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THE VIA FRANCIGENA IN TUSCANY History, art and nature in 15 inspiring stages

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Touring Club Italiano Chairman and President: Franco Iseppi Managing Director: Fabrizio Galeotti Touring Editore Head of cartography and tourism: Fiorenza Frigoni Editorial coordination: Cristiana Baietta Editor: Deborah Terrin Editing: Paola Bressani Cartography editing: Paola Zetti Cartography management: Graffito, Cusano Milanino (MI) Technical coordination: Francesco Galati Editorial secretary: Laura Guerini Texts and photos: Fabrizio Ardito Cover: Val d’Orcia, Shaiit/Fotolia Design, editing and layout: Studio Angelo Ramella, Novara Translation to English: Studio Queens Srl Produced by Settore Iniziative Speciali –Touring Editore Strada 1, Pal. F9, Milanofiori - 20090 Assago (Mi) tel. 0257547509, fax 0257547503 iniziative.speciali@touringclub.com Director: Luciano Mornacchi Editorial project in collaboration with: Regione Toscana – Settore Progetti Speciali Integrati per il Turismo Toscana Promozione Via Vittorio Emanuele II 62/64 50134 Firenze tel. 0554628052, fax 0554628048 www.toscanapromozione.it Preprints: APV Vaccani, Milan Printing and binding: Giunti Industrie Grafiche, Iolo (Prato) © 2013 Touring Editore S.r.l. - Milano www.touringclub.com

Special edition code: HZ314A Printed in August 2013 Touring Club Italiano is a registered trademark of the Touring Club Italiano (corso Italia 10, Milan, www.touringclub.it), and is licensed by Touring Servizi srl to Touring Editore srl. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical or otherwise, without the written permission of the copyright owners. This guidebook has been produced with the greatest care and attention to guarantee reliable and accurate details. However, we accept no liability for changed opening times, telephone numbers, addresses, accessibility or anything else, or for any harm or inconvenience suffered as a result of information contained herein.

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W

alking the Via Francigena in Tuscany is a unique experience – a mix of ingredients that can be savoured by the more or less sophisticated palates and by travellers with often very different motives who will encounter a host of historical, architectural, scenic and religious sights along the way, as well as having concrete opportunities to share an unparalleled experience with both the locals and other pilgrims. The decision to travel the Tuscan section may be motivated by its extremely varied landscape or one of several other factors, such as its clear signposting and safety. As you can imagine, this ancient way has altered over time, the most obvious change being the presence of vehicles on part of the hiking route. Tuscany has always cherished its landscape and acted over the years to separate the two routes, creating safe alternative options and, in the few cases where this is impossible, clearly signalling any potential hazards to pedestrians and drivers alike. Much of the Via Francigena in Tuscany is covered by Wi-Fi or 3G networks and emergency call-making is guaranteed, bringing added safety. Hospitality is another major driving factor. Tuscany possesses a dense array of hospitality structures of all types and that will meet the most diverse needs. Within a 1-km range of the route, travellers can choose from more than 1000 officially approved hospitality services. These are supplemented by service and reception structures, mostly linked to the Catholic Church, that provide hospitality to pilgrims. Finally, a widespread network of Tourist Information Offices in the larger towns along the route can provide specific information to those in need. Approximately 100 information panels are also distributed along the way, providing basic information on the Tuscan stretch and on each leg. All the panels also feature QR Codes for access to up-to-date information on fast-moving subjects.

Regione Toscana

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Contents INTRODUCTION The history of the Via Francigena The rebirth of the modern Via Francigena Travelling today’s Via Francigena Walking kit

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ITINERARIES 1 Passo della Cisa – Pontremoli

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Through woods and forests on the slopes of the Apennines

2 Pontremoli – Aulla

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Tiny villages and old country churches along the River Magra

3 Aulla – Avenza

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A final ascent to sweeping views of the Tyrrhenian Sea

4 Avenza – Pietrasanta

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Versilia, at the foot of the marble-rich mountains

5 Pietrasanta – Lucca

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From the hills to the Serchio valley and on to the walls of Lucca

6 Lucca – Altopascio

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See the largest old hospital on the Via Francigena

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7 Altopascio – San Miniato

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Along the River Arno, across marshland and ancient roads

8 San Miniato – Gambassi Terme

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The hills and country churches of Val d’Elsa

9 Gambassi Terme – San Gimignano

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Up and down hillsides to a town filled with towers

10 San Gimignano – Monteriggioni

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Val d’Elsa with its tiny villages and country churches

11 Monteriggioni – Siena

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A short walk to the home of the Palio

12 Siena – Ponte d’Arbia The hills of Val d’Arbia outside Siena

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13 Ponte d’Arbia – San Quirico d’Orcia

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Travel the back roads to Val d’Orcia

14 San Quirico d’Orcia – Radicofani

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From Val d’Orcia to Ghino di Tacco’s refuge

15 Radicofani – Acquapendente

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Cross the Tuscan border to enter a land of tuff and volcanoes

TRAVEL NOTES

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KEY TO SYMBOLS Refreshment stops Punto di ristoro Punto di ristoro Punto di ristoro Punto Punto di di ristoro accoglienza Hospitality stops Punto di accoglienza Punto di accoglienza Punto di accoglienza Bus Bus Bus Bus Bus Treno Treno Treno Train Treno

