Did the Via Francigena Break the Bank? A Pilgrim Budget and How we Plan Pilgrimage

By on October 4, 2022

A budget for any vacation/holiday is a personal topic. It’s scary to allow others to see how we chose to spend our money. We risk judgment and ridicule. However, the benefits of sharing go back to the theme of all my blogs which is to share all parts of our Camino experiences despite what others think. I am an open book and will remain that way. You’re welcome. ❤️

We have walked 3 pilgrimages, the Camino Frances, Camino Portuguese, and the Via Francigena from Switzerland to Rome. We found it was the cheapest to walk the Camino Frances and the most expensive was the Via Francigena. If you want to see our YouTube videos on our latest walk, the Via Francigena, please click here.

A typical bunkroom in Switzerland

With some exceptions, you can find lodging from as cheap as a donativo where you make a donation for a bed, typically in a shared bunk room, with a shared bathroom. Sometimes that accommodation has bedding but you usually need to bring your own. Occasionally your host will serve a communal dinner but it is expected that you would leave more money. A typical donation is anywhere from €10-20 per person.

On the Via Francigena, you can camp in many places if you have a tent but I don’t know much more than that because we have never made the decision to camp. I know it’s illegal to wild camp in Spain but I also have known those who do it from time to time. Again, not my area of expertise. 

The entrance of our donativo lodging in Cort St. Andrea

With all of the pilgrimages we have done, we use guidebooks. They include lodging suggestions ranging from a donativo, camping, churches, municipalities, and private lodgings. When creating our reservations we always start with the guidebooks and create a plan from there.

Speaking of a plan, that’s another factor – to plan your reservations ahead or not. Some people will reserve a night or two ahead, especially in the busy season. Some people will just wing it every day, letting their feet decide how far they will walk each day. Others, like us, plan out all of our reservations ahead of time. There is no right or wrong way to plan…or not. It’s up to you and your personal preference.

Why do we choose to plan every night in advance? It’s a great question, haha. I mean, what if there’s an injury? What if we just can’t walk that far? What if we meet people we really want to walk with but can’t because they are staying in different places? Life is full of “what ifs.” We have also experienced every one of those challenges.

On our Camino Portugues, I had a foot injury and we had to rent bikes for a few weeks to give my foot a break. This meant we didn’t bike very far every day because we had to stick to our lodging plan. We made a few changes along the way to have some longer days more suited for a bike but only with the refundable reservations.

We always have days when we just can’t walk as far as we planned. However, we aren’t purists so we are ok with grabbing a bus, train, or taxi. We have to walk during the hottest part of the year so there are always going to be challenges, heat or not honestly. Creating a plan works for us because we enjoy trip planning. We enjoy making a few decisions while walking a pilgrimage. We like looking forward to planned rest days in villages/cities we have developed an interest in during our planning. Finally, as a couple, it gives us one less thing to debate when we are hot, tired, and crabby. My philosophy is I can argue for free at home but when on vacation/holiday, I don’t want to argue. Haha! Plus, planning gives us something to think about when the school year is getting exhausting or the winter months are feeling long.

Knocking on the budget door!

But you came here for a budget talk. There are a lot of factors that go into a budget for anyone. We have a few basic expectations if possible: (1) A private room because it’s the summer when we are walking and it’s too hot to be in a room with others. Additionally, snoring and the noise of a shared room are not something we prefer. A good night’s sleep is critical. (2) A private bathroom is ideal but not required. A shared bathroom is ok from time to time if it saves us money but we really like a private bathroom. (3) We want shared experiences with other pilgrims so we look for accommodations for pilgrims with a communal dinner and then ask if they have private rooms. Many times they do if you ask early enough, as these tend to book up early. (4) Since we are walking in the heat of the summer we look for places with air conditioning from time to time and more often when we are experiencing excessive heat. These are the most expensive rooms but necessary for relief from the heat. I get terrible heat rash in the summer and only a cool night’s sleep brings me relief from it. (5) When we are booking a two-night stay we always look for a private room, with a private bathroom, with air conditioning. This is the ideal situation unless the air conditioning isn’t working but that’s another subject. 

The joys of a private room

I mentioned you can find rooms for €10-20 a person and in order to make our budget work we find rooms like this from time to time. Other rooms in accommodations for pilgrims can run us €35-50 total for both of us. A room from websites like Booking.com can run €50 to over €100, depending on the city. Of course, your bigger cities will have all types of accommodations for any budget.

For comparison, in 2017 on the Camino Frances, our budget averaged €50 a night but if we were to do it again we could do better to lower that budget. We didn’t stay in as many pilgrim accommodations as we could have then. We’ve learned a lot since 2017. Though with inflation, who knows for sure what our budget will be?

In 2019, on the Camino Portuguese, we walked the coastal route which is more expensive. Our budget averaged €65 a night. However, we struggled to find pilgrim accommodations on the coast. In retrospect, I think we could have done a better job and lowered that cost a bit.

In 2022, on the Via Francigena, we averaged €75 a night. Our cheapest nights were donativo’s at €20. We had a few pricey nights because we took rest days in Marina de Massa and on Lake Bolsena. But we have no regrets. This was our 15 wedding anniversary trip and our 50th birthday trip. It was all we dreamed about and more.

We didn’t spend money on laundry because we hand-washed our clothes every day. Our only other expense was the occasional pharmacy run for compeed or anti-inflammatory cream, food, and of course, wine.

Sometimes you just need Doritos and wine… in bed while your laundry is drying 😆

A food budget is extremely subjective. There is no way we can compare food budgets and be helpful. First, I am married to a foodie so getting him to pull back on trying every new dish is impossible. Second, we are wine lovers so there has to be a wine budget. And why not, it’s Italy!

We saved food money by utilizing any free breakfast food offered even if it didn’t appeal to us. We packed them as snacks or enjoyed them immediately. We limited our espresso budget and only enjoyed a good cappuccino from time to time, sorry we aren’t coffee lovers. We would grab food in a market whenever possible. But our love of cocktails, wine, and outstanding dinners made our budget a bit bigger. We spent about €75 a day on food.

As the CFO of our family, my goal is to stay within our budget and never have credit card debt. We want to retire debt-free and retirement gets closer every year. We did what we set out to do. Are we more cash-poor because of it? Yes! But the memories are priceless and you can’t take it with you! ❤️

Our trips may look extravagant to some but when you’re on pilgrimage there are no souvenirs. We took a long walk to Rome and enjoyed every step, even the rough ones. 



2 comments on “Did the Via Francigena Break the Bank? A Pilgrim Budget and How we Plan Pilgrimage

  1. I am going on a pilgrimage to Francigena in March 2023
    While looking for information on accommodations for pilgrims to go to, I came across your YouTube and blog.
    I read your blog with the help of Google Translate.
    I was thinking of an average of 20 euros per day, but I think 30 euros a day is not enough.
    If it’s more than 30 euros a day, I have to give it up, but it’s a pity.
    If you have additional information, can you email me?
    thanks for the info

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