The Via Francigena The most famous pilgrimage route to Rome

The Via Francigena

The most famous pilgrimage route to Rome

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The most famous of the "Romee ways" is undoubtedly the "Via Francigena". An ancient pilgrimage route, which starts from the city of Canterbury in England to reach the tomb of St. Peter in the Vatican city in Italy. The modern route follows in the footsteps of the pilgrimage to Rome described in the travel diary of the Archbishop of Canterbury “Sigeric”, who in 990 went to the Pope to collect the pallium ( It is an easy path to walk, without technical difficulties, which develops along mountain paths, mule tracks, countryside roads and minor roads, carefully designed to be traveled by everyone and at all ages. Almost two thousand kilometers long, it winds through Italy, Switzerland, France and England, crossing territories rich in history and culture.

Map of The Via Francigena

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main starting points:

The Via Francigena in Italy: from the Gran San Bernardo to Rome.

The Italian section of the Via Francigena is about 1000 km long, it generally takes 45 days to be walked, crossing the regions of the Valle d’Aosta, Piedmont, Emilia Romagna, Liguria, Tuscany and Lazio. The stages of this ancient pilgrimage route will bring you to explore, at a slow pace, famous cities as well as provincial towns and small villages rich in history and culture.

The Via Francigena From the Gran San Bernardo Pass to Ivrea.

The Gran San Bernardo Pass marks the entrance to the Via Francigena in Italy. With its 2.473m it is the highest point of the entire route. From here there are 115 km to get to Ivrea which can be reached in 6 days of walking.

The Gran San Bernardo pass is a fundamental communication route for crossing the Alps. Snow-covered for about 6 months a year, it can be covered on foot from June to October. When it is closed for those arriving from Switzerland, the only possible alternative is to take a bus of the Savda company from Bourg St. Pierre to Bosses.

In the year 1035, Saint Bernard of Menton built a hospice to welcome and refresh the many pilgrims who passed by. In that same place the Augustine friars have now welcomed the walkers of the Francigena for over a millennium.Even today it is possible to visit the old hospice and the adjacent kennel of the famous St. Bernard dogs, once trained to be used in avalanche relief and still raised by the canons.

From Colle del San Bernardo you enter the Valle d’Aosta, a region that will surprise you with the beauty of its paths, vineyards, castles and Roman remains.

You descend towards the valley, encountering pretty mountain villages until you reach the village of Saint Rhemy en Bosses, the first important town on the Italian side. The Archbishop of Canterbury stayed here on his return from his pilgrimage to Rome, before crossing the pass.

The route continues on a gentle descent along the characteristic irrigation canals called "rus" until reaching Aosta, a city rich in history and culture. Among the various attractions of the city worthy of note are the Arch of Augustus, the Roman Theater and the splendid historic center with the beautiful Piazza Émile Chanoux.

The Roman presence is significant with the routes of the ancient Gaulish road and the medieval and Renaissance defensive infrastructures that dominate the route, such as the Issogne Castle, the Verrès Castle, the Bard Fort and the Donnas Arch.

After passing the town of Pont-Saint-Martin with the splendid Roman bridge you reach the region Piedmont, where the slopes become less demanding. You pass through gentle hills cultivated with Carema vineyards and then continue on paths immersed in the woods, until you reach the Pieve di San Lorenzo, one of the most famous Romanesque architectural complexes in Piedmont, which has always been an important stop on the Via Francigena.

The path continues through the hills and small medieval villages until you reach Ivrea, the capital of the Canavese area, famous for its Carnival with the battle of the oranges. This picturesque historic village located in a dominant position on a hill is totally worth a visit.

The Via Francigena from Ivrea to Pavia

The stretch of the Via Francigena from Ivrea to Pavia marks the passage from the rolling hills of Piedmont to the Po Valley. From here there are 145 km to get to Pavia which are covered in 7 days of walking.