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Introduction THE HISTORY OF THE VIA FRANCIGENA Travellers of Old It may seem strange today when everything centres on speed but people used to travel a great deal in the past and even long distances. In the days of the Roman Empire, a dense network of paved roads criss-crossed Europe and merchants, travellers, carts, chattels, generals and armies spent weeks and even months travelling on them. Not even the Barbarian invasions brought an end to this constant to and fro and, in the Middle Ages, trade routes flanked those leading to the great destinations of mediaeval Christianity: Santiago, Rome and Jerusalem. The Via Francigena to Rome originated in those same years and was actually no more than a general route and convention (by no means just one road). For us, it is closely linked to the figure of Sigeric, an archbishop who left behind a precise, stage by stage description of the route from St Peter’s to Canterbury. Sigeric set off from Canterbury in 990 and arrived in Rome to receive the Papal investiture from Giovanni XV and the pallium, the symbol of his appointment as archbishop. On A section of the Roman Via Cassia the return journey, Sigeric travelled the length of Italy from Rome to the Great St Bernard Pass and on through today’s Switzerland and France to his point of departure, leaving a written record of all the legs of his journey. This precious manuscript forms part of the Cotton Collection in the British Library in London and lists the 79 places where the prelate and his entourage stopped for the night. Most of the stopping places mentioned by Sigeric still exist or can be linked to place-names identified by historians. Only two or three are missing, their

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The open landscape along today’s Via Francigena is very different from that of the past

names having been erased from memory in the passing centuries and, probably, by subsequent detours from the original route made by pilgrims on their way to Rome.

One Road or Many? It would be wrong to imagine the Via Francigena as a single highway in the way that one precise route had been the norm in the days of the reliable and well-constructed Roman consular roads. Laid out along a set route with post houses, they were maintained in a good state of repair by special officials. According to historians, mediaeval travellers did follow a basic route but often the lack of dependable and well-built infrastructures (such as paved roads and stone bridges) meant that traffic passed without thought from one road to a parallel one, sealing the fortunes, good and bad, of villages and hamlets along the way. While the route traced by Sigeric’s stopovers and today’s pedestrian way seems just one, the Via Francigena was actually a number of roads that experienced great ups and downs over the decades and centuries. The essential stops were – and remain – the great churches visited by

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the pilgrims and the pilgrim hospitals, where they could eat, sleep and if necessary be treated for travellers’ ailments that were, back then, far more serious and challenging than today. The country churches, holy relics and old hospitals were a vital aid to those reconstructing the historical evolution of the Via Francigena and tracing the route followed by the great road of the past on today’s map, as too were the confirmed legs mentioned by Sigeric in his narration of the long journey from the churches of Rome to the Channel and the distant Canterbury.

The Route of the Via Francigena Once over the Great St Bernard Pass, the route to Rome entered what is modern-day Italy and, after the city of Aosta, ran along the Valle d’Aosta past vineyards, churches and fortified houses. After Ivrea, the journey touched on the River Ticino and Pavia before fording the River Po near Piacenza. This great river, together with the Arno and Serchio rivers and the Great St Bernard and Cisa passes, was one of the most critical and dangerous points on the mediaeval journey. After reaching Fidenza, the Via Francigena faced the steep climb up the Apennines, crossing them at the Cisa Pass, previously known as Mt Bardone (derived from Mons Longobardorum, mountain on the edge of the Longobard dominions).

From the Passo della Cisa to Rome The section in Tuscany, the modern legs of which are described herein, arrived first at Pontremoli and continued on to the River Magra before emerging after a last mountain pass within sight of the Tyrrhenian coast. Today as in times past, walkers gain a huge thrill from glimpsing the sea after weeks spent hiking across inland valleys and plains. Skirting the Tyrrhenian Sea and passing what remains of the ancient Via Aurelia, the Via Francigena then touched on Luni (the marble-rich Roman city at the foot of the Apuan Alps), Massa and Carrara before coming to Pietrasanta. Leaving Versilia behind, at this point the route turned inland again to Lucca and then, after Altopascio and Fucecchio, to the marshy banks of the River Arno, always a difficult stage for travellers. After crossing the river, by boat in the past as there were no bridges, travellers climbed to San Miniato and from here continued southwards following the Val d’Elsa on high to San Gimignano, a splendid and affluent market town that benefited greatly in the Middle Ages from its position along the Via Francigena.

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Monteriggioni stood on the troubled boundary between the influential Siena and Florence and now conserves memory of its military history in an impressive ring of walls that were cited by Dante. After reaching Siena – described by mediaeval historians as “a daughter of the Way” - the journey to Rome then shared much of the route of the Roman Via Cassia, following the River Arbia and passing Buonconvento, not far from the abbey of Monte Oliveto Maggiore, and on to San Quirico d’Orcia and views of the conical Mt Amiata. Mt Amiata’s volcanic origin is clearly visible in Bagno Vignoni, famous since Antiquity for its hot spa waters. Leaving these behind, travellers walked for a stretch through the unforgettable scenery of Val d’Orcia before tackling the steep climb to the foot of the Rocca di Radicofani. The route then entered Lazio at Acquapendente and advanced to Bolsena and Montefiascone, on the banks of Lake Bolsena, and then Viterbo. The final legs towards Rome passed Vetralla, Sutri, Campagnano and Storta before travellers caught sight of the Eternal City and St Peter’s - very different then from now - in sweeping views from high up on Mt Mario. Walking through nature, past rows of vines

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THE REBIRTH OF THE MODERN VIA FRANCIGENA Although popular for centuries and described by writers and travellers alike, the Via Francigena gradually disappeared from Italian maps and was slowly replaced by other roads and routes. Little seemed to remain of this old highway, buried under the new constructions, tarmac, Napoleonic roads and railways that forged the seen today by travellers to Italy, but the spiritual significance and historical magnetism of the Via Francigena, with its exceptional complement of places of art, lay waiting in books and architecture for a renewed focus. The example was provided by Spain in the long route that crossed all of northern Spain, from the Pyrenees to Galicia called the Way of St James. In the 1980-90s, historians, hiking enthusiasts and stubborn parish priests succeeded to draw the feet of thousands of walkers back to the ancient stones of the Way of St James by creating a legend – who has never heard of the Way? – and a clear example. In the late 1990s, spurred on by the 2000 Jubilee, Italians started looking at the possibility of walking the great mediaeval road described by Sigeric, as people had done in the past. Little by little and with the aid of many volunteers, a potential route was traced through towns, countryside and mountains. The Association of Italian Municipalities across the Via Francigena was founded in 2001, and renamed the European Association of the Via Francigena ways in 2006, to coordinate all the local public bodies caught up in the passage of the pilgrim route to Rome. This role later passed to the regional authorities, each of which worked locally on signposting, troubleshooting and promoting Illustrated information signs

