- On 11 October, 2016
The Medieval Pilgrim's trail of the Francigena
Middle Ages was characterized by the explosion of several routes heading to three main directions: Rome, to visit the grave of the apostle Peter, named by Jesus the men’s fisher e fonder of the Catholic Church; the Holy land with Jerusalem, sacred pace also for the other two big monotheistic religions, Judaism and Islam; and Santiago de Compostela, for the grave of the Apostle James the Greater. The reason for pilgrims to take these routes in ancient times was mainly religious and connected to indulgences. Such a practice had to become increasingly popular in the Catholic Church between 14th and 16th centuries, thanks to the possibility of having sins forgiven in exchange of a certain amount of money, combined with the “punishment” of a spiritual walk towards a holy place. It gave the Church the chance of being economically independent from the political power of kings and local lords, leading to what was to become a real commercial practice responsible for the diffusion of specific routes used by pilgrims in their travels. In Middle Ages a pilgrimage had an indefinite time dimension, so that pilgrims decided to make testament before leaving, since they know they could not return, giving the possibility of getting infected on the way with mortal diseases, or being victim of common dangers, such as assaults by robbers or wild animals populating these lands. The birth of the Via Francigena commonly dates back to 9th century when it was plotted down for the first time by the Arcbishop ‘Sigeric the serious’ of Cantebury on his return from Rome and considered the main artery to the city of Rome throughout the Middle Ages. But its origins appear to be even older, going back to the Lombards that in 6th century had already traced this route to join territories under their power by a route that had to be away from the ones used by their historical enemy, i.e. the Byzantine Empire. Under the Franks and the Carolingi was the main route leading to Rome, crossing the main cities and villages of that time and linking the principle holy places of the Christian religion. Over the years, monuments and real gems of architecture were built along this route, such as the Santa Maria della Scala in Siena, the first hospital to be erected on the Sienese part of the Via Francigena, with the specific aim of welcoming pilgrims from all over Europe, as well as poor people and orphans. It linked the Mediterranean Sea, and the important commercial area represented by the Apulian harbours - crossing border to the Holy land -, to the zones of the North Sea, through the city of Rome. Soon it began to be crossed by men and goods, boosting the bloom of the European commerce.
In 1994 The Council of Europe awarded the Via Francigena with the special recognition of being one out of the 29 European cultural itineraries for its transnational character, representing an authentic European heritage, as well as a shared European cultural value. The route runs through rural areas, linking historical cities and stunning landscapes. Today, it is one of the most important itinerary for a sustainable tourism, promoted by the unique experience of walking on the same paths that were taken for centuries by pilgrims, while crossing pure landscapes full of authentic architectural treasures and getting in touch with the ancestral traditions of these places. Among the 15 itineraries in Tuscany, that were part of a project by the Region of Tuscany in 2009 for the promotion of the Via Francigena and the security of the parts under risk, the route from Siena to Monteriggioni is the longest in the region and it crosses the wonderful hills of the Sienese countryside, along non-industrialised areas, leaving your mind completely free from any kind of restriction for your imagination. A real chance for any pilgrim willing to share such a spiritual experience. If you are thinking of giving your mind a peaceful rest from the noise of the crowded towns, follow your expert guide on a pleasant walk in the year of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy called by Pope Francis along the Via Francigena, for centuries been a highway of men and emotions, a spiritual pilgrimage and a wealthy trade route. It had been forgotten and almost entirely relegated to history by the modern paved car roads. Only recently the route has been brought back from the grip of modernity and is today enjoyed by many pilgrims and hikers alike. Experience the beauty of the mixture between the Tuscan countryside and the glory of its medieval past, still present in its wonderfully preserved castles, villages and ruins.
See the Tuscany you would never want to miss before returning home, pass through forests and fields, vineyards and olive groves from Siena to the imposing fortress of Monteriggioni. A medieval walled town located on a natural hillock, built by the Sienese in the thirteenth century as a bastion of defense in their wars against Florence. It withstood many attacks from both the Florentines and the forces of the Bishop of Volterra until in an act of reconciliation with the Medicis, the town’s captain simply handed the keys of the town over to the Medicean forces - considered a "great betrayal" by the town's people. Once in Monteriggioni, you will enjoy a guided tasting of local organic wines before saying goodbye to your guide for the end of the tour. Feel free to explore the village and the surrounding area at your own pace. You will be given a train ticket to return to Siena railway station. Trains leave on the hour (every hour) and can be taken at whatever time you prefer from the nearby station. The tour starts in front of the Pharmacy outside of the Siena Train on Monday and Thursday mornings, with pick up at 08:30am.
The hiking tour is suitable for anyone in good physical condition and with experience in long walks. It is highly recommended you wear comfortable clothes and shoes, to bring water, a hat, sun cream. The normal operation of the activity is subjected to weather condition. In case the tour had to be cancelled due to adverse weather conditions, we will offer the choice to tour on an alternate date or receive full refund.