The beautiful cathedral of Canterbury and the Beffroi of Arras are two symbolic locations that framed the beginning of “Via Francigena Road to Rome”, the long march that started on the 15th of June and will end on the 18th of October in Santa Maria di Leuca.The rather rainy weather of these first days of journey did not influence the warm welcoming of municipalities, departments, tourist offices, local associations and the network of accommodation facilities involved in the project. From the 15th of June, the pilgrim’s stick, delivered by our friends of the Confraternity of Pilgrims to Rome, is crossing Europe from North to South on its 127 days-long relay march.
Canterbury, Calais, Wissant, Guines, Licques, Tournehem-sur-la-Hem, Wisques, Thérouanne, Amettes, Bruay-La-Buissière, Ablain Saint Nazaire, Arras were the stages crossed in these first walking days. In between, many small municipalities of the English region of Kent and the French Haute France opened their doors to the Road to Rome, displaying the extraordinary cultural heritage that distinguishes them.
“Heritage” (together with “restart” and “Europe”) is one of the key words of this epic journey, which aims to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the European Association of Via Francigena ways with all of the 657 municipalities located along the route. The Road to Rome is also highlighting the UNESCO candidacy of the Via Francigena in France: this project is finding support and excitement among all encountered local communities.
Along the route, groups of hikers and pilgrims are joining our walkers, wanting to share their trip with the leading group of the Road to Rome. This is one of the most important results achieved until now: the strong participation of local territories, responding with pride and feeling part of a European cultural route and a pilgrimage route that culturally unites them.
At the forefront we also find the Fédération Française de la Randonnée and the Fédération Via Francigena France, which are accompanying the group along the French section and are highly contributing to the overall success of the Road to Rome.
Sunday 27th of June the group stopped for a day in the gorgeous city of Arras. The next stops are expected in Reims, Champlitte and Besançon, before arriving in Swiss territory.
It is possible to follow our daily stories, photos and videos of the trip through EAVF’s official channels.
An Educational Tour was led during the days 21, 22 and 23rd of June in the Italian area of Tuscia, in the province of Viterbo. The initiative was financed by the Chamber of Commerce of Viterbo and by Unioncamere Lazio, and was organized by Francigena Service S.r.l. with the technical support of SloWays, an expert partner of the European Association of Via Francigena ways (EAVF).
The press trip was held by a group of journalists: Giulia Armeni (Il Giornale di Vicenza), Dario Bordet (italiadagustare – Milano 24orenews – Roma 24orenews), Lorenza Cerbini (Corriere della Sera) and bloggers: Alessandro Bertini and Sara Dutto (Girovagate), Patrizia Ferlini (Saporiinviaggio). They were accompanied by: Anna Maria Olivieri (Responsible of Placement Services to Enterprises’ Internationalization and Marketing at the Chamber of Commerce of Viterbo), Marika Massotti (Social Media Manager at EAVF), Tullia Caballero (CEO of SloWays) and Agostino Cecchini, licensed tourist and trekking guide.
The event was important to allow journalists and bloggers to learn about the territory of Tuscia and the passage of the Via Francigena in this area, ancient pilgrimage route which, today, is crossed by millions of walkers. Participants walked across the woods and green nature, visited historical villages and met people who enrich local entrepreneurship with passion and originality.
The group began the tour with a walk along the Via Francigena, in the direction of Bolsena, coming across the archeological site of Poggio Moscini. The tour then crossed the histocial center of Bolsena, the City of Miracles (Città dei Miracoli), and the group took part in a handcraft workshop at a pottery and coloured ceramics shop called Terre di Rasenna. The day came to an end at a beautiful biological and holistic holiday farmhouse, “Valle dei Calanchi”, which applies homeodynamic agriculture in its land. The experience mesmerized the curious group of travelers.
The second day started with a visit at the historical center of Montefiascone (EAVF’s member municipality), with a visit at the Basilica di San Flaviano. Before starting the walk on the Via Francigena, the group enjoyed a break at the panoramic resting spot of the city, which overlooks the lake of Bolsena. Participants then walked along one of the most famous and beloved routes in the area, the Via Cassia Antica, with its authentic Roman paving. They then reached the farm Azienda Agricola il Molino, where Annalisa and Mauro welcomed them in elegantly restyled farmhouses with oil tastings and a rich lunch with local and high-quality products. Walkers were then joined by representatives of the Chamber of Commerce of Viterbo.
