Via Francigena is a pilgrims’ route starting in Canterbury and finishing in Rome, passing through France, Germany and Switzerland. This route bears witness to the importance of pilgrimage in medieval times where travel was mostly on foot. Pilgrims typically travelled in groups and covered 25 to 30 kilometers each day and they wore the insignia of the pilgrimage which was a key to St Peter’s in Rome.
Via Francigena traverses through Tuscany for 394 km, starting from Passo della Cisa and joining Lazio in Ponte a Rigo. The Tuscan stretch is amongst the most beautiful parts of the passage, especially the section between Siena and San Gimignano. Starting from Siena the route goes through Monteriggioni, Colle Val d’Elsa, Poggibonsi and San Gimignano, mostly following Via Cassia which is a quiet, narrow road.
We stayed at a Tuscan Villa called Villa 3 Colli which is situated between Barberino Val d’Elsa and Certaldo and visited a number of places on Via Francigena from there. Castello di Staggia near Poggibonsi is one of the visitor points on Via Francigena which is quite close to the Tuscan Villa that we stayed at. Castello di Staggia was closely linked to Abbadia Isola and was an important stop on Via Francigena. The castle was a fortified residence with high walls, battlements, and an arched entrance gateway. The oldest information about the castle dates back to 994 and it bears witness to the conflicts between Siena and Florence who constantly fought for the control of the territory of the Val d’Elsa. In 1361 Staggia was ceded by the Gauls in Florence who restored the castle and erected 7 meter high walls around the village to protect it against future attacks from Siena. The fortress is divided into two parts by an internal wall, the wall has two round towers located at the northwest and south and a square tower at the north-east. A fourth tower is located on the side of the inner wall. The walls were interspersed with numerous towers of which eleven remain visible.
The other interesting place to visit is the castle at Monteriggioni which is only 15 minutes drive from the Tuscan villa that we stayed at. You can reach Monteriggioni by driving to Poggibonsi and then joining the highway which joins Florence to Siena.