Certainly Sigerico, the Archbishop of Canterbury who in 990 travelled the 1800 kilometres which separated him from Rome to be invested by the Pope was unaware that the diary where he recorded the details of his journey would become a true guide for the thousands of pilgrims who every year, for centuries, have walked the via Francigena. Not as famous as the Cammino di Santiago, but just as rich with history, this itinerary, which starts in England, continues through France, Switzerland and crosses a large part of central northern Italy, allows one to discover uncontaminated landscapes, churches, monasteries and towns full of art. The 79 stopovers of the original itinerary which Sigerico travelled in 80 days make up the route of today which can be travelled on foot, by horse or by bicycle. The Via Francigena is within this area for around fifty kilometres, passing through Fucecchio, where it crosses the Arno river before heading for San Miniato and heading in the direction of the green forests and fields of Castelfiorentino and Gambassi Terme. Dedicate at least one day to this experience and journey along a small section of the route following these directions. You will discover that as you journey slowly there is more time to observe, listen and be amazed by the wonders of the area.
Stage 29 – From Altopascio to San Miniato (29 km) This stage starts in Altopascio, in the province of Lucca and carries on to the Galleno locality of Fucecchio, where a small section of original medieval pavement is still visible. Carry on through the rich Cerbaie passing Usciana and the stunning Ponte a Cappiano, where there is a castle, to reach the centre of Fucecchio where it is possible to visit the Churches of Poggio Salamartano and the nearby Civic Museum. The stage ends in the nearby town of San Miniato.
Stage 30 – From San Miniato to Gambassi Terme (23,9 km) Itinerary of extraordinary beauty which winds it way through the Valdelsa hills where one can enjoy breathtaking views from the surrounding Tuscan countryside, dotted with churches, castles and farmhouses. Along the road there are two places mentioned by Sigerico which can still be visited today: the Church of Coiano and the wonderful Church of Santa Maria a Chianni, just outside Gambassi Terme. Here, next to the Church of Christ the King, you can find the Ostello Sigerico, the perfect place for staying the night.
Stage 31 – From Gambassi to San Gimignano (13,4 km) The shortest of the three routes in this area which joins the centre of Gambassi with the famous town of San Gimignano and which takes around 3 hours. Not to be missed are the unique views of the magnificent towers of San Gimignano.
Travel tips: Journeying along the Via Francigena is an unforgettable experience but it is worth keeping the following in mind: refreshment and stopover places are few and once on route main roads are quite far (especially on stage 29). Before setting off, check the weather forecast, choose trekking shoes and make sure you have enough water! For more information on the Via Francigena and to download maps and the GPS coordinates: www.viefrancigene.org