Whether you're a hiking enthusiast or enjoy countryside walks, a Tuscan route not to miss is the Via Francigena. Here, you can slowly discover local food production and wonderful family-run businesses that abide to sustainable production methods. In mapping out a few interesting food stops along the Francigena, we enlisted Alberto Conte as our aid. As an avid walker and bike traveler, he's also the author of an official guide map and several guides about the Francigena. Without further ado, here are three foodie activities found along the pilgrimage route:
Siena’s city center: Tuscany is one of the first five craft beer producer in Italy. The Etruscans introduced beer to the Italian peninsula over 2000 years ago, but today’s beer is the result of high-quality local grain and the creativity of new entrepreneurs. Currently, you’ll find more than 100 craft beer producers and more than 200 Tuscan labels who combine typical Tuscan ingredients like Marradi chestnuts, Maremma saffron, Garfagnana spelt wheat and honey from the Apennines. Along the Via Francigena, for example, you can taste the region’s delicious beer in places like Birrificio La Diana (located in Siena).
Val D’Orcia: Over 200,000 hectares in Tuscany are devoted to grain cultivation, and durum wheat is the most widespread crop (especially in the Val D'Orcia). Here, several durum companies have opted for organic farming and recovering ancient grain types. They produce different kinds of flour and high quality pastas: Mulino della Val D’Orcia, for example, is found on the Via Francigena bike path.
Massa Carrara: In the Lunigiana, acacia and chestnut forests cover rolling hills, providing abundant nectar for bees, and limited industrial development makes the air clear and unpolluted. Lunigiana honey was the first in Italy to obtain DOP (Protected Designation of Origin) status from the European Union, and it's currently Tuscany's only DOP honey. Two km from the via Francigena bike path you'll find Il Pungiglione, a social cooperative focused on honey, candles and carpentry.
The famous Via Francigena passes through hills dedicated to the production of San Miniato reds, whites and Vin Santo. Among the local production, you'll find a special wine made with Tempranillo, a Spanish black grape variety grown to make full-bodied Spanish red wines.