According to history, Sigerico Archbishop of Canterbury started out this religious pilgrimage to Rome. The origins actually go back to the Longobards, who in the VI century crossed Monte Bardone between Berceto and Pontremoli, which correspond to today’s Cisa Pass, as they created a path to the ancient port of Luni and to Tuscia, at a safe distance from the routes controlled by the Byzantines, their unrelenting enemies.
Under the Franks and the Carolingians the path became a major exchange route which upon reaching Lucca turned towards Altopascio, crossed the Arno river, and followed the Elsa Valley to Siena. From here it followed the Cassian Way, crossed the valleys of Arbia and Orcia until reaching Rome. The Via Francigena snaked through the major residential centres of the period, linking sacred places of the Christian world.
HIGHLIGHTS OF THE ROUTE
Over time monuments and artistic treasures enriched the main towns and villages along the way, such as the splendid cathedral of Lucca, the Hospital of Santa Maria della Scala in Siena and the precious reliquaries kept in churches. The ancient road connected the Mediterranean to the Northern Sea and soon became an important artery travelled by men and merchandise, thus contributing to the great rebirth of European commerce. Today the route is an important cultural itinerarywhich offers the excitement of retracing ancient footsteps, crossing uncontaminated landscapes studded with artistic treasures, coming into contact with the local traditions of the villages along the way.The itinerary unfolds through areas which are only slightly industrialized or not at all, thus creating a visual paradise to which the mind can often escape.
Walking along the Via Francigena at a slow and steady pace, one follows an itinerary rich in history and local traditions. It starts out from the Cisa Pass at Pontremoli and follows a mule-track through woods with a mediaeval atmosphere to reach the splendid Pieve di Sorano a Filattiera and then moves on from Aulla allowing views over the sea.
The journey continues through fortified villages reaching Massa and Pietrasanta in Versilia, following one side of the ridge of the Apuan Alps to reach Lucca. It is a journey that favours contact with nature and the local people. You stop to meditate and discover, to contemplate art, history, culture, nature and religious sites.
Continuing along the valleys of central Tuscany, between Altopascio and Fucecchio, you cross the Arno river and arrive at the ancient town of San Miniato, then through the Val d’Elsa where the road takes you up and down enchanting hill tops covered with vineyards, olive trees and cultivated farmland until reaching the medieval town of San Gimignano. After crossing Siena, along the white roads of the Val d’Arbia the journey crosses the hill town of Buonconvento to Val d’Orcia and the medieval fortified village of San Quirico.
The Via Francigena offers an itinerary which, for its beauty and evocative capabilities, is the paradigm of the new style of slow travel -on foot, on horseback, by bike and even by car - where the itinerary becomes an inner spiritual journey, be it religious or lay, that enriches one’s personal story and experience. This route is a cultural and environmental concept for conscientious tourism that respects territories and people.