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ROUTES Although this guidebook deals specifically with the hiking route, Tuscany offers four “Via Francigena” travel options: on foot, by bicycle, on horseback and by car. The routes differ according to the chosen means of travel. The automobile route serves practical purposes, signposting the road to Rome and any interconnections with the hiking route on Highway Code signs. For route information, visit: www.turismo.intoscana.it

the old pilgrim route. Today, much of the route is marked, served by hostels, religious hospitality and, most importantly, described, improved and looked after, day after day, by the community of its walkers. As traveller numbers grow, the route is upgraded, problems resolved and new stopovers opened. The increased transit of this atypical visitor type is making its mark even on villages oblivious to the importance of the Via Francigena until a few years ago. But what can we say of the route itself? The number of people walking it grows every year as does that of the nationalities of modern-day pilgrims following in Sigeric’s footsteps. Francigena travellers differ greatly, of course, as do their needs. Some walk for just a weekend or a few days, a whole week or a month, the bare minimum to travel from Valle d’Aosta to Lazio. People walk for a whole host of reasons, from the religious – one of the main justifications for embarking on the long journey through Italy – to curiosity, spiritual yearning or out of passion for a physical exercise that, more than most, involves spending time in your own company. Nor should we overlook the social experience of walking which, more than most activities, frequently results in friendships with random fellow travellers. Those who decide to walk the route from the pastures of the Great St Bernard Pass to the seven churches of Rome have to possess certain qualities and virtues. A touch of madness, naturally, is absolutely essential in those opting to spend many days walking through beautiful Italy, followed by determination, a crucial virtue in long-distance walkers embarking on routes in which speed is nothing and tenacity is all. Lastly, it takes a little love for the route, not in the sense of being committed to a specific itinerary but rather in having affection for a geographical journey imbued with more history than any other the world over. This sentiment helps walkers gain satisfaction from even the seemingly less enjoyable aspects of the journey: a freezing downpour, the burning sun, a huge blister on one foot or soreness in tendons and muscles no longer accustomed to walking on hard roads and stones.

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TRAVELLING TODAY’S VIA FRANCIGENA Information and Maps The long and varied Tuscan section of the Via Francigena offers many options to those wishing to cover part of the itinerary over a weekend, one leg at a time, for a whole week or merely some stretches selected for the attractions along the way. For help in deciding which leg to cover, the website of the Tuscan region (www.turismo.intoscana.it) provides descriptions of the routes and the main landmarks. The website of the European Association of the Via Francigena ways (www.viafrancigena.eu) is also extremely helpful as it lists the different legs in every region, accompanied by two useful files to download. The first is the so-called road book describing the route metre by metre, including junctions, bridges, detours and schematic maps. The second is the GPS route, a topographical itinerary that can be loaded onto your own GPS but with a word of warning! This file is helpful on a GPS that has a hiking map as well as a road map stored in its memory.

SIGNPOSTING Except for sections of the route on normal roads, inevitably marked with Highway Code signs, the 380 km Tuscan hiking route is indicated by red and white signs, sometimes bearing the letters VF and sometimes a black pilgrim. Outside the towns and away from the regular traffic, the Tuscan route features concrete milestones displaying the aforementioned red-white signs and the letters VF. Also be aware that you may come across signs of other colours and types, along the way, placed there by associations that wish, for various reasons, to indicate their own suggested route. These are not officially approved and, more importantly, offer less guarantees of safety and fewer services for travellers.

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Eating and Sleeping People who walk all day have a few, basic but extremely important needs. The first thing you want on reaching your destination is a shower, followed by the chance to do some washing and a good, hot and hearty meal. There is huge potential for all this as Tuscany boasts a fully comprehensive hospitality offer, from B&Bs to hostels, hotels, guest houses and even luxury resorts. In addition to these “standard” forms of acTake care commodation, you also have the option of a on asphalt roads “parallel” network of religious structures, all of which often offer spartan surroundings perfectly in keeping with the concept of a spiritual journey and where you will very likely encounter other walkers with whom to share the joys and pains of the days just spent on the road. If you do happen to choose this solution, you will however have to adapt your kit slightly to include an inflatable mattress, a sleeping bag and a towel.

Telephones and Safety Generally speaking the Via Francigena – and the Tuscan section in particular – has no demanding legs that call for special technical skills. The only risk, and one those developing the route are reducing more each year, is posed by the few stretches on asphalt roads used by automobile traffic. On these, walk on the left side of the road to have a clear view of oncoming traffic and, of course, take great care. Should anything happen, most stretches have mobilephone reception and those in groups generally have a signal from at least one service provider. If any difficulty does arise, call one of the standard emergency numbers: 118 (for health issues); 800 425 425 (regional freefone for emergencies); 115 (fire service); 113 (Police) or 112 (Carabinieri Police).

Minimum Impact Regular visitors to the countryside already know that leaving no trace of your passage is an essential rule that is easily put into practice. Take all your refuse with you, from sandwich wrappers to plastic bottles, paper handkerchiefs and cigarette butts, and throw them away in the right bin at the end of the day. If you can carry a full bottle in your rucksack, you can carrying an empty one to the nearest bin. Finally, remember that no fires may be lit along the way – especially in summer – one of the reasons being that, with no water supply, you can never be certain they have been properly extinguished.

