Three years have passed since I walked the Way of Saint James (El Camino de Santiago) from France to Spain, and now I find myself on another road, a pilgrim one more time. Twice a pilgrim: a pilgrim of beauty in the footsteps of Fra Angelico and Gaddi and all the successors of Cimabue and Duccio; and a pilgrim of passion, walking the very same route once trodden by devout pilgrims coming from France -and beyond- on their way to the eternal city (Rome).
This route, known as the Via Francigena (the French Way), is obviously not as famous or as equipped as El Camino de Santiago, but one can still do parts of it in Tuscany, where it passes through San Gimignano, Lucca and other cities and villages. I did a stretch alongside San Gimignano, and I was immediately rewarded with a dreamy Tuscan landscape where the imagination too becomes a pilgrim.
Via Francigena has its origins in the 10th century, thanks to the diaries of Sigeric the Serious (the Archbishop of Canterbury) who left an account of the mansions where he stayed during his trip to meet the Pope in Rome. Just like other continental routes, the Via became not only a pilgrimage route, but also a space of commercial and cultural exchange, and an artery around which wonderful Romanesque churches, hostels, hospitals, towers and other buildings were eventually erected as the cities prospered and adapted their own urban tissue to the Via.
Today, the Via is a ‘Cultural Route of the Council of Europe’, given the role it played in bringing European people together throughout the centuries. You can learn more at the official website:
Enjoy the photos and stay tuned in for more.