News from Sandy Brown about 2017 pilgrim walks in Italy, including updates about our van driver, speaking dates, and travel insurance availability.
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Fulfilling the dream of high-quality, accompanied pilgrimage walks in Italy

My goal in creating Pilgrim Paths is to provide great walking pilgrimage experiences for people who might not otherwise take a pilgrimage trek.

Sandy Brown, founderPlanning a long walk in a foreign country can feel daunting. By launching Pilgrim Paths and its 2017 menu of great Italian pilgrim itineraries, my goal is to take the hassle and worry out of walking treks so you can focus on the fabulous experience of exercise, learning and relaxation on a stunningly beautiful and deeply meaningful Italian pilgrimage. Here's how it works:
  • I'll be along each step of the way, taking care of translations, offering meaningful reflections, and helping you not just survive, but thrive;
  • We'll have baggage transport and van service each and every day. This means we carry only light day-packs and can alert the van to pick us up if we're tired and want a break; and
  • Behind the scenes we're working with an expert, local Italian travel company that specializes in walks like these and has a proven track record of excellent service.
We've hired our van driver -- Luke Brown -- who will be a beloved companion and steward along the way. An experienced pilgrim himself, Luke has walked over 2,000 kilometers on pilgrim trails. I trust him in part because I've known him for nearly 30 years (he's my son), but also because I've watched him travel. He's relaxed, alert, smart and is a fabulous problem solver. In addition to handling our luggage, Luke will be in the van and ready to pick us up if we want to rearrange or shorten our walking day. He's promised to bring his guitar and we may be able to convince him to serenade us in the evenings, too!

Since launching our website on October 1 we've had excellent response and have begun to receive our first deposits. In fact, one of our walks is already halfway to being fully booked! Soon, our pilgrims will have the option to buy travel insurance for the entire trip through Allianz, which relieves any worry about losing your investment through illness or other unforeseen circumstances. Lots of great infrastructure is in place to make this an experience of a lifetime.

It would be an honor to walk with you in beautiful Italy next year for what I know will be truly enjoyable and memorable trip. Let's do it!
-- Sandy Brown
Lucca to Siena, July 1-8, 2017
Siena to Rome, July 9-22, 2017
Assisi to Rome,  July 22-Aug 6, 2017
Florence to Assisi, Sept 3-19, 2017
Assisi to Rome Sept 19-Oct 5, 2017
Last week Sandy spoke about the Via di Francesco to a packed crowd at the Rick Steves Travel Center in Edmonds, Washington. He'll be speaking there again at 6:00 pm, January 5, 2017 on "Walking in Tuscany on the Via Francigena." Watch the Rick Steves website to make a reservation for what is certain to be a popular class.

What are the Via Francigena and Via di Francesco?


Via FrancigenaThe Via Francigena: Around the year 990 A.D., Archbishop Sigeric of Canterbury walked with a retinue of servants and advisers to Rome. Upon his return, he asked his secretary to record each stop in his return itinerary. The resulting manuscript still exists and serves as our primary evidence of the existence of a pilgrim itinerary all the way from England to the Holy See in Rome. Called the Via Francigena, in English the “Way of the Frankish People,” this pilgrimage itinerary has been re-activated for modern walking pilgrimages. Each year a few thousand pilgrims start all the way in Canterbury and walk the 1,700 kilometers in 70-90 days all the way to Rome. Many more pilgrims begin somewhere along the way — in France, Switzerland or Italy — and do portions of the walk, like the beautiful stretches between Lucca, Siena and Rome.

Via di FrancescoThe Via di Francesco: Beloved among all saints, Francis of Assisi (1181-1226) was one of the true celebrities of the Middle Ages. A child of prosperous merchants in the Umbrian hill town of Assisi, Francis abandoned the life of a young knight and took on a radical form of Christianity that led some to call him, “The Second Christ.” Francis preached throughout Italy and Europe, but many key episodes in his life were within 100 or so kilometers of his hometown. In the late 20th century several Italian leaders dreamed of connecting St. Francis sites into a single, walking pilgrimage. The Regions of Umbria and Lazio joined in, along with the Province of Rieti, and soon there were several paths. Leaders now have merged most of the paths into the Via di Francesco, beginning at Santuario della Verna and ending at Rieti. This core itinerary has recently been expanded to connect the route to Florence on the north and Rome on the south.

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