Camino de Santiago: different routes, one destination

Surio and Ambra of "Scoprire viaggiando" bring us on the way to Santiago de Compostela. From its origins to the perfect equipment, all you have to know if you want to start your own “Camino”.

Nowadays, we often hear of the “Camino de Santiago”, a world phenomenon that has become very popular in recent years. But what is it and what drives thousands and thousands of pilgrims to undertake it every year? In this article we want to answer these and other questions and to explain why this unique route, is something that every person should experience at least once in a lifetime.

The pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela dates back to the 9th century when news of the discovery of the tomb of St. James the Great started to spread. According to tradition, Saint James, traditionally considered the first Apostle to be martyred, was buried by his disciples in Galicia, the area where he had preached the Gospel. Over the centuries, due to wars and invasions, the site of the tomb was abandoned by believers and later forgotten. However, the apostle’s tomb was discovered again in 813, when a hermit, saw a shower of stars illuminating a precise point in the woods of Libredòn. News of this unusual phenomenon spread and digging began in the exact spot indicated by the stars, thus revealing the tomb of St. James. The news spread immediately and the first pilgrimages to the Apostle’s tomb began. The Camino was so popular that it became one of the most important pilgrimage routes in history.

We always talk about the “Camino de Santiago” in the singular, but in fact there are many different routes that lead to Santiago de Compostela and this is because the first pilgrims did not come only from Spain, but from all over Europe. The most famous and popular route is the Camino Francès (French route) that begins in Saint Jean Pied de Port and is followed every year by about 65% of pilgrims arriving in Santiago. Among the other trails we want to mention the Portuguese route from Lisbon to Santiago, which is the one we chose to travel along on our last trip. However, there are many routes and the choice of which to follow is left entirely to the pilgrim.

But what drives pilgrims to set off on the Route? In the past, the main reason was religious, while today motivations have become secularized. A Pilgrimage is interpreted by many, as something “spiritual” with a focus on essential qualities such as equality, and sharing with others, but it is also a moment of both personal and individual growth.  The “Camino e Santiago” is a unique experience that changes each one deeply and for this reason it is something that every person should experience at least once in a lifetime and it is also the reason why those who have already completed it, cannot wait to return.

The cost depends largely on the spirit with which you decide to face the Walk. Should you decide to share the walking experience with other pilgrims and decide to stay overnight in hostels, (Albergue), the cost will certainly be low. For public structures prices are about 5/7 Euro per night, for private structures starting prices are about 10 Euro.  If you decide otherwise, you can also stay in guesthouses or B&B with clearly higher costs.

To face the Route you need to have the right equipment. Many walkers give priority to the backpack or to the technical clothing, but the thing to pay more attention to is footwear. In fact, without the correct type of footwear, there is a risk of ruining the entire walking experience, which is made almost impossible by foot pains or constant blisters. So before you leave, it is important to choose your footwear with care. The choice must be made according to the time of year and the type of terrain you will find along the way. For the hot season, we suggest a breathable shoe with an intermediate sole, like the La Sportiva Akasha. We used this model during our Portuguese Route, in early June, travelling about 200 km from Porto to Santiago. They were breathable, light and comfortable even after hours of walking thanks to the natural movement “external heel – internal toe” of the foot and the great cushioning. Although on more rocky and technical ground - absent or almost on the French route - a more structured but equally comfortable model as Akyra could quietly replace its " younger sister” Akasha.
On the other hand, if you decide to follow the Route in a cooler and rainier period, we suggest using a shoe with a Gore-tex lining that makes the shoe waterproof while still ensuring a good degree of breathability. We recommend the LA SPORTIVA model  SPIRE GTX with the futuristic Gore-tex Surround lining, the shoe that allowed us to successfully tackle rain and mud along the French part of the Route to “Camino di Santiago” in April.

About the Author: Surio and Ambra are two young guys from Bolzano (ITA). In 2015 they started their adventure on YouTube creating a channel which allowed them to tell and share their travels with all Italian community. A year after, came to life “Scoprire Viaggiando”, a blog parallel to the YouTube channel where Ambra writes down our stories. Keep on searching for new challenges and opportunities to leave the city and explore the world, they always give their audience wonderful views and super helpful tips.

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