Walking with..Sergio Pieri, the life of the Francigena

If his enthusiasm could be measured in steps, he would have already been around the world and back.  Today's interview takes us "Walking with..." Sergio Pierithe life of the Via Francigena.

Responsible for the Sport and Tourism office of the municipality of Acquapendente, Sergio is a real foundation of the community.  Thanks to his dedication and collaboration with associations and other municipalities: on the 4th June he brought 2,300 people to the 5th edition of the European Francigena Marathon, a 42km walking marathon from Acquapendente to Montefiascone in the province of Viterbo.  

How was the idea born?: "We started with a bet, the first year there were 340 participants - says Sergio - we wanted a sporting event to involve people who bot practice and don't practice sport.  This year we received the confirmation.  It's an enjoyable event that brings us and the Via Francigena a lot of publicity.  Walking 42km isn't for everyone. It's a personal challenge, but a challenge with a wonderful view".  

Tireless organiser of events and marathons, with a background in organising social events and administrative activities, Sergio has been present for the birth and development of the Via Francigena.  "It has always been a cultural strength of Acquapendente - he states - we began promoting it in 1994 in an attempt to do something, investing in resources that are now being repaid.  Then, from 2001 the walk with the European Association of the Via Francigena began. (The municipality of Acquapendente, together with that of Montefiascone, was among the founders of the Association)".

From then on, he has been working towards the event-nature duo.  How has the Via Francigena evolved in the past few years? "At one time, it could have been seen as solely a religious route but now many factors have been mixed together and it's more linked to sport, or to simply hike along. - explains Pieri -  The events bring touristic and economic movement.  The municipality is very satisfied with the work on the Via Francigena, the present administration is working hard towards the safeguarding of this product.

People from all over the world arrive that, after walking, want to sleep and eat well, to pass time in company.  We do what we can even if, in the context of security, regional funds are necessary on some tracts".

The promotional activity behind the scenes never ends. And the 'director' Pieri is already working towards another big event for walkers: the "World Francigena Ultramarathon" on the 21st and 22nd October from Siena, the city of the Palio, to Acquapendente, the Jerusalem of Europe.  

The marathon will be 120km on the white roads of the Val D'Arbia and the Val D'Orcia until reaching the doors of Lazio - adds Pieri - with the involvement of many municipalities.  It's a part of the Francigena in the South of Tuscany.  An occasion to launch an international message, beyond the borders of Italy."

A successful marathon that also inspired the first event ad hoc in Tuscany.  In fact, on the 24th September, the Francigena Tuscany Marathon will take place, with the support of the municipalities of Pietrasanta, Camaiore, Massarosa and Lucca, the help of various local associations and the support of the European Association of the Vie Francigene.  

Silvia Iuliano

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