Via Francigena - Walking through history
For centuries, merchants and pilgrims from every country travelled the Via Francigena, or Romea, to reach Rome. The Via Francigena was, in the Middle Ages, one of the most important European routes of communication.
Its origin is closely linked to the Lombard king Rotari, but we know it thanks to Sigeric, Archbishop of Canterbury, who, in 990, described the 79 days of the journey back from Rome in his “Itinerarium”a diary with an extraordinary testimony of the 10th century Via Francigena.
The Francigena was a “path”, understood not only as a road but, above all, as a spiritual path and knowledge, opportunities for cultural exchanges as well as commercial opportunities for meetings.
The Council of Europe, in 1994, declared the Via Francigena “European Cultural Itinerary” and today it is visited by thousands of pilgrims from all over the world.
In over 100 km of the stretch of Siena the Via Francigena crosses the province of Siena from the north to the border with Lazio. The traveler of the twenty-first century who travels at a slow pace, accompanied by his own motivation, will not find it so different from that described by Sigerico.
The streets of Siena are known, and recognized throughout the world, as a symbol of the Tuscan landscape, identified by the collective imagination as a perfect synthesis of beauty, where cities of art and countryside coexist harmoniously for centuries, culture and well-being, quiet and modernity.
The Way is fully signposted, and its maintenance is constantly taken care of, and today’s pilgrim/traveler will be able to enjoy in safety what these lands offer: art, culture, landscape, thermal waters, good food, excellent products and wines to be rewarded after a long day of walking.
Crossing these lands on foot, taking all the time along the route of the Francigena will be a unique experience, an exciting and emotional journey, walking through history through San Gimignano, Colle di Val d’Elsa, Monteriggioni, Siena, Monteroni d’Arbia, Buonconvento, Montalcino, San Quirico d’Orcia, Castiglione d’Orcia, Radicofani and San Casciano dei Bagni, in addition to the variant of Abbadia San Salvatore.
The outline of the towers of San Gimignano, on a sky of early summer at dusk, could be the iconic image of this land, but there is more and more to look for and find in Val d’Elsa, in addition to art jewels such as Colle Val d’Elsa, Monteriggioni and the famous San Gimignano.
Val d’Elsa is a simple, sweet and fragrant land of Vernaccia; it is a land of hard-working people, who have designed hills of olive trees and vineyards with their work and have given life, over the centuries and exploiting what nature offered, to paper mills, precious crystals and works of art; is the birthplace of a forerunner genius such as Arnolfo di Cambio, architect, sculptor and painter.
Val d’Elsa is a gift for those who are not content to travel to the surface. Moving away from the most popular corners, from the “postcard views”, you can find yourself in dreamy paths, in a sunny and open countryside, where the hills seem to lull you and the stone of farms, parish churches and small villages welcomes you, invites you to a stop, asks you to take time, to take your time.
Many have written about Siena and its harmonious beauty, in all times, and it is difficult to invent new words to describe its charm, especially if you are not poets. UNESCO declared it a World Heritage Site in 1995.
José Saramago, a Portuguese writer and Nobel Prize winner, was in love with the city and dedicated words that describe it with brushstrokes of deep emotion and passion.
“And here is Siena, the beloved, the city where my heart is truly pleased”. “The three hills on which it is built make it a city where there are no two equal roads, all contrary to submit to any geometry”. “This wonderful color, the color of the body browned by the sun, but that is also the color of the crust of the corn bread, this wonderful color goes from the stones to the road and to the roofs, softens the sunlight and erases the anxieties and fears from the face”.
“There can be nothing more beautiful than this city”. Piazza del Campo “a square inclined and curved like a shell, which the builders did not want to pave and remained so, as if it were a lap”.
“I look at the old palaces of Siena, ancient houses where I wish I could live one day, with a window of my own, overlooking the clay-colored roofs, the green shutters of the windows, as in the attempt to decipher where this secret comes from that Siena murmurs and that I will continue to hear, although I do not understand it, until the end of life”.
The Crete Senesi are a land landscape. Rain and wind have shaped and designed the hills of clay as the passing of time on a face wrinkles: bitterness and sweetness, roundness and edges, deep furrows and light slopes, the signs of a very long life lived intensely.
The Crete Senesi are a sea landscape when, green of the grass, brushed by the wind, the expanse of hills seems to move: waves, as far as the eye can see, up to the horizon. An illusion of infinity, a crystallized and immobile space that extracts the soul. Then…. A stronger wind rises and the clouds run changing the colors to the landscape, a flock moves, the sun is reflected on the window of an isolated farm next to a cypress, and dirt roads open up like scars in the green.
Ideal places if you look for a detachment from the world, as did Giovanni Tolomei, an important and rich Sienese family, who in 1313 found his place in the “desert of Accona”, where he founded the Abbey of Monteoliveto Maggiore.
The Via Francigena runs through much of the territory of the Natural and Cultural Artistic Park of the Val d’Orcia, a landscape still almost identical to that which crossed the travelLer of the Middle Ages. Fortresses, castles, churches, abbeys, farms, hills, cypresses, woods, water: images known all over the world and that the whole world identifies as a maximum example of harmony between human being and nature.
In 2004 UNESCO declared the Val d’Orcia a World Heritage Site with an exemplary motivation to understand the value and beauty of this land: “Val d’Orcia is an exceptional example of the redesign of the landscape in the Renaissance, which illustrates the ideals of good governance in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries of the Italian city-state and the aesthetic research that guided its conception.
The Val d’Orcia, a combination of art and landscape, geographical space and ecosystem, is the expression of wonderful natural characteristics but it is also the result and the testimony of the people who live there. Between the hard, rugged landscape of the Crete and the softer hills where the Mediterranean maquis, vineyards, olive groves, promiscuous crops are exchanged and intersect in frescoes of rare beauty, It is clearly understood how and how much the awareness of man has weighed on his works to depend on the resources of the surrounding environment and their use in a non-destructive way.