A route long hundreds of kilometers, fairytale-like natural landscapes, ancient villages and castles, ancient testimonies of faith and at the center a city rich in art and history like Viterbo: the Via Francigena, the set of roads that in the Middle Ages were crossed by a multitude of pilgrims from Canterbury to Rome, motivated by devotion and spirit of adventure, found the most fascinating stretch of road in Tuscia.
Nowadays, the Via Francigena, recognized as a cultural route by the Council of Europe, is seen in the same light as the Camino de Santiago, and is crossed by an increasing number of modern pilgrims that, in the footprints of archbishop Sigerico in 994 who described his journey from Rome to Canterbury in his diary, run through the ancient routes finding refreshment and rest in a catering and accommodation facilities scattered in the centers along Via Francigena.
In the province of Viterbo, Via Francigena touches places that lead straight to the heart of Christianity. The traveler arriving from the north, after the ancient Centeno post station, immediately comes across Acquapendente, The “Jerusalem of Europe.” Where does this epithet come from? By the fact that the Romanesque style crypt of the Cathedral, dating back to the twelfth century, contains one of the oldest original niches of the Holy Sepulchre. Acquapendente also offers tourists an interesting historical center, surrounded by natural landscapes of extraordinary beauty.
The Via Francigena path that, in Viterbo, roughly coincides with Cassia continues to Bolsena, the charming village on the shores of the volcanic lake, famous for the Eucharistic miracle of Corpus Christi, which took place in 1263 in the Basilica of Santa Cristina, where the sacred altar stones can be venerated.
The next stop is Montefiascone, a town known for its wine Est! Est!! Est!!!, with the church of San Flaviano, an architectural structure from the medieval period characterized by two overlapping buildings, an upper and lower building. The pilgrim who arrives in Montefiascone, can also climb to the Rocca dei Papi and admire the Torre del Pellegrino, a spectacular panorama that reaches the sea. Montefiascone is located 100 kilometers from the tomb of St. Peter.
Then, Viterbo. In the Middle Ages, Via Francigena was decisive for the development of the city. The Colle del Duomo, with the Palace of the Popes and the Cathedral of San Lorenzo, is the greatest tourist attraction thanks to its monumental hub. Here a guided tour takes the visitor to discover the places fundamental to the history of the Church, such as the room where the longest conclave in history was held. This conclave lasted more than one thousand days between 1268 and 1271, an event that brought about the birth of the term “conclave” in reference to the cardinals who were imprisoned in the palace cum clave by the people to urge the election of the new pontiff.
Among others, the Cathedral is home to the tomb of John XXI, the only Portuguese Pope in history, while the Colle del Duomo Museum offers a series of archaeological finds and works of art documenting the importance that this place had throughout the centuries, from Etruscan times to the modern age. The old town of Viterbo has preserved large sections of the medieval urban layout, such as the district of San Pellegrino: the city became one of the cornerstones of the Via Francigena and is still testimony to the time thanks to the numerous ancient housing and shelters for pilgrims.
The route then continues to the Cimini Mountains, where the Via Francigena splits in two variants: one follows the current Cassia, passing through Vetralla and Capranica; the other, known as the Cimina Variant, runs along Lake Vico through Caprarola and Ronciglione, and returns to the main route in Sutri, which boasts the titel of the Ancient City. Located close to Rome, Sutry has great historical importance: here, in 728 the Lombard king Liutprand made the so-called Donation of Sutri to Pope Gregory II, initiating the Papacy as a political entity. The ancient church of Santa Maria del Parto, also known as Mitreo, a fresco depicting a line of pilgrims, in their characteristic clothing of the time, with wide-brimmed hat, bag and “drone” (walking stick): an important iconographic document to understand the epic story of the Via Francigena in the Middle Ages.