Along the way there is the Serra, the largest moraine in Europe, a very interesting geological formation. Accompanied by country paths and spectacular views of Lake Viverone, you reach Cavaglià, famous for the "Menhir": ancient megalithic monuments.

Thus you immerse yourselves in the rice fields of the Po valley and cross the Biella countryside that will lead you to Vercelli. Along the way, the Vettignè Castle in Santhià, a pretty town and an important stopping point on the Via Francigena, is worth a visit.

You reach Vercelli, a famous art city, guardian of a rich artistic and cultural heritage. Worthy of note, its characteristic historic center surrounded by millenary towers, the Basilica of Sant'Andrea, the Duomo and Piazza Cavour, also known as "Piazza Maggiore".

Following the Sesia river, you arrive at Robbio, famous for two precious Romanesque jewels: the monastery of S. Valeriano and the Church of San Pietro, where there was a welcome point and stop for pilgrims.

Crossing the flat countryside of Lomellina, you then get to Mortara, where you can admire the countless monuments and many places of historical interest, such as the basilica of San Lorenzo, the abbey of Santa Croce and the abbey of Sant'Albino, this being the last stop for pilgrims.

Then the route continues along the Pavia countryside to enter the Ticino Park, with its suggestive views of the river. This leads to Pavia, a magnificent town whose artistic heritage reveals a glorious past: it was first the capital of the Lombard Kingdom and later an important agglomeration under the Roman Empire. Among the main tourist attractions you can admire the Basilica of San Michele Maggiore, the Visconti Castle, the Basilica of San Pietro in Ciel d'Oro and the Cathedral.

The Via Francigena from Lucca

Lucca is one of the most popular starting points to start the Via Francigena. From this town there are 400 km to reach Rome, which can be covered in two or three weeks, depending on your pace and physical preparation.

Lucca has always attracted pilgrims from all over Europe who come to venerate the acheropite relic "of the Holy Face", the famous wooden crucifix kept in the Cathedral of San Martino. In addition to being an important crossing point for the Via Francigena, it is also the confluence point of the Via del Volto Santo and the Camino di San Jacopo, important pilgrimage routes in Tuscany. In the historical center there are numerous ancient hospitals erected for the shelter and refreshment for pilgrims.

Worthy of note is its splendid, perfectly preserved historic center, and its beautiful sixteenth-century walls. The imposing Basilica of San Michele in Foro (8th century) erected in the center of the ancient Roman forum, and the Cathedral of San Martino are certainly worth a visit.

The Via Francigena in Tuscany from Lucca to Siena

The stretch of Francigena included in the territory of Tuscany crosses fantastic landscapes, rich in history, culture, food and wine tradition. Famous cities of art, small medieval villages, churches and castles alternate themselves in this enchanting landscape. The stretch from Lucca to Siena is unquestionably one of the most famous and magical stretches of the entire journey. About 130 km long, it can be covered in a week.

It is a path suitable for everyone that can be tackled at any time of the year. Making use of a capillary well-distributed tourist accommodation, the stages can be divided according to one's abilities or cultural interests.

Starting from Lucca, the city of the "Holy Face", you go up to San Miniato, an ancient medieval village perched in a dominant position over the Val d’Elsa.The town is a historic stopping point on the Via Francigena, it is also mentioned by Sigeric in his travelogue to Rome. The small historic center preserves an ancient fortress of Lombard origin and a beautiful Episcopal Seminary with a characteristic concave facade, decorated externally in the first half of the 1700s with frescoes and quadrature.

Then you continue along the beautiful hilly ridges of the Val d'Elsa, dismayed by cypresses, castles and abbeys. On the way you will find the Pieve di Coiano, and the Pieve a Chianni, the perfect place to take a break, thanks to the presence of refreshment areas and a fountain. This leads to Gambassi Terme, a Tuscan village famous for its thermal baths that hides in the characteristic red brick historic center, interesting historic buildings and monuments, such as, for example, the Church of Santa Cristina and the Church of Cristo Re.