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WALKING KIT As for all long walking itineraries, the Via Francigena requires a basic kit that must be well broken in, comfortable and good quality. First and foremost, shoes – high or low depending on preference and heel delicacy – must be waterproof and have a good mountain sole to safely tackle both stony paths and asphalt roads. Footwear chosen for the journey requires one essential feature – it must be tried and tested. It is absolutely crucial to set off in shoes already worn on previous hikes and walks to avoid blisters and sore feet that can create a host of problems. Your rucksack is a precious companion The second crucial piece of kit for a walking journey is the rucksack, which must be a hiking or mountaineering model with a 45-60 litre capacity and padded, adjustable shoulder straps. There are hundreds on the market, at hugely different prices. Selection criteria should include back-piece that fits your body comfortably (it is not true that we are all the same!) and a generally simple and sturdy design with practical pockets and closings. A good idea is to try on several rucksacks in a specialist shop with a good assortment before deciding. It is wrong to waste a great deal of money or focus only on the top of the range but, equally, saving on the price of a rucksack you will carry on your back for a week or a month might be a serious mistake. Once you have acquired your ideal rucksack, you should road test it by going for a few days’ walk before setting out on your real journey so as to ‘run in’ the crucial relationship between your shoulders and the shoulder straps.

Rain and Sunshine There are different ways to keep a rucksack waterproof (and ensure clothes, camera and precious maps remain dry). Some people opt for a waterproof cape that covers both body and rucksack. Others argue that

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such a large cape is uncomfortable in strong winds and divide the waterproofing into two pieces: a waterproof windcheater (Gore-Tex or other breathable fabrics, if possible, to avoid taking a sauna in your own condensation when perspiring) and a waterproof rucksack cover that can be applied if it rains. Sunshine can be as much an issue as rain, especially in the summer months. It is essential to have a hat and sun cream as well as a good supply of water, at least two litres per person, preferably with added soluble salt supplements. One final thought: crossing Tuscany, you are likely to come upon shops of all kinds meaning that your baggage can and must be as light as possible, the almost perfect objective being a load of approximately 10-12 kilos in total. That extra kilo might make all the difference to a tired body and tendons and seriously reduces your chance of reaching your destination.

Training Great walkers claim there is only one way to train for walking - by walking. Gym-work achieves little compared with being accustomed to walking for hours and, if you have the foresight to start the journey with legs of moderate length and difficulty, you can train little by little along the way. The fact remains that (physical or psychological) fatigue may impose a stop and it is sometimes an excellent idea to skip a day’s walking, although it may be better to do a very short leg rather than stop altogether. All walkers have their own personal preference.

Keep an eye on the approaching clouds as you walk

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1

Passo della Cisa – Pontremoli

Through woods and forests on the slopes of the Apennines

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ow as in the olden days of mediaeval pilgrims, this leg marks a crucial point on the journey along the Via Francigena, crossing the Apennine ridge and descending into the beautiful Magra valley, in northernmost Tuscany. It is approximately 2 km from the Ostello Casa Grossa, where many choose to spend the night, to the Pass on the main Cisa Pontremoli, an anthropomorphic stele road. Once you have gone over the Pass (1039 m), you follow the paths that run alongside the main road and across some easily forded streams (the signs on this leg are red/white Club Alpino Italiano-CAI ones marked VF) to the asphalt road, which you cross to the Passo del Righetto. From here, a steep descent on paths and unsurfaced roads leads to the asphalt road and then on to the houses of Groppoli, past

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Departure: Passo della Cisa Arrival: Pontremoli, Piazza della Repubblica Distance: 19.4 km which you ford the River Civasola and continue on Time: 5 hrs your way to the hamlet of Elevation gain: 527 m Previde. As you leave GroppElevation loss: 1327 m odalosio, you might like to Maximum altitude: 1108 m stop at the 16th-century bridge that rises 15 m over the River Magra to admire the view before proceeding first to Casalina and then Toplecca, climbing to the Passo della Crocetta. From here, you make your way to the hamlet of Arzengio and then continue on down through an increasing dense presence of olive trees to the main Cisa road and a bridge over the River Magra. Pass the first houses and the hospital to enter Pontremoli (31st stop on Sigeric’s journey) through Porta Parma and head for the central Piazza della Repubblica, formerly Piazza Vittorio Emanuele II. Standing majestically on the hilly slopes behind you is the 10thcentury Castello del Piagnaro, with its famous Museo delle Statue Stele dell’Antica Lunigiana (ancient stone statues).

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Pontremoli – Aulla

Tiny villages and old country churches along the River Magra

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his leg runs along the Magra valley, on high above the left riverbank with slight climbs and descents. Leave Pontremoli and follow a stretch of road that passes behind the church of the Santissima Annunziata. After a section on unsurfaced roads and paths, you come to the Pieve di Sorano, a 6thcentury church rebuilt in Romanesque times with a nave An encounter along the way and two aisles, not far from Filattiera. The narrow streets of the old town lead to the Pieve di San Giorgio, which conserves a Longobard epigraph dedicated to Leodgar. Leave the town walls behind you and proceed high and low along the Monia river valley to the houses of Filetto, with its 17th-cen-

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Departure: Pontremoli, Piazza della Repubblica Arrival: Aulla, Abbey of San Caprasio tury Palazzo dei Marchesi Distance: 32.9 km Aliberti. Less than another 2 km takes you to Villafranca Time: 7.20 hrs in Lunigiana where houses Elevation gain: 386 m with two-light windows and Elevation loss: 565 m heraldic crests stand along Maximum altitude: 250 m the old Via Francigena route. A slightly ascending 6 km stretch then climbs away from the valley bottom and at times through woods to the houses of Fornoli, which you pass on a path and unsurfaced roads. The approach to Aulla passes the Terrarossa cemetery and follows a new route along an abandoned railway line to a section along the bank of the River Magra before coming to the Abbey of San Caprasio, in the centre of Aulla. Situated at the confluence of the Magra and Aulella rivers, this small town was crucially important for its strategic position on the communication routes that crossed the Apennines. The Abbey of San Caprasio was founded in 884 and given its present form in 1070.

