The Via Francigena is the general name of an ancient road and pilgrim route running from France to Rome. The route was known in Italy as the Via Francigena (“the road that comes from France”) or the Via Romea Francigena (“the road to Rome that comes from France”). In medieval times it was an important road and pilgrimage route for those wishing to visit the Holy See and the tombs of the apostles Peter and Paul.
The entire Tuscan section of the Via Francigena - 380 km of history, culture, traditions and stunning landscapes - has recently been made safer and the infrastructure has been fully restored.
Here you can read “all the things you need to know” about the Via Francigena in Tuscany. Meanwhile, below, we focus our attention on some of the churches that you can visit while traveling along it, from North to South.
1 – Pieve di Sorano - Pontremoli The whole building is made with impoverished, local materials (river rocks) and was completely restored in 2000.
2 – San Caprasio Abbey - Aulla One of the main stages of the Via Francigena in Italy. The Abbey was founded in 884 AD, inside a castle, and is the oldest monument in Aulla.
3- Dome - Carrara A stunning Roman church almost completely covered in local marble.
4 – Badia of San Pietro – Camaiore Founded in the seventh century by Benedictine monks, along with a monastic complex surrounded by walls. It has long been a reference point along the Via Francigena route. Make sure you see the seventeenth-century organ that every summer takes centre stage in an International Organ Festival.
5- Church of San Pietro - Camaiore Nothing remains of the original building. Between 1856 and 1859, the church underwent an important restoration work and, in 1902, after centuries of neglect, the bell tower and the tympanum of the church was completely rebuilt. Of considerable interest are, inside the church, the fifteenth-century font and the tabernacle.
6- San Martino Cathedral - Lucca Construction began on this Catholic cathedral in 1063. Of the original structure, we can still admire the great apse and the bell tower. Inside, there’s the most precious relic in Lucca - the Holy Face of Lucca – and the funeral monument of Ilaria del Carretto, sculpted in 1408 by Jacopo della Quercia. There’s a legend to explain why all the columns of the façade are different: a contest for the best column was announced and every artist made one, then the inhabitants of Lucca decided to keep all the columns without paying the artists!
7 - Oratorio Del Loretino - San Miniato A small space, built in the late thirteenth century, with the walls and vaults completely frescoed with scenes from the life of Christ.
8 – Baptistery of San Giovanni – Siena To the rear of the cathedral, an impressive staircase leads to this gem. Admire the frescoes that completely decorate the magnificent vaults, the most extensive and articulated religious cycle of the Sienese Renaissance, and the splendid baptismal font by Jacopo della Quercia, Donatello and Lorenzo Ghiberti.
9 – The Crypt – Siena Under the Baptistery, a room with 180 square meters of fully painted walls. Buffered and filled with debris, it remained buried and hidden for about seven centuries and unexpectedly rediscovered during excavation work in 1999. The paintings, original colors, subjects and architectures give us important insight into the Sienese painting school of the thirteenth century.
10 – Pieve of Osenna - San Quirico d’Orcia The first known document about San Quirico d’Orcia dates to 712 AD and it’s an act relating to a dispute between the diocese of Siena and Arezzo for the possession of some churches, among which figure the beautiful church of San Quirico in Osenna.
The original version of this article was written by Leila Firusbakht.