico d'Orcia 26.1     560 300    
36 Radicofani 32.3     950 550    
37 Acquapendente via Centeno 24     220 400    
38 Bolsena 22.8     200 290    
39 Montefiascone 17.7     580 290    
40 Viterbo 18.3     150 460    
41 Vetralla 16     280 300    
42 Sutri 23.5     410 400    
43 Campagno di Roma 24.5     350 390    
44 La Storta 22.8     580 690    
45 Rome 19.1     310 450    








  Great Saint Bernard Pass, one of the most famous roads in the Alps  

Col du Grand-Saint-Bernard is a high mountain pass at an elevation of 2.469m (8,100ft) above the sea level, located in Switzerland. The pass (called Col du Grand-Saint-Bernard in French, and Colle del Gran San Bernardo in Italian) connects Martigny in the Canton of Valais in Switzerland to Aosta in Italy. The road is closed from November to June.

The road's winding design, providing stunning panoramic views, is very curvy and fun for a leisurely ride, so it pays to take it slow. Great St. Bernard Pass is the 3rd highest road pass in Switzerland and is an important route between Geneva and Torino. The pass is traversed by the Swiss Road 21 and the Italian SS27. The pass has been climbed several times by the Tour of France and the Giro d'Italia bicycle races. The snow in the pass in winter may be as much as 10 metres deep. The temperature may drop as low as -30°C. The lake in the pass is frozen for 265 days per year. 

A tunnel through the mountains that was built in 1964 allows travelers to make the journey unhindered during the winter, which is good news if you decide to visit during that time.

The experience of using this road is very impressive. The pass has been very important during 3000 years, because it was an easy way to cross the Alps. The Roman troops, with Julius Caesar, crossed this pass in 57 BC, and the French troops, with Napoleon and 46,000 soldiers, did it in 1800. The actual roved the pass was built in 1905. The pass had long been used as a commercial trade route, starting with the Romans during the Empire's peak, though today it serves mostly as a tourist destination for motorists who want to take it slow and soak in the impressive, sometimes perilous, sights along this route once traveled by Napolean Bonaparte and his army during his march toward Italy in 1800. Perhaps the most famous of the mountain passes in the European Alps, with its majestic scenery and diverting views, is one of the most renowned attractions of the country.
To reach the summit there are 2 possible routes. From Sembrancher, in Switzerland, the ascent is 30.6 km long with an elevation gain of 1.752 meters. The average percentage is 5.7 %. And from Aosta, in Italy, the ascent is 32.05 km long and the elevation gain is 1.878 meters. The average percentage is 5.9 %. The pass is also famous because a hospice founded 1049. The hospice later became famous for its use of St. Bernard dogs in rescue operations, that were first mentioned in 1709 and has become an icon of the Alps. During the 17th century, the monks that maintained the hospice grounds began selectively breeding and training their dogs, which were said to be gifts from travelers and villagers from nearby towns. You guessed it: the resulting breed was the St. Bernard, primarily used during this time to guard the hospice, though later they were used as rescue animals. The monks still maintain the grounds and give comfort and information to travelers today.


  Courtesy of www.dangerous roads.org  


Getting to the Start - Colle San Bernado

Regular Train Service - Typical Times



Overview of the Martigny - Orsieres - Colle San Bernado Area


There are several options for getting to the pass

  1. Walk from Martigny  
  2. Take Bus to Bourg Saint Pierre and walk from there  
  3. Bus to Liddes, and take second bus to the pass itself  
  4. Train to Orsieres, bus to the pass  

1. Walk from Martigny

Martigny - Orsières

This section sees the end of the relatively flat countryside, and heads to the Alps along the Valley of the Dranse.Following the Dranse creek initially leads us south, until the valley snaps off to east. On the sunny side of the valley, the trail gets steeper for a while, which allows a rewarding view over the valley, before we return back to the Dranse in order to reach Bovernier on the other side of the creek. This is not the end of climbing for the day, but the steepest sections are behind us. Another hour of hiking along the Dranse, and we reach Sembrancher, where our way turns south again, now along the Dranse d´Entremont into the Valley d´Entremont. We now climb continuously until we reach todays destination Orsières at 887m.

Distance Time Elevation in meters

Gain Loss Min Max
20   6H24 755 341    



Orsières - Bourg-Saint-Pierre

The trail leads us to Bourg-Saint-Pierre, more or less close to the Dranse d´Entremont. This will be the last break before we reach the alpine pass Grand-St-Bernard. Like the previous day, the steepest part of this section is at the beginning. Once we have reached Montatuay, the trail gets flater and hiking becomes less strenuous. The more we climb, the less water will flow in the Dranse d´Entremont. Shortly after Orsières, the inflow of the Dranse de Ferret will be missing, and just before Liddes, we will cross another inflow with the long name of «A», or to make it clearer, with the full name of «Torrent de l'A» named after the valley «Come de l´A». Once we have reached Liddes, it´s only a good hour left to reach Bourg-Saint-Pierre.

Distance Time Elevation in meters

Gain Loss Min Max
13.4   4H26 802 56    



Bourg-St-Pierre - Grand-St-Bernard

This section takes us to the highest point of the pilgrimage between Lausanne and Rome, the alpine pass Grand-St-Bernard. We will have to climb from 1637 m at Bourg Saint Pierre up to 2469 m. at the pass. The length of the trails is only 12.4 km, but the 1000 meters of accumulated ascent and the altitude will be a challenge. Furthermore, there are no facilities until you reach the pass so it is essential to take provisions and water with you. Our companions today will be the road (mostly protected by roofs against snow and rocks) as well as the very young Dranse d´Entremont. First we will see the dam of the «Lac des Toules», then gain altitude close to the dam and finally will be walking along the artificial lake for some 2 km. At the upper end of the lake, we will see the road disappear in a tunnel close to Bourg-St-Benard, at an altitude of about 1900m.o.s. The remaining road takes us to the pass but with much less traffic.

Leaving that place, we will start tackling the final ascent, on historic Roman trails and former mule pathes. Passing through the steep valleys «Comba Marchanda» and Combe des Morts», we finally reach our destination, the Pass of Grand-St-Bernard, also the frontier to Italy. The hospice up there goes back to the year 1125, and was a combination of a hospital and a monastery initally.

Distance Time Elevation in meters

Gain Loss Min Max
11.9   4H20 980 144    







2. Bus from Martigny to Bourg Saint Pierre; Walk to Gran San Bernado pass


Savada Bus Service


3. Bus to Liddes; Bus to San Bernado Pass





4. Train to Orsieres; Bus to Gran San Bernado pass





  Just like the Mont Blanc Express, the St. Bernard Express begins its journey in Martigny, where it makes a few stops as the local town transporation train, with stops near the St Bernad Musuem and Roman Amphiteater, then climbing through the Val d’Entremont to Orsières, from where a bus coontinues to Champex-Lac and La Fouly – and in summer months (mid-June to late September) up to the hospice on the Grand Saint Bernard Pass, where you can see the legendary kennels where the dogs are bred at altitude and a small museum of Roman artifacts.  


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