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3

Aulla – Avenza

A final ascent to sweeping views of the Tyrrhenian Sea

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his leg is clearly split into two very different parts. Leaving Aulla behind you, it climbs the steep Lunigiana hills until you suddenly catch sight of the sea. Then, after completing the descent to Sarzana, the route continues on the plain past the archaeological remains of Luni to Avenza. After an ascending departure from Aulla, you pass the walled The village of Ponzano village of Bibola perched on high to come to the houses of Vecchietto, where you leave the secondary road and start to climb a fairly steep path through splendid olive groves and vineyards that gradually give way to dense woods. More steep paths lead to Quattro Strade (539 m) where you start the descent. Then, not far from Ponzano, you first catch a glimpse

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Departure: Aulla, Abbey of San Caprasio Arrival: Avenza, Tower of Castruccio of the blue Tyrrhenian Sea. Distance: 32.4 km Once past the village it is less than 2 km to the Castello Time: 8 hrs della Brina (172 m), a casElevation gain: 718 m tle built in the 11th century Elevation loss: 768 m to defend the trade routes Maximum altitude: 539 m along the Via Francigena. A final descent and you pass through the gateway to Sarzana. The large Piazza Matteotti is in the centre of this small city and not far from it is the Pieve di Sant’Andrea Apostolo, dating from the 10th century. It is a short climb to the fortress of Sarzanello and another 10 km approximately on foot takes you to the entrance to the archaeological site of Luni. This Roman town was a key port for the transport of precious marble of the Apuan Alps and conserves an impressive amphitheatre. A last stretch on the flat with a number of forks and junctions leads finally to the tower of the Avenza fortress, extended by Castruccio Castracani in the 14th century and not far from Carrara.

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4

Avenza – Pietrasanta

Versilia, at the foot of the marble-rich mountains

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lthough the views to the west are the flat and densely populated ones of Versilia, much of this leg runs high up on the slopes of the Apuan Alps, offering splendid sweeping views of the sea and the white marble quarries. After you leave Avenza, the route heads inland and then climbs slightly up a hill (Azienda Montegreco, 150 m) before Pietrasanta, the bell-tower of the church then descending again to apof Sant’Agostino in Piazza Duomo proach Massa. The landscape is open and you will often find yourself walking past vineyards before crossing the River Frigido (named for its cold water which flows from beneath the Apuan Alps) to enter the city. The most impressive monument is Palazzo Ducale, the former residence of the noble Cybo Malaspina family which has a tomb in the

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Departure: Avenza, Tower of Castruccio Arrival: Pietrasanta, Duomo Distance: 27.8 km underground chapel of the Cathedral of Santi Pietro e Time: 6.15 hrs Francesco. You leave Massa, Elevation gain: 409 m climbing slightly past Piazza Elevation loss: 400 m Municipio only to descend Maximum altitude: 183 m again and follow the Via Aurelia southbound for just over 1 km to the houses of Montignoso. Another climb takes you to the base of the walls of the Longobard Castello Aghinolfi, recently restored and opened to the public. From here on, the route starts to descend with sweeping views over Versilia and La Spezia farther north and reaches the plain after approximately 4 km on a secondary road. A stretch on a grassy bank that again comes close to the Via Aurelia leads to Pietrasanta, which you enter passing Fernando Botero’s Guerriero statue. A few hundred metres takes you to the square featuring the Duo­mo dedicated to St Martin and the deconsecrated church of Sant’Agostino.

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5

Pietrasanta – Lucca

From the hills to the Serchio valley and on to the walls of Lucca

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fter leaving Pietrasanta, about ten minutes’ walk will take you to the Pieve di San Giovanni e Santa Felicita in Valdicastello, built in the 8th century and thought to be the oldest monument in Versilia. A few ascents and descents, at times on dirt tracks or paths and through pastures and woodland, lead to Camaiore where, not far from the old The Duomo of Lucca town centre, stands the Benedictine monastery of San Pietro (8th century), currently forming part of the Badia di Camaiore. The climb begins from the town and flanks the surfaced road, avoiding its hairpin bends via shortcuts. On reaching the Montemagno pass (213 m), you then start to follow the Freddana valley, skirting and at times using the provincial road that passes the hamlet of Valpromaro. A slight ascent

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Departure: Pietrasanta, Duomo Arrival: Lucca, Piazza San Michele Distance: 32.3 km then leads to Piazzano. Once past its church, you descend Time: 7.15 hrs sharply into the valley, comElevation gain: 410 m ing first to the church of San Elevation loss: 412 m Macario and then the right Maximum altitude: 213 m bank of the River Serchio at Ponte San Pietro. Cross the bridge on the pavement and, at the end, walk down to the riverbank and an unsurfaced road now used as a cycle path that will take you along a charming route to the walls of Lucca. Enter the city through the Porta San Donato and, after Piazzale Verdi, you will see before you the facade of the church of San Michele in Foro, built over the centre of the Roman town and dating, in its current form, from 1070. An interesting visit can be made to the Duomo, dedicated to St Martin and an essential stop for pilgrims for the presence of the Crocifisso del Volto Santo. A bas-relief beneath the porch portrays a maze and an inscription stresses the honesty of the money changers who were active here in the Middle Ages.

