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francigena

Francigena's way

The ancient route for the pilgrims that in medieval times connect Canterbury to Rome and to the harbors of Apulia

Download the complete program of the Tour " Francigena's Way" in .pdf format

What sparked the Medieval pilgrims to set off to a far away land, thousands of kilometers from their families, their homes and from their parish churches - one of the most defining institutions in their lives at that time?

In some cases it truly was the curiosity to see new places and experience new things, much like those that come to visit Tuscany today: to explore and discover it’s artwork, it’s landscape and it’s culture. However, with the rise of Christianity, there were several more complex reasons, for example, the restrictive concept of medieval piety and the urge to worship (...or recuperate) religious relics.

 

The life of a person in the medieval ages revolved around their “parish” church... and some found that this life and its rules and regulations were just too constrictive or embarrassing (sins were to be confessed publicly and not behind closed doors... and if you didn't then your neighbor would for you!) - thus sometimes the only thing to do was to push out to see new horizons (where your neighbor wouldn’t rat you out), new ways to commune with God (that didn’t force you to rely on the local religious figure) and in many cases the need to obtain plenary indulgence (a pardon from the Pope).

The peregrinationes maiores was quite in vogue: a visit to Jerusalem (the Holy Land), Rome (the tomb of St Peter and Paul) and Santiago de Compostela (the final resting place of St. Giacomo).

The trek to Rome increased when in 1300, Boniface VIII declared the Holy Year and promised plenary indulgence to those who fulfilled the requirements.

Via Francigena was a fundamental part of the network that these travelers followed to spiritual discovery. It was comprised of over 1800 km of undefined “roads”for a pilgrim to travel by foot...or if lucky, by horse and/or carriage. And of those kilometers, 380 km are within the boundaries of modern-day Tuscany, starting from the north pass at Pontremoli down to the Rocca di Radicofani.

Active and used for trade long before religious purposes, the road was first referred to as the Iter Francorum (the "Frankish Route"). The word “Franks” described what is now known as present-day northern France, Belgium, and western Germany and, in this case, indicated the point of origin of the road (later the destination would become the identifying marker of the road - Rome). This particular road was only first mentioned with the actual name “via Francigena” in the Actum Clusio, a parchment of 876 found within the Abbey of San Salvatore at Monte Amiata, a name that links it to the Franks (those coming from France).

Towns throughout Tuscany made their fame on offering these three things, and the trails and paths would change constantly if word got out of a “better deal” somewhere else along the via. In addition, to take care of bodily comforts, the pilgrim would look for religious comfort as well, which explains why many times the road seems to swerve or curve towards parish churches and monasteries. Some of these cities still stand strong today even after hundreds of years of conflict, wars, and power struggles.

Slowly re-gaining importance, the via Francigena, was recognized in 1994 as a European Itineraryand in 2004 as a Major Cultural Itinerary. For those looking to “prove” their participation, there is a “Pilgrim Credential” (also known as Pilgrim Passport or Pilgrim Record) which is a certificate of bona fide pilgrim status. The idea is very similar to that which the first pilgrims used as proof of their pilgrim status, in addition to its religious importance.

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    Following the Via Francigena Today

    The “official” reconstruction of the via Francigena came about as a two-fold project: in correspondence to the Jubilee in 2016 and as a push to valorize “slow travel” where one concentrates on appreciating the natural and cultural surrounding of Tuscany. The path today that winds its way north to south in Tuscany spans 38 different local governments, who have all worked together to reestablish safe and well-maintained trails and paths for those exploring via foot, bike and horse. And though it may not be very “traditional”, there are indications on how to travel parts of this pilgrimage via car.

    It is comprised of 15 trail sections which are marked and outlined, averaging between 18-25 km a day. There are many “feeder” roads to these destinations that historically make up part of the via, so it is important to note that this is really just a rough outline of what the “original” might have looked like route.  In reality, there never was really just “one” true road. It was decided that through the use of Sigeric’s diary, these stops would become the official indicators. They have now been identified with signs and restored “sentieri” (footpaths) - sometimes just simple white dirt roads and sometimes following paved roads which now cover the old trails.

    In Tuscany, the Via Francigena starts at the Cisa Pass in the northwestern tip of the region in an area called Lunigiana, makes its way down toward Lucca, then across to Siena before heading south toward Rome in 15 stages or what are called "legs":

    There never was an “official” road map that the pilgrims bought and followed as the made their way south to the the Terra Santa or to pray at the tomb of St. Peter and Paul in Rome. The Via Francigena was an uncodified path that gathered the walkers as they funneled into Italy from all over Europe. It was a conglomerate of many roads merging together for safety, convenience and hospitality.

    It wasn’t until the discovery at the British Library in the 1980’s by Italian researchers of the travel journal by abbot Sigerico, named Bishop of Canterbury in 990, that it was possible to actually trace a very real route. Sigerico wrote of 80 stops between Rome and Canterbury: 587 miles in Italy and 15 stops in the region of Tuscany.

    Curious to follow these ancient footsteps? Get yourself a Pilgrim passport and then choose how you want to go: walk, bike, horseback and in some case drive your car along the various tracks. These trails propose a unique and special way to admire the ever changing scenery, the tranquility and the antique structures, churches, and mansione left behind.

    Below we have broken down the pieces, with a few comments of what to expect. Enjoy your adventure!

