Via Francigena

The Road to Rome 2021 European march arrives in Santa Maria di Leuca

Sara Louise Costa
Sara Louise Costa
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The relay march along the Via Francigena, which started on the 15th of June in Canterbury, comes to its end upon arrival, on the 18th of October, at the sanctuary of Santa Maria de Finibus Terrae.

After 113 days on foot the delegation of the European Association of Via Francigena ways (EAVF), that departed on the 15th of June from Canterbury to walk across the entire Via Francigena, will arrive to the final destination of this epic journey.

The event “Via Francigena. Road to Rome 2021. Start again!” was launched to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the European association, based in Fidenza. Participants traveled for almost 4 months across 3,200 km by foot and by bike, crossing 4 states (England, France, Switzerland and Italy), 16 regions and 637 municipalities over 118 planned stages, 113 of which were on the main route and 5 along the variants.

For EAVF the balance is very positive, exceeding all expectations, both in terms of hospitality of the public and of institutions along the itinerary, and in terms of expansion of the network, with many new collaborations planned and consolidated, stage after stage (including the Treaty of Ventotene and the renewed agreement with the Fédération Française de la Randonnée).

“Road to Rome 2021” was a coral event that involved people from all over Europe, including pilgrims, partners and collaborators, thus symbolizing the essential values of the Via Francigena: free circulation and exchange of ideas to allow the re-discovery of small urban communities and of slow tourism. “This march was not just an ordinary initiative – commented EAVF’s President Massimo Tedeschi it was a complex and profound occurrence that put all of us on the front line, physically walking. The 18th of October, 4 months later, we arrive in Santa Maria di Leuca deeply changed. We have put in practice the most beautiful principles of the Via Francigena: meeting new and different people, languages, and stories; dialogue between cultures; exchanging ideas and experiences; and hiking and biking, for those who love it. We are therefore different people upon arrival, and I am entirely certain we have changed for the better”.

Over 5,000 pilgrims joined the “Road to Rome 2021” group on the Via Francigena during these months, with record peeks in the Southern Via Francigena section. 30 bloggers joined the march, who, in turns, accompanied the group across all stages, documenting their on the road adventure through their social media channels; 11 video makers produced a massive archive of videos and photographs.

Over 60 partners supported the walking event, of which 7 are sponsoring bodies (MIC Ministero della Cultura, Valore Paese Italia, Visit Canterbury, Ministère de la Culture, Federal Office of Culture, Green Pilgrimage Europe, ANCI Associazione Nazionale Comuni Italiani) and 3 are main partners: ENIT, Intesa Sanpaolo and Snam. On top of these, 250 entities, including municipalities, tourist offices, museums, and lay and religious associations, together with over 350 hospitality structures, offered accommodation, food and conviviality for the walking group, including tastings and guided tours (check the complete list of partners here).

The march contributed to the economic development of rural areas crossed by the Via Francigena, to the sharing of European cultural itineraries, to raising of awareness about slow tourism and eco-friendly ways of traveling, always leveraging on region-specific potentialities. The Via Francigena thus identifies itself as a source of opportunities, as a generator of fluxes of people, ideas, job positions and cultural exchanges in all the European countries it crosses.

In short, we are on the right path. Literally.