Now that my detailed itinerary has hit the Italian border, my efforts need to turn to La Via dei Pellegrini in Italy itself. Regular readers of this blog will know that the Eurovelo 5 cycle route, although often associated with the Via Francigena pilgrim route does not really follow the same path. The Via Francigena is a more-or-less straight line route between Canterbury and Rome; this is logical as when Sigeric and his mates back in the 10th century first walked the route, they were doing it to see the boss in Rome and just like modern-day commuters don’t drive around the countryside en route to work because it is nice and pretty, Sigeric presumably didn’t want to hang around admiring the view. The Via Francigena crosses the Alps at the St. Bernard Pass, the Eurovelo 5 at the Gotthard Pass some 125 kilometres to the east.
However, in northern Italy, the two paths to Rome do coalesce, or at least they could do. The vague description of the Eurovelo 5 route as written down in the ancient and sacred manuscripts of the European Cyclists’ Federarion become even more vague when they come to Italy (do they think most people will have given up after the strenuous efforts required to pass over the Alps?). I quote; Italy is reached through the Sankt Gotthard Pass. Continue to Chiasso and Como to Lombardy. Northern Italy have several initiatives to build cyclists facilities. Last stage to Rome you follow the national cycle route of “Ciclopista del Sole”. It is not signed yet, but maps and guidebooks are available. It’s nice of them to assume that, despite their own map showing the Eurovelo 5 route continues to Brindisi, they only describe it as far as Rome! In addition, if you compare the Eurovelo map with the map of the Italian Cycle Network, the Eurovelo 5 doesn’t follow the Ciclopista del Sole but the Via dei Pellegrini. So to go back on the previous comment about the two routes – the Via Francigena and Eurovelo 5 joining up – you can see that it is more a case of having the option to join them up. My current thinking is not to follow the Ciclopista del Sole but to follow the Via dei Pellegrini; both pass through Rome but the Pellegrini route takes a more inland path, away from the hoards of tourists on the coast and south of the capital avoids Naples. It also passes through Tuscany and Umbria; regions not to miss.
So, what do I know about the Via dei Pellegrini? Not much! The following is from the Italian National Cycling Network website;
This route is along the old Via Francigena as far as Rome (thus forming part of Eurovelo Route 5). It begins on the Swiss border at Chiasso/Como, then heads for Rome passing through Milan, Parma, Lucca, Siena. From Rome we propose to reach Brindisi (using long stretches of the Via Appia), which for centuries was the port of departure for pilgrims, crusaders and knights leaving for Jerusalem.
Not too much detail there, but there is also this, in Italian;
N° 3 – Ciclovia dei Pellegrini (km 2300) Questo itinerario fa riferimento alla via Francigena sia pure nella versione “Eurovelo” fino a Roma. Da Roma si propone il raggiungimento di Brindisi (recuperando lunghi tratti di via Appia) che ha rappresentato per secoli il porto per pellegrini, crociati e cavalieri del tempio diretti a Gerusalemme.
Itinerario: Chiasso, Como, Milano, Lodi, Corte S. Andrea, Piacenza, Parma, Passo della Cisa, Lucca, Siena, Roma, Fiuggi, Frosinone, Cassino, Benevento, Melfi, Gravina, Matera, Taranto, Brindisi.
Risorse: ciclabili dei parchi a nord di Milano e ciclabile dell’Adda fino al Po, viabilità minore in provincia di Parma e in Lunigiana fino ad Aulla. Progetto finanziato Siena-Buonconvento, ciclabile del Tevere a Roma, Appia antica.
Sedimi ferroviari: Carrara-Avenza, Lucca-Bientina-Pontedera, Roma-Fiuggi.
Su questa direttrice si innestano altri tracciati in qualche modo legati a percorsi “Romei” da nord-ovest: in particolare le direttrice cosiddetta di Sigerico ovvero Aosta, Vercelli, Corte Sant’Andrea, ma importante è una via che dal Moncenisio attraversa Piemonte e Liguria per unirsi all’itinerario principale a Sarzana-Luni.
A little bit more detail there; a few more towns mentioned – I’ll update my Google Map accordingly – and a little bit of advice as to which bits are more cyclable than others…. More research needed.