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A cycling pilgrimage — history and nature on Italy’s Via Francigena

Wi La

A cycling pilgrimage — history and nature on Italy’s Via Francigena

Bike Touring Collection by Nicola Amadini

11-23

days

3-6 h

/ day

650 mi

33,700 ft

41,625 ft

This Collection brings together 23 stages of the legendary Via Francigena. The Italian section of this long-distance trail begins at the Colle Gran San Bernardo on the Swiss border and ends in Rome after about 1,000 kilometres (620 mi). The first written record of the legendary route dates back to 990 AD, when the illustrious pilgrim and archbishop of Canterbury, Sigeric, recounted in his diary the 80 stages of his journey on foot from Canterbury to the Vatican. Nowadays, more than 50,000 pilgrims a year, 20% of them on bicycles, complete the so-called 'Sigeric's route'.

No matter if you undertake this pilgrimage as a Christian religious practice, a cultural and historical journey, or a wonderful cycling holiday, you’ll return home with a renewed sense of devotion to nature, which is manifested in the variety of landscapes and territories along the route. From the mountains of the Val d'Aosta to the rice fields of Vercelli, from the river environments of Pavia to the Mediterranean coast of Liguria, from the rolling Tuscan hills to Lake Bolsena, and on to the hills of Lazio around Rome, these landscapes are awe-inspiring.

Human history is also at its best in the settlements of the seven regions that you cross on your bike: countless castles, churches, cathedrals and archaeological sites line the trail. Even the farmsteads and rural villages you encounter along the way are important historical and artistic testimonies of prehistoric, ancient and medieval Italy, envied by countries all over the world. There are many UNESCO heritage sites along the Via Francigena, so keep your camera handy.

Due to the number of unpaved roads in the Collection, these Tours can’t be tackled with a road bike. Gravel, trekking and mountain bikes are all good options for this trip.

These Tours are designed for the average, fit cyclist; no specific training is needed given the moderate nature of the average elevation gain. At the same time, the route satisfies more experienced cyclists, who can link up more than one stage (most are around 40 kilometres/25 mi).

It’s always possible to shorten or interrupt the ride too, thanks to a number of train stations near to the route. In Italy, bicycles are allowed on regional and Intercity trains (with a €3.5 surcharge to the ticket price).

Navigation is fairly simple: the route is marked with blue and white arrows with the words 'CicloVia Francigena' and the pilgrim symbol surrounded by a bicycle wheel. Unfortunately, the maintenance of the road signs dedicated to the Via is not always sufficient and some sections remain uncatered for. Checking your GPS from time to time is useful for staying on track.

Each stage goes through several villages that provide refreshment and hospitality every few kilometres, and you’ll not always find water fountains outside settlements. As a result, always fill your water bottles when you have the chance.

The ideal seasons to enjoy the trip are spring and autumn, but the temperatures are manageable even in summer: on the hottest days, it’s best to avoid cycling in the hours around midday (especially on the plains). Before tackling these routes in winter, especially the first section in the Aosta Valley, it’s wise to check the snow and weather conditions.

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La Via Francigena in bicicletta

634 mi

33,125 ft

41,125 ft

Last updated: August 23, 2022

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Tours & Highlights

  • Map data © OpenStreetMap contributors

    Stage 1: Gran San Bernardo to Aosta — between history and nature on Italy’s Via Francigena

    Intermediate
    01:55
    25.6 mi
    13.4 mph
    600 ft
    6,800 ft
    Intermediate bike ride. Good fitness required. Mostly paved surfaces. Suitable for all skill levels.

    The legendary itinerary of the Via Francigena opens with a welcome stop that offers pure enjoyment: a first day literally downhill, interrupted by delightful typical Valle d'Aosta villages where you will find numerous refreshment points and fountains with fresh spring water.

    

    Leaving the homeland of the

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  • Difficult
    03:23
    31.9 mi
    9.4 mph
    1,875 ft
    2,575 ft
    Expert bike ride. Very good fitness required. Some portions of the Tour may be unpaved and difficult to ride.

    This second stage is also full of refreshment points (Chambave, Saint Vincent, Montjovet) and fountains to fill the water bottles. Going down the Aosta Valley, endless vineyards and medieval castles like those of Quart, Nus, Cly and Fenis will parade before your eyes.

