Reviving the medieval pilgrimage routes to Italy

Reviving the medieval pilgrimage routes to Italy

Italy’s premier wants to restore the old pilgrimage routes that took the faithful to Italian shrines just like the Santiago di Compostela routes bring pilgrims to Spain even today.

Italian Premier Romano Prodi is pushing for the routes used by medieval pilgrims to reach Rome to be revived for modern-day walkers, religious or otherwise.

Prodi, a devout Catholic, got the idea 13 years ago when he cycled along the pilgrimage route to Santiago di Compostela in Spain and realised that his own country had many pilgrim ways as well.


Prodi is particularly keen on restoring the Via Francigena, the route which started in Canterbury, in southeast England, and meandered down through France, across the Alps near Aosta, down through Parma to Tuscany before reaching Rome.

Very cool. I think it would do much for Europe to see all these old pilgrimage routes re-established and to see pilgrims traveling by foot around Europe bringing the Christian witness just by their presence.

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  • A cross-European pilgrimage trail would be so, so cool.  And thoughtfully placed hostels run by religious (I know, in a dream world) along the route could provide pilgrims with a place to sleep and have daily Mass before moving on…

  • I’m hoping to go to Rome in the near future, I was wondering if you or anybody had any tips.
    I noted the restaurant La Cisterna, mentioned in the Greatest Hits post.

    I was interested in staying in a convent, monastery, or religious guesthouse.  Years ago, I studied abroad in Rome and met a priest from my college who was also studying there.  He invited us to dinner at his order’s house, and we met a bishop from Bulgaria who had been in hiding for years. (He was in Rome for a synod, and I think he’d come out of hiding a few years prior – I can’t remember the full story.) He was one of the most jovial, cheerful people I’d ever met.  You could sense his holiness.

    I’m going with family, and I want them to be impressed by people like that.  I know it must be hard to stay pleasant dealing with tourists, and I can’t expect it, but joyful hospitality is a must.
    Much to my disappointment, I read a review on of a religious guesthouse where
    the reviewer went with his girlfriend.  I hope
    they didn’t stay together

  • For a good read: Belloc’s “The Path To Rome” which describes his walk from England to Rome, perhaps following the Via Francigena, I don’t know.

  • ” The Way of the Franks ” (Via Francigena) does attract a fair few walkers, but not nearly as many as the Compostella routes, some of which get so crowded in the summer it is like walking an Expressway!

    There is an association for the Via and they have a web site.I was a passive member for a few years and used to drop in on the discussion forum from time to time. My sense was that many of the ‘few’ were not obviously Christians but were very enthusiastic long distance walkers. The route is well marked across France, into Switzerland but falls apart a bit over the Alps and into Italy (those Italians!). Some of the route in Italy is next to busy, scary main roads, even motorways with large trucks whizzing past only inches from your ears!

    Accommodation is mainly hotels or Bed and Breakfast but with several Monastic communities willing to give hospitality, especially in the Alps and Italy.

    In Europe there is a well developed set of long distant walking routes which criss-cross Europe. One of the longest goes from North Cape (Norway) down to Gibraltar and (in theory) on to North Africa. Some routes are good and well marked and maintained, others are not. Route E22 for example is a route across the spine of Crete from West to East along the mountains. On the ground it isn’t even marked, never mind maintained. There are other like routes. So do your research and get decent maps.

  • I’d love to see the pilgrim ways restored.  Santiago di Compostela has been the topic of many recent travel articles in my area.  The old Italian ways should be documented and restored, too.  I love Italy and would really enjoy walking the pilgrim roads.  In safety, preferably.  (See above note on trucks!)

  • I have walked a pilgrim way here in England – the St. Cuthbert Way. Not sure it is totally an historical route though but it is a very fine walk.Some tough parts on the hills but worth it.

    Starting in Melrose, a Scottish border town and home to Walter Scott it wanders beside the river Tweed for a day before beginning to climb into the Cheviot hills of English Northumberland, ending on the Holy Island, Lindesfarne where St. Cuthbert was Abbott.

    There is a lovely ruined Monastery at Melrose, built by the Scottish King Andrew in 1170. It replaced an earlier monastery about a mile down the river Tweed which was the monastery where St. Cuthbert was a Novice. In the Cheviots the way wanders past a spot where a Saxon King, in 614, had all his court and household Baptised in the nearby burn (stream), bringing Christianity to those parts.

    It took me four days to walk, staying in Bed & Breakfast each night.