Tale of a slow journey : 300 km on the Via Francigena

by | Apr 24, 2022 | Blog, Education, Nature and climate, Society

Ambra and Daniele in SIENA

When we told our friends and relatives that we were going to leave from Siena to walk to Rome, some of them replied: “But wasn’t it better to do a holiday at the sea?” Perhaps for some people the idea of walking 20 kilometers a day with huge rucksacks is not very attractive, but we were determined and it was hard to demoralise us.

We didn’t want to have a holiday, but a journey, which would give us the opportunity to rediscover contact with nature and with ourselves. And what better place than the Via Francigena, which passes close to our home and which in recent years had been our destination for day trips, bike rides and runs?

This evocative route follows the legs indicated in the memorial left by Sigeric, Archbishop of Canterbury, during his pilgrimage at the end of the 10th century, along a path that was often used by pilgrims who wanted to reach Rome to pay homage to the tomb of St Peter. However, its valorisation and promotion by local and national authorities began relatively recently: suffice it to say that it was only recognised as a ‘Cultural Route’ by the Council of Europe, like the Way of St James, in 1994.  

The Via Francigena is 1,800 kilometers long and is divided into 79 stages, from Canterbury to Rome. In Italy it crosses seven regions – Valle d’Aosta, Piedmont, Lombardy, Emilia Romagna, Liguria, Tuscany and Lazio – for a total of 45 stages. 

We ‘only’ walked 12 of them, but it was nevertheless a unique experience.

The journey on foot is part of the ‘slow travel’ philosophy, which was born to oppose unconscious and unsustainable tourism, which favours quantity over quality. Slow travellers want to get to know the places they visit in depth, discovering their special features and, above all, giving them the right value. It is only when you stop to really appreciate something that you understand the value it has and how harmful it would be to lose it.

We consider ourselves lucky because in Tuscany (where we started from and where we live) and in Lazio (where our journey ended), nature is still lush and varied: before our eyes as new pilgrims there were green hills caressed by the wind, rows of olive trees as far as the eye could see, expanses of tulips and sunflowers… Without forgetting wonderful little villages like San Quirico d’Orcia, Bagno Vignoni, Radicofani, Bolsena, Sutri…

When you get up in the morning with your legs still broken from the previous day and yet you arrive at the end of the next stage relying solely on your own strength, you appreciate both the journey and the final destination even more. Sometimes we have arrived in places we already knew, but arriving there on our own two feet has a completely different value.

The ‘cammino’ is a metaphor for life: on the path, any path, you feel that, despite all the setbacks and fatigue, you have to keep going. Today’s pilgrim feels moved by an inner fire, which is none other than their own determination. They put themselves on the line, leaving their comfort zone and often discovering new strengths they did not know they had.

Ambra and Daniele

Taking time for oneself in today’s society, which lives at a frenetic and unsustainable pace, is unthinkable. In the same way, it has become natural to spend time in closed, artificial spaces, in front of electronic screens that are supposed to facilitate human relations but actually sterilise them.

That’s why we didn’t want to take a holiday, but rather a journey to discover ourselves and the natural beauties that our planet Earth still offers us. This gave us extra motivation to do our best every day to preserve it. 

Check Ambra and Daniele’s vlog on their YouTube channel! 

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