Have you ever thought about following in the footsteps of medieval pilgrims and traveling the Via Francigena, the ancient route that leads to Rome from France? Travelling along these Tuscan steps, even for short distances, means to immerse yourself in an artistic, cultural and religious heritage of extraordinary charm and incomparable value. This post wants to highlight the most important information about the Via Francigena to help you organize a trip here. You can choose a single leg of the Via Francigena or the entire Tuscan path.
Following this ancient pilgrimage route also means discovering a new way of travelling, slowly and consciously, in contact with nature and people: a responsible form of tourism. Walking the Via Francigena is not necessarily a religious experience but it is a spiritual one that allows you to grow as a person. Today, travelling along the Via Francigena is even simpler: the Tuscan section has been made safer and equipped with appropriate signage.
The Pilgrim’s Passport is a personal document recording step by step the journey along the Via Francigena. At each stage, parish churches, municipalities and any other institution that offers hospitality will stamp the passport, to testimony the passage of the pilgrim. The credential can be requested by sending the form to the European Association of the Via Francigena and the cost is € 5.35. Alternatively it can be collected free of charge at the Tourist Office of the City of Monteriggioni.
Along the Via Francigena pilgrims can take advantage of a variety of accommodation options, such as hostels, which can be run by parish churches or confraternities. Before starting the pilgrimage, you should plan the route you intend to follow, identifying the structures in which you want to stay. Here you will find a useful list official site.
The Tuscan section of the Via Francigena covers 354 kilometres and 16 legs that touch towns and villages immersed in the most beautiful Tuscan landscapes from Pontremoli in the north to Radicofani in the south of Tuscany. How to move along the Via Francigena? Today, the Via Francigena can be covered on foot, by bike and on horseback.
Francigena Leg 1: Cisa Pass - Pontremoli
Kilometers: 22 km
Difficulty: very challenging 563 m ascent 1264 m descent
How to get to the departure point: Parma-La Spezia railway line Berceto station, Prontobus for the Cisa Pass
Highlights: the Cisa Pass, Pontremoli (the so called “Key and Door of Tuscany” by Frederick II) and the Museum of Stele Lunigianese Statues. Read more about Pontremoli.
Francigena Leg 2: Pontremoli - Aulla
Kilometers: 32.5 505 m ascent 692 m descent
How to get to the departure point: Parma- La Spezia railway line, Pontremoli station
Highlights: After the elegant parish church of Sorano you pass through the ancient village of Filattiera, then head to reach Filetto and Villafranca Lunigiana. The arrival is in Aulla.
Francigena Leg 3: Aulla - Sarzana
Kilometers: 16.4 608 m ascent 646 m descent
How to get to the departure point: Parma-La Spezia railway line, Aulla station.
Highlights: this path offers a great sea view and small medieval hamlets that worth a visit. Don’t miss Bibola probably one of the Byzantine “kastrons” that defended the Luni harbour, Ponzano Superiore and the beautiful city of Sarzana.
Francigena Leg 4: Sarzana - Massa
Kilometers: 29.6 586 m ascent 544 m descent
Difficulty: very challenging
Highlights: walking from Sarzana to Massa you find the archaeological area of Luni. Located near the old Magra River mouth was a military harbour during the Roman period. Here visitors can see the mosaic area, the western Domus, the Decumano Massimo (an urban section of the Aurelia road), the portico of the forum, the theatre, and the Christian basilica. Once in Massa visit the Cathedral of San Pietro and Francesco.
Francigena Leg 5: Massa - Camaiore
Kilometers: 26 515 m ascent 550 m descent
How to get to the departure point: Line Pisa-La Spezia stop at Massa station.
Highlights: this stage runs through many urban areas. Not to be missed: Pietrasanta, also known as the “little Athens” of the Versilia region thanks to the high concentration of artists that decided to put down roots there; Montignoso and the Aghinolfi castle, which dominates the panorama and Camaiore, a small town which dates back to Roman times.
Francigena Leg 6: Camaiore - Lucca
Kilometers: 23.8 412 m ascent 432 m descent
How to get to the departure point: Railway line Firenze-Viareggio stop in Camaiore. Autobus Cct, line E02 Camaiore-Lucca, www.lucca.cttnord.it
Highlights: Paved roads and dirt tracks alternate in this Francigena section from Camaiore to Lucca. Not to be missed: Montemagno, a small, pretty village, which grew around a church on the road and Lucca, a city surrounded by medieval towns which houses numerous medieval churches of great architectural importance (Lucca has been called the 'city with 100 churches').
Francigena Leg 7: Lucca - Altopascio
Kilometers: 18.5 20 m ascent 20 m descent
How to get to the departure point: Viareggio-Florence and Aulla-Lucca railway lines, Lucca station
Highlights: the famous Romanesque church of San Quirico; in Porcari, the Badia di Pozzeveri and the church of San Jacopo in Altopascio, once home of the Knights of Tau who offered a welcome refuge for weary wanderers. Read more about Altopascio.