In the afternoon, the Educational Tour focused on the city of Viterbo, (EAVF’s member municipality). A stroll of the city center, with a visit to the Cathedral of San Lorenzo, was followed by a tour of the Pilgrim’s district. In the late afternoon time stopped when Lucia and Hans talked to the group about the ancient craft and art of binding books: participants were guided in the creation of a little handmade notebook.
The last day, the tour started with a walk from Capranica to the town of Sutri (EAVF’s member municipality). Participants walked through the woods, across little waterfalls and wooden bridges, and discovered the well-known sword in the stone. After a 6 km walk, across the Natural Park of the Ancient City of Sutri, they reached another archeological site. The tour ended with a lunch in the village of Caprarola, along an uphill street bringing to the famous Palazzo Farnese. An experience full of flavours and typical dishes.
This shared project revealed itself as a wonderful tool to recignize the value of this territory, thanks to the collaboration between various institutions and enterprises of the Tuscia Viterbese. It enhanced local promotion and the availability of services, resources and specialities of the area.
The European Association of Via Francigena Ways and SloWays support the Refill Now sustainability project, a map of all drinkable water sources along the Via Francigena.
Refill Now is a sustainable project created by an Italian start-up with a specific mission: “revolution the way drinkable water is consumed”, helping private companies and tourism destinations to provide alternatives that can decrease the consumption of plastic water bottles and other disposables.
Starting from the Italian Island of Elba and progressively growing across Italy, a shared network was built to identify public (fountains) and private (hotels, bars, restaurants and partners) water sources where walkers and citizens can refill their water bottle and minimize plastic waste. The innovative part of the project is the Refill Now Map, an interactive map, continuously updated and accessible through a QR code, which can be found on the project’s personalized steel water bottles. This allows to quickly and easily find your water supply without downloading an app or sharing personal data.
Refill Now is a solution which unites associations, cities, private companies (hotels, bars, restaurants, shops, Tour Operators) and citizens to minimize the impact on our planet and educate people towards responsible behaviors, both during their routine lives and during holidays. By developing this project we not only create a service for the community; we also value water as a resource and promote sustainable tourism, valuing the actions that companies are taking to reduce their environmental impact. Between the beginning of the project and May 2019 the consumption of plastic bottles decreased of about 1.5 milions. The European Association of Via Francigena ways shared and invited to the project more than 300 accommodation structures who are part of its VisitVieFrancigene network, raising awareness among hotel and restaurant managers. SloWays created personalized water bottles, financed the project and sensitized walkers to the use of reusable bottles and to the possibility to indicate the presence of water sources directly on the map.
See this video to discover how these water bottles and their QR codes linked to the Refill Map work:
Reduce consumption of plastic bottles
Facilitate localization of drinkable water sources through the map
Incentivize the development of public and private drinkable water sources
Promote sustainable tourism and responsible lifestyles
How can you participate in the Refill Now project? Buy a Via Francigena stainless steel water bottle on SloWay’s shop, use the QR code you find on it, share the project with your friends and help us map water sources along the route. An easy, fun and quick way to reduce plastic consumption and your environmental impact!
Tuesday 15th of June 2021 at 9:00 am a symbolic ceremony will be held at the Cathedral of Canterbury, next to the km 0 stone of the Via Francigena. The ceremony represents the starting of the event, with the blessing of the “pilgrim’s stick” which will accompany us for 3,200 km, all the way to Santa Maria di Leuca. At 1:45 pm a delegation of EAVF will be received by the Secretary-General of the Council of Europe,Marija PejčinovićBurić.
TUESDAY 15TH OF JUNE
Close friends of the Via Francigena, to whom the EAVF general assembly assigned “Public Awards”, will be in Canterbury: Edward Condry (former Dean of the Cathedral), Velia Coffey (former EAVF Vice-President), Colin Carmichael (General Director of the Canterbury City Council), William Pettit (former Responsible of International Relations at the Canterbury City Council) and Catherine Bradley (Kent County).
At the end of the ceremony, a group of pilgrims and walkers, led by Giancarlo Laurenzi, president of the Confraternity of Pilgrims to Rome, will cover the Via Francigena up to Shepherdswell.
