The Italian section of the ancient pilgrim route Via Francigena (The Way to Rome) starts in the Great St Bernard Pass, located high up in the Swiss Alps. Following the mountain trail, you reach the historical hospital of the Augustinian Friars founded more than 1000 years ago, which, along the centuries, saved many lives of pilgrims with their famous dogs. The route passes through St Rhémy en Bosses, well known for the ham it produces and descends to Etroubles – the area’s main centre since ancient times when the Roman soldiers had here their winter quarters. Then you reach Aosta, along the Rus irrigation canals, with its many historical remains of the Roman period, such as the Pretorian Arch and the theatre. From now on, you follow the “Chemins de Vignobles” vineyards trail, also marked as “Via Francigena”, passing by numerous castles like Quart, Nus Castle, Verres Castle, Bard Fortress, walking on the original Roman road near Donnas before reaching Point Saint-Martin – on the border between Valle d’Aosta and Piedmont and Ivrea, where your tour ends.
- Great Saint Bernard Pass
- The city of Aosta and its Roman ruins
- Many small mountain villages and imposing castles
- The beautiful Aosta Valley
- Great local food
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Day 1: Arrive in Saint Bernard Pass
Arrive in the Great Saint Bernard Pass, located high up on the Swiss Alps. It can be easily reached by train from Geneva to Martigny then by bus. Enjoy the superb scenery of the Pass with the small lake and the crown of high mountains.
- Accommodation: 3-star hotel in Gran San Bernardo (Hotel Italia or similar)
Day 2: Saint Bernard Pass to Etroubles | 13.5 km
From the San Bernardo Pass, you enter Italy and continue to the nice village of Etroubles, walking along the Via Francigena official route. The itinerary is on secondary trails rich in evocative landscapes with its small villages and the ancient avalanche shelter system. Some points could be a bit steep, but there are a couple of possible alternatives.
- Walking for the day: 13.5 km, 4 hrs
- Accommodation: 3-star hotel in Etroubles (Hotel Beau Sejour or similar)
Day 3: Etroubles to Aosta | 15.5 km
Today you depart Etroubles to reach Aosta, where the pilgrims could worship Saint’Orso and Saint Grato’s relics (nowadays, they are the patrons of the whole Val d’Aosta). The walk promises a deep experience along the mountains, crossing meadows and pinewoods. Meet old refuges, the chapel used by the pilgrims, and follow the ancient stream Ru Neuf. As the last part is on a descending path, it is possible to take a bus going along an alternative route through the village of Gignod.
- Walking for the day: 15.5 km, 4-5 hrs
- Accommodation: 3-star hotel in Aosta (Hotel Cecchin or similar)
Day 4: Aosta to Nus | 16 km
The route winds among castles and vineyards. You will flank the fine Quart castle, with its chapel dedicated to the local saint, Emerico. Along the approaching road, you will be able to touch the semi-spherical engravings made in the rock by prehistoric people, the Coppelle, trying to imagine what they were used for, still surrounded by mystery.
- Walking for the day: 16 km, 5 hrs
- Accommodation: Agriturismo in Nus (Agriturismo Maison Rosset or similar)
Day 5: Nus to Saint Vincent | 17 km
You will walk alongside the Rus, ancient artificial canals which still water the crops on the mountainsides of the Valle d’Aosta. Between one vineyard and another, we recommend a stop at the Crotta de Vegneron at Chambave, a temple consecrated to the wines of the Valle d’Aosta. Once you arrive in Saint Vincent, you will be able to stop for a reinvigorating rest at the spa.
- Walking for the day: 17 km, 5-6 hrs
- Accommodation: 4-star hotel in Saint Vincent (Hotel de la Ville or similar)
Day 6: Saint Vincent to Verres | 16.5 km
From Saint Vincent, you will continue along the left side of the Valley, meeting the magnificent Saint Germain castle along your way: you can admire its Mezzogiorno tower from under the impressive medieval walls, once a formidable defence tower belonging to the De Mongioveto family, which dominated the valley. From here, you will travel along a short section of the ancient Strada delle Gallie before being enchanted by the splendid itineraries offered by the route as far as Verrès, which climbs up the side of the mountain. If you like castles, we recommend a visit to Issogne.
- Walking for the day: 16.5 km, 4-5 hrs
- Accommodation: 3-star countryside hotel in Verres (Relais St. Gilles or similar)
Day 7: Verres to Pont Saint-Martin | 13 km
Today a brief journey in a time machine awaits you: at Arnad, you will be able to emerge yourselves in the part of medieval pilgrims walking through the naves of the parish church of San Martino before crossing the ancient Enchallod bridge. Or you can have fun looking for the tracks of Roman carriages in the stones of the ancient road of the Gauls, which will surprise you with a still perfectly preserved section leading to the gates of Donnas. If you like more recent history, visit Bard Fort with its Museum of the Alps. You overnight in the small village of Pont Saint-Martin named after the 1st c. BC Roman bridge of the small village.
- Walking for the day: 13 km, 4 hrs
- Accommodation: 3-star hotel in Pont Saint-Martin (Hotel Ristorante Crabun or similar)
Day 8: Pont Saint-Martin to Ivrea | 21 km
The alpine scenery gives way to the gentle Piedmont hills, among characteristic villages and sections surrounded by nature. Today’s destination point is Ivrea, located on the banks of river Dora Baltea. The old town centre will delight you with its fine castle and tall Santo Stefano tower but do not miss a walk through an open-air museum of modern architecture. For the gourmands, we recommend a break to taste the Novecento cake, a chocolate cake whose recipe is jealously guarded by the town’s pastry-makers. You will also find some important remains of the Roman Age and medieval times when Ivrea was protected by its walls and divided into “rioni” (neighbourhood).
