Equipped with staffs and panniers, the medieval pilgrims from central and eastern Europe – from what we would nowadays call Poland, Hungary and Croation – would start out on the road for the centre of Italy, joining the Via Francigena around Fucecchio and San Miniato, in Tuscany. From here, their path took them to any one of a number of holy places: to Rome, Santiago de Compostela, even Jerusalem, which they would sail to from one of Italy’s western ports.
Nowadays, we can follow in the footsteps of these pilgrims of central-eastern Europe by walking the Romea Strata: a collective of pilgrimage routes that amounts to more than 1400km by tracing north-east Italy’s ancient system of roads. It carries the modern pilgrim towards the Via Francigena, but has to cross Trentino-Alto Adige, Veneto and Friuli Venezia Giulia to get there. In the lower Veneto, a delta of five main routes converge and the way proceeds as one along a stretch of the Romea Strata known as the Romea Nonantolana-Longobarda, a unique route that bisects Emilia-Romagna from north to south and crosses the Apennines to puncture Tuscany via the Pistoiese mountains.
Tuscany stages the final 108 km of the route, which are also the last six sections of the Nonantolana-Longobarda. From Cutigliano and other Pistoiese mountain villages, you descend towards Pistoia and then head for Montalbano and the homelands of Leonardo da Vinci. Before arriving at Fucecchio and San Miniato, indeed, the Romea Strata ensures you discover Anchiano, Vinci and Cerreto Guidi.