The Via Francigena, that is “the road that comes from France”, starts from Canterbury Cathedral in southern England, crosses Kent, meanders along the Somme and its World War I battlefields in northern France, over the Swiss Alps and down into Italy’s Aosta valley.
From there it passes through the regions of Tuscany and Lazio before finishing at St Peter’s Basilica in Rome, the end game for pilgrims. It’s one of the three big Christian pilgrimages, together with the renowned Spanish Camino de Santiago and the lesser known pilgrimage from Rome to Jerusalem.
For more than 1,000 years, pilgrims have walked the Via Francigena, once the major pilgrimage route from Northern Europe to the Holy See at Rome. In 990AD, Sigeric the Serious, Archbishop of Canterbury in England, walked to Rome and wrote an account of the Way. My pick would be to follow Sigeric's route in Italy between the cities of Lucca and Siena. Here's an enviable itinerary from The Wayfarers.
Monday Overnight: Hotel San Miniato
The morning begins with a cycle ride around the magnificently preserved 16th-century ramparts of Lucca. After a short transfer and an early lunch, we start our journey on the Way. The route takes us past the ancient Osteria di Greppi, through woodland and over heathland, finishing at Ponte a Cappiano. From here we transfer to San Miniato, where Michelangelo met with Pope Clement VII who commissioned the great artist to paint the Sistine Chapel.
Tuesday Overnight: Hotel Villa Bianca
After a short transfer to the start of our walk we will take trails through fields and along white roads to Coiano where we visit the wine cellars and old olive mill of the Castello di Coiano, before continuing through olive groves and vineyards to lunch at a farm. After lunch we will continue through the rolling countryside to the Pieve di Santa Maria a Chianni then a short transfer to Gambassi Terme.
Wednesday Overnight: Hotel Belsoggiorno
Our journey today takes us up and downhill along dirt roads through farmland to the Sanctuary of Pancole. We lunch at the Fattoria di Pancole and visit the wine cellars that produce some of the famous Vernaccia white wine. Our afternoon Walk takes us to the Monastero di Bose, a monastic community made up of both men and women of different Christian beliefs. Short transfer to San Gimignano, with a guided tour of the town.
Thursday Overnight: Hotel Belsoggiorno
After a short transfer we walk through hilly countryside and across streams passing farms to Campiglia, then on to Colle Val d'Elsa, a walled medieval town on the Via Francigena and famous for its crystal glass, which has been produced since 1331. After lunch in a local restaurant there is time to visit the town before driving back to San Gimignano.
Friday Overnight: Villa Scaccia Pensieri
Transfer to the start of our walk. The walk this morning takes us through Abbadia a Isola where we visit the Cistercian abbey dating back to 1001 before continuing on to Monteriggioni set within its medieval walls with towers that Dante likened to giant sentries.