The path of the Via Francigena is an important cultural itinerary that connects Canterbury and Rome and continues to excite those who travel across the limestone traces left over the centuries through the unspoiled landscape, taking in historical and artistic beauties along the way.
This historical European route that crosses Tuscany represents a unique opportunity to discover almost 400 km (divided into 16 stages) of the ancient route once travelled by pilgrims, merchants and travellers, through forests, hills and medieval villages, all the while encountering intriguing history, art, food and wine.
A journey along the Francigena reveals an incredible beauty, from the north to the south of Tuscany. From the wooded Lunigiana, which contains treasures such as Pontremoli, villages, parish churches and castles, up to Pietrasanta, and then descends to the valley as far as Lucca, go up from San Miniato and cross the hills until you see the towers of San Gimignano, pass Monteriggioni, enter Siena and then continue to the Amiata and Val D'Orcia, going up to Radicofani.
Let's discover some of the historical background. In 990, Sigerico, the Archbishop of Canterbury, went to Rome to receive the pallium - symbol of the pastoral mission - from the hands of the Pope. On the way back, he noted the stops of the journey in a travel diary thanks to which it was possible to reconstruct the route. However, the Lombards had formerly plotted the route in the 6th century as they crossed the Cisa pass, tracing a safe route to reach the historic seaport of Luni and Tuscia. Over the years, monuments and artistic treasures enriched the main points of a path that was able to link the Mediterranean area with the North Sea, thus contributing to the flourishing of European trade.
Today, the Francigena represents a wonderful journey (secular or spiritual) that is enriching as you encounter nature, culture and tradition treated with a conscious and respectful tourism.
The 22nd stage of the Francigena is the first in Tuscany. It marks the crossing of the Apennine ridge, not far from the current Cisa Pass, and the descent into the valley of the Magra river. The peaceful landscape features rich forests surrounded by castles, Romanesque churches and charming villages that lead to Pontremoli, with its palaces and Medieval churches, including that of San Pietro, where the "labyrinth" is still preserved today, a symbol of pilgrimages to the Holy Land.
Following on from Pontremoli, a series of dirt roads and paths pass through long stretches in the woods. After having seen the elegant parish church of Sorano, the Francigena crosses the historic village of Filattiera. Along the valley of the Monia torrent, we reach Filetto and then Villafranca in Lunigiana, where you can visit the ethnographic museum. After crossing the Bagnone stream, going up to Virgoletta, the path reaches Terrarossa, dominated by the Malaspina castle, continuing up to the abbey of San Caprasio in Aulla, founded in 884.
Passing castles and fortresses along the Lunigiana hills (for example, Fosdinovo), the first part of the section takes place largely on a trail that offers a beautiful view of the Tyrrhenian Sea. The historic villages along the way feature the ruins of the Castello della Brina and the town of Sarzana.
Leaving Sarzana, travel along a road among the vineyards that cover the hills, in a succession of panoramas of the Apuan Alps and the sea. The Francigena passes through the historic center of Massa, before going back up to Montignoso where the Aghinolfi castle stands on the hill. In Massa we recommend a visit to the Cathedral of Saints Peter and Francis and to the Diocesan museum.
Go up towards Castello Aghinolfi in Montignoso to take a panoramic road, which must be traveled with caution due to traffic. The section continues as far as Pietrasanta, "the little Athens of Italy", the adoptive homeland of artists from all over the world. Immediately after Pietrasanta and its beautiful Piazza Duomo, we can visit the historic Parish Church of San Giovanni, and continue up and down the hills of Lucca to the historic center of Camaiore and the centuries-old Badia.
After visiting the historic center of Camaiore and the centuries-old Badia, go up towards Monte Magno and through the Freddana valley, where you will reach Valpromaro. From here, a path through the woods leads to Piazzano. We then descend into the valley of the Contesola stream and, crossing the Serchio river at Ponte San Pietro, we soon arrive at Lucca, entering from the historic San Donato gate. The Holy Face of Lucca is kept in the Cathedral of San Martino, the point of veneration of the path that bears its name. You can also find the Via Francigena Entry Point complex in Lucca, which offers a series of services designed for slow and religious tourism.
