The Via Francigena and Cycling Routes

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The Via Francigena is one of the oldest pilgrimage routes in Europe, a path that crosses Italy from north to south, connecting Canterbury in England to Rome. This route, once traveled by pilgrims and merchants, is now an extraordinary opportunity to explore the beauty of the Italian landscape, immersing oneself in the history and culture of the country. For cyclists, the Via Francigena offers a unique adventure, combining the pleasure of cycling with the discovery of historical and natural treasures. In this article, we will explore the history of the Via Francigena, the cycling routes, and some practical tips for tackling this unforgettable experience.

History of the Via Francigena

The Via Francigena, also known as the Via Romea, has ancient origins. Its path was first described in the 9th century by Sigeric, the Archbishop of Canterbury, who documented the 80 stages of his return journey from Rome to his hometown. Over the centuries, the Via Francigena has been one of the main communication routes between northern and southern Europe, used not only by pilgrims heading to Rome but also by merchants, armies, and travelers of all kinds.

The Via Francigena crosses Italy, passing through some of the country’s most fascinating regions, including the Aosta Valley, Piedmont, Lombardy, Emilia-Romagna, Tuscany, and Lazio. Each stretch of the route offers a unique immersion in Italian history, art, and culture, with numerous historical sites, churches, abbeys, and medieval villages to explore.

The Via Francigena by Bicycle

Tackling the Via Francigena by bicycle is an experience that combines the charm of cycling with the discovery of historical places and breathtaking landscapes. Traveling this route on two wheels allows you to cover greater distances than walking, while also providing the opportunity to stop and enjoy the beauty along the way.

Here are some of the main stages of the Via Francigena by bicycle:

1. Aosta Valley: From the Great St. Bernard Pass to Ivrea

The Via Francigena enters Italy from the Great St. Bernard Pass, one of the oldest and most spectacular Alpine passes. From here, the route descends through the Aosta Valley, offering panoramic views of the mountains and the opportunity to visit historical sites such as the Abbey of Saint-Rhémy-en-Bosses and the Castle of Verrès. Arriving in Ivrea marks the end of this mountainous stretch and the beginning of the Piedmont plains.

2. Piedmont and Lombardy: From Ivrea to Pavia

Crossing the rice fields of Piedmont, cyclists reach the historic city of Vercelli, famous for its Basilica of Sant’Andrea. Continuing south, the route enters Lombardy, touching cities such as Mortara and Pavia. Pavia, with its Certosa and the Covered Bridge over the Ticino, is an unmissable stop for lovers of history and architecture.

3. Emilia-Romagna: From Pavia to Fidenza

After crossing the Po River, the route enters Emilia-Romagna. This region is known for its excellent cuisine and beautiful rural landscapes. The cities of Piacenza and Fidenza offer numerous points of interest, including the Cathedral of Piacenza and the Cathedral of Fidenza, two magnificent examples of Romanesque architecture.

4. Tuscany: From Fidenza to Siena

Tuscany is perhaps the most fascinating region of the Via Francigena. The route crosses the rolling hills of Chianti, passing through historic towns such as San Gimignano, famous for its medieval towers, and Siena, with its splendid Piazza del Campo and Duomo. This stretch is characterized by picturesque landscapes, vineyards, and olive groves, making it a true paradise for cyclists.

5. Lazio: From Siena to Rome

The final stretch of the Via Francigena takes cyclists through the Lazio countryside to the Eternal City, Rome. Along the way, you can visit historical places such as Viterbo, known for its well-preserved medieval center, and Montefiascone, famous for its Est! Est!! Est!!! wine. Arriving in Rome represents the culmination of this extraordinary journey, with the opportunity to visit St. Peter’s Basilica and many other treasures of the Italian capital.

Practical Tips for Cyclists on the Via Francigena

Tackling the Via Francigena by bicycle requires good preparation and some practical considerations. Here are some useful tips to make your journey safe and enjoyable:

1. Physical Preparation

Cycling the Via Francigena requires a good level of physical fitness. It is advisable to train regularly before departure, gradually increasing the distance and difficulty of your rides. Pay particular attention to endurance and hill-climbing ability, as the route includes many hilly and mountainous sections.

