The Via Francigena winds for 1800 kilometers from Canterbury to Rome. The Lombards who were the first to outline the path of the Via Francigena, a new road to connect Pavia with the southern Duchies, were contending with the Byzantines for supremacy over Italian territory.
The stretch of the Via Francigena in Tuscia
Thus was born, around the seventh century, a route called “Via di Monte Bardone” which changed its name to Via Francigena when power passed into the hands of the Franks. The route of the Via Francigena became the main link between North and South of the European continent, a transit route not only for pilgrims, but also for merchants and travelers.
One of the first to mention the main stages of the Via Francigena in his travel diary was Sigeric, Archbishop of Canterbury, who in 990 reported all the tasks in which he had spent the night on his way to Rome to receive the sacred investiture as bishop of the British city.
Subsequently it became the path trodden by European pilgrims to reach the capital, the heart of Christianity, and continue further south, in our Puglia, to embark towards the Holy Land. It crosses the UK, France, Switzerland and Italy. In 1994 it was declared a Cultural Route of the Council of Europe and is traveled by millions of pilgrims every year.
The Italian part crosses nine regions and extends from the Gran San Bernardo pass, in the Aosta Valley, to Rome, with a total length of about 945 kilometers. Tuscia, in Upper Lazio, is one of the most evocative segments of the Italian Francigena because it winds through an uncontaminated natural environment, between nature reserves and parks, lakes and thermal springs and, above all, extraordinary historical and artistic testimonies such as the Etruscan necropolis, the medieval villages, the Renaissance villas.
The stretch we want to tell you about is the one that, reaching Proceno, a village that has always been linked to the Via Francigena, crosses the Tuscia. Proceno was the first village that pilgrims encountered when crossing the border between Tuscany and the Papal State.
The road then continues among monuments and art treasures that over the centuries have enriched the path: cathedrals and churches in which precious relics connected to the pilgrimage are kept, such as the one coming from the Sacellum of Jerusalem kept in the crypt of the Cathedral of the Holy Sepulcher of Acquapendente, a town located in a strategic position not far from Tuscany, Orvieto and Lake Bolsena. These are the stones stained with the blood of Christ preserved since the early Middle Ages in the ancient building that reproduces the Holy Sepulcher in which Jesus was laid before the Resurrection.
Bolsena, a medieval village dominated by the beautiful Rocca of Monaldeschi currently home to the Territorial Museum of Lake Bolsena, is instead linked to the miracle that took place in the Sacellum of the martyr Cristina who restored a doubtful priest, also a pilgrim to Rome, to the faith. To sanction and commemorate the miraculous event, the pope instituted Corpus Domini on 11 August 1264, one of the main holidays of the liturgical calendar. This is why Bolsena is also called the City of the Eucharistic Miracle and the feast of Corpus Domini is particularly felt and celebrated with a spectacular Infiorata.
Also Sutri, one of the oldest places in the area which preserves in addition to the numerous Etruscan remains medieval testimonies and the cave where, according to tradition, Berta abandoned by her brother Charlemagne gave birth to the famous paladin Orlando, is one of the stages of the Via Francigena in Tuscia.
The Mountain road, as the stretch of Francigena that continued towards Lake Vico after touching Viterbo was called, climbs 800 meters above sea level on the crest of the ancient Cimino volcano which overlooks the valley where it is set the lake mirror of volcanic origin.
Viterbo is called the “City of the Popes”: capital of ancient Etruscan origin, it boasts aristocratic palaces, monuments rich in works of art, suggestive medieval quarters, churches, cloisters, slender towers and elegant fountains in peperino, the typical stone of the area.
The beautiful village of Ronciglione is another stage where, after passing the Cimino Pass, the Via Francigena rejoins the stretch coming from Sutri.
Once an ancient pilgrimage route to Rome and the Holy Land in the name of interior research, today the Via Francigena also represents an excellent idea of slow and green tourism to find contact with oneself by crossing mountains and following paths, mule tracks, country roads, tree-lined streets and ancient cobbles.
From the Tuscan countryside it reaches the lakes of Lazio, passing through wheat fields and vineyards: following the itinerary, pilgrims find hospitality and catering facilities. It is accessed with the Credential, a special document issued by the European Association of the Vie Francigene to be stamped during the stages, which allows you to take advantage of discounts, such as the 15% recognized by Castle of Proceno on its rates. Traveling the last 100 kilometers on foot or 200 by bicycle, you also receive the Testimonium, certification of the pilgrimage.
Today, there is also a new and more modern tool to guide the pilgrim or visitor along the routes: the TusciApp Francigena, which for the first time has put the reception points for pilgrims, walkers and sportsmen online.