I often go on long walks to get my thinking straight. It never comes out without a few wrinkles, but it sure helps.
The idea of pilgrimage has been with us a long time. Folks used to walk long distances in dangerous territory to shake off sin. Those journeys changed the landscape. Churches, inns, and hospices popped up in along the routes. Carvers carved stories into stone for those who couldn’t read; the rich gave up (some of) their riches for use by the poor on pilgrimage. Balance was restored to the universe.
Today, pilgrimage isn’t quite so much a sacrifice—and it’s becoming not only more popular, but easier as well. In the Lunigiana we’re seeing lots of signs for pilgrims to use on the via Francigena, the pilgrimage route from Canterbury to Rome. Organized tours, like the Pellegrinaggio lungo la Via del Volto Santo promise you won’t have to scour the countryside for lodging or food; everything is planned for you.
The Pilgrimage along the Via del Volto Santo takes you through the beautiful parts of “hidden Tuscany,” the Lunigiana and Garfagnana, to Lucca. The little “motorino” train from Aulla follows pretty much the same path. Neither trains nor people like elevation changes much.
The pilgrimage is timed to arrive in time for the Volto Santo
procession on the 13th. The “Volto Santo” (Holy Face) is kept in Lucca’s cathedral of San Martino. Read more about the Volto Santo
Another interesting thing about pilgrimage is the willingness of pilgrims to share information. Babette Gallard recently sent me a copy of her LightFoot Guide to the via Francigena. It’s a monumental work, full of necessary route information and maps for the pilgrims, but also a worthy book on the wonders found along the route by folks who’ve experienced it in various ways, including on horseback.
Check out the map of the Via Francigena, even if you have no interest in traveling along it. You’ll find all the “best” cities in that part of Italy along it.
Pilgrimage changes not only the pilgrims.