The Francigena road is an ancient pilgrim pathway that leads from France to Rome. One of the most ancient documents about this road is the travel diary of Sigeric, who went from Canterbury to Romearound the year 900 AD to receive the official investiture as a bishop, and on the way back made a note of every stop he made. This roadmap has been recently promoted and well organised with signs and budget accommodations, so that people who live along this path hope this could become as famous as the Spanish Santiago pathway for those who love long distance walking.
I have personally walked all the stretch in central Italy, it’s really beautiful: you see a varied landscape, you visit lots of interesting and almost hidden monuments, and you meet people: someone who walks with you, and mainly the local people, who often stare astonished while you pass by. While following this ancient road in the Tuscan stretch, at the end of your walking day, it is possible to find a pleasant rest in a wine bar, sitting in some charming ancient village square, and taste a nice glass of wine from the most important Tuscan wine regions.
We begin with the Lunigiana valley, where we find a nice white wine, Colli di Luni DOC, made with vermentino grapes: it is pale yellow, with rather intense and persistent smell, floral and herbaceous scent, slightly rennet. Dry and sapid taste, thin-bodied but modest, with a good consistency.
Near Massa we can taste the Candia DOC from the Apuan hills, also made basically with vermentino grapes: it is not very famous but some producers are appreciated for the smooth version.
Then we come to Lucca, and even if the road doesn’t bring us in the middle of the vineyards, we cannot miss the opportunity to taste the Montecarlo DOC: the most famous is the white one (dry, velvety and harmonious), made with semillon, sauvignon blanc and pinot blanc grape variety, and it dates back to the Roman ages, it was also well appreciated by the Popes during the 15th century.
We cannot forget that all along the way we cross different areas of Chianti DOCG production, and this offers the possibility to compare the same wine, based on the sangiovese grape variety, with the various characteristics coming from the different soils (from the hills around Pisa to the hills around Siena, through the hills near Florence). The route borders cultivated fields, and mainly spans hills with vineyards, olive groves or woods.
One of the most famous stops along the Via Francigena is San Gimignano, with its precious Vernaccia DOCG. The name of the wine comes from the name of the grape, it is mentioned by Dante in the Divine Comedy, highly appreciated at the table of Lorenzo the Magnificent and also in Saint Peter's on the table of Popes. It is light straw yellow with a greenish tinge, with a fine and penetrating bouquet, initially reminiscent of broom and lime, then suggesting a sensation of mixed fruity flavours, the taste is dry, harmonious with a typical bitter aftertaste.
In Siena we can taste some interesting wines from the Chianti Classico DOCG area, even if it is produced in a region witch is to the East of the route. Chianti is probably the most well known Italian red wine. It tends to have medium-high acidity and medium tannins. This makes it very flexible with food and wine pairings, especially with Italian cuisines that feature red sauce, as well with as beef, lamb and wild game. It is often characterized by its juicy fruit notes of cherry, plum and raspberry.
Afterward we reach Montalcino, the homeland of Brunello di Montalcino DOCG, one of Italy’s rarest wines. It is made 100% with the clone of the sangiovese grape named brunello. It matures about 4 years in oak barrels, then it’s bottled and ages in the cellar 6-12 months before being released. Deep ruby reed with garnet reflection, intense and rich aroma with notes of spices and berries, dense and thick rounded tannins: if you want to walk again the next day it is better not to abuse of it, just taste it and come back here by car to have more. In the same area you can also taste the Rosso di Montalcino DOC, a red, velvety, fresh wine.
The only negative aspect of this visit through important wine regions on the Via Francigena is that you cannot buy a bottle because they are too heavy to carry in the backpack, so you can only drink on place.
Afterwards we head towards Rome and we enter the Latium region, but this is another story….
To learn more about the Francigena Road www.viafrancigena.eu