Meeting in Strasbourg at the Council of Europe
On the same day of the 15th of June, at 1:45 pm, a delegation of EAVF members, composed by President Massimo Tedeschi, Vice-president Francesco Ferrari, Vice-president Gaetan Tornay, Mayor of Montfaucon Pierre Contoz and EAVF’s Director Luca Bruschi, will extraordinarily be received by the Secretary-General of the Council of Europe, Marija PejčinovićBurić. It is important to notice that all the States which will be crossed by the march – United Kingdom, France, Switzerland and Italy – are members of the Council of Europe, an organization founded on the 5th of May 1949 with the Treaty of London.
WEDNESDAY 16TH OF JUNE
The group of English pilgrims will meet in Dover for a second meaningful ceremony, during which the “pilgrim’s stick” will be delivered to the ferry captain who will cross the English Channel to reach Calais, where walkers will receive it and start their great march towards Rome.
Launching videoconference in Calais, at 11:00 am
At the municipal headquarters of Calais the great march will be presented with the presence of: Massimo Tedeschi, EAVF President, Luca Bruschi, EAVF Director, Dominique Darré, municipal Councilor at the municipality of Calais, Daniel Pipart, French Randonnée Federation, Didier Morel, French Via Francigena Federation.
The conference will be in French language (one of the three official languages of the Via Francigena). The maximum limit of connected devices at the videoconference is 100 people.
We remind you that the event “Via Francigena. Road to Rome 2021. Start again!” will be shared every day on EAVF’s web and social channels: website, with news and blog, Facebook page, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn and daily podcasts on Radio Francigena.
The Italian National Tourist Board-ENIT promotes slow tourism and supports the march from Europe leading to Rome. The march will leave Canterbury on the 16th of June, passing through 5 nations and 637 municipalities, along the 3,200 km route.
The event celebrates the 20th anniversary of the foundation of the European Association of Via Francigena ways.
The great event is about to start – “Via Francigena – Road to Rome. Start Again” organised by the European Association of Via Francigena Ways in collaboration with The Italian National Tourist Board-ENIT. ENIT wishes to contribute to the rebirth of slow tourism in Italy and Europe, supporting the long march leading to Rome, which is both the Italian capital as well as a cultural and religious centre of both Europe and the World. It will be a long and leisurely walk, symbolic of starting again and getting back to walking, as well as looking hopefully to the future after a difficult year during the pandemic.
It is an event that gives value to the Via Francigena, putting the 3,200 km route on the map, as well as the five countries it passes through (The United Kingdom, France, Switzerland, Italy and Vatican city). Road to Rome 2021 aims to be a moment of celebration: a route to be travelled on foot or by bicycle to re-launch the European spirit. The Pilgrim’s Staff will take the place of the Olympic Torch, and will be carried, step by step, country by country, along the way.
The march is aimed at everyone, and the walk will have a symbolic introduction on the 15th of June in Strasbourg, at the Palais de l’Europe, the headquarters of the Council of Europe. The event will see a delegation from EAVF met by the Secretary General Marija Pejčinović Burić. The meeting will underline the European humanistic values and intends to promote the Cultural Routes of the Council of Europe, among these the Via Francigena. On the 16th of June a group of walkers will depart Canterbury, after a short ceremony by the symbolic Mile 0 stone situated in the garden of the majestic cathedral. The walk will then arrive in Rome on the 10th of September, and from there go onwards to Santa Maria di Leuca, the so-called “finis terrae”, arriving on the 18th of October. Today, the Via Francigena, with its 148 stages in five countries – forms one of the most attractive European Cultural Routes. The growing number of walkers originating from all over the world highlights the shifting tendency towards cultural and sustainable tourism, and develops the intercultural and interreligious dialogue between the communities of walkers and the communities that welcome them.
The event is sponsored by theVisit Canterbury, theFrench Cultural Ministry, the Italian Cultural Ministry and Canterbury City Council and the Interreg Green Pilgrimage. It is supported by ENIT – Italian National Tourist Board, and the international main partners Intesa Sanpaolo and Snam. A further institutional partner isValore Paese Italia, an Italian national programme to promote tourism and culture linked to adding value to public patrimony.