Francigena Leg 8: Altopascio - San Miniato
Kilometers: 29 250 m ascent 115 m descent
How to get to the departure point: Railway line Florence-Viareggio, Altopascio station
Highlights: The initial section of the path is in Galleno, an ancient dirt road of the Via Francigena. After crossing the hills of Cerbaie the travellers head for Ponte a Cappiano to the center of Fucecchio. After crossing the Arno, the trekkers reach San Miniato, a perfectly maintained medieval town. Read more about San Miniato.
Francigena Leg 9: San Miniato - Gambassi Terme
Kilometers: 24 400 ascent 220 descent
How to get to the departure point: Florence-Pisa-Livorno railway line, S. Miniato station
Highlights: This is an exceptionally beautiful path into the hills of Val d'Elsa where you can see castles, forts, hospitals and abbeys along the Via Francigena. After the Coiano parish church and the parish church of Santa Maria in Chianni you will reach Gambassi, known for its hot springs.
Francigena Leg 10: Gambassi Terme - San Gimignano
Kilometers: 13.4 350 ascent 350 descent
How to get to the departure point: SITA buses (phone number: +39 055 483651) from Certaldo, Castelfiorentino, Empoli, Florence, Volterra.
Highlights: It is a brief itinerary that shows the beauty of the ridges of the Val d'Elsa dotted with the castles and abbeys born thanks to the passage of the Via Francigena in the area. The end of the journey is in San Gimignano, one of the most popular destinations of Tuscany. Read more about San Gimignano.
Francigena Leg 11: San Gimignano - Monteriggioni
Kilometers: 31 Kilometers passing through Colle Val d'Elsa: 27.5 550 m / 460 m ascent 610 m / 400 m descent
Difficulty: very challenging
How to get to the departure point: Empoli-Siena railway line, Poggibonsi station; bus line 130 for San Gimignano
Highlights: It is one of the most beautiful legs of the Via Francigena. The path begins with up and down in the valley of the Foci river, near Molino d'Aiano. Then you will see the Romanesque church of Santa Maria a Coneo, you cross the bridge over the Elsa to reach the Romanesque church of San Martino di Strove and then you reach Abbadia a Isola. Lastly, you reach Monteriggioni, with its ring of walls and towers that dominate the surrounding hills. Read more about Monteriggioni.
Francigena Leg 12: Monteriggioni - Siena
Kilometers: 20.6 300 m ascent 250 descent
How to get to the departure point: Empoli-Siena railway line, Castellina Scalo station
Highlights: Leave Monteriggioni behind you and walk along the unpaved roads to the medieval village of Cerbaia, you reach the Chiocciola castle and Villa castle before descending toward Pian del Lago. Reach Porta Camollia, the traditional Via Francigena entrance to Siena and visit Piazza del Campo, the Duomo and the hospital of Santa Maria della Scala.
Francigena Leg 13: Siena - Ponte d’Arbia
Kilometers: 25.7 130 m ascent 300 m descent
How to get to the departure point: Empoli-Siena-Grosseto and Siena-Chiusi railway lines, Siena station
Highlights: This leg which runs along the unpaved roads of the Val d'Arbia leads to the Grancia di Cuna, an ancient fortified farm. Continuing along the foothills of the Crete Senesi, you reach Quinciano. A short distance away is the fortified town of Lucignano d'Arbia, with the Romanesque church of San Giovanni Battista.
Francigena Leg 14: Ponte d’Arbia - San Quirico d’Orcia
Kilometres: 26.1 560 m ascent 300 m descent
How to get to the departure point: Siena-Grosseto railway, to Buonconvento station, and bus line 112
Highlights: The path leads to the fourteenth century village of Buonconvento, through the Crete Senesi. After Montalcino you cross the Val d'Orcia until San Quirico, where you can visit the romanesque church of santa Maria Assunta.
Francigena Leg 15: San Quirico d’Orcia - Radicofani
Kilometres: 32.3 950 m ascent 550 m descent
Difficulty: very challenging
How to get to the departure point: from Siena or Buonconvento railway stations or bus line 112
Highlights: From San Quirico you head to Bagno Vignoni, with its characteristic pool of thermal water in the centre of the village. From here you continue to Castiglione d'Orcia and then to Radicofani, the village dominated by the Rocca. More about Radicofani.
Francigena Leg 16: Radicofani - Acquapendente Via Proceno
Kilometres: 31.7 600 m ascent 780 m descent
Kilometres: 24 220 m ascent 400 m descent
How to get to the departure point: from Chiusi train station and Tiemme bus.
Highlights: This is the last section of the Via Francigena in Tuscany before entering in Lazio Region.
More info on visit.viefrancigene.org
This is an update of a previous post written by Serena Puosi.