Leaving Gambassi you immerse yourself in the beauty of the Tuscan countryside, crossing woods and vineyards, until you see the medieval village of San Gimignano, with its famous towers that dominate the horizon.

San Gimignano, an important commercial center at the intersection of the Via Francigena and the "Via del Sale", which connected Pisa with Siena, has maintained its medieval atmosphere intact. Its historic center, perfectly preserved, dating back to the year 200 -300 is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. On its top stands the Rocca di Montestaffoli from where you can enjoy a unique view of the city and its fifteen towers. Take the time to visit the historic center with its artisan shops, and its churches, which develop around the Piazza della Cisterna, the beating heart of the city.

Leaving San Gimignano you immerse yourself in one of the most beautiful stages of the Via Francigena. Between vineyards, olive trees, white roads you meet lovely small medieval villages. Among the most important ones there is Strove, with the parish church of Santa Maria a Castello, built in 994 by the lords of Staggia, the castle of Petraio and Abbadia a Isola with its imposing abbey.

Continue on dirt roads until you reach Monteriggioni, a citadel fortified by the Sienese in 1213 against the Florentine advance. Monteriggioni is called "The door of the Middle Ages", thanks to its stone walls, still intact, which embrace the top of a hill with a length of about 570 meters. This feature makes it one of the most beautiful Italian medieval villages.

Leaving the walls behind, through dirt paths, you reach Cerbaia, an ancient medieval village, unfortunately today in a state of neglect.

You then cross the Renai wood before arriving at Porta Camollia, the traditional Francigenous access to Siena. Here you can admire the artistic and cultural beauties of a city that still perfectly preserves its medieval structure and which was, for this reason, included in the UNESCO World Heritage Sites since 1995.

Take the time to visit it, you will be charmed by the historic center, the marvelous Piazza del Campo, the Duomo and the complex of Santa Maria della Scala, famous for being one of the oldest hospitals in Europe, where pilgrims of the Via Francigena were welcomed. Siena is also well known for the tradition linked mainly to its district rivalry and the famous Palio.

The Via Francigena from Viterbo to Rome

Another popular starting point of the Via Francigena is Viterbo, a pretty town in Tuscia. From here there is about 100 km to reach Rome, which can be covered in 5 days. The route does not present technical difficulties or particular differences in height, it is therefore suitable for everyone and it is particularly suited to those who have little time available and still want to experience the thrill of walking to the tomb of St. Peter and obtain the Testimonium.

Viterbo has Etruscan origins, but reached its maximum splendor between 1100 and 1300 when it became the Papal residence, earning the nickname "City of the Popes". It still holds the largest medieval historic center in the world, with some well-preserved neighborhoods. Do not forget to visit the San Pellegrino district, the Palazzo dei Papi and the Duomo.

Leaving the suggestive medieval center of Viterbo, you cross the countryside and the woods between dirt roads and up and down paths, thus arriving in Vetralla. From here, through a suggestive landscape of woods and hazelnut groves, you reach the "Torri d'Orlando", ruins of two funerary monuments from the Roman era, where, according to legend, Orlando, the brave paladin and nephew of Charlemagne, loved to find rest between one adventure and another.

The stopping point par excellence here is the beautiful village of Sutri, whose origins are very ancient: you can admire the beautiful Roman amphitheater, completely excavated in the tuff, and the amazing Madonna del Parto, built over a Roman mithraeum inside an Etruscan necropolis.

The route continues through fields until you reach the Monte Gelato waterfalls, where the waters of the Treja stream offer refreshment to the feet of passing pilgrims. Enter the Parco di Veio, and follow a steep climb, which leads to the gates of Campagnano di Roma, where you can admire artistic and cultural beauties from its glorious medieval past.

Leaving Campagnano behind, you cross the Sorbo Valley and climb towards the historic village of Formello, which develops around Palazzo Chigi, the main building that also houses the pilgrim's hostel.

