The Via Francigena is not a unique way, but a stack of streets that, beginning in Canterbury, England, leads to Rome. It is a yielding path, with lots of alternatives, and it is one of the main peregrine paths, together with Camino de Santiago and the Pilgrimage to the Holy Land.
The total length is 1600 km and the itinerary crosses Dover, Calais, Reims, Besançon , Losanna, down to the Alps, to Ivrea and Vercelli. From there, starts the most famous part of the itinerary, through Pavia and the Appennines, Piacenza, Parma, the Ducato di Montebello, Segalara, Fornovo di Taro, Berceto. It pop out on the sea, through Pontremoli, Lucca, Porcari, Altopascio, Galleno, Ponte a Cappiano, Fucecchio, San Gimignano, Colle di Val d’Elsa, Siena,Montefiascone, Viterbo and finally Rome. Every single village or city crossed by this path has its uniqueness and history. There are spots for every taste, from the high mountains to the mottled coast. The main stretch of it is in Italy, so it is impossible not to be left breathless, experiencing its variety of landscapes and culture.
Until the 1970s, the Via Francigena was forgotten under the cement of motorways or streets, built on the routes that were more used in the past. Since those years, a growing interest was born and travelers from all over the world started to mark the path and to ask for the identification of the itinerary. In 2011 they obtained the placement of unofficial signs to recognize it. At the same time, an increasing number of structures started to be arranged to host the peregrines and to give them the stamp to put on their Credenziale del Pellegrino, a small book where is certificated that the owner is a pilgrim walking the Via Francigena way.
To start this adventure, some physical training is necessary and above all, an interest and a wish shining into the heart. This is the pilgrimage that San Francesco made centuries ago and it is not really a simple stroll.
Even if is less famous than the Spanish pilgrimage, every year there are hundreds of pilgrims hitting this road, that as I said before, can be started from different points, going up or down. More informations can be found at the main website.
On September 18th, there is the Via Francigena Festival, set up in Aigle (CH). A great occasion to discover curiosities, stories, to taste local products and to motivate yourself to start this whole experience.