The Via Francigena also called Via Romea, is the ancient road that led pilgrims to Rome from Western Europe. It is one of the most well-known and popular spiritual paths. This path starts next to the south portico of Canterbury Cathedral, where the stone that indicates the zero kilometer of the itinerary is placed. In this story, we will focus on the part of the Tuscan path, from Castelfiorentino to Siena.
After the Apennines and the Arno, there's a path winding towards the Via dell' Elsa, along natural corridor heading towards Siena, on the Via Cassia. The first pilgrims traveled this path, starting from the Middle Ages. It is a well-preserved road, although the hinterland at that time was not very safe, due to the recurring battles among Florence, Volterra, and Siena. Hence the need to modify the Francigena path, according to the period and the dangers. From the old diaries of pilgrims, we discover different places and different steps, and this suggests that there were some alternative routes. In Val d’Elsa, there is at least one ancient hill path, which passes through San Gimignano, and one or two other, passing through the valley bottom- used after the second half of the 12th century.
The most striking part of the path is from Poggibonsi to Siena when you are in front of Monteriggioni. Along the way through the woods, you arrive in front of Porta Camollia, the access to the city of Siena.
This part of the pilgrimage starts from Castelfiorentino, a noble town that became essential thanks to the transit of the Via Francigena. Next stop is at the Pieve di Coiano, a charming country church, already mentioned in the diaries of pilgrims at the end of the tenth century. On the way up the hill, you will pass hamlets, clay canals to wade through, springs of sulfurous waters, old mills, towers, and churches. The parish churches follow the one another: after Coiano, Santa Maria a Chianni, and then Pieve di Santa Maria Assunta in Cellole. The small shelters for pilgrims are identifiable by the presence of a Greek cross on the facade. We then enter in San Gimignano, while going up the central street to the heart of the square with the Duomo. The pilgrims of the medieval period understood that they were on the right track when they heard the tolling of the bells of Badia a Coneo, a Romanesque church with Lombard contamination.
The original paving of the Via Francigena is still preserved on Monte Maggio. In the hilly stretch, widening the view, we can see the walls of Monteriggioni, a beautiful town, literally cut in two by the Via Francigena. The extraordinary walls of this town, equipped with 14 towers, were added after its foundation.
The last part of the Monte Maggio road passes through holm oak woods. This is a veritable mine of treasures of historical interest: towers, chapels, hermitages, ancient roads. Finally, a series of reception points indicates the entrance to Siena, through the northern gate, Porta Camollia.
In Siena, the Via Francigena reaches the Duomo and the Hospital Santa Maria della Scala, that today is a museum complex. Founded between the 9th and 10th centuries, it preserves a series of fifteenth-century frescoes by Bartolo and Priamo Della Quercia, which document the daily life of this welcoming place.
This Tuscan stretch of the Via Francigena, from Castelfiorentino to Siena, is one fascinating route, due to the beauty of its landscapes, the fantastic views, and its great inner spirituality- the main reasons for every pilgrimage.
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