The Via Francigena Canterbury to Rome - Part 2
The Great St Bernard Pass to Rome
By Alison Raju
An essential guidebook for anyone planning to walk the Via Francigena pilgrim route from Canterbury to Rome. Part 2 describes 940km of the pilgrimage from the Great St Bernard Pass to Rome. Contains all the planning information you need for your journey, including details of facilities and accommodation along the route.
Seasonsthe Great Saint-Bernard Pass is only accessible from late-May to mid-October so the pilgrim walking the entire route in one go will need to take this into account; the weather can be extremely hot in the summer but in late autumn/winter the daylight hours available for walking are drastically reduced
Centresthis second part of the route goes though Aosta, Ivrea, Pavia, Piacenza, Fidenza, over the Cisa Pass, through Pontremoli, Aulla, Sarzana, Pietrasanta, Lucca, San Gimignano, Siena, Bolsena, Viterbo and Sutri, finishing in Rome
Difficultyapart from the steep descent from the Great Saint-Bernard pass (2473m), the section over the Cisa Pass (1041m) and the constant ups and downs in Tuscany, this route presents no difficulties for anyone in normal health who is reasonably fit
Must Seea pilgrimage on foot from Canterbury to Rome, starting, in this second volume, at the crossing of the Alps by the Great Saint-Bernard Pass on the border between Switzerland and Italy and finishing in Rome
The Via Francigena is an almighty 1900km pilgrim trail from Canterbury to Rome. It leads down through relatively flat sections in north-eastern France, then reaches the mountainous Jura, continues through Switzerland and crosses the strenuous Great St Bernard Pass over the Alps, before heading through Italy to arrive at the Eternal City of Rome.
Taking an average of three months to complete on foot, pilgrims have been undertaking the Via Francigena since the 8th century, and it is one of Europe's great pilgrimages. From the halfway point at the Great St Bernard Pass in the Alps, this book splits the second half of the pilgrimage into five sections (with further start points in Vercelli, Passo della Cisa, Lucca and Siena) and concludes by arriving at St Peter's Square in Rome. All five start points are places where pilgrims can easily reach or leave the route by means of public transport, should they wish to tackle the journey in shorter stages.
In general the Via Francigena is well and clearly waymarked in Italy, although the style, design and colour of the signs varies quite a lot. Along much of the way is the red and white adhesive tape of the official route, marked with a black pilgrim silhouette to distinguish it from other long-distance footpaths. In other places are the older markers with either a yellow or a brown and yellow pilgrim carrying a bundle on his back, as well as the yellow and white stickers.
Most people who walk the Via Francigena are not experienced walkers. Walking a pilgrim trail, throughout history, has always been a means to an end and walking a means of transport. This makes the route suitable for all reasonably fit people. It passes through many historic towns and villages, with interesting churches, cathedrals and religious monuments to see and visit along the way.
• second 940km of the route described in detail, with colour sketch maps
• details of facilities along the route as well as information about all the key sights
• Part 2 of a 2-part guide covering the full route. Part 1 describes the trail from Canterbury to the Great St Bernard Pass
Pilgrims through the centuries
Route design and terrain
Preparing for your journey
Choosing your companions
Planning your pilgrimage
A challenging pilgrim route
Planning the day
Other practical information
Using this guide
1 Great St Bernard Pass to Vercelli
2 Vercelli to the Passo della Cisa
3 Passo della Cisa to Lucca
4 Lucca to Siena
5 Siena to Rome
Appendix A Visiting the Sigeric Churches in Rome
Appendix B Sigeric stages in Italy
Appendix C San Rocco churches and iconography
Appendix D Further reading
Appendix E Italian–English glossary
Appendix F Useful contacts
Appendix G Obtaining the Testimonium
Appendix H Index of maps
Appendix I Index of principal place names
Appendix J Summary of the route
Except for a few mountainous areas (that surrounding Mont Blanc, for instance) there are no maps of Italy available to the general public (only the army) covering the whole country at a scale of 1:25,000, 1:50,000 or 1:100,000 – in other words, at a scale you can walk from. This means it is not possible, as you can in Britain, for example, or France, with its excellent IGN maps, to go into a general bookshop and purchase a map of the areas through which the route passes at any of these scales. There is therefore no uniform mapping to work from, so sketch maps of the route at a consistent scale (1:200,000; 1cm = 2km) are included in this guide and route-finding information is therefore extremely detailed, with turn-by-turn directions.
