As you may know, the Via Francigena is the ancient route that leads to Rome from France, and the Tuscan section of it covers 354 kilometres and 15 legs that touch towns and villages from the Passo della Cisa to Radicofani before heading into the region of Lazio.
But this is not the only ancient route of pilgrimage passing through Tuscany: in this post we want to highlight them. If you are looking for a spiritual holiday, to get in touch with the beauty of Tuscany for some soul searching or just looking for an open air trail, here are some options Tuscany offers along the ancient pilgrims’ routes.
Vicinio or Saint Vicinius of Sarsina in English, lived between the third and fourth centuries and was the first bishop of the Church of Sarsina (in the province of Forlì-Cesena in Emilia-Romagna Region) from 303 to 330. He retired as a hermit on a mountain located about six kilometres from Sarsina that now has his name (Monte San Vicinio) where he followed a life of prayer and penance. He was famously known as a miracle worker.
"The Way of St. Vicinio" is a path that has been restored to celebrate the first millennium of the basilica where the saint's relics are venerated. This is a loop that starts and ends at Sarsina in Emilia-Romagna, but touches a part of Tuscany in the area around Arezzo, too. The itinerary is marked by a chain symbol on the signage, which is also known as the collar of San Vicinio, today a relic. In Tuscany, there are three paths.
The first runs from Camaldoli to Padia Prataglia. In Camaldoli, in the Casentinesi Forest National Park, pilgrims can visit the church of San Salvatore Trasfigurato and the cell of San Romualdo, as well as the historic pharmacy where monks used to prepare recipes and distil aromatic liquors. In Badia Pratiglia those interested in nature can enjoy the presence of numerous parks and forest reserves and history lovers can enjoy numerous Romanesque churches and the Poppi castle.
The second path in Tuscany runs from Badia Prataglia to La Verna (where you can visit the sanctuary) and the third one goes from La Verna to Verghereto (in Emilia-Romagna).
As well as the Way of St. Vicinio, the Cammino di Francesco or the Way of St. Francis winds in the surroundings of Arezzo. In particular, the Way of St. Francis starts at the sanctuary of La Verna and ends a few kilometres south of Sansepolcro, in Valtiberina, before entering the region of Umbira.
Saint Francis of Assisi chose La Verna as the place by for his spiritual retreats and this is where he received the stigmata during the summer of 1224, so it’s easy to understand how important and iconic this place is. The journey continues on to Pieve Santo Stefano, where pilgrims can visit the Hermitage of Cerbaiolo, and then to the Hermitage of Montecasale.
Built in 1192, it has lodging facilities for pilgrims. The Way of St. Francis in the Valtiberina area of Tuscany is clearly marked out by the symbol of the yellow Tau and can be done on foot, by mountain bike and on horseback.
The Sacred Forest trail of the Casentinesi Forest stretches over 100 kilometres and is divided into seven stages, ranging from the lake of Ponte di Tredozio (Forlì-Cesena province) to La Verna (5 out of 7 legs are in Tuscany). The journey consists of seven days of travel along silent sceneries such as the valley of Acquacheta, Monte Falterona, the Forest of Campigna, the Sacred Valley, Camaldoli and La Verna.
The first Tuscan section starts at Castagno d’Andrea in the municipality of San Godenzo (Florence). It passes into the woods, to the spring of Capo d’Arno and then Monte Falterona. The second leg starts from Campigna and passes from the Sacred Hermitage of Camaldoli and into a wild forest inside the National Parl of the Casentinesi Forests, Monte Falterona e Campigna. You can stop at the Monastery of Camaldoli, home to the order founded by St. Romuald in 1024. The third leg begins in the Monastery of Camaldoli and continues until Badia Prataglia, while the fourth starts in Badia Prataglia and ends in Rimbocchi, the fifth starts in Rimbocchi and ends in La Verna.
Romee Routes in the Middle Ages were all the roads walked by pilgrims to reach the Apostolic See, i.e. Rome, or Jerusalem and Santiago de Compostela. Particularly busy in the twelfth century, these routes were fundamentally important to a religious pilgrimage.
Today there are six routes that run from Florence and intercept the Via Francigena: the urban route in Florence, Via Sienese, Via Pisana, Via Bolognese, Via Vecchia Aretina, and the Route of the Seven Bridges.
There are other Romee Routes outside of Tuscany: the Via Romea of Nonantola, Via Romea of Sambuca, Via Romea dell’Alpe di Serra or Teutonic, Via Romea di Stade, Via Flaminia (Rimini-Rome), and Via Romana (Milan-Lodi-Piacenza and Bologna-Florence-Poggibonsi).
Lunigiana is not only crossed by the Via Francigena, but also from the path of the Volto Santo, starting from the Pieve di Sorano in Filattiera and ending in Lucca in front of the wooden Christ in the Cathedral of San Martino. Taking this route, you cross the villages of Bagnone, Castiglione del Terziere, Licciana Nardi, Pontebosio, Fivizzano, Casola in Lunigiana and passo della Tea before entering Garfagnana.
The Volto Santo (Holy Face) is the holy icon that has represented Lucca since the Middle Ages. It is a venerated wooden crucifix linked to a medieval legend, but the one in Lucca is an early thirteenth-century copy of the original.
Cover image credit: David Butali