2023 was a year full of walks and hikes along the Via Francigena, here all its steps, thanks to the collaboration with Coop, which promoted a new edition of ‘I Love Francigena‘; 16 free hikes, two of which by bicycle, from spring to 1 October in seven Italian regions – Piedmont, Lombardy, Emilia-Romagna, Liguria, Tuscany, Lazio and Apulia – under the banner of well-being and sustainability.
Hundreds of pilgrims and walkers participated in the excursions, organised by EAVF with the support of Francigena Service S.r.l., accompanied by professional guides and the Association’s staff. Let’s relive this beautiful journey together!
A spring full of surprises along the way with Coop
On this trip that began in mid-April, we started out on the Ligurian section of the route from Castelnuovo Magra to Sarzana, where we were able to admire the ancient fortifications and a beautiful landscape with glimpses of the sea. On the same weekend, the Tuscan hills provided the backdrop for another adventure between Torrenieri and Bagno Vignoni, discovering monuments, spas and local products. The next event could not be missed, namely the walk between the spa town of Salsomaggiore Terme and Fidenza, in Emilia-Romagna. On the same weekend, walkers also participated in the hike from Costamezzana to Medesano. In May, the first heat was felt in the south, so why not take advantage of it? The walk between Polignano a Mare and Monopoli came at just the right time! In addition to the two ancient villages, the stretch was a succession of marvels including sea views, fishing villages and nature sites. Remaining in Apulian territory, Coop accompanied us on the leg from Montalbano to the Sanctuary of Madonna Pozzo Guacito, amidst dolmens, farms and olive groves.
The arrival of summer on the ‘I Love Francigena’ route
Those who took part in the bicycle ride in Lucca in mid-June treated themselves to a lovely tour between the Serchio river park and the city centre, crossing Ponte San Pietro. At the same time, heading northwards, the first Piedmontese destination of ‘I Love Francigena’ took participants through vineyards, along the road from Palazzo Canavese to Lake Viverone, where they could admire the ancient and peculiar Romanesque church ‘il Gesiun’. The following weekend we returned to Emilia-Romagna with Coop, with two highly anticipated excursions: a walk between Cassio and Berceto, with visits to the two villages and Castellonchio along the way, and a stage that touched on the second highest point of the Via Francigena, Mount Valoria, and then continued through the woods from Berceto to the Cisa Pass, where the Sanctuary of the Madonna della Guardia solemnly resides.
In September, the return from holidays was less traumatic thanks to a beautiful excursion supported by Coop between Collecchio and Gaiano, to enjoy the beauty of the Boschi di Carrega Park and the hills of Val di Taro.
Coop’s walks concluded with the hike from Villanova d’Ardenghi to Pavia in early October: a great way to celebrate the arrival of autumn along stage number 13 of the Via Francigena, following the Ticino river, whose park stretches for some 65 kilometres and offers vegetation unique to Lomellina, including varieties of hazelnut and hornbeam. During the walk, there was no lack of curious anecdotes thanks to our knowledgeable guides, such as the story of Carbonara al Ticino, a municipality in Lomellina whose name has a dual origin. It could derive from the Latin word ‘carbonar’, i.e. the ditches dug in the ground to collect water that flowed in from other lands, or from Sylva Carbonaria, the forest where the Carbonari, local inhabitants used to set fire to the forest along the Ticino to obtain charcoal.
“I Love Francigena” is an experience that gave participants moments of sharing and discovering places and local products that characterise the different territories crossed by the Francigena.