Tuscany, Via Francigena: 10 gems not to be missed

The Via Francigena is the general name of an ancient road and pilgrim route running from France to Rome, though it is usually considered to have its starting point much further away, in the English cathedral city of Canterbury. 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.
[Photo Credits: Kinzica Sorrenti - Social Media Team Tuscany]
[Photo Credits: Kinzica Sorrenti - Social Media Team Tuscany]
The entire Tuscan section of the Via Francigena, from the Passo della Cisa to Radicofani, has recently been made safer and the infrastructure has been fully restored. A unique itinerary: 380 km of history, culture and traditions, immersed in an exciting landscape, to be travelled by car, but, more appropriately, on foot, by bicycle or on horseback. An ode to slow travel! All along the route, in addition to the places that are (of course) best known - Lucca, Siena, San Gimignano, Bagno Vignoni - and their famous treasures, there are some real gems to be discovered, step by step. 1 – Pieve di Sorano, Pontremoli  The whole building is built with impoverished, local materials (river rocks) and was completely restored in 2000. 2- Dome, Carrara  A Roman church almost completely covered in local marble.
[Photo Credits: Federico86]
[Photo Credits: Federico86]
3 – Palazzo Ducale, Massa  Known also as the Red Palace. A sumptuous palace filled with columns, stairs and arcades, all strictly in white marble. 4 – Fort of Montecarlo (Lucca)  The towers of this imposing structure, built on a strategic hill, are positioned in an original triangular formation. Over the centuries it has undergone a great deal of restoration work and alterations, like the imposing bastions and Florentine arches desired by Cosimo de Medici. 5 - Rocca di Federico II, San Miniato  The tower of Federico II, named in honour of the emperor who built it between 1217 and 1223, stands on the summit of the hill. In 1944 the Germans mined the tower razing it to the ground and what we see today is a faithful reconstruction. From the top of the tower (30 metres high!), thanks to powerful telescopes, you can see the point where the Via Francigena meets the Roman road that runs from Pisa to Florence.
[Photo Credits: San Miniato Promozione]
[Photo Credits: San Miniato Promozione]
6 – Abbey of Santa Maria a Coneo (Colle Val d’Elsa, Siena)  A Romanesque church founded around the year 1000 and flanked by buildings of the monastery. 7 – Grancia di Cuna (Siena)  A fascinating example of a fortified medieval farm! It is also one of the most interesting architectural structures in Tuscany, thanks to its size and characteristic red bricks. Here, in 1152, documented the presence of a "spedale" (hospital) is documented for the care of pilgrims and merchants. At the beginning of the thirteenth century the lands were purchased by the city of Siena and by the Spedale della Scala.
[Photo Credits: Alessandro Mulas]
[Photo Credits: Alessandro Mulas]
8 – Pieve di 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. 9 – Horti Leonini, San Quirico d’Orcia The Horti Leonini were created around 1581 on land that Francesco I de 'Medici had given to Diomede Leoni. The gardens have maintained to this day the original structure, creating a well-preserved example of classic Italian garden.
[Photo Credits: Sean Perry]
[Photo Credits: Sean Perry]
10 - Villa Medicea “La Posta”, Radicofani  This great Medici Villa was built by Buontalenti at the end of the sixteenth century. It was the place where the travellers would change horses, spent the night, eat, rest and shelter in case of bad weather.