- Walking for the day: 21 km, 5-6 hrs
- Accommodation: B&B in Ivrea (B&B Il Tuchino or similar)
Day 9: Departure
The trip ends after breakfast. Departure on your own or extra nights can be booked.
What to Expect
You will overnight in small, cosy and quiet mountain family-run 3-star hotels and agriturismi* (farmhouses). All rooms have private en-suite facilities. The places have been carefully hand-picked by us and their quality is regularly monitored. We have tried to choose accommodations that offer friendly service, clean and comfortable rooms and local flavour.
Click to view default hotels
- Hotel Italia (Saint Bernard Pass)
- Hotel Beau Sejour (Etroubles)
- Hotel Cecchin (Aosta)
- Agriturismo Maison Rosset (Nus)
- Hotel de la Ville (Saint Vincent)
- Relais St. Gilles (Verres)
- Hotel Ristorante Crabun (Pont Saint-Martin)
- B&B Il Tuchino (Ivrea)
*What is an agriturismo? A combination of the words for “agriculture” and “tourism” in Italian — It is a farm-stay, but it’s also much, much more. Typically, an agriturismo is an independently-owned farm that the owners have decided to use partially for accommodation purposes, in a way similar to English or American bed and breakfasts. One of the best parts of staying in a traditional agriturismo? The food. An Italian agriturismo will usually serve guests food that was prepared from raw materials – vegetables, fruit, eggs, meat, and often wine and olive oil – produced on the farm or from other local merchants.
*Hotels are subject to availability. In case a particular hotel is fully booked for your desired dates, we will replace it with a hotel of equal value and quality level. We will provide exact accommodation details to you upon booking confirmation.
Breakfast is included on each day, as well as 2 dinners on Day 1 & 7. Packed lunches can be pre-ordered at the accommodations, or you can buy food from the village shops. Throughout the trip, there are plenty of opportunities to taste both the great local food and wines. Dinner is available either from the restaurant in your accommodation or in the town where you stay overnight.
Difficulty & terrain
The route is quite easy due to low differences in height, apart from some short parts. A good level of fitness is required for enjoying the walks to the maximum (read more about difficulty grades). The whole itinerary is mostly on paths and gravel roads (strade bianche), even if you will find some sections on asphalted road. Some walks are quite long but can be shortened by taking local buses. Some parts of the itinerary are marked by the Official signs of the Via Francigena (white-red markings and yellow sign with the Pilgrim symbol). We provide an APP with the route description, the maps and the practical daily organisation. We strongly advise you to follow only marked trails and never try to shorten the path through the unknown and unmarked terrain. You can call our 24/7 local assistance phone number anytime.
When to go
You can start your holiday every day between 20 June and 15 September. Outside this period Great Saint Bernard Pass is closed. The tour can be arranged as a 7-day programme from Aosta to Ivrea with daily departures from 1 April until 31 October. At the beginning of June, it is still possible to find some snow, especially over 2000 m, therefore the walks can be heavier or the paths hardly accessible. During the June-September months, you are most likely to experience good weather with pleasant average temperatures that fall between 20°C and 25°C. The warmest month is July, with an average maximum temperature of 25°C.
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By train or bus
Arrival in Saint Bernard Pass: There are two services to get the connection from Geneva to Great Saint Bernard Pass. The first one is worked by TPG (Transport Publics Genevois) to be checked on this website. The other service works in more cities, for detailed information you can check the Swiss train company “SBB CFF FFS” at this website: https://www.sbb.ch/en/home.html. In any case, the trip implies a basic change in Martigny if you travel from Geneva airport and Milano Centrale train station; and you will change in Aosta if you travel from Torino Porta Nuova train station.
Departure from Ivrea: From your last destination, you could get a train to reach the closest airports in Turin or Milan, going to their main train stations: Torino Porta Nuova and Milano Centrale then taking a transfer to their airports. For detailed information, you can check the Swiss Railways website. You can also reach Aosta using the SBB service. Then take a train to Turin or Milan, you can check on the website www.trenitalia.it
- 8 nights in selected B&Bs, hotels and agriturismi
- 8 breakfasts
- 2 dinners
- Luggage transfers on all walking days (1 piece per person)
- APP with the route description to follow on the smartphone, the maps, the practical organization day-by-day, the Pilgrim’s passport and the QR code (no paper documents will be provided)
- 24/7 phone support by our local office/representative
- Airfare and connecting land transfers
- Lunches and 6 dinner, drinks and snacks
- Travel insurance (required – get a quote online)
- Local tourist tax & entry fees (payable on the spot)
- Personal expenses
- Any items not specifically mentioned as ‘Included’ in the programme
Options, extras & supplements
- Supplement applies to members of a group who require a single room / single use of a double room
- This holiday is available for solo travellers; a supplement will be charged as accommodation and luggage transfer costs are not shared (we never mix and match – solo travellers will be accommodated in single rooms)
- Extra nights
- The tour can be arranged as a 7-day programme Aosta to Ivrea from 1 April until 31 October – price on request
- A 4-day itinerary St. Bernard Pass – Aosta can be arranged from mid-June until mid-September – price on request