How to choose between the Camino de Santiago vs Via Francigena?
This article, Camino de Santiago vs Via Francigena, explains the main similarities and differences between Europe’s most famous heritage trails: the Camino de Santiago and the Via Francigena.
What is the best for you?
- Q. Is the Via Francigena a similar trail to the Camino de Santiago?
- Q. How does the Via Francigena (Camino to Rome) compare to the Camino de Santiago?
- Q. What can I find along the way?
These are frequently asked questions among walkers.
The Origins of the Camino de Santiago and the Via Francigena (Camino to Rome)
The Camino de Santiago and Via Francigena are long-distance walking routes following medieval pilgrimage trails.
The Council has made both European Cultural Itineraries of Europe:
The Camino de Santiago was the first European Cultural Itinerary and has been listed by UNESCO since 1987.
The Via Francigena is a European Cultural Route since 1994.
The Routes – Camino de Santiago vs Via Francigena
The Camino de Santiago has many routes, the most famous being the Camino Frances (800km), featuring in many books, movies and documentaries.
If you are looking for lesser-known routes, you can also choose many other alternative ways: the Camino Portugues, Camino del Norte, Finisterre Camino, Camino Primitivo, and many different Camino routes.
The classic Via Francigena covers 1,900km from Canterbury to Rome and follows the route Sigeric the Serious, Archbishop of Canterbury, on his pilgrimage to Rome in the 10th century.
It crosses most of Europe: it starts in Canterbury Cathedral, then crosses the English Channel from Dover to Calais, passing the WWI battlefields of Northern France, the Champagne region, Switzerland and the Alps, into Italy and through Aosta, the Apennines, Tuscany and Lazio, before reaching Rome.
You can also follow the Saint Francis Way (Via Francigena di Francesco or Cammino di Francesco from Florence to Rome) or the Via Francigena of the South.
The popularity of the Camino ways
In terms of numbers, the Camino de Santiago, particularly the Camino Frances (which attracts 60% of Camino-goers) gets thousands of pilgrims from all over the globe yearly.
The Pilgrims Office in Santiago compiles statistics and keeps records of all the ‘Compostela’ issued (pilgrimage certificate awarded when reaching Santiago) and in 2019 alone over 350,000 people received the ‘Compostela’.
This number won’t even include the number of pilgrims walking the routes in France (unless they walked to Santiago) or the Finisterre Way, a route starting in Santiago. It is estimated another 400,000 walk sections of the various Camino routes not finishing in Santiago.
Numbers for the Via Francigena are challenging to come by and much lower than on the Camino. Two thousand five hundred pilgrims walked or cycled the Via Francigena in 2012 (source: Cicerone Guides).
Since the Via Francigena is such a long trail, it is also challenging to estimate the total number of pilgrims walking only parts of the trail but not making it to Rome.
Way-marking along the routes
Camino de Santiago: the ubiquitous/omnipresent yellow arrow and yellow scallop shell are the most recognisable Camino markings along all routes.
In France, you will find them mixed with the red-white stripes of long-distance trail markings.
Via Francigena: it is reasonably well marked in Italy with the red and white stripes and the Francigena pilgrim.
It is more difficult to find in France, Switzerland and the UK (be aware you might find different types of Francigena markings: the pilgrim, the red and white stripes, both combined).
800km (1 month) to walk the full Camino Frances.
1900 (3 months) to walk the full Via Francigena.
Luckily, you can choose to walk any section you like including this popular section of the Via Francigena!
The Pilgrim Certificate
The Camino Compostela Certificate is for those on the Camino de Santiago, but there are also other pilgrim certificates, such as the Finisterrana (in Finisterre) and the Muxiana (in Muxia).
You can get the Via Francigena pilgrim certificates if you are walking from Acquapendente or Viterbo.
Check with our travel consultants if you need advice on which section to take. Camino de Santiago vs Via Francigena.