By walking or cycling along these trails, you will have the opportunity to live a full experience, that engages mind and body. If you love active vacations that combine sport, history, nature and culture, you absolutely must go on an exciting trip on the fascinating Via Francigena, or part of it, at least once in life!
Around the World in 80 days (or something like this)
The history of the paths of the Via Francigena began long time ago, in 990, when the Archbishop of Canterbury, Sigeric, made a pilgrimage in 79 days to return to England from Rome. Here, he received the pallium by the Pope John XV, who invited him to note all the various stages of his journey.
This itinerary, even though it is one of the most famous trails, is certainly not the only one. There are very numerous ancient pilgrims’ ways, traversed over the centuries by different people for religious purposes (and not only) and come down to us. The final destination of every pilgrimage was Rome, where there is the Holy See: this is why these paths are also known as “Roman Ways”. Whereas the meaning of the phrase “Via Francigena” is related to a route which departed from France.
In the last years, in particular, the active and sustainable vacations have been taken hold and, for this reason, all the European Ways have been enhanced and made safer. Moreover, the ancient history that characterizes them enriched the various itineraries of the Francigena Way of beauty and curiosities, making them perfect for an experiential journey.
All roads lead to Rome
It is said that "All roads lead to Rome" and, indeed, that is right: the Italian and European roadway systems, which have been developed over the centuries, have their main hub in the city known as “caput mundi”. The ancient Romans built a futuristic road network that allowed to connect Rome to the remotest provinces of the wide Empire.
This imposing road network revealed itself being extremely strategic both from a geopolitical point of view and from a commercial point of view. The Roman roads have developed over the time, allowing men and goods to move far and wide throughout Europe already in the Middle Age, when they knew a very prosperous period, thanks also to the Christian pilgrimages.
The various itineraries of the Francigena Way highly contributed to keep active the ancient roads, which were traversed by many pilgrims who walked the route to Rome or to the Holy Land, besides merchants and travellers.
The ancient pilgrims’ ways hid thousands of pitfalls. Pilgrims often used to cover long distances on foot to reach a shrine where to fulfil a vow or to express their contrition, or just for mere devotion. They crossed unknown territories, where they risked to meet many dangers and unexpected situations: forests inhabited by every kind of outlaws, alpine passes, epidemics, military conflicts, charges for crossing rivers, adverse weather conditions. However, many people undertook these long routes, particularly enticed by the miraculous powers attributed to the relics preserved in the sanctuaries towards which they travelled.
Before starting the unpredictable journey, pilgrims used to make a will, appoint the descendants, pay off the debts and make arrangements for the administration of their patrimony, when it was not left to the Church. But the preparation was also spiritual: they made peace with their enemies and went to confession, to get rid of the ballast of their sins.
Along the way, the pilgrim could find refreshment at the hostels, managed by religious. Once reached the destination of the pilgrimage, they used to pin on their own clothes a badge witnessing the fulfilment of a vow.
The European Ways today
The ancient pilgrims’ ways are, today, safe paths, enhanced from the cultural and historical points of view. Retracing the steps of the Medieval devotees is an experience that goes beyond the simple tourism: it is a journey made by the feet and by the mind and that enriches anyone.
There is no need to be particularly athletic to venture on one of the itineraries of the Via Francigena: there is plenty for everyone, of variable distances and difficulty.
A slow tour, immersed, most of the times, in the lush nature and in enchanting sceneries, will let you breathe the tranquility of pleasant places, will offer you introspective inputs and will leave you with unforgettable memories.
Here are some of the most beautiful European Ways:
- The Francigena Way: the original trail, as we mentioned above, goes from Canterbury to Rome, but today the itinerary continues to Santa Maria di Leuca. We have talked about the Via Francigena in the South here.
- The Way of St. James (Camino de Santiago): an ancient path of about 800 km which arrives to Compostela. It surely is the most famous route in Europe and can be traversed on foot, by bike or even by horse! There is also another way which arrives to Compostela from Portugal, the Portuguese Way.
- Via Dinarica Trail: an unmissable way that winds in the Balkan area for a total of almost 2000 km among really awesome landscapes in Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia and Bosnia Herzegovina.
The proposals by Slow Active Tours
With Slow Active Tours you can live exciting hiking experiences along the ancient pilgrims’ ways of the Francigena Way.
One of our latest proposals is Along the Magna Via Francigena trail: from Palermo to Agrigento on foot. The tour is a full immersion into the culture and the traditions of the largest island in the Mediterranean Sea, which has always been theatre of meeting among different people. Moreover, the wonderful natural landscapes of Sicily make all even more suggestive.
You cannot neither miss the southern Via Francigena, which winds from Lecce to Santa Maria di Leuca, along the Adriatic side of Salento. The places and people you will meet during your walking still preserve a precious authenticity, which will allow you to discover ancient secrets of a very beautiful land.
You just have to wear your coziest shoes and put on your backpack: let us set off for an incredible experience along the itineraries of the Via Francigena!