2. Proper Equipment

A sturdy and well-maintained bicycle is essential for tackling the Via Francigena. Trekking bikes or mountain bikes are the best choices as they offer comfort and durability on mixed terrain. Make sure you have a helmet, technical clothing, gloves, and protective eyewear. Also, bring a pump, spare inner tubes, and a repair kit.

3. Route Planning

The Via Francigena offers many variations and alternative routes, so it is important to plan your itinerary in advance. Use detailed maps and specific guides for cycling the Via Francigena. Consider daily distances, rest points, and accommodation along the route. Pilgrim accommodation is often available, but it is advisable to book in advance, especially during peak periods.

4. Nutrition and Hydration

Maintaining good nutrition and hydration is crucial during a cycling trip. Bring energy snacks, dried fruit, and protein bars. Drink water regularly and refill your bottles whenever possible. Italian cuisine offers many delicious and nutritious options along the way, so take advantage of local trattorias and restaurants to enjoy traditional dishes and recharge your energy.

5. Road Safety

Following road rules and respecting traffic signs is crucial for your safety. Use front and rear lights, especially when cycling in low visibility conditions. Wear reflective clothing and make sure you are always visible to other road users. Pay particular attention to intersections and busy roads.

6. Respect for the Environment and Local Culture

The Via Francigena crosses some of the most beautiful and sensitive areas of Italy. It is important to respect the natural environment and local communities. Do not leave litter along the route and follow the rules of natural parks and reserves. Respect private property and be courteous to locals, who often provide support and hospitality to pilgrims and cyclists.

7. Travel Insurance

Good travel insurance is essential to cover any accidents or medical issues during the trip. Check that your policy covers cycling activities and includes medical assistance, repatriation, and coverage for damage or theft of your bicycle.

Unforgettable Experiences Along the Via Francigena

The Via Francigena offers a myriad of unforgettable experiences for cyclists. Here are some activities and attractions you should not miss during your journey:

1. Visits to Medieval Villages

Along the Via Francigena, you will encounter numerous medieval villages, each with its history and unique charm. San Gimignano, with its imposing towers, and Monteriggioni, with its well-preserved walls, are just two examples of places that deserve a thorough visit. Stroll through the cobbled streets, visit historical churches, and enjoy the timeless atmosphere of these villages.

2. Wine Tastings and Tuscan Cuisine

Tuscany is famous for its fine wines and delicious cuisine. Along the route, you will have the opportunity to visit wineries and participate in wine tastings, such as Chianti Classico and Brunello di Montalcino. Sample typical Tuscan dishes, such as ribollita, pappa al pomodoro, and bistecca alla fiorentina, for an authentic culinary experience.

3. Exploring Natural Parks

The Via Francigena crosses several protected natural areas, offering the opportunity to explore unspoiled landscapes and observe local wildlife. The Val d’Orcia Natural Park, with its rolling hills and iconic cypresses, is an ideal place for a refreshing stop. Take a walk or have a picnic and enjoy the tranquility and beauty of the Tuscan nature.

4. Archaeological and Historical Discoveries

Along the route, you will have the opportunity to visit numerous archaeological and historical sites that offer a fascinating insight into the past. In Sutri, Lazio, you can explore an ancient Roman amphitheater carved into the rock, while in San Gimignano, you can admire medieval frescoes in the Collegiate Church of Santa Maria Assunta. Every stage of the Via Francigena is a continuous discovery of historical and cultural treasures.

5. Meeting Other Pilgrims and Cyclists

One of the joys of traveling the Via Francigena is the chance to meet other pilgrims and cyclists from all over the world. Sharing stories, experiences, and tips with people who share the same passion for travel and discovery is an enriching and rewarding aspect of the journey. Pilgrim accommodations often provide a friendly environment where you can make new friends and exchange useful advice.


The Via Francigena by bicycle is a unique experience that combines the pleasure of cycling with the discovery of breathtaking landscapes, historical sites, and Italian culture. This route offers a physical challenge as well as an opportunity for reflection and personal growth. Whether you are an experienced cyclist or a beginner, the Via Francigena will welcome you with its timeless beauty and numerous attractions.

From this perspective, if you wish to visit the Via Francigena, start from the Albergo Minerva, our 3-star hotel in Siena Centro. Prepare adequately, plan your itinerary, and set off on an adventure that will leave you with unforgettable memories and a deep appreciation for the history and culture of Italy.

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