The Francigena was introduced for the first time in 1994. The region of Tuscany has developed the enhancement of the stretch located in its area since 2004 and in the past years has continued develop this European cultural route.
THE INTERREGIONAL PROJECT IN 2006. In 2006 Tuscany obtained the leading role for an interregional project of reconstruction and valorisation of the route, which involved the Aosta Valley, Piedmont, Lombardy, Liguria, Emilia Romagna and Lazio. In 2009 the Region also started the creation of a real touristic product and drafted the Master Plan with which, in addition to a first loan of 3.3 million euros, it adopted an innovative methodology for the construction of the ‘product’, sharing the choices of the type of work to be realized with the different entities (institutions, associations etc.) but also involving them in the co-financing.
THE 2012-2014 OPERATIONAL PLAN. With the adoption of the 2012-2014 operational plan, the few inadequacies of the Master Plan are corrected and another 16 million euros of regional resources are made available to make the route safe and accessible, giving life to a fascinating tourist product. In 2014 it was promoted as a Great Cultural Route within the European network of the vie Francigene and in close collaboration with the European Association of the Vie Francigene: in June 2014 it was officially opened.
The official route, from Canterbury to Rome, is 1800km long and divided into 79 legs crossing 4 countries (England, France, Switzerland, and Italy). The Italian tract crosses 7 regions and 140 municipalities with 44 legs. In England, France and Switzerland there are over 250 municipalities; the regions crossed include Kent, Hauts-de-France, Grand-Est, Franche-Comté-Bourgogne, Vaud, and Valais.
THE TUSCAN TRACT. The Tuscan stretch, 380 km, crosses 39 municipalities for a total of 15 legs. An average of 25 km per day (on foot), the Tuscan stretch can be completed in 15 days. At the moment, the Tuscan Francigena can be completed on foot, horseback or by bicycle. The path is marked with various signage (touristic signage, boundary stone, stickers). There is a horse trail available and specific signage will be put in place by spring 2018. As for the cycling route, the municipalities and provinces have been entrusted with € 220,000.00 for signage and small safety measures to also be completed by spring 2018. The route includes equipped rest stop points, drinking water supply points and dedicated services.
WIFI COVERAGE. The WiFi coverage reaches 70% of the entire track. There are 80 access points, 25 of which are spread across the 39 municipalities of the Tuscan Francigena. For the realisation of the operation the region has made 400 thousand euros of the PAR-FAS 2007-2013 funds available. The municipalities interested in the project are: Abbadia San Salvatore, Bagnone, Carrara, Filattiera, Fucecchio, Gambassi Terme, Lucca, Massa, Massarosa, Montaione, Montalcino, Montecarlo, Monteriggioni, Monteroni d’Arbia, Montignoso, Pietrasanta, Ponte Buggianese, Pontremoli, Porcari, Radicofani, San Gimignano, San Miniato, Seravezza, Siena, and Villafranca in Lunigiana. The coverage in these municipalities involves points of interest such as churches, hostels, rest stops, monuments etc. Pilgrims can register themselves on the system via the web; the network is called “Francigena-Tuscany”. After registration a text message will be sent containing a username and password to login. More than 24,400 pilgrims have used the service to date and over 347,000 people have accessed the wifi.
ESTIMATE OF TOURIST PRESENCE. An estimate of the tourist presence along the Tuscan Francigena was elaborated by IRPET cross-checking a series of databases that, although not portraying the exact use of the Via Francigena, gives us a picture of the touristic trend in the municipalities crossed by the route. Here are the most interesting results:
• the tourist presence per km2 of the area pass from a level of almost zero in 2000 to about 1,000 in 2015;
• the amount of tourist presence from 2007 to 2015 increased by 22% and the room occupancy rate was (25%) higher than the regional average;
• between 2000 and 2015 the greatest increase was registered among agritouristic accommodation (+ 38% beds) and non-hotel structures (+ 35%);
• between 2007 and 2015 more than 1,000 jobs were created in the tourism sector.
The data collected by the University of Florence through questionnaires and photographic surveys of the route is also relevant (period: February 2015 – May 2016):
• May, June and August are the most popular months;
• People aged 51 or over are most present on the path;
• the area between Gambassi Terme and Siena attracts the highest amount of foreigners (over 40%);
• France and Germany are the most represented countries;
• foreigners travel mostly in pairs, Italians in groups;
• the reasons for the trip are linked to naturalistic aspects and spiritual and personal research.
HOSPITALITY AND ACCOMMODATION OFFER. The accommodation offer (calculated within a radius of 1km from the hiking trail) counts 1200 structures with a clear prevalence of the non-hotel accommodation (the number increases to 2600 if we consider the structures in the municipalities crossed). 2015-2016 saw a strong increase of pilgrim facilities along the Via Francigena, many in Tuscany.
In 2016 the region of Tuscany, with 6 million euros of Par-Fas 2017-13 funds, financed the construction of 14 hostels for a total of 490 beds. The work continues in 2017/18 with the establishment of the “Hostel Network“: a project operating towards the defining of requirements for a homogeneous low cost offer, mainly addressed to “Pilgrims with a Pilgrim Passport”; the deseasonalisation of tourist influx; proposing packages addressed to scholastic and educational tourism (Toscana da Ragazzi); the development of a web platform, in collaboration with Fondazione Sistema Toscana, for reservations, availability of beds, info on individual hostels, info on routes, etc. and the creation and promotion of “InOstello” events to support writings on the routes, readings, shows, etc., also in collaboration with local administrations and libraries.
In addition, a contribution of € 50,000.00 was allocated for small functional interventions in poor ecclesiastical accommodation. 12 structures have been financed.
The most important result of 2017 was the establishment of the “Aggregazioni di Comuni” of the Tuscan Via Francigena, whose goal is cooperation while managing issues of particular relevance for the future development of the regional route, which must raise the importance of the municipalities concerned as well as the local realities, since it will be their work to guarantee the development of the Francigena in terms of “touristic product”.
This operation of management cooperation was confirmed in a convention leading to the signing by the mayors, and the content of which develops operations on the topics of maintenance of the route and signage, actions of promotion and communication to be developed in collaboration with Toscana Promozione and Fondazione Sistema Tuscany, the organization of the offer, of the territorial tourism observatory in connection with IRPET, and of the management of alerts related to signs of a level of criticality. In the upcoming years, the region of Tuscany reserves a role of institutional direction, as which keeps the “Francigena system” together.
“Aggregations of Municipalities”:
1. Pontremoli, 2. Filattiera, 3. Villafranca Lunigiana, 4. Bagnone, 5. Licciana Nardi, 6. Fosdinovo, 7. Aulla, 8. Carrara, 9. Massa, 10. Montignoso
11.Servezza, 12.Pietrasanta, 13.Camaiore, 14.Massarosa, 15.Lucca, 16.Capannori, 17. Porcari, 18.Montecarlo, 19.Altopascio
20.Fucecchio, 21.Santa Croce, 22.Castelfranco, 23.San Miniato, 24.Castelfiorentino, 25.Montaione, 26.Gambassi
27. San Gimignano, 28.Collevaldelsa, 29.Monteriggioni, 30.Siena, 31. Monteroni, 32.Buonconvento, 33.Montalcino 34. San Quirico D’Orcia, 35.Castiglione D’Orcia, 36.Radicofani, 37. San Casciano dei Bagni, 38. Abbadia San Salvatore