The Via Francigena
A spiritual journey of self-discovery
Known as the oldest pilgrimage route in the world, the Via Francigena connects the English city of Canterbury with Rome, via the beautiful and ancient city of Siena. Used since the Middle Ages by pilgrims and travellers, the Via Francigena today is a popular destination for anyone wishing to relive the atmosphere of the past, walk enchanting paths, discover artistic treasures and taste the delicacies of the local culinary tradition. Let’s see together why it is so famous and what makes it so special.
What is the Via Francigena?
The Via Francigena is an ancient pilgrimage route that stretches over 1,800 kilometres, connecting Canterbury, in England, to Rome, in Italy. Dating back to the early Middle Ages, this route was used by European pilgrims travelling to the sacred sites of Rome, including St Peter’s Basilica.
Along the Via Francigena, pilgrims travelled through breathtaking landscapes, historic cities and important spiritual centres, testifying to their deep religious devotion and willingness to embark on a journey of faith.
The route, almost 2000 kilometres long, passes through beautiful landscapes, ancient villages and important historical centres. Starting from the city of Canterbury and ending in Rome, the walk offers travellers the opportunity to get to know and experience local customs and traditions. In particular, as far as the Italian section is concerned, from Monteriggioni the Francigena leads to Siena, crosses the heart of the city from Porta Camollia along the main axis of the centre and then resumes towards Rome from the gate facing the capital: Porta Romana. The Via Francigena becomes a multisensory experience, involving not only the senses, but also the heart and spirit.
Many local associations and non-profit organisations are involved in promoting and organising this route, offering support to pilgrims and enhancing the territorial and cultural resources on offer along the way. The Via Francigena, therefore, is a unique opportunity to immerse oneself in the history of Europe and Christianity, to get to know oneself and to discover new cultural and spiritual realities.
The itinerary is now fully signposted to enable pilgrims to walk without worrying about getting lost, thus enjoying the landscape around them in total safety: the roads are carefully maintained, making it possible for travellers to experience a total immersion in art, culture, landscape, thermal waters, good food, excellent products and wines to refresh themselves after a long day’s walk.
Via Francigena history
The Via Francigena road has been used for centuries by pilgrims travelling from England to Italy to visit the holy sites of Christianity. This route played an important role in the spread of Christian culture and religion in Europe, as several monasteries, convents and churches were built along the way. In fact, thousands of believers would make their way to the tomb of St Peter in Rome, following these paths, through an itinerary that was both physical and spiritual, considered an act of devotion and penance.
The road was made safe by the paladins, famous warriors who protected pilgrims from attacks by brigands: it is no coincidence that, in the XII century, the bishops of Canterbury and Rome agreed to formalise the Via Francigena as an official pilgrimage route. Although it is now no longer a compulsory pilgrimage route, the cultural heritage of the Via Francigena still survives, and many tourists and enthusiasts return to these places to discover the beauty of Europe’s historical and cultural heritage.
Besides its religious significance, the Via Francigena was also an important political and economic link between various European cities and states. Numerous commercial and cultural exchanges developed along the route, contributing to the spread of ideas and knowledge.
Why it is called Via Francigena
The Via Francigena takes its name from the Latin word ‘francigena’, meaning ‘road of the Franks’. This term originally referred to the road travelled by pilgrims from France, but over the centuries it has taken on a broader meaning.
During the medieval period, the Via Francigena became an important route for cultural, commercial and religious exchange between northern Europe and Italy. The term ‘Francigena’ was used to refer to all pilgrims coming from different regions of Europe, not only from France. The street was considered a symbol of unity and connection between different cultures and nations, converging towards the spiritual heart of Rome. The name ‘Via Francigena’ has maintained its historical significance and identity over the centuries, testifying to the importance of this road for pilgrimage and European history.
Travelling along the Via Francigena means an opportunity to live a wonderful experience rediscovering territories that may be very close to your home but have never been explored: in particular, do not miss the opportunity to get to know Siena, a medieval city that preserves intact all the charm of the past.