All roads lead to Rome. The Via Francigena is an ancient pilgrim trail to Rome, starting in Canterbury, England; crossing the channel to France and continuing across Switzerland before reaching Italy.
In medieval times, the Via Francigena was an important road for pilgrims heading south to Rome, and like the Camino de Santiago, this trail is an European Cultural Route by the Council of Europe.
The Via Francigena, or Camino to Rome, takes walkers to some of the most stunning regions in Europe, such as Kent and the Dover cliffs, the Great War battlefields of Northern France, the Champagne region, Lake Geneva and the mighty Alps, the Apennines, lush Umbria, the picturesque hills of Tuscany and finally Rome, the eternal city… Read more Via Francigena articles on our blog.
This is the full itinerary for the Via Francigena (The Camino to Rome), with traditional stages. Please note that ‘split days’ have not been included in the table.
|Shepherdswell||17||The first section of the Via Francigena starts in front of the magnificent thousand year old Cathedral of Canterbury. From Canterbury you will head to Dover through North Downs Way orchards, fields and hamlets and finally hop on in a ferry taking you to Calais. Calais is the first French town on your Via Francigena journey. Here you can visit many historical marks that will remind you of World War II and its effects on this city. Then your pilgrimage takes you to Wissant where you will walk along the Cote d’Opale, with its long sandy beach and high white cliffs. Along this stage, the trail will reward you with stunning coastal landscapes. On your way to Wisques you will walk through forest tracks, farm lanes and minor roads crossing many small French villages and woodlands.|
|Section 2||Wisques/St Omer||34|
|Therouanne||23||Section 2 of the Via Francigena will take you to Arras. Along the way you will admire beautiful architecture from the 17th and 18th centuries, a very common style still dominating most towns in the area such as Notre Dame Cathedral in St Omer or even the Church of Saint Martin in Therouanne. The route will take you up steep hills, along country roads and farm tracks; where you will appreciate the region’s landscape. Further along on your Via Francigena pilgrimage you will find the remains of the French coal mines. The north of France was the leading area for the mining industry in the 19th and 20th centuries. You will find a museum dedicated to this period in Bruay-la-Bruissiere. On your way to Arras, you will walk along off-road tracks, the historic chaussee Brunehaut near ro Arq and then past pretty windmills and canals. In Arras you should’t miss the Town Hall of Flemish influence and Abbaye de Saint-Vaast.|
|Bapaume||26||On the third section of the Via Francigena you will reach the Somme region after waking the plains of Artois and Flandres. The route is mainly a sequence of minor roads and tracks, crossing farmlands and rural landscapes, retracing, where most WWI battles took place in France. In Peronne, you should see the Monument to the Dead, the Historial de la Grande Guerre and the Porte de Bretagne. This section will take you then to the Aisne region where you will continue your way through pretty woodlands. Once in St Quentin you must visit the imposing 12th century basilica. Then as you continue your pilgrimage towards Laon, you will walk across the Forest of Saint Gobain, where a steep climb near the Abbey of St Nicolas will reward you with amazing views of the abbey and the forest. On your last day to Laon you can’t miss the Notre Dame Cathedral, as well as the Citadelle. You also have to see the Chemin des Dames, site of one of the saddest and famous battles of World War I.|
|Coberny||27||On section 4 of the Via Francigena you will walk along Chemin des Dames, a 30km front line, famous site of a World War I battle. Notice the huge craters beside the road, made by the artillery bombardments. Coberny is the end point of your first day, near a pretty little woodland. On your way to Reims, you will walk mainly off-road among the famous vineyards of Champagne to finally reach this city: one of the best known town for its delicate bubbles, as well as for its outstanding Gothic Cathedral.|
|Trepail||26||Section 5 of the Via Francigena starts in Reims, giving you the chance to discover one of the most important cities in French History, also considered to be the capital of Champagne. You will walk steep valleys, through lush Champagne vineyards and calm woodland. This section also offers the opportunity to visit many stunning monuments such as Notre-Dame-en-Vaux Church, a UNESCO World Heritage site, in Chalons.You will also walk on a Roman road, stepping back in time; stay in classic French villages such as Coole and Donnement and finally taking small country roads towards Brienne, where you must see the beautiful Chateau. Your last walking day takes you to Bar-Sur-Aube, mainly walking alongside the River Aube and passing several small lakeside and riverside towns.|
|Clairveaux-sur-Aube||15||Section 6 follows, mostly off-road paths through vineyards and beautiful forests. It is quite challenging at some points but definitely worth it for the amazing views and historic towns you will see on the way: the ancient Cistercian monastery in Claireveaux reminder of Medieval times, the small hamlet of Mormant and its old abbey. You will finish this section in Langres, where the statue of Diderot, French philosopher, has been built to honour his work. Don’t forget to taste the local cheese, named after the city.|
