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“All roads lead to Rome”: the paths of the Via Francigena

Dating back to the late Middle Ages, the via Francigena still represents one of the most beaten paths by lovers of history and religion. Let us find out what are the main itineraries and how to plan a trip at the discovery of history. 

All roads lead to Romethe popular saying goes about the eternal city. Of course, like for any saying, there is some truth to it. Just like the consular roads end and start from Rome, also one of the most famous historical itineraries was created to connect Rome with the rest of Europe: the via Francigena. Let us see the paths of the Via Francigena and how to rely on them for solo or group trips. 

The many paths of the Via Francigena

Made of a set of roads, this path provides many alternatives and can be walked from England and France to reach Rome and then Puglia, for a total of almost 2000 km. The path is divided in axes that connected regions more or less similar between them. The central axes, also called commercial way, for example, connected the richest regions of Europe; the eastern one that followed the Reno valley; the western one that started from Paris and that gives the name to the whole path. Via Francigena, in fact, means road that starts from France.

As for the crossing of the Alps, there are two main ones: the pass of Gran San Bernardo, in the Aosta Valley, and the pass of Moncenisio, in Piemonte. In the trip to Rome, the Po River is crossed and then the path branches off in two directions. One follows Emilia Romagna whilst the other crosses Tuscany, to then reunite near Rome and reach the end in front of St Peter’s Basilica. 

But the Via Francigena does not end in Rome. In fact, it continues up to Puglia, crossing the Appennine to then reach the main boarding ports for the Holy Land: Bari, Brindisi and Otranto.

The Via Francigena today

Today, the paths of the Via Francigena are still accessible and every year welcome thousands of tourists. Whether it is pilgrims that arrive in tome from far far away or tourists who decide to walk just part of it, this itinerary is signalled in all the places it crosses and remains one of the most coveted destination by travellers of any kind. 

You can decide to walk the Via Francigena (or part of it), with a backpack and staying in hostels, but there is also who prefers to do it by bike, giving the trip a sportier twist. Anyway, whatever the format, going on the Via Francigena will allow you to explore the heart of Europe’s late medieval tradition and get in touch with its history. 

Whether the pilgrimage is done with religious or history in mind, the Via Francigena will certainly satisfy the need of all who are fascinated by the legends and history and will offer a lot of food for thought. 

San Gimignano, crossed by the Via Francigena

When to walk it and with who

If you prefer traveling on your own or just with a few people, you will be able to walk it independently, perhaps with the help of official maps, and to book your stay in different location by yourself. However, if you are people who prefer group travels with a guide, you will find a lot of trips planned in every aspect and the include a combination of paths of the Via Francigena. 

In itself, the Via Francigena is accessible throughout the year, but if you are looking for the best time, we would suggest spring and autumn. The temperatures are mild and the weather is more acceptable than the cold of the winter or the excessive heat of the summer. 

Featured image: Vatican News

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