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The Road to Rome stick, a symbol of peace, returns to the Km zero in Canterbury

On the occasion of EAVF’s General Assembly, the 26th of April at 5 pm, a special ceremony takes place in Canterbury’s Cathedral: the blessing of the “Via Francigena. Road to Rome” stick that traveled across 3,200 km in 2021, along the entire itinerary.

The “Via Francigena. Road to Rome” stick, after almost one year, returns to the ‘km zero’ – the majestic Cathedral in Canterbury, departure point of the Via Francigena. The stick was the absolute symbol of the long march that crossed Europe from north to south in four months, between 15 June and 18 October 2021, to celebrate the twentieth anniversary of the EAVF. A journey full of emotions, encounters, unexpected events, extraordinary moments and difficult moments, joy and tears. In the year of the 2021 Olympics, the stick was also metaphorically an important symbol of dialogue between 658 municipalities and 4 countries, as it was carried firmly in the hands of pilgrims on their way, as if it were an Olympic torch.

The story of this hazelwood stick is beautiful. The idea of making it a symbol of the ‘Road to Rome’ initiative came from Giancarlo Laurenzi, a pilgrim, President of the London-based Confraternity of Pilgrims to Rome. But where did this object come from? It was made by Michael Walsh near Holycross Abbey in Tipperary, Ireland. The stick was seasoned, cleaned and prepared for the long journey with more than 10 layers of boiled linseed oil. The subsequent decoration on the stick, with the recognisable icon of the pilgrim symbol of the Via Francigena, was engraved by an artist from London, Julie Helen Sharp, and the rope grip on the handle was prepared by specialist craftsman Declan O Shea.

The stick, blessed before the beginning of “Road to Rome” by Brother Celsus Tierney, set off on 15 June from km zero in Canterbury, in front of the Cathedral, to walk the distance to Dover in the company of enthusiasts, pilgrims and representatives of the Confraternity of Pilgrims to Rome and of the Kent County Council, who handed it over to Captain Nick Jones (P&O Company) in the port of Dover on the morning of 17 June. He transported it on the ship to Calais, on the French shore on the other side of the English Channel. Welcoming the stick at the port were EAVF’s President Massimo Tedeschi, Calais municipal delegate Dominique Darré, EAVF’s Director Luca Bruschi and the event’s social media manager Myra Stals. This moment was particularly emotional.

From there, the continental journey of the stick began, passing into the hands of the various representatives of local institutions and associations, as well as other pilgrims who accompanied the Road to Rome group on the four-month journey.  An epic journey, narrated with photos, videos and a travel diary that put people and local communities at the centre of this experience.

Six months after its exciting arrival in Santa Maria di Leuca, Puglia, the stick returns to Canterbury where a ceremony is scheduled for Tuesday 26 April in the Cathedral. On this occasion the staff will be blessed by Reverend Robert Willis in the presence of representatives of the European Association of Via Francigena ways, the city of Canterbury and the Confraternity of Pilgrims to Rome. It will be an emotional and symbolic moment which strongly links the journey of the Road to Rome to the meeting of peoples – sending out a strong message of peace at a delicate moment in history, with the ongoing war in Ukraine, at the gates of Europe. The stick of the Via Francigena is meant to become a symbol of peace and hope.

After the EAVF Assembly on 27 April in Canterbury, the stick will return to Italy, in Fidenza (where the EAVF headquarters is located). This geographical position is perfectly in the middle of the whole European journey. As well as being a beautiful reminder of the Road to Rome march, the stick will continue to be a symbol of unity between peoples. It will continue to meet pilgrims from all over the world.

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The perfect souvenirs for the Via Francigena? Discover Artio Design with us

Every pilgrim has a personal amulet. Some bring it from home, some find it along the way. An object of symbolic value, a good luck charm, a souvenir, or a mascot that accompanies us. What really matters is the meaning that will be forever associated with it, and with the experience of the journey.

From this realm of memories and evocations comes the work of Mirko and Silvia, two artisans, architects and passionate pilgrims who dedicate themselves to the creation of personalised souvenirs, mainly made in wood or ceramics, specifically dedicated to pilgrims travelling along the Via Francigena.