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6

Lucca – Altopascio

See the largest old hospital on the Via Francigena

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his is a short leg across flatland between Lucca and the River Arno and its short duration leaves time for a relaxed visit to Lucca before you exit the walled city through Porta San Gervasio. After 5 km you come to Capannori; its parish church is dedicated to Saints Quirico and Judith and has a 13thcentury facade. The route continues through scenery strongly influenced Altopascio, the S. Jacopo entrance by the human presence and passes an industrial zone before you enter Porcari. A stretch through open fields reaches the remains of the Badia di Pozzeveri. Built on the banks of the now-drained Lake Bientina, it reached the height of its splendour in the 13th century, when Camaldolite monks lived here. You walk through flat scenery that presents no difficulties today although in mediaeval times the lakes and marshes made it extremely treacherous, such that the tasks of

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Departure: Lucca, Piazza San Michele Arrival: Altopascio, Church of San Jacopo Maggiore the Altopascio monks included signalling the way Distance: 17.8 km with bells and, if necessary, Time: 4 hrs going in search of lost wayElevation gain: 30 m farers. Travel another few Elevation loss: 30 m kilometres on minor roads Maximum altitude: 24 m to Altopascio, which had a famous hospital, mentioned by many travellers including King Philip II of France. Its original structures are clearly visible in the old town centre where the old courtyards are now the Ricasoli, Garibaldi and Ospitalieri squares. At the centre of the old hospital was the church of San Jacopo Maggiore, rebuilt in 1827 using the older structure as the transept; the 13th-century facade of the old church is adorned with sculptures dating from approximately 1180 and attributed to Biduino. On one side of the church, at the top of the bell-tower (1280), is the bell of the Smarrita (1327), named after the custom of ringing continuously as evening fell to call pilgrims lost in the nearby Cerbaie woods, between here and the River Arno.

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7

Altopascio – San Miniato

Along the River Arno, across marshland and ancient roads

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eave the small town of Altopascio, with its walls and old memories of the great monastic hospital on the Via Francigena, and walk along a fairly long stretch of unsurfaced road to Chimenti, where you move onto a much older road. For approximately 1 km, you will find yourself walking on an old paved way that ends at Galleno and, according to historians, is probably a portion of the Via FranThe Duomo of San Miniato cigena that linked the River Arno to Altopascio. The plain leading to the River Arno is interrupted here by the low Cerbaie hills, which take you up to an altitude of approximately 100 metres before then descending to Fucecchio. You will come to Ponte a Cappiano, named for the presence of a bridge built in the 16th century by the Sangallo family to cross the Usciana – a tributary of the recently restored Padule di Fucecchio wet-

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Departure: Altopascio, Church of San Jacopo Arrival: San Miniato, Convent of San Francesco lands. The zone is probably Distance: 25.3 km that described by Sigeric as Aqua Nigra XXIV and which Time: 5.40 hrs King Philip II later called Elevation gain: 283 m Arno Nero. After the bridge, Elevation loss: 173 m follow the canal bank for Maximum altitude: 130 m more than 3 km before then starting the climb to Fucecchio and the collegiate church of San Giovanni Battista; standing on its square is the facade of the Abbey of San Salvatore, founded in or around the year 1000 and today home to nuns of the order of the Poor Clares. Little more than 1 km takes you to and across the River Arno on the road bridge and you then follow a stretch of the riverbank to San Miniato Basso. One last effort up a slightly ascending path and then the provincial road leads to San Miniato Alto and the facade of the church and convent of San Francesco, to which the Franciscan fathers welcomed travellers walking on the Via Francigena. From here, it is but a short stroll to the Duomo and the Rocca.

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8

San Miniato – Gambassi Terme

The hills and country churches of Val d’Elsa

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alazzo dei Vicari dell’Im­ peratore and the Duomo, dedicated to Our Lady of the Assumption and St Genesius, stand on Piazza del Duomo but the most exciting attraction is the so-called Torre di Federico, rebuilt after being destroyed in 1944. The view from its top over the town and countryside to the River Arno is stunning. On the way to Gambassi Terme The first good hour of walking is on asphalt, past the hamlet of Calenzano and along Via di Castelfiorentino until, about 5 km from San Miniato, you leave the asphalt road for a dirt track on the right. This marks the start of an extremely pleasant and satisfying section of the route, winding along ridges that, at times, overlook the nearby Val d’Elsa. After approximately 2 hours walking, you come to the Pieve di Coiano, incorporated into a farm and now in

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Departure: San Miniato, Convent of San Francesco Arrival: Gambassi Terme, Church of Cristo Re a state of abandon. The Via Distance: 23.7 km Francigena route continues past farmhouses, always on Time: 6 hrs small roads and unsurfaced Elevation gain: 406 m lanes. Only a short asphalt Elevation loss: 231 m section interrupts this deMaximum altitude: 305 m lightful walk, the only shortcoming of which is the absence of water refreshment points (unless you ask someone in the farmhouses along the way to fill your water bottle). You will descend gently until, approximately 5 km from your point of arrival, the route begins to climb again to Gambassi Terme. After passing the Borgo della Meliana holiday complex, you reach the provincial road and follow it up to the Pieve di Santa Maria Assunta in Chianni. The church was built in the late 11th century and will soon have a hostel. Another few minutes’ walk brings you to Gambassi Terme, with its panoramic terrace over the hills separating it from San Gimignano.

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9

Gambassi Terme – San Gimignano

Up and down hillsides to a town filled with towers

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he leg from Gambassi Ter­m e to San Gimignano is short, giving you plenty of time to spend a relaxing afternoon in the narrow streets of the village. The easy and delightful journey all unfolds past farmhouses and old country churches and along the ridges of Val d’Elsa. Just 1 km after setting out, you leave the asphalt road and start Heading for San Gimignano walking on an unsurfaced road that passes a chapel to come to the Luiano farm. A short stretch that comes after less than an hour walking requires care; the path enters a field and follows a row of trees, ascending slightly, and then emerges onto a dirt road, which you follow to the left. Junctions and slight climbs take you past the Fattorie San Pietro to the provincial road, where you turn right.