After Lucca, continue in the direction of the river Arno where the Francigena reaches Capannori, with its parish church of San Quirico with its thirteenth-century facade, then arriving at Porcari. From here, with a deviation of 500 meters, you reach Badia di Pozzeveri and then Altopascio, home of the "Spedale" of the Knights of the Tau, a safe refuge for pilgrims.
In the initial part of the route, in Galleno, you walk on the pavement of the ancient Via Francigena. You then pass the wild and deserted hills of the Cerbaie to head towards Ponte a Cappiano and its Medici bridge. From here along the embankment of the Usciana canal you cross an ancient marsh now reclaimed and go back to the historic center of Fucecchio, whose museum preserves splendid works of art. After passing the Arno, you will soon reach San Miniato, the powerful and rich medieval village known in the gastronomic field for the truffle.
From San Miniato an extraordinarily beautiful trail follows along the hilly ridges of the Val d'Elsa, scattered with castles, fortresses, lodges and abbey complexes, reaching the parish church of Coiano with its steep stone staircase, and the parish church of Santa Maria in Chianni, rebuilt in the 12th century. Shortly afterwards, you reach Gambassi Terme which takes its name from its beneficial waters.
Departing from Gambassi Terme there is a short route along the beautiful ridges of the Val d'Elsa, scattered with castles, historic parish churches and abbeys, before reaching the Pancole sanctuary, leading back to the village of Collemuccioli with a stretch of medieval pavement, and from here to the parish church of Cellole, then going up towards the hill where the towers of San Gimignano rise. To see: the frescoes of the town hall.
From San Gimignano, travelling along dirt roads, you reach the Romanesque church of Santa Maria a Coneo. Then cross the bridge over the Elsa and arrive at the Romanesque church of San Martino di Strove. Finally, we reach the Abbadia a Isola complex, before seeing Monteriggioni, with its walls and unmistakable crown of towers that dominates the hill.
From Monteriggioni, we walk along the white roads of the Sienese mountainous area towards the medieval village of Cerbaia. After passing the castles of Chiocciola and Villa, following the ups and downs, you reach Siena from Porta Camollia. The city will surprise us with the beauty of its Piazza del Campo, the Duomo and the hospital of Santa Maria della Scala, one of the most important museum centers in Siena.
From Siena there is a challenging route along the white roads of the Val d'Arbia where you reach the Grancia di Cuna, a centuries-old fortified farm owned by the hospital of Santa Maria della Scala. Continuing along the offshoots of the Crete Senesi, and passing Monteroni, you reach the fortified village of Lucignano d'Arbia up to Ponte d'Arbia.
From Ponte d'Arbia you reach the perfectly preserved village of Buonconvento. Going up the Ombrone valley, you travel along a stretch of the Cassia to Montalcino. Along white roads, you reach Torrenieri accompanied by the panoramas of the Val d'Orcia, finally arriving at San Quirico d'Orcia.
From San Quirico d’Orcia you make your way through the bare hills, and come to the little fortified town of Vignoni, with its views of the Val d’Orcia. You then descend to Bagno Vignoni, which is famous for its vast thermal pools. It is worth stepping off the beaten track to have a look at the historic centre of Castiglione d’Orcia and the tower of the Tentennano castle. A long undulating stretch through the valleys of the River Orcia and the River Paglia take you to the old guest house of Le Briccole, and eventually to Radicofani.
Something to bear in mind: in Tuscany the Via Francigena is composed of 16 official sections, but from the territory around Siena it is possible to take a detour that brings you to the village of Abbadia San Salvatore.
From Radicofani, which is home to an admirable old fortress, you descend along the ridge, with a far-reaching view of the hills, of Val d’Orcia and of Monte Amiata. The Via Francigena comes to Ponte a Rigo and then enters Lazio, which greets you with a dirt track and a panorama of the Paglia valley. You reach Proceno and, finally, Acquapendente.
Visit the official website: ViaFrancigenaToscana.it