International bloggers, video makers and associations will join the route to tell the story of the journey. “ The EAVF’s initiative shares the desire to start again after the pandemic, adding value to the more minor and rural areas of Europe. Adding value to both material and immaterial patrimony is an objective that helps to strengthen the Via Francigena’s candidacy as UNESCO World Heritage. Furthermore, the walk will help to increase awareness and dialogue between cultures and people living by the North Sea, with those living by the Mediterranean Sea, keeping in mind common European values, and allowing the world to understand the beauty of the Via Francigena” claims EAVF President Massimo Tedeschi.
“We join this symbolic march because we are aware of its imaginative power and its importance of keeping the dream of Italy alive. Italy presents itself to Europe and the World with a story and a route that also redefines the geography of hospitality. The event symbolises a way forward for the sector and binds up coordinated integration. Through giving value to the natural heritage, it will be possible to attract further tourism and to ease access to lesser-known destinations” declare Italian National Tourist Board President Giorgio Palmucci and director Giovanni Bastianelli.
“This manifestation is very close to our mission and our values. The Snam energy network, which in Italy passes many points along the Via Francigena, connects towns and communities, communicates with different territories and guarantees a secure energy supply, ever more sustainable and in harmony with nature and the countryside. We work with the EAVF Ways and everyone who will accompany us in the next four months from Canterbury to Santa Maria di Leuca on a walk symbolising starting again, communication with people, common European routes, culture and environmental sustainability” comments Patrizia Ritigliano, EVP Institutional Affairs, ESG, Communications and Marketing at Snam.
“This project sheds an optimist message: returning soon to enjoy the artistic and cultural heritage of Italy. For Intesa Sanpaolo the participation of the public in the arts and culture represents an essential value, inspiring continuous commitment in this context” comments Renzo Simionato, Head of Management of Agribusiness in Intesa Sanpaolo.
The Road to Rome is supported by the following Gold Partners: Lazio Region and Apulia Region; Silver Partners: Doubs Department, Valle d’Aosta Region, Piedmont Region, Emilia-Romagna Region, Liguria Region, Campania Region, Montefiascone Municipality, Viterbo Municipality, Civita association, Montana; Bronze Partners: Haute-Saone Department, Grand Besançon Metropole, Pays de Lumbres Municipalities Community, Champlittle Municipality, Pays du Grand St. Bernard, Siena Municipality, Banca Generali Private, Crédit Agricole branch in Dampierrre-sur-Salon, Zurich, Sport Power Patch. The technical partners for the initiative are North Downs Way, Confraternity of Pilgrims to Rome, French Hiking Federation (FFRandonnée), Fédération Française de la Via Francigena, Federturismo di Confindustria, Trenitalia, Trenord, Artio Design, Sloways, Itineraria. Ferrino, Garmont and Alpek Bike are technical partners and suppliers of products for walkers and cyclists. The publishers Cicerone, Favre, Terre di Mezzo, Le Pélerin and Via Francigena magazines, Radio Francigena and Movimento Lento are media partners.
Finally, the project is supported by numerous local administrations and tourist offices in the towns the route passes through, who will host the group of walkers and who, together with local associations, will organise various activities.
The “Via Francigena. Road to Rome 2021. Start again!” initiative has been selected and is now on the official platform of the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO): the ‘Tourism for SDGs’ platform “. It represents a showcase and best practice, accessible worldwide, aiming at the relaunch of sustainable and responsible tourism after Covid-19.
The platform, developed by UNWTO, frames a selection of inspirational stories, education and training activities, research projects, initiatives and events, including our relay march, in the context of the Sustainable Development Goals (so-called SDGs) , outlining the contribution of each of these practices to the global quest for sustainable development. As the UNWTO highlights, sustainable tourism must take full account of its current and future economic, social and environmental impacts.
The 17 SDGs were defined in 2015 by the United Nation’s Member States to set clear and shared objectives to pursue globally and unitedly until 2030. Tourism is only one of the many sectors and topics tackled by the official goals, yet the contribution of the Road to Rome event extends across many of them. Most relevantly, not only the Road to Rome initiative but the Via Francigena itself contributes to develop decent work and economic growth (SDG 8), sustainable cities and communities (SDG 11) and partnership for sustainability (SDG 17).
We are preparing a section on our website explaining how this is done in much more detail, and how the European Association of Via Francigena Ways (EAVF) continuously works to get closer and closer to the achievement of these sustainability goals. As we never forget about, the very constitution statement of our Association outlines that sustainable development is the fundamental goal of our work!