The Italian Almanac

via Francigena

The Pilgrims Route

Modern hikers following a medieval route once used by pilgrims travelling from Canterbury to Rome are to get an international web portal to help them en route. The new site will provide detailed guidance on the 1,000-kilometre Italian stretch of the Via Francigena, running from the Valle d`Aosta to Lazio.

``The portal will provide all the information currently available to pilgrims considering tackling this section,`` Florence Tourism Councillor Paolo Cocchi said. It will contain details on places to stay, services en route, places to eat and other information about the path. Cocchi also unveiled a series of national guidelines, aimed at ensuring the route offers more consistent services throughout its length.

The route to Rome from Canterbury in southeast England meanders down through France, crosses the Alps near Aosta, then winds down through Parma to Tuscany before reaching Rome. The itinerary was first documented in the 10th century when the Archbishop of Canterbury, Sigeric the Serious, travelled to Rome to see the pope in order to be consecrated. Walking it took about three months.

Few people nowadays are expected to do the entire length on foot but governments in Italy and France are keen to promote the old road as a vehicle for religious and cultural tourism. The success of Spain`s Camino de Santiago pilgrim route, revived in the 1970s, prompted the idea of resurrecting the Via Francigena. Moves to clean up the Via Francigena began in the 1990s and a Via Francigena Association was set up in Fidenza, one of the towns on the route.

The Via Francigena was designated a cultural route by the Council of Europe in 1994 and in 2007, then premier Romano Prodi unveiled the first of 1,544 signposts marking the way for modern travellers.