The Camino de Santiago is a unique, mystical experience that every traveller should undertake at least once in their life. It is among the most famous pilgrimage routes in the world, so much so that the destination is considered the third most holy city for Christianity, after Jerusalem and Rome. Every year more than 300 thousand pilgrims go to Santiago to travel a road that for centuries has attracted millions of travellers.
The Way of Santiago has as its goal the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, in Galicia, through a network of paths and roads that unite the whole of Europe. The journey is considered as such if you walk, cycle or ride a horse and La Compostela is obtained after walking for at least the last 100km.
It is a real-life experience, which allows you to get rid of the pollution of the world, from its noise, from its emptiness, to immerse yourself in the deepest part of yourself and come to terms with your spirituality.
That of Santiago is a route that became famous in the Middle Ages, especially from the ninth century onwards, when the tomb of St. James the Greater, one of the apostles of Jesus Christ, was discovered. Legend has it that the saint’s remains, forgotten for centuries, were found by an old hermit, Pelayo, thanks to the suggestions of a star, who appeared near the Libredòn hill. This is why the cathedral bears the name Santiago, which is a contraction of Sant’Iago (San Giacomo in Spanish) and Compostela derives from campus stellae, in honour of the star. From that moment on, talking about pilgrims almost wanted to identify the traveller who arrived in Santiago.
The Way of St James crosses the Navarre, the Rioja, the Castile-Leon and Galicia. Generally, there are two paths that lead to the Cathedral: one is the Somport Pass, which allows you to add Aragon to the other regions crossed. The other, the more famous and much more recommended route is the gate of Roncesvalles, which has now entered history and memory for the celebrated feats of the Orlando paladin.
In fact, the battle of Roncesvalles is one of the most famous in the history of the Old Continent: in 778 AD, Charlemagne, king of the Franks, who wanted to become the protector of Spanish Christians, he found himself at war with the Saxons, Basques and Arabs. During the battle the sovereign had to give way to the Saxons, leaving the battlefield. Thus, in the gorges of Roncesvalles, his paladins were attacked by the Basques and Orlando heroically lost his life. The oral tradition sang so much that dramatic episode that in the eleventh century came to the transcription of a series of stories, still known today as the Chanson de Roland.
The routes that lead to Santiago are different and are marked by yellow arrows, which begin to be present from Spain and Portugal (although in recent years, given the turnout, signs have also developed in Germany and France). It is even possible to start from Italy and reach Santiago through a series of European routes.
The most famous and popular route is the French route Saint Jean Pied de Port, of about 800km, which coincides with the long-distance trail GR-65 and is part of the European route system E5.
Usually you travel about 20-30 km a day, but obviously, it depends on the physical prowess of each one: this trip is in effect a trek that forces you to walk for many hours a day.
In any case, the Way of Santiago allows pilgrims to admire splendid natural and artistic beauties: from Roncesvalles to Santo Domingo de la Calzada, passing through San Juan de Ortega and O Cebreiro, one can admire unique and beautiful cities.
What path to take is a completely personal choice: first of all, you have to choose a starting point(from Spain, Portugal, South of France; but also from Italy or Germany if you have more days available) and plan the route is based on the days available and your physical needs. Consult the online guide for more information.
Any route taken necessarily requires stops. The pilgrims who usually take advantage of the so-called allergies or hospitals these are hostels or real shelters, where one is not a customer, but a guest. There are two types: public ones generally have rates ranging between 4 and 10 euros, to be paid in cash. Some may instead ask for offers at will. The private ones, however, often family-run, offer rates from 7 to 12 euros, with vaguely more hotel service.
Before setting off, however, it will be essential to obtain the credential or a document issued by the Confraternity of San Jacopo di Compostela, based in Perugia. Through the website of the brotherhood, it is possible to get a contract for one’s own province. The document is free, but it would be a good idea to leave an offer at the time of collection. The credential is essential during the trip and must be shown to the various hospitals that will mark it with a stamp.
The goal of this tiring journey is The Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, a beautiful sanctuary visited by millions and millions of pilgrims over the centuries. Obviously, in this sacred place, the remains of St. James the Greater are preserved, in fact, the cathedral rises on the place that was historically indicated as that of the discovery of the body. Initially a church was erected in his memory, replaced in 899 by a much more impressive structure, by the will of King Alfonso III. In the last years of the tenth century, however, it went up in flames during pillage. In 1075 the work of the Romanesque cathedral was begun, with the consecration arrived in 1211.
Facing 800 km of feet is a great challenge, even for the most trained: in fact, it takes about a month to complete the route. So it is advisable to travel light, with a 40-60 litre hiking backpack, which will become your best friend.
Since you have to walk a lot, the choice of shoes is very important: if you want to avoid distortions and tendonitis, opt for mountain boots, which must be waterproof, rigid and with good protection for the ankle. Moreover, given that in such trips you always need to think about the worst, it will be impossible to start the pilgrimage with just one pair of shoes: take at least to avoid trouble.
As for clothing, we recommend wearing fleece sweatshirts, some short-sleeved shirts, hats to protect you from the sun, antivescic trekking socks, two trousers, one short and one long, a k-way, a pair of trousers rain and sunglasses. For personal hygiene, it will be good to bring really the bare essentials to avoid occupying useless space. Finally, it is impossible not to buy a sleeping bag, which must be a sheet bag in summer and a sleeping bag in autumn, winter and spring.