    

    Here the route faces east, so remember

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  • Intermediate
    03:29
    33.1 mi
    9.5 mph
    1,375 ft
    1,550 ft
    Intermediate bike ride. Good fitness required. Some portions of the Tour may be unpaved and difficult to ride.

    The third stage of your “cycle pilgrimage” is a succession of magnificent landscapes and elements of historical and cultural interest.

    

    You will have the opportunity to admire the enchanting village of Bard, dominated by the fort of the same name, which houses the Museum of the Alps.

    

    You will cross two

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  • Intermediate
    02:37
    25.1 mi
    9.6 mph
    125 ft
    675 ft
    Intermediate bike ride. Good fitness required. Mostly paved surfaces. Suitable for all skill levels.

    During this stage your cycling adventure will be a journey through time: at the start the medieval castle of Roppolo, built more than a thousand years ago and the scene of sieges and battles throughout history, offers a spectacular view of the Serra d'Ivrea, the Viverone Lake and the most beautiful mountains

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  • Difficult
    02:31
    23.7 mi
    9.4 mph
    175 ft
    275 ft
    Expert bike ride. Good fitness required. Some portions of the Tour may require you to push your bike.

    The poplar groves and rice fields along the Sesia river, a left tributary of the Po, characterize the first section of this stage.

    Drive along the provincial roads with little traffic between Palestro, Robbio and the flat countryside of Lomellina, until you take the dirt roads and grassy tratturi near

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  • Difficult
    02:58
    26.7 mi
    9.0 mph
    175 ft
    325 ft
    Expert bike ride. Good fitness required. Some portions of the Tour may require you to push your bike.

    The sixth stage opens with a beautiful flat stretch that, between typical farmhouses in the Pavia area, irrigation canals and long rows of trees, leads to Tromello. The small town in central Lomellina, which interrupts the countryside and offers refreshment to travelers, had already been included in

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  • Difficult
    03:15
    32.7 mi
    10.0 mph
    500 ft
    500 ft
    Expert bike ride. Good fitness required. Some portions of the Tour may require you to push your bike.

    Do you like river landscapes? You will love the territories crossed by the seventh stage! The Basso Pavese and its fluvial terraces bordered by escarpments on the Ticino river are enchanting, as are those on the left bank of the Po, especially at sunset. The majestic Belgiumioso castle and the religious

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  • Intermediate
    03:25
    35.5 mi
    10.4 mph
    400 ft
    325 ft
    Intermediate bike ride. Good fitness required. Mostly paved surfaces. Suitable for all skill levels.

    Waking up in little Orio Litta is a moment of peace, just what you need to start a new day of travel! After a few kilometers you will meet the ford of Sigeric - also called “Transitum Padi”. Those who travel on foot can here embark in the legendary river taxi of Mr. Danilo Parisi to reach the Emilian

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  • Intermediate
    03:03
    31.4 mi
    10.3 mph
    825 ft
    600 ft
    Intermediate bike ride. Good fitness required. Mostly paved surfaces. Suitable for all skill levels.

    To break the ride during the last stretch on the plain, you can stop and visit two magnificent religious buildings. The first is the Cistercian abbey of Chiaravalle della Colomba, famous for the Infiorata del Corpus Domini - a wonderful flowery carpet along the central nave of the basilica set up between

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  • Difficult
    02:57
    21.6 mi
    7.3 mph
    3,425 ft
    1,275 ft
    Expert bike ride. Very good fitness required. Mostly paved surfaces. Suitable for all skill levels.

    The tenth stage includes 1000 meters of altitude difference spread over a distance of 35 kilometers. You will see, the slopes are gentle, the landscape is beautiful, the road bottom is excellent, it will be a beautiful ride. Shortly after Fornovo you will see Mount Prinzera on your right (736 m a.s.l

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  • Difficult
    02:57
    32.0 mi
    10.8 mph
    1,600 ft
    4,050 ft
    Expert bike ride. Very good fitness required. Mostly paved surfaces. Suitable for all skill levels.

    Here is the eleventh stage of your journey: you are almost halfway through! Yesterday you have already gained altitude. Leaving Berceto, only 200 meters in altitude remain to be overcome to cross the Apennines on the Cisa Pass (1041 m a.s.l.) and enter Tuscany, the fourth region you will cross.

    

    Descend

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  • Difficult
    03:45
    33.7 mi
    9.0 mph
    2,900 ft
    2,900 ft
    Expert bike ride. Very good fitness required. Mostly paved surfaces. Suitable for all skill levels.