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Departure: Gambassi Terme, Church of Cristo Re Arrival: San Gimignano, Piazza della Cisterna This will bring you to the Distance: 13.4 km Sanctuary of Pancole, completed in 1670 and largely Time: 3 hrs destroyed by the retreating Elevation gain: 344 m Germans in 1944. You can Elevation loss: 329 m fill up on water here. Pass Maximum altitude: 388 m Collemuccioli (where a short stretch of paving dates from the Middle Ages) to come to the Pieve di Santa Maria Assunta at Cellole, the facade of which dates from 1238. Continue on the asphalt road to San Gimignano, which you enter, after a final ascent, through Porta San Matteo. Famous the world over for its towers, San Gimignano (Sigeric called it Sancte Gemine XIX ) dates from just before the year 1000. A market town for its agriculture (hugely prosperous thanks to saffron production) and then a popular stopover on the Via Francigena, San Gimignano grew with the construction of a number of monasteries and hospitals for pilgrims on their way to Rome.

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10

San Gimignano – Monteriggioni

Val d’Elsa with its tiny villages and country churches

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iazza Duomo features San Gimignano’s most imposing monuments: Palazzo del Podestà, with the great Torre Rognosa which is worth the climb, the Collegiata and Palazzo del Popolo. Leave the old town through Porta San Giovanni and head for the hamlet of Santa Lucia after which you will soon find yourself Arriving at the Badia a Coneo walking on unsurfaced roads. You cross a ford and then streams to reach the Villa in Torraccia di Chiusi. After Bagnoli, you walk for a short stretch on a mediaeval paved road and will then, after crossing an asphalt road, come to Badia a Coneo. Stop at the Pieve dei Santi Ippolito e Cassiano to admire the wall decorations in the apse and transept. After Quartaia, you come to Gracciano (possible stop for a break) and then leave it on an asphalt road before return-

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Departure: San Gimignano, Piazza della Cisterna Arrival: Monteriggioni, Piazza Roma ing to an unsurfaced road. Distance: 29.8 km A f te r S t rove , A c q u a v i va and a stretch through the Time: 7.30 hrs woods, you descend to AbElevation gain: 513 m badia a Isola. The CisterElevation loss: 563 m cian abbey of San SalvaMaximum altitude: 320 m tore, founded in 1001, stood in the centre of this settlement and its name “a Isola” (island) stemmed from the frequently marshy nature of the surrounding land. Visit the church and continue towards Monteriggioni, surrounded by the towers mentioned by Dante in his Inferno: “As with circling round / of turrets, Monteriggioni crowns his walls; / E’en thus the shore, encompassing the abyss, / Was turreted with giants, half their length / Uprearing, horrible...”. After a last stretch along the provincial road, taking care, a small road climbs towards the houses and passes through the ring of walls at Porta Fiorentina. Inside, a single street links Porta San Giovanni, to the north, with the opposite gate (towards Siena).

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11

Monteriggioni – Siena

A short walk to the home of the Palio

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his not very long leg crosses the Sienese hills and eventually reaches Siena, one of the Italian cities that most owes its prosperity to traffic on the Via Francigena. Leaving Monteriggioni’s Porta Franca behind you, descend to the provincial road and pass a number of junctions before starting to climb a cart track that starts near a large oak tree. The Duomo in Siena After approximately 300 metres, you will come to the ruins of the mediaeval village of Cerbaie, after which the route enters a wood, from which you emerge into an olive grove. The Castello della Chiocciola is the next major attraction along the way. Built in the Middle Ages, it is known for its tower with a spiral staircase, after which it is named. Not far on, an asphalt

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Departure: Monteriggioni, Piazza Roma Arrival: Siena, Piazza del Campo road leads to the Castello di Distance: 20.5 km Villa. With the hills of the Montagnola Senese behind Time: 4.30 hrs you, continue with slight Elevation gain: 330 m climbs and descents until Elevation loss: 282 m you cross the dual carriageMaximum altitude: 354 m way through an underpass, bringing you to the outskirts of Siena and in another 3 km to Porta Camollia. In times past, the Via Francigena entered the city through this gateway and then followed the contours of the land through the area where the Basilica of San Domenico now stands to the Spedale di Santa Maria della Scala, opposite the Duomo. Built in the 10th century for the cathedral canons to help pilgrims and the sick in need, it quickly became very rich thanks to bequests and donations, used to construct farms (grance) and succursals, such as the Cuna and Spedaletto. After abandoning its health and welfare role, Santa Maria della Scala is today one of the most important museum centres in Siena.

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12

Siena – Ponte d’Arbia

The hills of Val d’Arbia outside Siena

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his long leg follows the ridges and unsurfaced roads that run parallel to Val d’Arbia. It is nearly all in the open and temperatures can be high in the hot summer months. The most interesting stop is the old fortified Grancia di Cuna farm. From Siena, follow Via Banchi di Sotto and then Via The impressive Grancia di Cuna Roma to reach and pass through Porta Romana. After a few junctions, you follow a long stretch of the asphalt Strada del Linaiolo. Pass a farmhouse and the asphalt provincial road to Murlo takes you over the River Tressa to the houses of Ponte a Tressa. From here, it is a short walk to the imposing Grancia di Cuna, taken over by the Spedale di Santa Maria della Scala in 1224 (the hospital symbols are clearly visible on the exterior of the gateway). Here, a small church dating from 1314, nearly always closed, has

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Departure: Siena, Piazza del Campo Arrival: Ponte d’Arbia, Centro Cresti 14th-century frescoes. Inside Distance: 28.5 km the farm, a courtyard leads through an archway to the Time: 6.20 hrs farm itself, with a number Elevation gain: 234 m of stores on the upper floors Elevation loss: 408 m that were once reached by Maximum altitude: 318 m mules. After leaving the farm (where you can replenish your water supply), a long stretch on unsurfaced roads through fields will take you first to Greppo and then Quinciano, which has a farmhouse dominated by the church of Sant’Albano, octagonal in shape and with cross vaults. A long stroll beside the roadbed of the Siena-Grosseto railway line leads first back onto the asphalt and then to Ponte d’Arbia, after crossing the river of the same name. This is home to the Centro Cresti, which offers hospitality to those travelling on foot. A long detour, from here or from Buonconvento, takes you to the Convent of Monte Oliveto Maggiore (a day’s walk there and back).