There is, however, from Vercelli (at the start of Section 2) onwards, a set of specially prepared maps for the Via Francigena by Monica D’Atti and Franco Cinti; designed to accompany their guidebook, the maps are also sold separately (see Appendix D for details). These, at the somewhat unusual scale of 1:30,000, include heights, distances and GPS coordinates, and are in the form of three very large sheets designed to be separated into long perforated strips. Each strip depicts one daily stage (with the next one on the reverse), and they are very easy to walk from. They have been updated since they were first produced in 2007, and the third edition was published in November 2012. It is highly recommended that you buy them (they are available from general bookshops in Italy, from www.amazon.it, from Stanfords in London and The Map Shop in Upton-on-Severn – see addresses in Appendix F), as even if they vary slightly from the current waymarking you will always know where you are. Make sure, however, that you get the latest edition.
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Since the 2014 edition there have been many route changes so we advise you to follow the signs and other waymarking.
Lucca to Rome section:
There are additional bars and cafes at:
page 225 Pancole
page 230 Strove
page 234 just before Castello della Villa (donativo)
page 260 Ponte Gregoriano
page 270 Bagnaccio (inside the thermal springs, which are free for pilgrims)
page 274 service station on motorway (access through high gate)
Page 180 Topelecca di Sopra
Taberna Potami- Mongolian Yurt accommodation available offering vegetarian food for 4 - 6 person dinner and B&B.
We are grateful to Lennart Agestam for the following update and accommodation recommendation:
Section 5 – Siena to Rome
page 285, 4th paragraph
There is a new short-cut to Isola Farnese, which saves having to ford the Torrente Valchetta:
Turn L onto the Via Monte Michele, following it as it winds its way uphill. After 1km, where the main track swings L to follow the tree-line, turn R onto a broad footpath leading down into the forest. Keep on this path for 2.5km until you come to a T-junction. Turn R onto the Vicolo Formellese, following it R at the next junction. After a further 150m, turn L onto a small gravel road which takes you over the hill, before dropping down to the attractive waterfall, Cascata della Mola, and old water mill. Cross the bridge and follow the road (the Via Riserva Campetti) for about 800m until you reach a junction: turn R here onto the Via Isola Farnese to rejoin the main route (see page 286).
Both the main route (orange) and the short-cut (pink) are shown on the Via Francigene website:
In Isola Farnese:
Case Nostra Signora (a hotel run by nuns)
1826 Via Cassia,
tel (+39) 06 3089 0863
Valpromaro (16km before Lucca)
Casa del Pelligrino, Via Communale 15 (in village, near the church) has pilgrim accommodation with 35 beds, showers, communal dinner, breakfast provided, washing machine.
Open all year and has place for bikes, horses, mules. Tel. (+39) 0584-956028, email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Donation (no fixed price).
"These two well researched guides certainly cover a long distance trail, for the classic Walk to Rome pilgrimage route, through England, France, Switzerland and Italy, measures 1900km (1180 miles) from Canterbury Cathedral to the steps of St Peter's Basilica in Rome...
The wealth of information on the route in the two books is all clearly and logically laid out and should be very easy to use on the trail...
Alison is to be applauded for accomplishing this mammoth task of researching and writing what is the only dedicated walkers' guidebook in any language to the whole of the Via Francigena."
Strider Magazine, August 2014
"The Via Francigena is a 1900km pilgrim trail from Canterbury to Rome, designated as a European Cultural Itinerary by the Council of Europe in 1994, and upgraded to a Major Cultural Route in 2004... This guidebook covers the full trail in two parts, and aims to provide all necessay information for less experienced as well as more experienced walkers."
Irish Mountain Log, Spring 2014
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Alison Raju is a former teacher of French, German and Spanish to adults and is the author of three other guides published by Cicerone Press: 'Way of Saint James (Camino de Santiago): Pyrenees - Santiago - Finisterre', 'Vía de la Plata (Seville to Santiago)' and 'The Pilgrim Road to Nidaros (Way of St. Olav): Oslo - Trondheim'.View Articles and Books by Alison Raju