    After about five kilometers the climb begins which in 500 meters of altitude reaches Ponzanello, bypassing Monte Grosso. If you don't feel like tackling this stretch, you can choose to load your bicycle on a train to Sarzana, a town at the intersection of the Via Aurelia and the Via Emilia, of which

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  • Difficult
    03:29
    32.7 mi
    9.4 mph
    2,300 ft
    2,400 ft
    Expert bike ride. Very good fitness required. Mostly paved surfaces. Suitable for all skill levels.

    This stage develops entirely in the Tuscan territory. Say hello to the Versilia sea and move inland, where you will find the first of today's three climbs at Montignoso. There is a difference in height of 200 meters to overcome to reach the castle of Aghinolfi, but you will immediately forget the effort

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  • Intermediate
    03:06
    29.1 mi
    9.4 mph
    1,025 ft
    650 ft
    Intermediate bike ride. Good fitness required. Some portions of the Tour may be unpaved and difficult to ride.

    After the last few days of pedaling marked by a few climbs, today's stage is almost entirely flat until a few kilometers from its conclusion, in the small town of San Miniato. Perfect for loosening your legs!

    

    About twenty kilometers after greeting the walls of Lucca, the town of Altopascio appears, with

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  • Difficult
    03:01
    26.7 mi
    8.8 mph
    2,400 ft
    1,800 ft
    Expert bike ride. Very good fitness required. Mostly paved surfaces. Suitable for all skill levels.

    Stage 15 opens with an ups and downs in Val d’Elsa. Looking around, while enjoying white roads with excellent ground, you will see Romanesque-style religious architecture, medieval castles, ancient hostels that offer hospitality to pilgrims.

    After a short descent you find yourself pedaling flat for about

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  • Difficult
    04:05
    31.5 mi
    7.7 mph
    2,375 ft
    2,350 ft
    Expert bike ride. Very good fitness required. Some portions of the Tour may be unpaved and difficult to ride.

    Having said goodbye to San Gimignano, after a stretch of ups and downs, you arrive in Poggibonsi. From here begins the climb that takes you to Colle di Val d’Elsa, Gracciano d’Elsa and Strove, with its beautiful Romanesque church. Pass through the splendid complex of Abbadia a Isola before reaching Monteriggioni

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  • Difficult
    04:24
    33.8 mi
    7.7 mph
    2,100 ft
    1,875 ft
    Expert bike ride. Very good fitness required. Mostly paved surfaces. Suitable for all skill levels.

    The seventeenth stage is 55 kilometers long and involves 950 meters of elevation gain. As for the itineraries described above, these are mostly ups and downs than long climbs, but consider that the dirt road could make them quite challenging.

    Leave behind the unforgettable squares of Siena on the dirt

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  • Difficult
    02:44
    21.9 mi
    8.0 mph
    2,450 ft
    1,250 ft
    Expert bike ride. Very good fitness required. Mostly paved surfaces. Suitable for all skill levels.

    The stage that takes you from San Quirico d’Orcia to Radicofani includes a positive difference in height of 740 meters, concentrated in the last 15 kilometers.

    The ride opens with the wonderful landscapes of the Val d’Orcia and the tiny village of Vignoni Alto, an aggregate of buildings dating back to

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  • Difficult
    03:48
    34.2 mi
    9.0 mph
    2,000 ft
    3,525 ft
    Expert bike ride. Very good fitness required. Mostly paved surfaces. Suitable for all skill levels.

    The nineteenth stage, after a long initial descent, consists of a series of ups and downs, for a total of 600 meters of positive difference in height spread over 55 kilometers.

    Starting from Radicofani, descend towards the Val di Paglia, enjoying the view over wonderful hilly landscapes and Mount Amiata

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  • Difficult
    02:38
    20.5 mi
    7.8 mph
    1,550 ft
    1,500 ft
    Expert bike ride. Very good fitness required. Mostly paved surfaces. Suitable for all skill levels.

    The twentieth stage includes less altitude difference (470 meters concentrated at the beginning of the day) and a limited distance (33 km) compared to the previous ones.

    Via Cassia is still the path to follow to get away from Bolsena, along the splendid stretch of water on its right bank. Just before

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Collection Stats

  • Tours
    23
  • Distance
    650 mi
  • Duration
    71:06 h
  • Elevation
    33,700 ft41,625 ft

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