What is The Via Francigena?

The Via Francigena – an introduction

The Via Francigena is a pilgrimage route that connects Canterbury to Rome.  If you are coming to this blog never having heard of The Via Francigena, you would not count among the minority.  In fact, relatively few people have heard of it and those who have usually have a specific academic interest or live along the route.  I first heard of this historic route when I was walking the Camino de Santiago, also known as the Way of Saint James, which is a famous pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostela in the north-west of Spain.  In the 9th century, Santiago was one of the principal destinations of pilgrims, sharing status with Jerusalem and Rome.  Revival of the route began in 1987 when it was proclaimed the first European Cultural Itinerary by the Council of Europe.  At that time about 2,500 pilgrims were travelling to Santiago annually.  Now, there are approximately 200,000 pilgrims arriving in Santiago each year. 

The Via Francigena was declared a Cultural Route by the Council of Europe in 1994, yet twenty years later, there are still very few pilgrims to be found travelling along it.  As a journey through four countries, over varied landscapes, with one of the world’s most historic, spiritual and culturally rich cities as its destination, the Via Francigena has undeniable appeal.  There have been many difficulties in promoting the route however that have hindered the rise in popularity as seen in the Camino de Santiago.   The difficulties are linked in many ways to what make the route so attractive.  The need for collaboration between not only four countries, but also local governments whose elected officials change frequently, as does local commitment to the revival of the route, make progress slow and uncertain.  Parts of The Via Francigena have seen great investment, such as the section that lies in the municipality of Lucca in Tuscany.  This section was inaugurated in 2014 after 5 million euro was allocated to make significant improvements to the route itself and pilgrim accommodation. 

Read more about Tuscany and improvements in the Via Francigena:   http://www.stamptoscana.it/articolo/notizie-toscana/francigena-proseguono-i-lavori-in-provincia-di-lucca

Il presidente della Provincia di Lucca

Inauguration by Stefano Baccelli, president of the Provincia di Lucca  (Image from Stampa Toscana, 21 June, 2014).

As I walk along The Via Francigena, from one municipality and country to another, I will experience firsthand the differences in the development and promotion of the route.  I feel certain that one day The Via Francigena will be walked by as many pilgrims as the Camino de Santiago, but this will only happen with increased publicity of the route.  Each year, with the combined efforts of local governments, associations, such as the European Association of the Vie Francigene (http://www.visit.viefrancigene.org/en/) and the Confraternity of Pilgrims to Rome (http://www.pilgrimstorome.org.uk/) and individual pilgrims, more progress is made.  I hope that by following me on my journey to Rome through this blog you will be able to share the tremendous experience of walking an historic route and one day, will undertake a journey of your own.  I look forward to receiving your comments.

Buen camino!


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8 Responses to What is The Via Francigena?

  1. Brenda Mitchell says:

    Hi Julia! What a fascinating experience to share and shed light on.

  2. Thanks, always enjoy reading your posts.

  3. Helen says:

    Good luck for tomorrow Julia. So excited for you. I wish you safe travels, love in your heart and strength in your adventurous spirit.
    I will be in Lucca 6th May
    Buon Pilgrimage. Xxx

  4. Helen says:

    Buen Camino Julia from Oz. I also did the Camino Frances last year and are hoping to do the Italian leg of the Via Francegina this year. I wish you a great journey. Your are an inspiration and I so look forward to reading your blog. Helen

    • Julia says:

      Hi Helen, it’s wonderful to think my blog has made it to Australia! Thank you for your supportive words and good luck with plans for Italy.

      • Helen says:

        Thanks Julia, so excited for you. May I ask what guide you are using and you never know our paths may cross in Italy.

  5. Julia says:

    Thank you Mary for your good wishes. It was lovely meeting all of you at the Confraternity yesterday and to get a taste of the camino spirit. I hope you find this blog helpful in the planning your own journey. All the best!

  6. Mary Kirk says:

    Julia, it was great to meet you yesterday. I’m really looking forward to your posts – ready to follow in your footsteps next year. My thoughts and prayers (or positive thoughts if you prefer) will go with you every day (that’s a promise). Buen Camino, Mary (Kirk)

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