How A Via Francigena Pilgrimage Can Change Your Life

Via Francigena Pilgrimage

My Via Francigena Pilgrimage: The (Unexpected) Experience of a Lifetime

As many of you guys know, I’m a huge fan of walking. I regularly complete 10 to 15 km a day on foot, just getting around Berlin or whichever city I happen to be in. So when the opportunity arose to join (what I believed was) a traditional press trip following one of Europe’s oldest pilgrim routes, I thought, “why not!”

I was invited to participate in a modern-day version of the Via Francigena pilgrimage, walking through some of the most stunning parts of Tuscany and Lazio, Italy. Over 6 days, I was to see fortified villages, miles of vineyards, deep blue lakes and even roads laid by the Romans 2000 years ago.

Via Francigena pilgrimage
I had no idea what I was getting myself into when I signed up for the Via Francigena pilgrimage this summer. Photo taken in Bolsena, Italy.

This was a travel blogger’s dream. I could already see my Instagram feed filling up with gorgeous summer Italian shots. And walking 20+ km a day from village to village? Definitely not a problem!

But truthfully, I had NO idea what I was getting myself into.

Via Francigena pilgrimage
Walking on 2000-year-old roads paved by the Romans – just one of the experiences on my Via Francigena pilgrimage.

In Context: What is the Via Francigena Pilgrimage?

The Via Francigena (pronounced franCHEEgena) is an ancient pilgrim route leading from Canterbury, England, to the Port of Apulia in Italy, where ships would leave for the Holy Land (modern-day Jerusalem). The name simply means “the French Route”, as it connects England to Italy through France.

Spanning 1,700 kilometres, this route passes through Rome. As such, it was often used by men of the cloth to walk to the Eternal City in the Middle Ages. Northern merchants wishing to reach Italy while avoiding pirate-fraught waters also took the Via Francigena to access distant parts of Italy.

Via Francigena Pilgrimage Italy
My Via Francigena pilgrimage began in Radicofani and ended just after Viterbo. Photo:

An Archbishop of Canterbury, Sigeric, was the first to document his journey in the 990s, walking some 20 km a day for 80 days. But he was by no means the first person to undertake the trek – the name Francigena already appeared in abbey records over a century earlier.

Unlike typical Roman roads which bind cities, the Via Francigena pilgrimage connects abbeys, and thus meanders through some of Europe’s most beautiful rural scenery.

Via Francigena pilgrimage
Olives groves along the Via Francigena.

The Via Francigena Pilgrimage’s Modern-Day Appeal

Today, people undertake the Via Francigena pilgrimage for many different motivations, be it for religious reasons, for the adventure, for the physical challenge, to attempt a vow of silence, or simply, as it originally was in my case, to take beautiful pictures.

The route is managed by the European Association of the Via Francigena (EAVF). This is the organization that put together the #RoadtoRome2021 event I attended, a call for bloggers and journalists to walk sections of the Via Francigena in relay. Some members of the organization are actually walking the entire 1,700 km!

Via Francigena pilgrimage
While I only completed a small part of the Via Francigena, some members of our group were walking all 1,700 km!

8 thoughts on “How A Via Francigena Pilgrimage Can Change Your Life

  1. Love love loved this!! Coming to those hard realizations about your life and where you want to go can be scary, but ultimately that gut feeling is what will carry you through a fulfilling life. Can’t wait to read about your future travels!

  2. Loved reading about your experience on the Via Francigena pilgrimage. It’s something I’d love to do one day! Good luck with the solo travels!

  3. Wow what an amazing experience you’ve had on this trip! I had never heard of this walking route before, but it’s something I’m definitely going to be looking into now!

  4. Dear friend,

    there’s no better gift than being given the chance to put yourself in a position where you can meditate and reflect on your existential journey. Getting to know who you really are is the most important thing in life.

    It’s been a privilege to be part of this experience of yours and seeing, step after step, day after day, your genuine authentic self progressively unveil.

    You’ve shown yourself to be a strong, tough, resilient woman. I admire you for that and I commend your endurance along the Via Francigena: what you achieved with the little gear and mental preparation you had has been truly remarkable.

    I wish you all the best for the new chapter in your life.

    Sending you a hug,

    An old roommate

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