All roads lead to Rome
The Via Francigena is an ancient road that connected northern Europe to southern Europe. The Via Francigena was developed following the plan of an ancient Roman road, the Via Quintia. Since the Middle Ages it has been the main religious pilgrimage route that connected the cristianity living in the northern cities with Rome and southern with Puglia where ships set sails for Jerusalem. It was not only a religious route though: after centuries of maritime route, internal communication routes were favoured by kings, popes and intellectuals.
An uninterrupted flow of men, women, armies, trade, ideas and cultures. Over the centuries, places of hospitality, such as hospitals, monasteries, as well as villages and castles, have sprung up along the route, becoming important channels for cultural and commercial exchanges. Tuscany still has clear traces of this important route. San Miniato was in an optimal position in the centre of the Arno Valley representing a strategic and logistical point. From Lucca, it passes through Galleno, Ponte a Cappiano and Fucecchio on its way to the ancient village of San Genesio.
Travelling the Via Francigena today
The updated route is a bundle of roads that climb up the ridge and branch off in the hemlets of Calenzano, San Quintino, Coiano, Corazzano, Castelnuovo d’Elsa before rejoining and continuing on to Siena. Today, the route is recognised by the European Association of the Via Francigena. Here is the street signs passing through the historic centre of San Miniato:
once you arrive in Piazza Buonaparte, continue along Via Maioli to leave the village in the direction of Calenzano. After an hour’s walk on asphalt, the route turns into the countryside along the hilly ridges of the Val d’Elsa. This is an extraordinary beautiful section immerse in the most typical Tuscan countryside. Two buildings are encountered: the Pieve di Coiano and the Pieve a Chianni. The length of this stage is challenging, 23.7 km and no refreshment points.
Inspired by the spirit of hospitality and mercy, those who walk the Via Francigena enter in a network of people. In Italy, above all, the ancient Misericordie have always given accommodation to wayfarers. Today that spirit is recovered and stimulated through the use of a pilgrim’s passport, a document that marks the stages travelled and becomes almost an ID, as well as a beautiful travel souvenir. In San Miniato the accommodation facilities that welcome pilgrims with free offers are:
the Misericordia di San Miniato
Since 2004 a permanent room dedicated to welcoming pilgrims. The room has four beds and is equipped with a toilet and shower. In addition, in spring and summer, the Civil Defence Group, which operates within the Fraternity, prepares an outdoor tent. A caravan parked next to the tent can accommodate four more pilgrims.
The Pilgrim’s Hospice
The structure is located in the historic centre, in San Miniato, going down towards the slope of Via Gargozzi number 34.