Together they founded the Artio Design workshop in Aosta, becoming the official designer of the Via Francigena in 2020, offering objects made with natural materials which you can carry during your pilgrimage. Water bottles, key rings and wooden pins to hang on your backpack, leather bracelets, ceramic or stone necklaces, and much more: Artio Design also produces custom-made stamps and stickers, as well as shapes and signs in the style of a ‘medieval shop’ that tag places where you can receive a stamp on your credential. Each product can be 100% personalised with details, texts and images that make it unique and unrepeatable, just like each person’s experience along the way. We are delighted to renew our collaboration with this important company for 2022!

Our aim is to provide pilgrims with a product adapted to their needs for lightness, compactness and recognition, and to offer retailers exclusive articles that will identify and enhance them on the Way“, reads the official website.

Click here to browse the catalogue of products dedicated to the Via Francigena

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UNESCO: the Mayor of Calais writes a letter to President Macron. The candidacy of the Via comes back to the fore

The long walk “Via Francigena. Road to Rome 2021. Start again!”, which took place during summer 2021, celebrated the 20th anniversary of the EAVF. The event prompted the candidacy of the Via Francigena to join the UNESCO World Heritage List.

Good news finally arrives from France as well, as for the revival of the candidacy process. The letter of Calais’s Mayor Natacha Bouchart to the President of the French Republic Emmanuel Macron has a remarkable value.

The Via Francigena is a “Cultural Route of the Council of Europe” since 1994, hence it is part of the prestigious network of itineraries created in 1987 by the Council of Europe in Santiago de Compostela. Following such certification, in 2015, the Via Francigena network settled a second major objective for the route: its inscription in the UNESCO World Heritage List.

The starting point was the meeting on 15 June 2015, requested by the municipalities of Fidenza and Monteriggioni, which was attended by numerous representatives of municipalities and regions, but also of the Italian Ministry of Cultural Heritage. As a next step, the Italian Regions, coordinated by the Region of Tuscany, signed an important collaboration agreement on 4 March 2017 in San Miniato, which led to the drafting, in 2017, of the preliminary analysis of the UNESCO candidacy of the Italian section of the Via Francigena. In 2019, the thematic study of the entire European route, from Canterbury to Rome, had been prepared as well. The EAVF coordinated the technical and scientific work process of the two documents, which list the 540 eligible assets along the 2000-kilometre route, in accordance with criteria number 2, 4 and 6 of the UNESCO Regulations.

Four relevant events occurred during 2021:
  • During the “Road to Rome 2021” march, between 15 June and 18 October 2021, the topic of the UNESCO candidacy was systematically mentioned in all meetings with local institutions and associations. Parliamentarians and local authorities mobilised with regards to the French section. In particular, on 14 June, the Council of the Union of Municipalities of Béthune-Bruay, Artois Lys Romane (Pas-de-Calais department; Hauts-de-France region) and the councils of the twenty municipalities of the Union crossed by Via Francigena unanimously voted a motion of support for the candidacy sent to the French Minister of Culture, Roselyne Bachelot. On 10 February 2021, the Minister and the Director General of Heritage and Architecture at the Ministry replied to all the letters received, assuring that the dossier was under examination in their offices.
  • On 25 February 2021, the Council of the Region of Tuscany unanimously approved a council resolution committing the Region to the promotion of the UNESCO candidacy, in collaboration with the other Italian Regions and the EAVF.
  • With decree no. 749 of 29 September, the Italian Ministry of Culture formally included within the Development and Cohesion Plan “Stralcio Cultura e Turismo CIPE” (FSC 2014-2020 ex delibera 3/2016) an allocation of 1.1 million euros for the UNESCO candidacy dossier of the Italian section of the Via Francigena.

The path towards the UNESCO candidacy has therefore been fully resumed and the Region of Tuscany, in collaboration with the EAVF, is organising a meeting in Florence in the coming weeks to overlook the current situation and ask for renewed consultation between the competent Ministries of United Kingdom, France, Switzerland, Italy and the Vatican State.

