Monday, 18 June 2012 10:40 AM
Italy is home to all manner of historical and cultural cities, interspersed by sections of beautiful countryside. One of the best ways to travel here is on foot, as you can fully appreciate the landscapes you pass and explore at your own pace.
There are many trails you can follow if you want to go walking in Italy, but for something truly memorable, try the final leg of the Via Francigena pilgrimage route, which runs from Orvieto to Rome.
What is the Via Francigena?
The Via Francigena is an ancient trail that links Canterbury in the UK with Rome in Italy. In 990 AD, the Archbishop of Canterbury was one of the first people to record his journey in detail - and follow it back to Kent - when he went to receive his papal appointment in person. The full route starts in Canterbury and, after crossing the Channel, continues through France, Switzerland and on to Italy.
There are several alternative routes, as well as sections that break away from the traditional pilgrimage trail, but the ultimate goal of Rome is still the same.
Your leg of the journey
The section of the Via Fracigena you will undertake runs from Orvieto to Rome and can comfortably be completed in less than ten days. Setting out from Orvieto, you will gradually head south and west towards the country's capital, stopping in destinations such as Bolsena, Montefiascone, Viterbo, Vetralla and Capranica before you reach Rome and the impressive buildings of the Vatican City.
Things to look out for
You will pass many places of interest during your walk, but the following are a few of the sights you should not miss on your trip. You won't fail to notice Bolsena Lake, which is the largest volcanic lake in Europe and a renowned beauty spot. One of your first stops will be in the town of Bolsena and you will be afforded wonderful views of the water as you walk into and out of the settlement. Before you leave the lakeside town, pay a visit to the Santa Cristina Church, where a miracle is believed to have occurred in the 13th century.
Viterbo is well worth exploring properly and you will have a rest day here in which you can do just that. The city is home to a stunning historic centre, which is focused on the Piazza S. Lorenzo. Here, you will find the 12th century cathedral and the Palazzo dei Papi, a residence for popes that has been in use since 1255.
One of your last stops before you reach Rome is Vetralla, a charming fortified town that has been in existence since the early Middle Ages. Among the highlights here are its cathedral and many churches, as well as the Grotta Porcina, a series of ancient tombs carved into the hillside.
When in Rome...
Rome is so jam-packed with attractions, it can be difficult to know where to begin, but if you have followed a section of the Via Francigena, you should make St Peter's Basilica in the Vatican City your first port of call. Technically the Vatican is the world's smallest country and you certainly won't be able to miss the amazing dome of the Basilica that stands proudly over the rest of the city. St Peter's Square, where you will find the Basilica, is also a sight to behold, with its 25 m high obelisk in the centre and rows of columns flanking its sides.