The Via Francigena
The Via Francigena was the ancient trade and pilgrimage route that connected Northern Europe to Rome in the Middle Ages. The section of this road that still exists today, which has been recognised as a European Cultural Route by the Council of Europe, follows the path taken in AD 990 by Sigeric, the Archbishop of Canterbury, who wrote about his journey back from Rome to England in a travel diary. It took Sigeric 79 days to travel the 1,600 km that separated him from his destination, most of which he covered on foot. En route, he took note of each stage of his journey and described the places he found most interesting.
Today, setting off along the Via Francigena, in the footsteps of pilgrims from the British Isles, the Kingdom of the Franks, and the remotest regions of the Empire, who made their way to the Eternal City, is a journey through space and time but, above all, a journey of inward reflection. Mountainside mule tracks, dirt roads, hilltop ridges and forest paths provide a stunning backdrop as you walk, as do the ancient villages, country churches and wonderful cities, like Lucca, San Gimignano and Siena, you’ll see along the way. You don’t need to walk the entire route, and it doesn’t matter where you start from, or whether you chose to travel south or north. However you chose to walk it, the Via Francigena is always a journey of discovery, through stunning landscapes that change at every turn, to get in touch with your historic roots and cultural identity.
The Via Francigena meets the Montaione area along the section that runs from San Miniato to Gambassi Terme. This is a three-hour walk, during which you’ll come across the Parish Church of Coiano, that takes you along hills whose slopes are dotted with vineyards, farmhouses, olive trees, and through clearings and groves. Halfway along the road, just off the Via Francigena, it is possible to take trail 1 and then trail 3 of the Green Trails hiking network organised by the Municipality of Montaione, which will take you to the “Jerusalem” of San Vivaldo. This is another ancient place of pilgrimage, a citadel of chapels and small shrines built in the woods by the Franciscans in the early sixteenth century and adorned with sculptural groups by the Della Robbia school.
For information, go to: www.viefrancigene.org