This UNESCO World Heritage Site has been welcoming multitudes of Christian pilgrims since the 11th century

In 990, Bishop Sigeric of Canterbury was the first to make the journey to Rome to receive honors from the Pope. He kept a detailed journal of his travels with pictures and maps of the route. This became, more or less, the pilgrimage known as the Via Francigena. The 2,000 kilometers trail route begins at Canterbury Cathedral. It unravels to the cliffs of Dover, crosses France and Switzerland, and enters Italy from Valle d’Aosta.

It then goes through the provinces of Parma, Ivrea, La Spezia, Lucca, Siena, and Viterbo before reaching Rome.


Since the 11th century, multitudes of Christian pilgrims used this historical itinerary to make their way to Rome mostly on foot for penitential reasons. The Eternal City has always been of particular interest to them. Being the site of the martyrdom of Saint Peter and Saint Paul, it is one of the Holy Sites of Christianity. The others are Santiago de Compostela, the place chosen by the apostle Saint James to rest in peace, and Jerusalem in the Holy Land. Along these very same pilgrim routes, took place an intense trading activity and there are many diverse sceneries and cities with compelling 11th and 12th-century architecture.

One of the most amazing sceneries through which the Via Francigena passes is Val d’Orcia. This place boasts a unique landscapes dotted with splendid towns such as San Giovanni d’Asso, San Quirico, Montalcino, Monteriggioni, and San Gimignano, with its towers. These picturesque jewels are set among golden fields, vineyards, and green rolling hills and connected by winding roads marked by cypresses.

Since 2004, Val d’Orcia is listed as UNESCO’s World Heritage Site as cultural landscape. The following are UNESCO’s justification for the listing. “The Val d’Orcia is an exceptional reflection of the way the landscape was re-written in Renaissance times to reflect the ideals of good governance and to create an aesthetically pleasing pictures.” And also, “The landscape of the Val d’Orcia was celebrated by painters from the Siennese School, which flourished during the Renaissance. Images of the Val d’Orcia, and particularly depictions of landscapes where people are depicted as living in harmony with nature, have come to be seen as icons of the Renaissance and have profoundly influenced the development of landscape thinking.”

Ilona Catani Scarlett

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