Historically, when we speak of Via Francigena or Vie Francigene, we mean a group of roads that in medieval times connected the territories dominated by the Franks (present-day France and Germany) to Rome.
This would explain the saying ‘all roads lead to Rome’. Pilgrims who set out from their homes in the Middle Ages to embark on the journey did not only travel along the ‘road’ network of the time, but also all the more hidden and useful paths to avoid assaults or accidents. And on these very paths, it was possible to find places to rest and eat.
If we speak instead of modern pilgrimage, we mean the Via Francigena of Sigeric Archbishop of Canterbury who undertook this route on his return from Rome where he had received the Pallium from the hands of the Pope.
This route is around 2,200 kilometres long. The Italian section measures about 1,020 km and crosses the Great St. Bernard Pass, Aosta, Ivrea, Vercelli, Pavia, Piacenza, Fidenza, Cisa Pass, Sarzana, Massa, Lucca, San Gimignano, Siena, San Quirico d’ Orcia, Bolsena, Viterbo, Rome and the Vatican City.
In Siena specifically, every pilgrim can follow, the route from the gate of Porta Camollia to that of Porta Romana. This 4-kilometre route within the city walls stops at the city’s most evocative sites and traces medieval Siena and the lives of pilgrims and wayfarers during their journey from Canterbury to Rome.
We start from Porta Camollia, one of the city’s oldest entrances with an outer arch dominated by the inscription Cor magis tibi Sena pandit (Siena opens a heart bigger than this gate), a sign of Sienese hospitality. Then, passing Via di Camollia, the Cathedral, and the hospital of Santa Maria della Scala, you will reach Via Roma, the street that leads to Porta Romana.
Formerly known as Porta Nuova (New Gate), it was built between 1327 and 1329 and it’s the largest of the city gates. It was precisely through Porta Romana that pilgrims entered Siena on their way to the Via Francigena. Leaving Porta Romana, the route continued to the Crete Senesi where one could find shelter and refreshment at the Grancia di Serre di Rapolano.