Leg 8: San Miniato to Gambassi Terme

Walking along the roads of the past

This leg is 23.7 km long and begins in San Miniato, and takes less than 6 hours. After an hour's walk, take an exceptionally beautiful path into the hills of Val d'Elsa to see castles, forts, hospitals and abbeys, which stem from the Via Francigena.

On the Sigeric path, you encounter two "Submansiones": the Coiano parish church, with its steep stone steps, and the parish of Santa Maria in Chianni, rebuilt in the twelfth century. Soon you will reach Gambassi, known for its hot springs. The end of this leg is the church of Christ the King.

The only places to eat and to find a water supply are in
Calenzano and a restaurant 500 metres from the parish church of Coiano, towards Castelnuovo d'Elsa (not on this itinerary).

Total length (km): 23.7
Accessibility: on foot or with mountain bike
Time on foot (h: min): 6.00
Climb in ascent (m): 406
Climb in descent (m): 231
Maximum altitude (m): 305
Difficulty: challenging
Paved roads: 37%
Unpaved roads and driveways: 62%
Mule-tracks and paths: 1%
Cyclability: 99%
How to get to the departure point: Florence-Pisa-Livorno railway line, S. Miniato
station

SIGHTS
San Miniato - The Rocca di San Miniato was added by the Svevi emperors in the 11th century in order to maintain their strategic control of the Via Francigena. The Rocca, or fortress, completed at the beginning of the 1200s, is the most important bulwark built by Frederick II, who instituted a fixed garrison where he himself stayed many times. From the top of the fortress—which now boasts powerful telescopes—visitors can see the point where the Via Francigena meets the Roman road that runs from Pisa to Florence. You can also glimpse the San Genesio archaeological site (located in the communal territory of San Miniato), indicated by numerous medieval travelers as a stopping point on the Francigena. Be sure to check out the exhibit of the archaeological ruins at the Torre degli Stipendiari, on via Conti.

Castelfiorentino - From the end of the 1400s, a pilgrim walking the Via Francigena would have come across two tabernacles, near Castelfiorentino, frescoed by Florentine painter Benozzo Gozzoli. Near the church of Santi Pietro and Paolo in Coiano, the 21st stop of the Sigerico itinerary between 990 and 994, we find the Tabernacle of Madonna della Tosse. Inside, under the watchful eye of his patron, Messer Grazia di Francesco, Benozzo Gozzoli frescoed the death and annunciation of the Madonna. In front of the ancient Monastero delle Clarisse in Castelfiorentino, is another tabernacle, called the Tabernacle della Visitazione. With its majestic gaze, it depicts the Life of Mary by Benozzo Gozzoli. Today the two tabernacles are found in the Benozzo Gozzoli museum in Castelfiorentino. A museum that offers modern day pilgrims a chance to appreciate them on a deeper historic and spiritual level.

Among those who have walked the Santiago de Compostela road is Saint Verdiana, who undertook the trip with a group of women during the 13th century. There are two precious relics that Saint Verdiana took with her on the Santiago pilgrimage. One is a Celtic “sulphur cross” with braided decorations including Salomon knots, and the other is a small statue made of jet which depicts Saint James (Santiago) with a long tunic, hat with a shell and his walking staff held in his right hand and resting on his shoulder. The Santiago jet, is a magic ornament and is symbol of the pilgrimage as it testifies to how Santiago de Compostela had connected his name to this fossil. The museum of Santa Verdiana, next to the sanctuary, visitors can see these extraordinarily rare relics, in the company of masterpieces by Cimabue and Granacci, illuminated manuscripts from the 13th and 14th centuries, silver pieces and sacred tapestries.

Montaione - Montaione is a small medieval village perched on top of a hill dominating the Elsa Valley. The center is built around a tower and is surrounded by ancient walls. The village is surrounded by vineyards and olive groves; it is a varied landscape in which there are also many wooded areas of oak, chestnut and oak trees. In Montaione you can visit the Civic Museum, where the oldest relic - attesting that the hills of Montaione been inhabited since ancient times - is a sixth century BC Etruscan "stele" statue depicting a warrior with helmet, spear and shield on a tombstone on which is written the age of the deceased. You can also visit the Franciscan Convent of the Sacred Mount a San Vivaldo, also called Jerusalem since it reproduces, in reduced scale, the places of the Holy City.
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