3) Our students were not pleased with the "official" route from Aosta to Chatillon. The assorted uphills seemed unnecessary and particularly frustrating given the toll the previous two days of walking had taken on their bodies. I would probably follow the authors' alternative in the future.
Very interestingly the VF route from Montgenevre to Vercelli is generally excellently signed with the painted yellow pilgrim and yellow/white arrows while the many CAI and Italian walking association routes also successfully follow this convention.
8) The WM continue to disagree with the book on the walk from Siena to Isola d'Arbia, turning L instead of R at 64.014 (the WM route goes through Isola d'Arbia while the book's route bypasses it), from Bagno Vignoni to Gallina (the WM lead you past a spa, along a gravel road, and eventually deposit you on the Via Cassia, leading you through Gallina, which the book bypasses), and from Ponte a Rigo to Acquapendente (the book calls for you to turn R on the Via Cassia, while many insistent WM call for a L)
13) IMPORTANT - They have, for some unknown and bizarre reason, to add a shiny new WM in the Madonna del Sorbo park, instructing you to turn R off of the dirt road and walk through the park. I followed this last year. It was a near disaster. Maybe they've developed the route and it's nicer now, but it was a total fiasco 9 months ago. This is one of those frustrating VF spots where one group seems to have decided that they know better than everyone else and so they inserted a definitive WM, instead of indicating that both options are possible. Follow the book and continue straight. WM will resume in 100m.
Paul: As you know we have battling to try and get some rationalization of the signing
14) IMPORTANT AGAIN - Sorry for three straight importants, but there's a lot going on along these final stretches! A new VF route was just opened in Formello and it's really nice! As you arrive on the edge of town, follow the old VF sign along the steeply descending road into town. Shiny new WM will lead you into the historic center and then out the other side. Purpose-built gravel roads follow, eventually transitioning onto dirt roads. It's a great walk, really pleasant scenery, and it eventually reconnects with the old route at Via Monte Michele. I enthusiastically encourage you to follow this instead of the older approach.
More than anything, I was struck this time by the incredible level of hospitality offered in many of the stops along the way. My greatest concern with taking my students on the VF instead of the Camino is that they won't get the full sense of the pilgrimage experience with so many fewer pilgrims in Italy. Certainly, we missed the pilgrim community. But, the upshot of a more intimate route is that the level of hospitality offered can potentially be much higher and that it can be much more deeply personal, especially in Tuscany and Lazio. In Altopascio, the mayor actually welcomed us and asked to have his
I think you have the sense of the VF experience just about right - for us the engagement with the communities en route has been the great joy of the route.
Paul Chinn and Babette Gallard - http://www.pilgrimagepublications.com/