While the Camino de Santiago is probably the most famous pilgrims’ way, there are other equally beautiful and less-crowded alternatives for people looking for stunning landscapes, great food and tons of European history: one of them is the Via Francigena. We note there is a longer variant of this route which starts in Canterbury and ends in Rome, but this article is dedicated to the Via Francigena di San Francesco, or Saint Francis Way, in Italy!
This interesting pilgrims’ route connects the La Verna Sanctuary, near Arezzo in Tuscany, with the eternal (and holy) city of Rome, passing; around 500 km of roads which bring the travelers back to medieval time and give them a taste of an authentic and often forgotten part of Italy.
History of Via Francigena
The history of this route goes back to the Medieval times, as it connects places which were important in the life of St. Francis (1181/1182-1226), one of the patron saints of Italy. It’s not surprising that the city of Assisi, where he was born and also died, is at the centre of this route. La Verna Sanctuary, the starting (or finishing) point of this journey, is instead quite a mystical place. It is here that St. Francis, according to legends, received the stigmata in 1224. Overall, all the places on St. Francis Way, which belonged to the Holy Roman Empire first and then to the Papal State, have an historical and religious background connected with St. Francis and his followers. People will notice different accents, food and architecture during their journey, but all are connected with the life of one of the most venerated saints in Christianity.
Via Francigena Maps
Via Francigena passes through three Italian regions: Tuscany where La Verna Sanctuary is located, Umbria, where people can visit St. Francis’s city, Assisi, and Latium, the region of Rome. While the Eternal City does not need presentations, there are many beautiful locations to explore along the way: other than Assisi, there are Città di Castello, Foligno, Rieti and Spoleto, just to name a few, as well as various sanctuaries.
How Long is Via Francigena?
The total distance of Via Francigena is around 500 km. This route is often divided in two parts: the Northern Way (La Verna-Assisi, around 200 km) and the Southern Way (Assisi-Rome, around 300 km); the full route is also known as the Roman Way. Some people may prefer to cycle instead of walk (the route is well suited for bikes).
When is the Best Time to Walk Via Francigena?
Spring (from late April to early June) and autumn (from September to early October) are definitely the best periods to organize an adventure along Via Francigena. The weather is mild, roads and cities are not crowded and the nature is really beautiful. In winter some roads may be closed because of rain or snow, while in summer it is quite hot and cities could either be full of tourists or completely deserted.
Accommodation on Via Francigena
One of the pilgrims’ greatest concerns is usually accommodation. Luckily, as for other popular routes, there is a good choice of hostels, hotels and B&B’s along the way; camping could also be an option in some specific places in summer. Historical villas and religious hostels should also be considered by people with a more artistic or religious side.
Best Guide Book for Via Francigena
If you wish to learn more about Via Francigena (or maybe you’re already packing!), we suggest The LightFoot Guide to the via Francigena, a great guide book where you can find many useful tips and information about this path. The perfect tool for those who wish to get a deeper understanding of this fascinating, yet less-known, route. It also contains sections about the route from Canterbury to Italy, if you’re thinking of extending your pilgrimage!