June 17th 2015

For more than 1,000 years, pilgrims have walked the Via Francigena, once the major pilgrimage route from Northern Europe to the Holy See in Rome. The Wayfarers’ Judy Allpress joined our first Walk on the Via Francigena in Tuscany, discovering the highlights and history of the route from the beautiful city of Lucca to stunning Siena. 'We all met in Lucca, home of Puccini, the beautiful walled medieval town where automobile traffic is prohibited and everyone either walks or bikes,' says Judy. 'We had some singers in our group and piano music was floating out of windows with every turn we made during our guided walk on that first Sunday. 'The first morning we had a bike ride around the city walls looking down into houses and court yards, it was very fun starting our adventure this way. There were a lot of laughs about riding rather than walking!' On our bikes in Lucca The Via Francigena is the pilgrim route that began in Canterbury and ended in Rome, crossing 140 communes in Italy. Our route from Lucca to Siena stops off in tiny fortresses and villages where the pilgrims took refuge on their way. Says Judy: 'None of us in the group were particularly religious, but history shows just how tenacious these people were in the Middle Ages. They were on their way to say their penance and some of the wealthy lords and ladies even paid their servants to make their plea for them! 'The stories and history lessons we learned from our guide Lesley brought it all to life along the way. 'We moved from the dark ages to the Renaissance in only one day's walk!  Who can tire of hearing the names Filippo Lippi, Brunelleschi and Michelangelo?" View of San Gimignano Judy says staying in the spectacular San Gimignano, the famous walled medieval hill town was a highlight. 'All the tourists leave at 5pm and the locals take to the piazza to claim their social time with children running all over and soccer balls flying. 'The views are spectacular from this perched town and we'll never forget the pizza restaurant with opera music followed by a gelato in the town square under a full moon. 'Passing abbey after abbey on mile after mile we finally arrived in Siena, staying just outside in a lovely villa where we put our feet in the cool pool as soon as we arrived and enjoyed a bottle of rose! 'On departure day we had a fabulous guided tour of Siena before we said goodbye.' Experience a different Tuscany with us on the Via Francigena next time. All the details are here.

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