Then continue in the countryside of the Vejo Park, up to the ford of the Valchetta stream. In lean seasons it is easily overcome, but it must be absolutely avoided in case of flood. This leads to Isola Farnese and continuing on the state road you arrive at La Storta.

The approach to Rome, unfortunately, involves a long stretch on the Cassia road and a few other busy roads, up to the park of Monte Mario and Monte della Gioia, where you can see the first views of Rome and the dome of St. Peter. Once down the hill, take the last stretch that leads to the Vatican walls and St. Peter's Square.

The Via Francigena and its variants

Alternative routes are available to the main itinerary, which reflect the numerous changes that the Via Francigena has undergone over the centuries due to plagues and changes in political power, but they are also opportunities to discover enchanting towns on the edge of the main route.

Some examples:

After San Gimignano, you come to the variant that connects Colle Val d'Elsa. This detour shortens the official route by 3 km and allows you to visit the pretty town, perched on a hill, with its enchanting historic center and splendid shops. Colle Val d'Elsa is also mentioned by the Archbishop Sigeric of Canterbury in his travel diary for the ancient urban stretch "the Via del Castello". Today it is known above all for its crystal production, so much so that it is nicknamed the Bohemia of Italy.

The variant for Abbadia San Salvatore branches off near the village of Bagno di San Filippo, famous for its thermal springs. An ancient road that re-proposes one of the early medieval routes to go up to the monastery and allows you to visit the historic village, a crossroads for pilgrims. The parchment "May 4 876" is preserved in the Abbey Museum of Abbadia San Salvatore, the oldest written attestation of the Via Francigena, which testifies to the passage of the route in lower Tuscany.

From Ponte a Rigo you can detour, to avoid a very busy stretch of the Via Cassia, for the hilly variant that passes through the medieval village of Proceno. Definitely longer than the official itinerary, but safer and with splendid views of the underlying Val di Paglia. In this characteristic village, you can find a home in the ancient courtyard of Cardinal Guido Ascanio Sforza, who nowadays welcomes pilgrims in the charming and small municipal hostel. Proceno is the first town on the Lazio side of the Via Francigena, from here you can reach Rome in a week.

After Viterbo there is the Cimina variant of the Via Francigena. This route, already known in Roman times, reached its greatest importance when Viterbo became the dominant center of Upper Lazio. The route divides after Viterbo climbing up the Cimini mountains, bypassing Lake Vico to the east and crossing the towns of Ronciglione and Nepi, to rejoin the main route near Monterosi.

From the city of Viterbo there are about 100 km to reach Rome, a journey that takes about 4 days. In addition to the splendid naturalistic value of this variant, Ronciglione is also worthy of note: a characteristic medieval village of Tuscia, built in the tuff.

Plan your route with the The Via Francigena App

With our guides you will be able to personalize duration and difficulty of the routes based on your own wishes and walking pace. In a few clicks you can create your personalized hiking guides. Choose your starting point, your arrival point and, if you wish, even a middle point where to take a break.

Download or print the PDF guide of The Via Francigena

The Forwalk paper guide is an A5 format mini-book with all the information on your chosen paths, the detailed maps, the list of hotels and much more. It is very easy to consult and to carry along during your trip. This guide is completely personalized to your needs and made available to you digitally (Acrobat Reader PDF file), to be accessed through smartphones and tablets or printed by you. You can also order it already printed in color on glossy paper, and delivered to you as a finely bound book.

Download the gpx routes map of The Via Francigena

GPX tracks are maps that you can download on GPS device to take with you on your walk. Our GPX tracks include routes with details of places such as shops, restaurants, lodgings, drinking fountains and springs.

Our GPX tracks are tested on the following devices : Garmin ETREX 22x, Garmin eTrex Touch 35, Garmin Oregon 700, Garmin GPS MAP 66