The Camino de Santiago, like the Via Francigena, was part of an extensive network of trails used since at least the Middle Ages to bring pilgrims to Catholicism’s three most important cities of worship – Rome, Jerusalem and Santiago de Compostela, the burial place of Saint James (Santiago in Spanish). The Camino is one off the most traveled long-distance pilgrimage trails in the world and through the years infrastructure, mostly hostels and restaurants, has grown up along the route to serve pilgrims.
While the Via Francigena tends to be more about solitude, the Camino is all about the multitude of people you meet along the way. In my 28 days on the trail I met walkers from 23 countries including several who had started out deep inside France and one couple that had come on foot from Brussels. There are several variants of the Camino with the main one running from Saint Jean Pied de Port in France just beyond the Spanish border on the other side of the Pyrenees to Santiago de Compostela in Spain’s northwest corner.