The routes on the Via Francigena became one of the most popular itineraries among pilgrims in Europe in the last decades.
Today we will discover one of the most beautiful trails in Italy, the Francigena route.
Let’s find out what are the routes along the Via Francigena and how long each stage is.
The origins of the Via Francigena
- 1 The origins of the Via Francigena
- 2 The Francigena Way: the road of the French
- 3 Sigeric and La Francigena
- 4 What are the stages, the distances and the maps along the Francigena walk?
- 5 What are the most popular routes of the Via Francigena?
- 6 Tuscany
- 7 The routes of the Via Francigena in Tuscany
- 8 Francigena itinerary in Lazio region
- 9 The Via Francigena’s routes in Lazio
- 10 Is there any accreditation?
- 11 The Stages and Signposting
- 12 Why should I choose to walk a route of the Via Francigena?
Perhaps not everyone knows that although Italy has a lot of history, it is actually a very young country, whose borders are very recent.
It has always been a place of continuous struggle to establish control over its lands. Such a fragmented country needed routes that would facilitate connections, not only in political-military terms, but also for its commercial transactions.
Although with another name, the Via Francigena finds its origins in the seventh century, due to the controversies between the Longobards and the Byzantines. It was back then when they understood the need to create a route linking the Kingdom of Pavia in the North, in the hands of the Longobards, with the lands further South.
The route was originally called “Via de Monte Bardone” because of the Mons Langobardorum (today Cisa) which was the mountain that had to be crossed. The path then followed through the Magra valley and it was going to the city of Lucca. After crossing the Arno river, it continued through the valley of its tributary, the Elsa river, to reach Siena.
There, a simple route through the valleys of Arbia and Orcia allowed travelers y to join the ancient Via Cassia, that eventually would led to Rome.
The Francigena Way: the road of the French
Due to the change of supremacy from the Longobards to the Francs, they also changed the name of the route we know today as Via Francigena also called “Road belonging to the French” or “Road that departs from France” territory that included the present France, the Reno valley and the Netherlands.
It was precisely with Charlemagne when the Via Francigena began to receive a greater and more regular traffic between North and South of Europe.
Thanks to the Carolingian administration, its conditions were greatly improved, allowing a huge number of people to pass through, including merchants and pilgrims.
The practice of pilgrimages became more and more popular and the preferred religious destinations were, in addition to Jerusalem, Santiago de Compostela and Rome.
However, for the Via Francigena to become so well known, it was necessary to wait a little longer. Precisely until 990 when the same abbot Sigerico nicknamed the “Serious”, was ordained by Pope John XV Archbishop of Canterbury. Pilgrims from all over the world considered the Francigena pilgrimage as a reference ever since.
If you are interested in knowing more about the other famous pilgrimage route in Europe (the Saint James Way) check the history of the Camino de Santiago.
Sigeric and La Francigena
From the English city pf Canterbury, the Archbishop travelled the whole Via Francigena until returning to Rome to receive the “Palium”. In his manuscript, now kept in the British Museum in London, he wrote down in detail his way back to Canterbury and the 80 houses where he could spend the night during his journey.
There are many people who consider that his work is the most accredited of the itinerary of the Via Francigena. Today most people want to do the route from Canterbury to Rome (or rather only a part of that for lack of time).
Obviously, when we talk about the routes at that time, it had little to do with modern routes as you know them. In fact, in many cases, the route could vary according to environmental conditions and different seasons.
Moreover, the many pilgrims who at that time managed to complete this route, deserve all our respect not only for the long distance they managed to walk but also for the conditions in which they were doing it.
Without luggage or adequate clothing. They crossed imposing obstacles such as the pass that currently connects Switzerland and Italy, called Great St Bernard Pass (at an altitude of 2,473 m).
During the thirteenth century the Via Francigena, becoming more and more the strategic point of connection for products from the east, underwent some modifications. Due to the growth of its commercial role, other alternative routes were added, mainly to include a more direct connection between Florence and Bologna with Rome.
The route called “the royal road of Rome” (Bologna-Florence-Siena-Rome) was born and it began to be considered the main route until today.
What are the stages, the distances and the maps along the Francigena walk?
In 1994, this route, which passes through England, France, Switzerland and Italy, was recognized by the Council of Europe as “European Cultural Itinerary”.
To summarize, the total distance of the Via Francigena (from Canterbury to Rome) reaches 2040 km. It can be divided into 86 stages that would take 3 months to complete.
STAGE 1: The United Kingdom
The first stage is in England, 32 km from Canterbury to Dover.
STAGE 2- 31: France
In France the Via Francigena starts in Calais and ends in Sainte-Croix for a total of 785 Km that will require 30 days to walk.
STAGE 32- 42: Switzerland
In Switzerland, the Francigena route goes from Sainte-Croix until Gran San Bernardo.
It’s 11 stages long, and covers a total distance of 214 kms.
STAGE 43- 86: Italy
The Italian part of the Via Francigena is the longest one. It starts in the Gran San Bernardo and ends in Rome, the final destination of the Francigena Camino.
It is 1014 kms long, and you need 44 stages to walk it.
What are the most popular routes of the Via Francigena?
Lets’ find out what amazing sites you will find along this routes, so to help you decide what is the perfect route on the Francigena for you.
Tuscany is a mythical land for its art, culture, history, its wonderful people, food and wine products.
Without any doubt it deserves to be represented in so many movies from all over the world.
Tuscany is the emblem of Rinascimento, the artistic and cultural movement that has developed throughout Europe. Here is where the Italian language and the famous character of Pinocchio were born.
Can you believe it?
In Tuscany alone there are more UNESCO sites than in the whole Australia or South Africa.