Natacha Bouchart

In the meantime, the EAVF continued its activities by organising five meetings with local administrations in the French section of the Via Francigena: Calais and Béthune (2 February), Bruay-la-Bussiere (3 February), Bar-sur-Aube (3 March), Wisques (4 March). Natacha Bouchart, mayor of Calais and vice-president of the Hauts-de-France Region, fully shared the common objectives of the project and gave a strong political impulse by directly involving the President of the Republic, Emmanuel Macron, to whom she sent the preliminary candidacy dossier asking for full support from the French Government.

Since the great “Road to Rome 2021” march last year, I have noticed a renewed and widespread interest in the UNESCO candidacy of the Via Francigena. The meeting with mayor Natacha Bouchart and the interest of the President of the French Republic are very significant steps. Today we can say that the objective of presenting the candidacy proposal in conjunction with the 2025 Jubilee is realistic. The Via Francigena is a precious source of European heritage, and the UNESCO inscription would enhance it even more by bringing together public institutions, private individuals, associations and volunteers. We want to place the values and the tangible and intangible cultural value of this great European itinerary at the centre of the project”, commented Massimo Tedeschi, President of the EAVF.

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For the first time, EAVF’s Assembly will be in Canterbury, km zero of the Via Francigena

On Wednesday 27 April 2022, members of the European Association of Via Francigena ways (EAVF) will meet in Canterbury (Kent County, England), km 0 of the Via Francigena.

For the first time in the history of the EAVF, founded in 2001 in Fidenza (Italy), the assembly will be hosted in England, in Canterbury, inside the prestigious Cathedral Lodge. The event is hosted by the Canterbury City Council and organized with the collaboration of the Confraternity of Pilgrims to Rome and North Downs Way. It will be attended by representatives of municipalities, provinces, departments and regions from the four countries crossed by the Via, as well as numerous associations of walkers and volunteers.

Canterbury Cathedral

On the agenda there are some very important bulletpoints: the approval of budget and reporting of the last activities carried out; updates on the candidacy process of the Via Francigena as Unesco World Heritage; the renewal of the association’s office charges. A preview of the final docufilm about last year’s epic journey “Via Francigena. Road to Rome 2021. Start again!“, which celebrated the 20th anniversary of the EAVF, will be presented. The initiave was long relay race that lasted 127 days and was 3,200 km long, networking 658 municipalities and consolidating unity between peoples and cultures along the Via Francigena.

Pilgrim's staff

Important cultural events will take place alongside the assembly. On the afternoon of the 26th, a religious celebration is planned at the Cathedral in the presence of a group of pilgrims from the Confraternity Pilgrims to Rome, led by President Giancarlo Laurenzi. These pilgrims will walk the historical London-Canterbury trail and arrive the day before the Assembly to meet EAVF’s representatives. All participants will then visit Canterbury’s Cathedral. The pilgrim’s stick will be blessed in the crypt; a stick made by the Irish craftsman Michael Walsh that accompanied the group of walkers during the entire Road to Rome march last summer. On the morning of 27 April, there will be a guided tour of the old city centre, whereas on the 28th a 10 km walk is organised along the Canterbury-Dover stretch. Such a walk will allow the group to explore the first section of the route, well maintained and signposted by North Downs Way. EAVF’s staff will walk the entire 32 km of the first stage with the same pilgrim’s staff, to symbolically close the relay which started last 17 June from Calais.

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The Via Francigena is on Netflix with Cattelan and Sorrentino

“Thanks for allowing me to discover the Via Francigena” is the phrase with which the presenter Alessandro Cattelan and the Oscar-winning director Paolo Sorrentino salute each other after a conversation on the relationship between happiness and religion. In the background stands the Tuscan countryside along the Via Francigena, while some passing pilgrims stop to say hello.

The historic route defined by Sigeric was, in fact, the location chosen by the film-makers to record the second episode of “Una semplice domanda“, a mini-series already available on Netflix since 18 March which is quickly climbing the top of the charts. It develops in six episodes with speakers that are famous in Italy and abroad, exploring the meaning of happiness, but above all where to search it and where to find it.