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13

Ponte d’Arbia – San Quirico d’Orcia

Travel the back roads to Val d’Orcia

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his is a fascinating leg that enters Val d’Orcia, probably one of the world’s best-loved landscapes. Leave Ponte d’Arbia by crossing the river and following the railway to the provincial road. If you turn left here, you will come quickly to Buonconvento while, if you turn right towards Bibbiano, you reach the Pieve dei Santi Innocenti (known as Santa Innocenza a Piana), built San Quirico d’Orcia, facade of the in the 12th century in red bricks on a church of Santi Quirico e Giuditta small rise densely covered with cypress trees, along the Via Francigena. Buonconvento, surrounded by walls dating from the second half of the 14th century and with its monumental Porta Senese, had a cereal, tobacco and mulberry market and owes its fortune to the passage of the Via Francigena. Leave Buonconvento (from where you may like to make a day’s

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Departure: Ponte d’Arbia, centro Cresti Arrival: San Quirico d’Orcia, Collegiate church detour, there and back, to Distance: 27.4 km the convent of Monte Oliveto Maggiore) and, after ascendTime: 6 hrs ing and descending, you walk Elevation gain: 513 m approximately 1.5 km on the Elevation loss: 258 m provincial road to Montalcino. Maximum altitude: 399 m Once past the Castello Altesi, you start to climb more sharply and enter Torrenieri, which was one of Sigeric’s stopping places, and its church of Santa Maria Maddalena. The climb is briefly interrupted to cross a river and then resumes towards San Quirico d’Orcia, reached after passing the Via Cassia. Sigeric also stopped in this village (XII Sancte Quiric) on the ridge between the Orcia valley and the River Asso. The facade of the Collegiate church of Santi Quirico e Giuditta features a late-11th century Romanesque doorway with bas-reliefs. A second doorway on the side of the church dates from the 13th century. On the opposite side of the village is the church of Santa Maria Assunta, Romanesque in style and founded in the 11th or 12th century.

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14

San Quirico d’Orcia – Radicofani

From Val d’Orcia to Ghino di Tacco’s refuge

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his is one of the longest and most demanding legs on the entire Tuscan journey, partly because it ends with a long ascent to the foot of the Rocca di Radicofani. The difficulty of this leg is heightened in the summer season by an almost total lack of shade all along the way. Leaving San Quirico, you start the The thermal-water basin in Bagno climb to Vignoni, with increasVignoni ingly sweeping views southwards and dominated by Mt Amiata and the Rocca di Radicofani in the distance. After passing Vignoni, you descend approximately 200 metres in altitude to come to Bagno Vignoni where a large old basin in the middle of the mediaeval square collects thermal waters already famed and appreciated in Roman times. Bagno Vignoni was much loved by St Catherine and Lorenzo the Magnificent and provides a pleasant potential stop before

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Departure: San Quirico d’Orcia, Collegiate church Arrival: Radicofani, Church of San Pietro embarking on the hardest Distance: 32.7 km and sunniest part of this leg. You descend to cross Time: 7.15 hrs both the River Orcia and the Elevation gain: 908 m Via Cassia and then flank Elevation loss: 532 m the main road before climMaximum altitude: 790 m bing once more to Castiglione d’Orcia. The route bypasses the village but it can be reached with a detour of approximately 4 km there and back. After climbing to the highest point, you then descend again towards the Via Cassia to come to the ruins of the Ospitale delle Briccole, where travellers along the Via Francigena stayed in the Middle Ages and featuring a small church dedicated to St Peregrine. Walk quite a way along the disused stretch of the Via Cassia and then descend to the modern main road and pass the post house of Ricorsi. From here, an approximately 5 km walk takes you just under 400 metres higher up to the edge of Radicofani and you then climb its main street to the church of San Pietro.

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15

Radicofani – Acquapendente

Cross the Tuscan border to enter a land of tuff and volcanoes

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he last leg of the Tuscan section of the Via Francigena starts with one of the loveliest stretches on the journey. Leaving Radicofani behind you, walk along the old disused Via Cassia where the asphalt is slowly disappearing. As you descend towards the new Via Cassia, past pastures and cultivated fields, the view over Val d’Orcia and Mt Amiata is ever more The views on the descent beautiful. Continue in this way from Radicofani for just under 10 km and, after a short stretch on the busy Via Cassia – or walking beside it –, you take the Ponte Siele provincial road, which climbs slightly towards the border with Lazio. You then leave the asphalt road and walk high above the Paglia river valley to Proceno, stretched out on a long ridge. Standing

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Departure: Radicofani, Church of San Pietro Arrival: Acquapendente, Basilica del Santo Sepolcro in the central square is the Distance: 31.8 km mansion of Cardinal Guido Ascanio Sforza and, from Time: 7 hrs here, the village street conElevation gain: 352 m tinues to the mediaeval RocElevation loss: 752 m ca. Leave Proceno and deMaximum altitude: 780 m scend on secondary roads until you come close to the modern Via Cassia and the Ponte Gregoriano, built in the late 16th century by Gregory XIII at the confluence of the Paglia and Tirolle rivers. The route then climbs again, still on unsurfaced roads, to Acquapendente which, with its church and relics, was an essential stop for travellers in days past. Cross it to the Basilica del Santo Sepolcro, beneath which is the crypt of the Santo Sepolcro. Dating from the second half of the 10th century and resting on 24 columns topped with capitals decorated with figures of animals and plants, the crypt conserves a small central chapel reproducing the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, as it appeared when the crypt was constructed.

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Travel notes

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The via francigena  
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