|Chalindrey||25||Section 7 takes you to the pretty medieval town of Besancon. However before reaching it, you will stop at a couple of charming towns on the way. Through woodlands and farmlands you will enjoy typical French landscapes during your walk, alternating between off-road tracks and quiet country roads.The highlights on your journey will be the nice town of Champlitte, where you can visit the castle museum and the castle of Gy further along the way. After crossing the large forest of Gy and Cussey-sur-l’Ognon under tree-shaded roads, you will reach Besancon where you should take your time to explore the historic tow, the Vautiban’s citadel and the St Jean Cathedral.|
|Ornans||28||From Besancon, in section 8, you will walk along the Doubs river. This part of the Via Francigena is one of the most challenging especially because of the steady climb. However you will be rewarded by the stunning views of the exceptional Gorges of Moutier-Haute-Pierre while dropping down from the hight plateaux. To reach the second highest town in France, Pontarlier, you will follow mainly quiet roads. It will be the largest town you will pass before reaching Lausanne. Heading to Sainte-Croix at the border with Switzerland, the way is strenuous and quite difficult, climbing to 1152 metres along a steep climb. On your walk down to Sainte-Croix you will enjoy outstanding views of the Col des Etroits. At this stage you will be mainly descending following farm and forest tracks. Stop at Yverdon-les-Bains to appreciate the 18th century Temple, the protestant church and the castle. The rest of your journey, beyond this point, will be most likely flat to let you enjoy the Swiss sceneries; following tree-shaded minor roads, forest paths and farm tracks. Once in Lausanne or the Switzerland’s San Francisco, for its incredibly steep hills above the Lake Geneva, you must see the Notre-Dame cathedral, the Olympic Museum and the Beaulieu Castle.|
|Vevey||20||Your journey in section 9 of the Via Francigena starts in Lausanne, walking alongside Lake Geneva, followed by a steep climb to the terraced vineyards of Vevey. On your way to Aigle you will follow the lake shoreline and walk across the plains of the Rhone. You will pass Montreux, a lakeside town with many interesting events throughout the year such as its famous Jazz festival.You will also see the fairy-tale Chateau of Chillon on the way. Still following the Rhone you will continue your walk higher in the mountain to reach the village of Martigny, where you can visit its archaeological remains. Beyond this point the Via Francigena gets a bit more challenging by steadily climbing ascents on narrow tracks and off-road to access Orsieres and Bourg-St Pierre village.Then you will continue towards Col du Grand San Bernardo, a route which has been in constant use for over 2,000 years, by the armies of Rome and Napoleon as well as by pilgrims. Finally heading to Aosta, on the last stage of your walking section, you will mainly walk alongside the Torrente Buthier river. This way is dotted with an abundance of ancient remains left by its many different settlers throughout history. This area was held by the Romans, Burgundians, Ostrogoths, Byzantines and the Frankish before it finally became part of the Kingdom of Italy.|
|Col du Grand San Bernardo||12|
|Nus||15||Section 10 of the Via Francigena continues mainly across the Aosta Valley, with the Dora Baltea river at its centre. You will enjoy the extraordinary native flora and fauna of this valley; with its own micro-climate. See the famous therapeutic mineral waters of Fons Sautison and treat yourself after your walking day. Along this section you will see one of the most amazing Romanesque landmarks such as the church of St Martin, the town of Donnas and the bridge of Pont St Martin. Then on your way to Borgofranco d’Ivrea, make sure you visit the impressive 12th century castle. Beyond Ivrea you will leave the Dora Baltea river to follow tracks into lush farmlands and woodland. The gradual descent begins to level out as you make your way to Santhia. The last walking day towards Vercelli is mainly on roads surrounded by fields, used to grow rice. There are many wonderful sights in Vercelli, including the piazza in the centre, the cathedral and the Basilica di Sant’Andrea which is one of the best preserved Romanesque buildings in Italy.|
|Pont St Martin||15|
|Robbio||19||As you begin section 11 of the Via Francigena you will walk across the Sesia valley. where the landscape will be a sequence of farmlands and woodlands, following quite a flat route. On your way you can stop to discover the charming small Italian towns en route, each with their own history and specialities. Rubbio has always been an important trading post on the road from Rome to Gaul (France). Later, the route takes you along the course of the Ticino river across Ticino Valley Natural Park, an important conservation area for many species of birds. On your way to Piacenza you will need to cross the longest river in Italy, the Po river whether by using a shorter alternative route or by following the classic Via Francigena route, which is 9km longer.|
|Fiorenzuola d’Arda||34||Section 12 of the Via Francigena takes you into the Emilia-Romagna countryside, where the oldest human settlements in Italy are located. The route is easy and flat between Fiorenzula d’Arda and Fidenza, becoming steeper once you reach the rolling hills of the Apennines. You will notice the unusual rock formations of the area known as ‘Salti del Diavolo’. You will continue on a twisting trail climbing up and down until you reach the village of Berceto. Heading to Pontremoli, you will cross the Cisa Pass, border between Emilia-Romagna and Tuscany, following most of the time woodland trails with the Via Francigena markings. For the last day of the section you will follow a gentle downward sloping trail tracing the valley of the Magra river. Before reaching Aulla, between Villafranca and Terrarossa villages, you will see many castles of the Malaspina family, but also the Abbey of St Caprasio, from the 9th century.|
