Vast horizons open up from the ridge overlooking the Elsa Valley, where the route faithfully follows Archbishop Sigeric’s journey. You will find yourself immersed in the solitude of wheat fields, contemplating distant villages: Castelfiorentino, Gambassi Terme, with their fine country houses, Romanesque churches set among rows of olive trees. The towers of San Gimignano soar against the deep blue sky, and beyond, those of the circular walls of Monteriggioni.
Siena is the emblem city of the Via Francigena, to which it owes its wealth and prosperity. You will experience a walk through the middle ages as you visit the ancient hospital of Santa Maria della Scala with its frescoed ‘pilgrims’ hall’. Continue your journey, but don’t forget to cast a glance back over your shoulder at the towers of Siena. The city’s unique profile will follow you for several hours, while you walk on the easy paths of the Val d’Arbia.
The Via Cassia climbs to the spectacular Quirico d’Orcia, sitting high on a hill and commanding views of the surrounding scenery. At dawn the Tuscan sun shines onto the breathtaking landscapes of the Val d’Orcia, with its undulating hills of yellow wheat or ploughed field. Sights include the square basin of Bagno Vignoni, a thermal spring whose water was a cure-all for medieval pilgrims. From Vignoni Alto you’ll notice a new landscape, on which stands the distinctive volcanic cone of Mount Amiata. The cone is your destination for the day, and as you get closer you will see it is crowned by an isolated tower – the first sight of the town of Radicofani. You are now on the border between the Duchy of Tuscany and the Papal States, a place of solitary roads and wild landscapes.
Signs of habitations disappear as you descend from Radicofani to the Paglia valley on the old, unpaved Via Cassia. Flocks of sheep, windswept pastures and then the dark earth of Tuscia gives way to Acquapendente and other beautiful ancient towns: Bolsena with its Etruscan and Roman memories, Montefiascone, sitting high above Lake Bolsena, and Viterbo surrounded by its crenelated walls. You will experience the thrill of walking on the paving stones of the ancient Roman Cassia. From there you are now less than 100 kilometres to St. Peter.
Do not hurry now that your goal is so near. Savour a relaxed pace, stopping in the baroque squares of Sutri, Campagnano and Formello. Cool off in the shady forests in the Veio park, where is it difficult to believe that Rome is so close – that the silent Roman countryside must soon give way to the streets and palaces of the city. The emotions of the last day, the last short stage, will stay with you forever: you have arrived in the Eternal City and are surrounded by the beauty of St. Peter’s and Bernini’s colonnade embracing you in the last few steps.