Via Francigena

Discovering Tuscany’s Via Francigena: route, 15 sections, history

The Via Francigena is a significant cultural journey that links Canterbury and Rome. It still fascinates people who explore the untouched countryside and follow the limestone paths that have been there for centuries. As they walk, they can appreciate the historical and artistic marvels along the way.

When visiting Tuscany, you’ll probably see or hear about it, as the route passes along a lot of important cities like Siena, San Gimignano or Lucca.

This European path, which runs through Tuscany, offers a remarkable chance to explore almost 400 km of the historic route that was once taken by pilgrims, traders, and adventurers. As you travel through forests, hills, and medieval towns, you’ll be able to experience intriguing history, art, food, and wine along the way. With the route divided into 15 stages, this journey offers a unique opportunity to immerse yourself in the past and discover the wonders of the present.

Via Francigena, the route in Tuscany

From the north to the south of Tuscany, Via Francigena starts from the wooded Lunigiana, which holds treasures such as Pontremoli, villages, parish churches, and castles, you can travel up to Pietrasanta before descending to the valley towards Lucca. You can also go up from San Miniato and cross the hills until the towers of San Gimignano come into view. From there, you can pass Monteriggioni, enter Siena, and continue on to the Amiata and Val D’Orcia, finally reaching Radicofani. This route promises breathtaking scenery and a glimpse into the rich history and culture of the region. Here you can find the official interactive map of the route in Tuscany.

In Tuscany, the Via Francigena has been divided into 15 stages, covering a total distance of 380 kilometers, and can be easily undertaken on foot, bicycle, or horseback. To ensure maximum safety, the routes have been designed to be completely secure and are backed by over 1,200 accommodations spread along the way, providing travelers with ample support throughout their journey.

The 15 sections of the Via Francigena in Tuscany are:
1: Passo della Cisa – Pontremoli – 19km/5 hrs
2: Pontremoli – Aulla – 33km/8 hrs
3: Aulla – Avenza – 33km/8 hrs
4: Avenza – Pietrasanta – 28km/6 hrs
5: Pietrasanta – Lucca – 32km/7.5 hrs
6: Lucca – Altopascio – 18km/4 hrs
7: Altopascio – San Miniato – 25km/6 hrs
8: San Miniato – Gambassi Terme – 24km/6 hrs
9: Gambassi Terme – San Gimignano – 13km/3 hrs
10: San Gimignano – Monteriggioni – 30km/7 hrs
11: Monteriggioni – Siena – 21km/6 hrs
12: Siena – Ponte d’Arbia – 30km/7 hrs
13: Ponte d’Arbia – San Quirico – 27km/6 hrs
14: San Quirico – Radicofani – 33km/7 hrs
15: Radicofani – Aquapendente – 32km/7 hrs

Source and more information at the official website of Vie Francigene.

The history of Via Francigena

Around AD 725, the first recorded pilgrimages took place along this route, which continued for many centuries. In 990, Archbishop Sigerico of Canterbury embarked on a journey to Rome, where he received the pallium – a symbol of his pastoral mission – directly from the Pope. Upon his return, Sigerico meticulously recorded the various stops he had made along the way, thus creating a travel diary that would later be used to reconstruct his route. Interestingly, the Lombards had already established this same route in the 6th century, when they successfully navigated the Cisa pass, creating a secure path that led to the historic seaport of Luni and Tuscia. Over time, this route became enriched with various monuments and artistic treasures, which helped to further establish the main points of interest along the way. Ultimately, this path became a crucial link between the Mediterranean area and the North Sea, thus contributing to the growth of European trade.

The “Road of the Franks” was heavily used during the Middle Ages by devout Christians on their once-in-a-lifetime pilgrimage to Rome. The route was traversed by footsore pilgrims from northern Europe, which is why it earned its name, referencing the Germanic tribes living in present-day Germany and France. The main Via Francigena, which follows a similar path to today’s SR-2 highway, led from Florence to Siena and then through the Val d’Orcia south to Rome.

The popularity of the Via Francigena brought many travelers to journey along it throughout history, from Archbishop Sigeric, who left us one of the oldest and most authoritative records of it in the 10th century as told before, to the aristocratic travelers of the Grand Tour who ventured from the cities of northern Europe and the Alps for a journey of learning in the enchanting Bel Paese. The route’s appeal has transcended time, offering pilgrims and travelers alike a unique and unforgettable experience.

Docufilm: Via Francigena – Road to Rome 2021