In these difficult and restricted times of the pandemic many of us yearn for better times and the possibility to travel. This 4-part lecture series, taking place from 27 February to 2 March, will give participants a taste of what travelling along the Via Francigena in Italy will feel like once we get back on (the) track.
Partly recorded in different locations along the route, this virtual journey will trace the Via Francigena through Italy in four stages, from the spectacular Great St Bernard Pass in the Alps across seven regions of extraordinary cultural and geographical diversity, eventually reaching the Eternal City.
Cultural historian Kate Bolton-Porciatti will discuss its history and its connections to Lombard and Roman trade routes, and she considers why – for over a millennium – pilgrims and hikers have been drawn to explore it. We’ll listen to accounts of pilgrims and monks from the Middle Ages, including the famous writings of the Archbishop of Canterbury Sigeric who walked the entire route in 990 AD, as well as more recent writings and reflections.
We’ll follow the Via from the snow-capped mountains, alpine meadows, and river valleys of Aosta and Piedmont in northern Italy, through the misty flooded fields and emerald rice paddies of the Po Valley. Crossing the mountains and vine-clad hills of Emilia-Romagna and Tuscany, we reach the volcanic terrain around Monte Amiata, and then pass glittering Lake Bolsena to the wilder landscapes of Lazio. We’ll pause at abbeys, rural churches, roadside shrines, and ancient hospices; we’ll visit medieval castles and fortified ‘borghi’, as well as some of Italy’s historic towns and cities. Finally, we’ll sample some of the typical foods that characterize the different regions, from Alpine to Mediterranean traditions.
The four lectures will take place in the English language and will also offer practical advice for anyone considering walking, biking, or horse-back riding along the Via Francigena, as well as suggestions of where to join short stretches of it by car or public transport.
About the lecturer
Kate Bolton-Porciatti is a professor of Italian cultural history and music at the Istituto Lorenzo de’ Medici in Florence, where she teaches BA and MA courses in the humanities. She also lectures at the British Institute, Florence, and at the Chigiana Music Academy in Siena. Kate has published extensively as an academic and a journalist; she is a music critic for BBC Music and a travel writer for The Daily Telegraph, UK. Before moving to Italy permanently in 2005, she was a senior producer and broadcaster for BBC Arts & Classical Music in London and has won prestigious Jerusalem and Sony Awards for her programs. She did her M.Phil. thesis in Italy, exploring the musical culture of early Renaissance Florence.
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