Segnaletica VF

Does belief make us happy?” is the question that allows us to relate to the director from a new, particular standpoint, discovering memories of his grandparents and great-grandparents, Fellini-style reminiscences, rules and prohibitions, rituals, and the lifetime that flows past each of us in those last moments of existence. 

I am a moderate walker, just as I am in everything else“, says Sorrentino as the video shots from above show us cypress trees, blue skies and puffy clouds – which take us back to the marvelous stages we covered in Tuscany last summer, during the relay march “Via Francigena. Road to Rome 2021”. If you want to jump back into those memories with us, just take a look at our photogallery.

Riprese Netflix sulla Francigena
Il gruppo lungo la Francigena per Netflix
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Trenord for the EAVF: slow traveling on foot and by train

Slowness, the pleasure of the journey, the possibility to enjoy the moment without rushing to the arrival: this is the essence of slow tourism. Some move by foot, some by bike, some on horseback…and some by train.

With no doubt, the train too is considered an option for slow and sustainable mobility. Slow not because it covers a small number of km per hour, but because it allows to sit back, relax and enjoy the view from the window. Slow because aboard the train there is no need to worry about traffic or parking – we can simply surrender to the journey, waiting to reach the destination.

Think of those moments when you look out of the train window and daydream – that’s where the magic begins: on the train we do not only move physically, but we live a real experiential journey with and for ourselves – sometimes alone, sometimes with the people we love, sometimes with the new people we meet on the carriage.

Tappa Mortara - Pavia

For all these reasons, and many more, the European Association of Via Francigena ways believes the train is a perfect means to get closer to the Via Francigena, reaching our starting point to cover part of the itinerary, enjoy a daily walk, or even take some personal time to experience the landscape along the route, for those who are unable to travel along it.

Therefore, Trenord, one of the most important European railway managers for localised public mobility, which extensively serves Region Lombardia (Italy), enters the network of partners of the EAVF.

Partner Trenord - Stazione Milano Centrale

The Association shares indeed a common mission with the company, connected to responsible, sustainable, slow, ecological and proximity tourism.

Starting today, connecting to the Francigena itinerary in Lombardia is easier and easier: in the coming months we will give you all information through our social media channels, updating you about improved railway connections along the route: stay tuned!

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Sul Sentiero Blu: the Via Francigena movie hits the Italian theaters

The project CON-TATTO, organised by Rotary 2031 and Asl Città di Torino, saw 12 pilgrims affected by autism overcome a great challenge: to walk to Rome and meet the Pope. The project tackles several themes: the sportive and healthy features of walking, the scientific research conducted by Dr Keller applying the social skill training that is usually done in clinics in an itinerant and ever-changing context, and the story of the Via Francigena, highlighting its history, the visited places and the beautiful landscapes.

The story is presented in the docufilm “Sul Sentiero Blu”, directed by Gabriele Vacis and produced by Michele Fornasero‘s Indyca, and it was shown in major Italian cinemas at the end of February. The filmmakers became part of the team to develop a film in which the public can at the same time raise awareness about autism and enjoy the enchanting landscapes of the Via Francigena.

Experiencing this walk by looking at the world through the eyes of our fellows – I think this was the greatest emotion of the journey. I wasn’t walking for myself, but for them. The other leaders and I dedicated our entire walk to them: seeing them grow and gain their own personal victories is a truly unparalleled success‘ commented Luca Rivoira, one of the volunteers who accompanied the group on foot.

Watch the trailer of ‘Sul Sentiero Blu’:
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Via Francigena at the Destination Marne Fair

On Friday and Saturday 11 – 12 March 2022, the EAVF (European Association of Via Francigena ways) and the FFVF (Fédération Française de la Via Francigena) were invited to present the Via Francigena during the Destination Marne Fair in Châlons-en-Champagne.

