Via Francigena walk
A warm, sunny autumn day in Tuscany was the perfect time to undertake the Via Francigena walk. We travelled the twenty minute car journey from the Chianti to meet our tour guide at the local car park in Abbadia d'Isola. Ingo our guide was waiting for us as we arrived. We jumped into the minibus provided and were driven to our starting point at Castello della Chiocchiola.
Ingo had been thoughtful and had provided all of us with a chilled bottle of water. Donning his rucksack (which I presume was full of useful tools and emergency equipment) we set off down a dusty track towards the woods.
The weather was wonderfully warm and I looked forward to the journey ahead. Ingo then proceeded to tell us about the pilgrimage and some of its history. And here is some of what I learned.
The Via Francigena route starts in Canterbury in the U.K (which I live about 20 miles away from back home) and continues through France, Switzerland and down through Italy and all the way to Rome.
Although I have said that the pilgrimage started in Canterbury, this is not 100% accurate. Starting points varied along the route depending on where you came from, you would not be expected to start from Canterbury if you lived in France.
The Arch Bishop, Sigeric the Serious had made and documented the pilgrimage himself in 990 and became the self appointed authority on the subject and therefore the unofficial starting point became Canterbury in Kent.
The route has not changed that much since medieval times, but due to modernisation and the building of new roads etc, slight detours have had to be made. However, this said there is an abundance of untouched Tuscan scenery and woodland paths which have changed very little overtime.
The trail took us through a mixture of forests, open plains and along winding white roads. A good pair of walking boots is recommended as the paths are full of loose gravel and stones which I slipped on several times. If your planning on cycling this route, I recommend protective clothing and a certain amount of experience in the sport.
After nearly two hours of walking we came out to an opening in the woods which looked across the valley and towards the majestic walled town of Monteriggioni. Ingo informed us that this medieval town had been the site of a siege and a battle between the Florentines and the Sienese. It was also world famous for being featured in the video game “Assassins Creed”. However on my return to the UK I was informed and corrected by my teenage son, that actually it featured in Assassins Creed 2!
We made our way across to Monteriggioni and entered the town through one of the original fortified gates. Monteriggioni is a charming little town with a small selection of bars and gift shops. We sat in the main plaza enjoying the atmosphere of a bygone age while sipping our cool beverages. As we sat and talked we were introduced to Andrea the owner of the tour company (firstname.lastname@example.org), who had come to greet us.
After a much needed rest and a quick tour of the old town it was time to leave this picturesque place and all its history. The walk back took approximately an hour as we took a shorter route than by which we had came. Along the way we sampled some reddish berries that grew in hedgerows along the track, we really were following the spirit of the pilgrims now.
We eventually arrived back at the minibus as the sun slowly set over Tuscany. Ingo kindly drove us back to our car and after a lot of handshaking and laughing we said our farewells and headed back to our Villa for a much needed glass of the finest Chianti Classico.
I learned a great deal of interesting facts surrounding the Via Francigena, which I have deliberately omitted from this account. If you wish to know what I know, you will just have to take the journey yourself (maybe not from Canterbury). Say Hi to Ingo for me!