Our offer in Tuscany will take you from Lucca to Siena, in a route of eight days and seven nights.
However, the stages can be divided and this itinerary could be walked in more days, through the easy route along the Francigena itinerary.
The stages are as follows:
- Lucca – Altopascio (18.5 km)
- Altopascio- San Miniato (29 km)
- San Miniato- Gambassi Terme (24 km)
- Gambassi Terme- San Gimignano (13.5 km)
- San Gimignano- Monteriggioni (31 km)
- Monteriggioni- Siena (20.6 km)
The routes of the Via Francigena in Tuscany
This city deserves a whole day to visit it. To begin with its streets, its wall and its beautiful historical center.
St. Martin’s Cathedral and the Guinigi Tower built in 1390 offer an example of Lucca’s splendor. Its elliptical Market Square was built over the ancient Roman Amphitheatre and today there are shops and bars where you can relax before starting your journey.
This town, on the top of a hill, is where Etruscans settled down before the Romans. Gambassi Terme offers not only a unique medieval heritage and wonderful views, but also thermal springs. Definitely, a pleasant surprise for the pilgrims on the Way.
SAN GIMIGNANO AND SIENA
Together with Siena, San Gimignano is a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
Both of them offer a unique opportunity to relive their medieval past. Here, time hasn’t passed and you will be able to enjoy a magical atmosphere in nowadays comfort.
San Gimignano is also known to be the “Middle Ages’ Manhattan” for its towers, symbol of the most powerful families of that time.
Its walls, perfectly conserved, were mentioned in the Divine Comedy (Divina Commedia) of Dante Alighieri, in the Inferno (Hell) XXXI.
With no doubt, a charming stage along the Via Francigena.
Francigena itinerary in Lazio region
Next, we will discover Lazio! Even though this is a region that many know only for its Eternal City, there is much more than that.
For the most part, this region has protected natural areas of great value and areas of archaeological interest unique in the world.
Originally, this region was inhabited by many populations such as the Etruscans, the Faliscans, the Sabinis and the Latins.
Afterwards it became the cradle of the Roman Empire as we all know. So much history and culture will be just in your grasp. Don’t miss it!
Furthermore, on your way you will have the opportunity to discover incredible places. In your route you will visit towns such as Viterbo, called the Papal City, the Roman Amphitheater and the Urban Necropolis of Sutri.
Our offer in Lazio will take you from Viterbo to Rome, on a route of seven days and six nights. However, you could choose an easier route to reach Rome.
The stages are as follows:
- Viterbo- Vetralla (18.3 km)
- Vetralla- Sutri (23.9 km)
- Sutri-Campagnano (27.1 km)
- Campagnano- Isola Farnese (22 km)
- Isola Farnese-Roma (19 km)
The Via Francigena’s routes in Lazio
Founded by the Etruscans, it was the site of the first and longest Papal Conclave in 1271.
Besides the Papal Palace, its Cathedral, built on an ancient temple in honor to Hercules, are certainly worth a visit.
This city has also local dishes such as acquacotta, giubba e calzoni and fish from the nearby lakes.
Legend tells that Hercules, challenged by the Etruscans, stabbed a spear into the ground to demonstrate his strength. From this hole would have come nothing less than the thermal water of the Viterbo thermal baths.
Of really ancient origins, this town had a great importance already in the Etruscan and its most important building is the San Francis’ church, built in IX century.
This city is undoubtedly a historical wonder defined by its volcanic rock, the tufa.
Here you will find a Roman Amphitheater of the II- I century that could contain more than 9000 people. For its structure, almost entirely dug into the rock, came back to light only in 1936. Until then, in fact it was still almost entirely buried. In addition to its famous amphitheater, other sites were dug into the rock, such as the Necropolis Etrusca and the Mitreo.
Rome can’t be narrated, you have to live it.
In conclusion you will arrive at St. Peter’s Square in the Vatican. Surely this will be a very exciting moment and everyone will live in a different way.
Rome can’t be explained because is a place whose past is still in its streets, in its buildings and in its people.
Pilgrims who come to Rome, feel like they have achieved something that can’t be defined by words.
As a result everyone will have their personal history to tell, as well as their personal feelings about this incredible journey.
Is there any accreditation?
Similarly to the Compostela, the “Testimonium”, certifies the arrival to Rome following the routes along the Via Francigena. You can receive it only fulfilling a minimum of 100km on foot or 200 km by bicycle.
The Stages and Signposting
You can travel the stages by bike or on foot, with a daily average of about 20 kilometers.
The signs on the routes of the Via Francigena are not as good as those of the St. James’s Walk. Therefore, you could find up to five different signs so please pay attention along the way.
Moreover, if you are interested in finding the differences between the Via Francigena and the St James’ Way click here.
Why should I choose to walk a route of the Via Francigena?
In the first place, this experience will allow you to meet wonderful people from all over the world.
Thereby, you will enjoy incredible landscapes of Tuscany or Lazio outside of the most crowded tourist destinations.
Certainly, its practice goes beyond the simple physical exercise.
There are many reasons why people choose to walk. For instance, we can see benefits in our minds, as an example in our ability to generate new ideas.
Some of the greatest thinkers in history said exactly the same thing. Nietzsche, Kant and Rousseau supported the walking practice. According to these great philosophers, walking had a positive influence on their creativity and the elaboration of great thoughts.
At Galiwonders we couldn’t agree more and for this reason, in addition to the Camino de Santiago, we decided to offer new routes along the Via Francigena. We organize tailor made itineraries, luggage transfers between the stages and the best accommodation along the Francigena walk
Don’t miss this chance to live your Italian dream and contact us for more information!