Jean-Claude Paperin, Vice-President of the FFVF, Pascale Fleuriot, member of the Voie de Sigéric association (affiliated with FFVF) and Jacques Chevin, EAVF’s representative in charge of the development of the French and Swiss sections of the Via Francigena, presided a shared stand displaying information on the itinerary. They had a chance to meet the public as well as many of the 170 exhibited stands in the fair.

The FFVF is a federation of associations among pilgrims in France who work to support pilgrimages along the Via Francigena, mostly by continuously updating the list of available hospitality locations. The Via Francigena stand at the fair was situated beside the stand of the FFRandonnée from the Marne Department, an important partner for the EAVF and for the development of the Via Francigena GR®145 in France. The FFRandonnée, indeed, is responsible for the maintenance of signage and walkability of the Via Francigena GR®145 route in France.

On behalf of the EAVF, Jacques Chevin met more actors who develop the territory and are important for the development of the route, such as hoteliers, tourist offices, and even the Marne Tourist Development Agency.

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Zurich invests in the Via Francigena becoming partner of the EAVF

While some people worry about what can change for the worse, we think it’s time to ask what can change for the better: let’s unite and act for the planet”, we read on Zurich’s official website. The Company, a leader in the insurance market, sheds light on the great impacts its investment choices have on global sustainability. Operating in a cross-industry sector that moves large amounts of cash from one market to another, every investment decision has a major impact on the path towards sustainable development.

Hence, among the many sectors in which it invests, Zurich has also chosen to support responsible tourism, becoming an official partner of the European Association of Via Francigena ways (EAVF) due to the strong affinity of their respective values. The partnership aims to develop sustainable tourism, with a particular focus on the Southern-Centre Aggregation area of the Via Francigena in the Region of Tuscany. Embarking on the Via Francigena is first of all an experience of sharing, exchange and solidarity for those who have chosen to set out, and Zurich wants to ideally accompany them along this territory.

Zurich’s attention for this area of Tuscany, which follows the Via Francigena trail from Fucecchio and Santa Croce sull’Arno to Gambassi Terme, has led to the creation of useful tools for pilgrims and activities to promote the Via Francigena, encouraging environmental education, sustainable tourism and improving the route’s practicability through renovated signage.

Giovanni Giuliani, Managing Director of Zurich Italia, commented the initiative as follows: “We support responsible and conscious tourism because we believe it is the best way to accompany travellers along a slow journey to the discovery of the uniqueness and wonders of our country. We share important values with the EAVF, such as commitment, passion, determination in achieving goals, even when the journey doesn’t look easy”.

We are therefore excited to announce that during 2022, through our social media channels, we will inform you about new important activities and projects undertaken with the support of this great stakeholder!

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Terracina (Lazio): call for tenders to manage a historical building for hospitality and slow tourism activities

The Agenzia del Demanio has put on the market a selection of buildings located along historical-religious itineraries, cycle paths and near the Italian coast, through a series of calls for tenders. The winners will receive the buildings in concession with the objective of enhancing and adding value to local slow tourism realms.

The initiative wants to enhance Italian heritage connected to culture, tourism and soft mobility along the entire peninsula, encouraging social and cultural animation activities in these territories and promoting the availability of services supporting slow tourism.

Among the offered assets is one building located along the Via Francigena in the South, in Terracina (region of Lazio). It is the Ex Dogana Torre di Badino, a historic building dating back to 1610, designed as part of the Papal State’s defence system, from Circeo to Terracina, and commissioned by Pope Pius V in 1567. The port of Badino, which the building overlooks, offers many services related to recreative boating. The Badino canal also provides easy access to the Pontine Islands, Ischia, Capri and Procida!

This stunning seaside town, as well as offering several opportunities for water sports (sailing, kitesurfing, diving and fishing), has a Beach Arena where several national and international competitions take place, while the seafront is entirely crossed by a cycling path. Note that Terracina is not only crossed by the Via Francigena, but also by the Via Appia and the Ciclopista del Sole, making it an important crossroads for pilgrims, walkers and cyclists.

The call for tenders is currently open and there is time until 19 May 2022 to participate!

See the full list of assets and how to participate by clicking here.