|Fornovo di Taro||12|
|Sarzana||17||Section 13 of the Via Francigena is one of the shortest sections. However this route is as challenging as the others. Indeed, you will climb sharply to the hilltop village of Bibola and pass the ruins of Brina Castle before leaving the Apennines Mountains. On the way to Massa and Camaiore, famous for its white marble, you will walk near the coast following roads and tracks. On your way to beautiful Lucca, the last stop for this section, you will walk across a valley and woodlands. Lucca has been settled for nearly 2,000 years and its well worth taking some time to stroll around the town, enjoy its medieval architecture and soak up the lively atmosphere.|
|Altopascio||18||Section 14 is a beautiful route in the heart of Tuscany, probably one of the most beautiful sections of the Via Francigena. You will walk through woodlands, oak woods, olive groves and vineyards along the way, following trails, tracks and tree-shadowed roads. The trail heads up and down along rolling hills, taking you to stunning medieval towns, rich in Italian traditions and culture. You should try classic foods such as the home made bread in Altopascio, known as ‘town of the bread’ or delight in a glass of Chianti in Colle Val d’Elsa. You will be amazed by the many historical sites and sights such as the beautiful fortified Medicean bridge, the towers of San Gimigano and the densely forested hill of Montagnole before you reach the town of Monteriggioni. Finally, in Siena, you will see why the city is a UNESCO World Heritage Site: art, medieval architecture, museums, fantastic cuisine and colourful traditions such as ‘Palio’, the annual horse race held in city’s piazza.|
|Colle di Val d’Elsa||27|
|Luciniano||18||Section 15 of the Via Francigena starts in magnificent Siena, make sure you explore this gem of a city and UNESCO World Heritage Site before you start your walk. At first you will follow a country road to then move on to farm tracks across the Tuscan hills. Between San Quirico d’Orcia and Bricole you will travel along the rolling hills of the Val d’Orcia Natural Park (another UNESCO listed site) where you will delight in the picturesque Tuscanscenery. At Radicofani, take some time to visit the castle with its impressive tower dominating the valley and offering you stunning views. You will meet the Paglia river on your way and follow the trail taking you to charming Italian towns such as as Ponte a Rigo and Acquapendente; and the important agricultural town of San Lorenzo Nuovo. As you approach Bolsena, its impressive lake will come into view. To end your walk along this section of the Via Francigena, you will walk through the beautiful countryside of the Viterbo province, passing the Bagnaccio thermal pools before finally reaching Viterbo. Explore the charming cobbled streets of the town and visit the Cathedral of San Lorenzo and the Papal Palace.|
|San Quirico d’Orcia||21|
|Vetralla||18||The last section of the Via Francigena, section 16, starts in medieval Viterbo and finishes in Rome, the Eternal City. From Viterbo you will see some beautiful unspoilt landscapes. The first highlight of this section is the lovely abbey in La Quercia and Bagnaia with its fantastic garden of Villa Lante. Then on your way to Sutri you will pass through undulated woodland and farmlands. Later on your journey, you will follow trails taking you to the wonderful deep valley carved by the river. You will see an abundance of streams, waterfalls and ponds. As you get into Rome, you will stop at the sanctuary of Sorbo and the archaeological site of Veli where there are many Etruscan remains. Your final day walking takes you across the suburbs of Rome, finishing at the Vatican. Explore and discover this magnificent city, destination for pilgrims and visitors for so many centuries.|
|Campagno di Roma||28|
The Via Francigena was the major medieval pilgrimage route to Rome coming from the north. Pilgrims today still travel this 2,000km-long route, but in far fewer numbers than the more popular Camino de Santiago (Way of St. James), although its popularity is increasing. The Via Francigena route was first documented as the ‘Lombard Way’, and first called the ‘Frankish Route’, the Iter Francorum, in the Itinerarium Sancti Willibaldi of 725, recording the travels of Willibald, bishop of Eichstätt in Bavaria. The Via Francigena is first mentioned in the Actum Clusio, a parchment of 876 in the Abbey of San Salvatore al Monte Amiata in Tuscany.
At the end of the 10th century Sigeric the Serious, the Archbishop of Canterbury, followed the Via Francigena to travel to and from Rome to be consecrated by the Pope; he recorded his route and his stops on the return journey, but nothing in the document suggests that the route was then new. In 1985 the Italian archaeologist of roads, Giovanni Caselli, retraced the itinerary as described by Archbishop Sigeric and this is the itinerary our route follows at FrancigenaWays.com, divided in 16 walking stages.
The Via Francigena was not a single road, like a Roman road, paved with stone blocks and provided at intervals with a change of horses for official travellers. Rather, it comprised several possible routes that changed over the centuries as trade and pilgrimage developed and waned. Depending on the time of year, political situation and relative popularity of the shrines of saints along the route, travellers may have used any of three or four crossings of the Alps and the Apennines. The Lombards financed the maintenance and defence of the sections of road through their territories as a trading route to the north from Rome, avoiding enemy-held cities such as Florence. Unlike Roman roads, the Via Francigena did not connect cities, but relied more on abbeys.
The Via Francigena was named European Cultural Route by the Council of Europe in 1994.