    1: Passo della Cisa to Pontremoli

    Approximately 19 km and averaging about 5 hours to walk it. Due to a steep decline, this track is considered to be rather difficult. The path passes thru several towns and landscapes which have maintained their medieval charm. Particularly noteworthy is the Labyrinth at the end of the trail in the town of Pontremoli, the very same one that has been a symbol for the via Francigena over the years.

    2: Pontremoli to Aulla

    Approximately 33 km and averaging about 8 hours to walk it. You are cautioned about a bit of road traffic at the very end. Definitely the Pieve of Sorano, is one of the highlights of this track and the vision of the Castello di Malaspina.

    3: Aulla to Avenza

    Approximately 33 km and averaging about 8 hours by foot. Though the second half of the trail levels out to easy walking, the first half has quite a few dislevels classifying it as rather difficult. Travelling through the towns, fortresses and castles of the Lunigiana this piece of the trail even gives you a glimpse of the ocean and Tuscan coast.

    4: Avenza to Pietrasanta

    Approximately 28 km and averaging 6 ½ hours. Be prepared to be dazzled by the stark contrast between the views of the awe inspiring Apuane mountains with their frosty white tips, the ocean below and the local agriculture including vineyards and olive groves. You will pass through the famous town of Massa, known for its quality marble and end in Pietrasanta - well known for its artistic community.

    5: Pietrasanta to Lucca

    It is approximately 32 km and requires a minimum of 7 ½ hours of hiking. Passing thru the hills and forests near Camoire, the trail follows the hills down into the valley to enter into the city of Lucca by the ancient city gate: San Donato.

    6: Lucca to Altopascio

    It is approximately 18 km and takes about 4 hours to walk. This is considered an easy walk, though years ago this entire area was heavily covered by forest leaving the pilgrims open to bandits and danger.

    7: Altopascio to San Miniato

    About 25 km and averaging about 6 hours of trekking. We are in the valley, so the trail is considered easy to navigate following the Uscinan Hills. Once a marshland , this area has been bonafided and provides several little towns to see along the way.

    8: San Miniato to Gambassi Terme

    Covers approximately 24 km in about 6 hours. Considered particularly beautiful, this trail is etched along the hilltops of the Val d’Elsa offering panoramic views in all directions. Be sure to set some time aside to rest your weary feet in the thermal waters of Gambassi.

    9: Gambassi Terme to San Gimignano

    It is 13 km and can be covered in approximately 3 hours. This is an easy track to cover and is also a great track for bike enthusiasts (and not since it is fairly flat) This area is particularly noted for the buildings which grew in direct response to increase in pilgrims.

    10: San Gimignano to Monteriggioni

    It is approximately 30 km and takes about 7 hours to complete. Undoubtedly this is universally considered one of the more beautiful tracks, leaving the iconic image of Tuscany (San Gimignano) at your back and passing several picturesque churches to finish at the impressive walled city of Monteriggioni.

    11: Monteriggioni to Siena

    It is about 21 km and averages approximately 6 hours of hiking. This pieces provides passage through the bonifided lands, thick forests and winding “white roads” entering in Siena through the city gate of “Porta Camelia.” Combine this track with an in depth visit to the Duomo, the Piazza del Campo and the Hospital of Santa Maria della Scala, an important stop of the weary pilgrims.

    12: Siena to Ponte d’Arbia

    It is approximately 30 km of trails and will take almost 7 hours to walk. The changes in the landscape are notable: hills become softer and they are no longer dressed with thick forests, there are less vineyards, olive groves and more fields of grain, and the Creti Sensei are becoming more and more pronounced.  This portion of the trail lends itself to a circle route, read here for more information.

    13: Ponte d’Arbia to San Quirico

    Covers 27 km and averages about 6 hours of walking. One of the last legs of the walk, passes through wide spreads of grain, sunflowers, vineyards, and the well restored town of Buonconvento. The scenic Val d’Orcia is unfolding quickly and beautifully, great photo opportunities

    14: San Quirico to Radicofani

    The last destination in Tuscany. There are approximately 33 km and it averages about 7 hours. The hills here are more pronounced and will stretch the muscles with its constant up and downs...however this area is rich in thermal waters like those of Bagno Vignoni and Bagno San Filippo.

    15: Radicofani to Aquapendente

    The last track starting in Tuscany is approximately 32 km and is calculated to take about 7 hours. The views are spectacular, as the border of Tuscany comes into view. Mount Amiata is visible, as is the region of Lazio and the last few pieces till Rome.

     

    Useful information

    All the organisation of the tour will be supported from local certified and qualified travel agencies that can offer the best solution about accommodation and transfer and can respond to all the requests about flights and visa if needed.

    Duration: the duration is flexible and will be customized according to customer needs and requests.

    Price: the price depend from the duration of the tour and from the quality of the accommodation and experiences chosen.

    Minimum participants: 8 -10

    The Package include:

    • Round trip airport transfer
    • Transfer by private minivan for the excursions and experiences
    • Private Indonesian tour guide during the excursions
    • Overnights in double room with breakfast
    • Dinners
    • All tastings
    • Guided tours on days …..
    • Entrance ticket to museum, churches, etc.;
    • Entrance fees as in the program.

    Not included in the package:

    • Flight from/to
    • Tips and everything not included in ”the package include“.
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