The Via del Volto Santo is a historic mountain variant of the Via Francigena that leads from Pontremoli, passing through inland Lunigiana and Garfagnana to Lucca. The latter, in addition to being a point of passage on the Via Francigena, represents an important pilgrimage destination for devotion to the Volto Santo – the wooden crucifix that legend defines as an ‘acheropite’ image. This work, which is said not to have been completed by human hand but rather to have 'appeared' through divine intervention, is exhibited in the cathedral of San Martino in Lucca.
The Via del Volto Santo is a maze of roads that have been taken by hundreds of pilgrims and merchants over the centuries for religious and economic reasons. The route connected Lucca and the Lands of the Apennines, avoiding the major dangers of the coastal roads, such as pirate raids and the unhealthy environment of the marshes.
Today, the route can be followed on foot or by bicycle and allows visitors to explore villages of immense historical and cultural significance, alongside castles, passes and evocative paths. In this Collection, I propose a splendid itinerary of 180 kilometres (112 mi) and about 4,200 metres (13,780 ft) of ascent to discover Lunigiana and Garfagnana, from Pontremoli to Lucca.
You’ll start from Pontremoli, at the heart of Lunigiana, which is easily reached by train. The Collection is divided into three stages, but you can vary the length of the stages according to your abilities and preferences. At the finish in Lucca, the route ends at the train station, so it’s easy to complete your trip using public transport.
This route will take you through many fascinating villages, such as Monti Licciana, Ceretoli, San Romano in Garfagnana and Borgo a Mezzano with its Ponte del Diavolo (Devil's Bridge), as well as reach the walled city of Lucca. Take time to stop and admire the numerous castles you’ll encounter along the way, including those in Fivizzano, Bagnone, the Verrucole Fortress and the Castelnuovo Castle.
The Via del Volto Santo can be explored by MTB, but it’s also doable on other bikes. The only two things to remember are to have well-functioning brakes and wide tyres suitable for the terrain. Only around a third of the route is on paths, single tracks or dirt trails, so overall it’s fairly smooth riding.
There’s no shortage of water points along the route, including several large villages and small hamlets. Accommodation options are plentiful, both for pitching your tent in the wilderness and for B&Bs and agritourism, offering good food and rest stops between stages.
Make sure you try some of the traditional dishes. In Lunigiana, don't miss testaroli (flat pasta), torta d'erbi (green vegetable pie) and panigacci (flatbread). In Garfagnana I recommend spelt soup, neccio (pancakes) or crisciolette (flatbread), as well as numerous types of cured meats and unique cheeses that will help you recover and refuel on the Via del Volto Santo.
Embark on an adventure on the Via del Volto Santo route from Pontremoli to Lucca!
Ready to get going? Create and customize your own version of this adventure using the full Tour below as a template.
Last updated: October 13, 2023
Plan your own version of this adventure in the multi-day planner based on the stages suggested in this Collection.
The Via del Volto Santo begins in Pontremoli, the crossing point of the Via Francigena in Lunigiana. You can also reach this picturesque city with medieval features by public transport (train, bus).
Especially in the first stage, mostly on asphalt, you will pedal partially overlapping the path of the…
The second stage of the Via del Volto Santo promises to be fun because it concentrates a significant difference in altitude in about fifty kilometres. Leave Fivizzano and set off uphill passing by the small villages of Turlago, Reusa and Regnano.
From the cemetery of Regnano begins a climb of about five…
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Cycling at the foot of the Apuan Alps, on this third day on the Via del Volto Santo you will be able to reach the destination of this splendid route, Lucca. But let's go step by step. After the fundamental breakfast, set off uphill from Castelnuovo di Garfagnana towards Monteperpoli, Cascio, Gallicano…
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