Since the early 12th century, the roadway connecting Florence and Bologna, travelling through the Mugello, has been extremely important.
Point of departure: Porta San Gallo (Florence)
Point of arrival: Firenzuola
Duration: 33h 45 mins (on foot)
Best time of year: winter/spring/summer
The main artery that was used to travel to and from the Padana plains was the Via Francigena, according to historical documents which tell that the start of the route was the valley of Monte Bardone (the Cisa). But, as it has been noted, the city of Florence in the 1200s became the crossroads for transit to the Padania region, thanks to the mountain passes of the Apennines. The road in question historically served to reach the high Santerno valley, and was later extended to connect Florence to Bologna. In addition to San Piero a Sieve, the road passed through the parish churches of Sant'Agata and Cornacchiaia, using the Mugello mountain pass, known as the Osteria Bruciata; it was later substituted byt the Giogo Pass.
The route travels through some very beautiful areas that can also be travelled by bike. The woodlands are old, thick and have native plant and tree species. Here, you will cross two protected areas: the nature reserves of Monte Morello and Conca di Firenzuola. This mountainous area is very suggestive and features forests of chestnut trees, oaks, and pine trees that are native to the Mugello area and valley of Firenzuola.
A sought-after route
The long series of ordinances of Florence, which were aimed at further developing of this route (by building bridge, and resurfacing the road) also created conflicts with the neighbouring feudal lords of Ubaldini, who had estates and property through the mountainous Apennine area in question. The establishment of the two new municipalities of Scarperia and Firenzuola must be considered with this in mind. There were conquered definitively in the mid-1300s, the same years in which the new roadway, which traveled through the Giogo Pass, was opened to created to connect Scarperia and Firenzuola.
A road towards Europe
This new route would become the great link and crossroads to connect northern and central Italy. It would also be used by merchants and travellers, particularly, pilgrims who were headed to Rome. The latter, especially those who travelled from central Europe, across the Alps and the Padana plain, would take the road, Via Emilia, to Bologna; from there they would travel to Florence. Using the roads that, to the south, were used to connect the city on the Arno River with the Via Francigena, the pilgrims would return to the ancient route for Rome, in Siena and Poggibonsi.
However, the road that connected Florence and Bologna was also used by Florentine pilgrims who wanted to travel to two other important destinations: Santiago de Compostela and Jerusalem. In several stories of pilgrims who traveled the ancient route, the trans-Apennine route, which lead to Bologna and then the Via Franciegna, was described in detail. Similarly, the pilgrims travelling to the Holy Land took this route to Bologna in order to reach Venice; this was were pilgrims would continue by boat to the Middle East.