The Francigena is an ancient pilgrimage route, 1700 km long, linking Canterbury to Roma, centre of the Christian world, where the apostoles Pietro e Paolo are burried. In the middle Ages it was a major road used both by pilgrims, traders and armies. Because of wars, floods, or even simply because a bridge was built, in time there has not been a unique Via Francigena, but several alternative roads.
Between the end of the first millennium and the beginning of the second pilgrimages became a major feature of madioeval life. The main destination were Gerusalem, Santiago de Compostella and Roma, and a continuos stream of people headed for Rome and on to The Apulia ports where it was possible to sail towards the Holy Land while the pilgrims to Santiago used the Francigena to reach Luni where they sailed towards the French ports or to cross the Moncenisio pass heading for Spain. In that times, pilgrimages turned almost into a mass phenomenon and the Francigena became a conclusive channel to create the cultural unity of Medioeval Europe.
At the end of the 10th century Sigeric, the Archibishop of Canterbury, travelled to Rome in order to be consecrated by the Pope; on the return journey, he kept the first detailed record of the route and his stops.
In 1985 the Italian archaeologist of roads, Giovanni Caselli, retraced the itinerary as described by Archbishop Sigeric. The eighty stages in Sigeric’s itinerary averaged about twenty km a day, covering some 1700 km are the basis for re-identifying the route today. We deal with the Italian portion of the road, but we can help you find the organisations which can support you should you want to walk the entire route.
Now a day, when we speak of the Francigena, we refer to Sigeric itinerary and this is the one we have chosen to follow. Nonetheless, the Via Francigena is not a single “road’ in the strict sense of the word. It comprises several possible routes that changed over the centuries as trade and pilgrimages developed or waned, depending on the time of year, political situation, and relative popularity of the shrines of saints along the route or simply the building of a new bridge that permitted an easier crossing of a river.
WHERE DO WE START?
The Francigena enters Italy through the San Bernardo Pass.
We decided to start from Bourg St Pierre, the last Swiss town before the Pass.
You will therefore be able to cross the Alps! A very old hostel, built by the Agostinian friars, catered to the needs of the pilgrims who braved the mountains, and still does. Their dogs were famous for rescuing the lost travellers.
The Francigena then descends the Val d’Aosta, meanders along part of the Po valley untill it reaches Fidenza or Parma. It crosses the Appennino mountains through the Cisa Pass. The road then follows the coast along the Via Aurelia only to turn inland near Lucca. In Tuscany it follows the Cassia way, touching San Gimignano, Siena, then San Quirico and Radicofani, travelling along the Val d’Orcia. The route exit Tuscany to enter Latium near Bolsena from where it coasts the lake down to Montefiascone. Then goes south to Viterbo, Sutri and finally Rome.
We offer 3 different ways to travel along the Francigena:
The Self-guided Option
The Escorted Option
The Cycling Option
SEE OUR TOURS ON THE FRANCIGENA WAY >>
CHECK THE VIA FRANCIGENA GROUP DEPARTURE DATES >>
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