The Via Francigena

Friday, September 21, 2012

Every year, the Northern Italian region of Tuscany attracts thousands of tourists, with varying concepts of what constitutes an interesting, satisfying or exciting holiday. Most are content to lead a typically touristy lifestyle, staying in Tuscany villas, seeing the sites and tasting the food and wine. For some, however, this lazy style of holidaymaking is not entirely satisfactory; and for those, a trek down the Via Francigena – the pilgrim’s way leading into Rome – may make for an interesting ‘alternative’ holiday.

The Via Francigena was founded by the earliest tribes inhabiting the province – back before anyone had ever thought of capitalising on the charms of Tuscany villas – but rose to prominence after the Archbishop of Canterbury used it as a pilgrimage route into Rome. Over time, this road – also used by regular peasants and merchants – began to be bordered by religious edifices and other landmarks, which make it well worth a visit today.

The best pace in which to travel the Via Francigena is obviously leisurely, so as to take in all the sights the route has to offer. The entire route breathes a very medieval atmosphere, with visitors following mule tracks and passing by unspoilt woods and fortified villages entirely devoid of Tuscany villas or any other signs of the region’s modern-day tourist trade. For that very reason, it represents a welcome escape for those not wishing to partake in this more “conventional” style of holidaymaking, as well as for those seeking to commune with nature and take in a few historical and cultural sites in the process.

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