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The ancient route Via Francigena trodden by pilgrims, armies and merchants on their way from
The Via Francigena, an ancient pilgrimage route that has led pilgrims, armies and merchants from Canterbury to Rome, and its variants, including the Via del Volto Santo which reunite Lunigiana area with Lucca, offers the opportunity to make a journey in time away from the stress of the city and the mass tourism circuits.
Even more indicated could be this route in a manner similar to that of many centuries ago: riding a horse, retracing a section of that ancient mystical way, concluding the itinerary with the tasting of native wines of Lunigiana, to the more unknown and today almost disappeared.
The pilgrimage to Rome, visiting the tomb of the Apostle Peter, was in the Middle Ages one of the three peregrinationes maiores together with the trip Holy Land and to Santiago de Compostela. This is why Italy was constantly traveled by pilgrims from every part of Europe. Many stopped in Rome, the others descended along the peninsula to the port of Brindisi and from there they embarked for the Holy Land.
The first archival documents mentioning the existence of the Via Francigena date back to the 9th century and refer to a stretch of road in the countryside of Chiusi, in the province of Siena: the name Via Francigena is attested for the first time in Actum Clusio, a parchment dating back to 876 preserved in the Abbey of San Salvatore al Monte Amiata. To the south of Rome the Via Francigena is attested for the first time in Troia, on the Via Appia Traiana, in the Privilegium Baiulorum Imperialium of 1024.
While the first description of the itinerary dates back to the tenth century: this is the relationship that the bishop Sigerico made of the return route of the pilgrimage he made from Rome, to which he had arrived to be received by the Pope and obtain the "pallium", to then return in Canterbury, on what has already been widely called Via Francigena since the 12th century. The Sigerico’s document is one of the most significant testimonies of this network of European communication routes in the Middle Ages.
During our itinerary, we will travel part of the Via Francigena in its variant of the “Volto Santo” which is detached from the bottom of the Magra to go halfway up in Garfagnana and finally reach Lucca, where the Holy Face is kept inside the Cathedral of San Martino.
We will leave from the farm and horse riding school Picchio Verde, located in a green oasis at the foot of the hill where stands the Castle of Monti di Licciana Nardi. Here we will meet our trusted companions who will accompany us on this excursion among villages and medieval castles that have seen the passage of pilgrims and armies for thousands of years.
Slowly we will cross silent chestnut woods, saluting impressive castles built in medieval times to control the “route of the Salt” that connected the Mediterranean ports with the Po Valley. Castles were reworked over the centuries to accommodate marquises and noble families taking on the appearance of Renaissance residences that still distinguishes them today.
We will reach Castel del Piano, an ancient military fortification to defend the lands of the fiefdom of Licciana Nardi, today accurately transformed into a farm and an excellent winery. We will visit the vineyards and the small winery guided by Andrea's passion before moving to the castle's 16th century salon where we will taste its wines accompanied by local products. Than, we'll return to the stable through the characteristic village of Pontebosio, admiring its two castles built in different eras, which look separate from the Romanesque bridge that gives the name to the village.
The Via Francigena is therefore part of that vast network of roads and pilgrimage routes that marked Europe and that united all the major spirituality sites of the time. The presence of these paths, with the great quantity of people coming from very different cultures, has allowed an exceptional passage of signs, emblems, cultures and languages of the Christian West. Even today the memories of this passage can be traced back to the territory, which has profoundly shaped the settlement forms and the traditions of the places crossed. A continuous passage that has allowed the different European cultures to communicate and come into contact, forging the cultural, artistic, economic and political base of modern Europe; the phrase of the poet Goethe is known, according to which the conscience of Europe was born on pilgrimage routes.
Meet Andrea, known as the “man of horses”, always at the riding school training young horse riders or accompanying travelers on tour to discover the area, and his family who, together with his wife Lara, run the Agriturismo and restaurant located in a natural oasis.
At Castel del piano we will be welcomed by Andrea and Sabina, couple of “foresti” (foreigners) as the local people usually refer to those who are not originally from Lunigiana. Andrea from Genoa, Sabina from Emilia, they gave up the city life to retreat in the countryside. They bought this small castle, restored it and made it energetically self-sufficient. Here, they produce excellent wines blending vintage grapes with ancient local varieties.
Travelling on horseback along ancient mule paths, silent woods and historic bridges gives you the opportunity to explore the area from a privileged perspective you couldn’t enjoy if you were driving. Arriving at the castle along the countryside lane lined with vineyards and olive groves will make you feel like a medieval pilgrim.
Minimum 4 participants
The itinerary requires basic previous horseriding experience.
Not suitable for disabled people.
Minimum age: 14+
To bring: long trousers and long-sleeve t-shirt, sport shoes
Gears provided: helmet, corselet for children under 18 years old.
Età: 14 anni +
The Touriste package includes:
half day excursion on horseback with qualified instructor;
visit to the winery and wine tasting
Stretching from the Apennines to the Apuan Coast, Lunigiana stems from water and stone. From the gray limestone shaped by crystal waters to the white marble of Carrara overlooking the sea, we will travel across centuries of history, art, human landscapes and authentic flavors.