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.
Please see below for our suggested itineraries. You can select the ‘Via Francigena’ to customise your route (start point, finish point and options that you would like to have). You can walk or cycle any of our ways.
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.