Pilgrimages in Italy - walking the Via Francigena. 

The 2013 Pioneer Pilgrims

The 2013 Pioneer Pilgrims

Penelope and Kim will also lead pilgrimages for whole groups of 8 or 10, who may have specific dates in mind. Please contact us for details. No fixed dates are planned at the moment but if you would like to get a group together, we can discuss dates and prices.

What is a pilgrimage?

For centuries, Christians have walked to special places, to take time to be with God and allow God the time and space to work in their lives. A pilgrimage is a setting aside of one’s normal routine, and taking time to reflect on what the Lord is saying, and allowing the rhythm of the walk to give mental and spiritual refreshment. It is a physical expression of our spiritual journey with God; it is a time to enjoy the beauty of God’s creation in the company of others; and it is a desire to spend quality time with God in a new way.

It is a vacation with a difference.

This is what the Lord says: “Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls.” Jer. 6:16



The Via Francigena is the ancient pilgrim path from Canterbury to Rome. The tour operators we use have developed three 8 day routes that cover the final 225 miles of this ancient path. Penelope and Kim plan to lead pilgrimages on these sections each year. Each pilgrimage will be be a stand alone event; but for those who would like the satisfaction of completing all 3, that will be possible over a period of a few years.

Prices include all accommodations, breakfast and dinner (with local wine) each day, your bags being taken to the next hotel, guiding on the walk and spiritual leadership and input from Penelope and Kim.


The Abbey at San Antimo



Montalcino to Viterbo



This is a slightly tougher walk than Part 1, but still within the range of anyone who is reasonably fit (doing Penelope's recommended preparations for the walk is essential!) It goes through some wilder country than Part 1, but also goes past the stunningly beautiful abbey at San Antimo, parts of which date from the 4th century. If you like to get right away from it all, this could well be the walk for you. We are looking for 6 - 8 people to come and walk with us and test it out. 

If you like a challenge and an adventure, this is for you!

Full details of the walk can be found  on ATG's website http://www.atg-oxford.co.uk/trip/ancient-volcanic-landscapes-2/#.Ut-1E3k4l-U

but please bear in mind that this is for a self-guided walk and their price does not include all dinners, wine, spiritual input,  etc. Our price would include:

                                                                  - 8 day holiday, with 6 days fully guided walking

                                                                  - 7 nights bed and breakfast;  all Dinners (with wine included)

                                                                  - Daily led times of spiritual Devotions

                                                                  - Guided Spiritual ‘exercises’ each day as we walk

                                                                  - luggage moved each day. 

                                                                 - emergency backup

                                                                 - help to get fit before you come!





Leaving San Gimignano on day one

The VIA FRANCIGENA  PART 1 - San Gimignano to Montalcino 


This is the route that we followed in 2013. It is a spectacular walk and includes visits to some beautiful Tuscan towns and cities, including San Gimignano and Siena.

Walking through the vineyards and olive groves of central Tuscany, from San Gimignano to Montalcino, through walled hill top mediaeval villages, following the ancient pilgrim route of the Via Francigena.

Day One: Arrive in San Gimignano, where we stay in the central piazza. Spend the evening exploring the ‘Manhattan skyline’ of ancient towers.

Day Two: Walk to Colle di Val d’Elsa (8.7 miles)

A pretty walk across  low hills of olive groves and vineyards to this historic town renowned for its tunnel streets.


Day Three: Walk to Monteriggioni (11.6 miles)

Pathways lead across farmlands and woods, to ascend to the hilltop town surrounded by 14 mediaeval watchtowers.

Day Four: Walk to Siena (11.8 miles)

Through woods and meadows, the paths lead to the best preserved great mediaeval city in Europe – where they serve fabulous gelato!

Il Campo in Siena, where we shared in late evening compline


Day Five: Walk to Lucignano (14.5 miles)

Tracks wind across low open hills through the Crete region.

Day Six: Walk to Buonconvento (9.5 miles)

Gravel lanes (strade bianchi) lead along the Arbia valley to Buonconvento – the Museum of the Mediaeval Masters

Sharing Communion on the road on the final day

Day Seven: Walk to Montalcino (10.9 miles)

Paths lead up through the vineyards of the renowned Brunello wine (Italy’s most expensive red wine!) to the wonderful hilltop town of Montalcino.

Day Eight: Depart for flights home.



We will be using the tour operator ATG, and for more details of this walk, go to the link  http://www.atg-oxford.co.uk/trip/tuscan-hills-footloose-independent-walking/#.Ut-1bnk4l-U

 ATG book all the accommodations for us, move our suitcases each day, and provide route maps, emergency backup and suggestions.  We are doing the guided walk in the Tuscan Hills – but with the Swithinbanks leading us, rather than ATG guides! And the price is negotiated to be really good for you as part of the Pilgrimage. Our price includes:


                                                                   - 8 day holiday, with 6 days fully guided walking

                                                                  - 7 nights bed and breakfast;  all Dinners (with wine included)

                                                                  - Daily led times of spiritual Devotions

                                                                  - Guided Spiritual ‘exercises’ each day as we walk

                                                                  - luggage moved each day. 

                                                                 - emergency backup

                                                                 - help to get fit before you come!


SO: check your dates and email back to book your place. We would be privileged to have you come and look forward to what the Lord has planned for these special times ahead as we walk these ancient pathways with Him.