In 1600, three million pilgrims descended on Rome for the Jubilee proclaimed by Pope Clement VIII. Among them were the members of the Compagnia di Santa Caterina in Fontebranda (Society of Saint Catherine in Fontebranda), who had set off for the holy city on the famous Via Francigena. This December 1-7, history is due to repeat itself as the Comune di Siena launches a new version of the pilgrimage: a weeklong journey on foot from Siena to Rome along the historic road, in honor of Pope Francis’ upcoming Jubilee of Mercy, set to open next year.
The 120 km adventure, dubbed Siena-Rome: Lungo la Via Francigena verso il Giubileo di Misericordia (Siena-Rome: Along the Via Francigena towards the Jubilee of Mercy) begins on December 1, the day of Siena’s patron saint, Saint Ansano. Following a day of liturgical and community celebrations, participants will begin the first leg of the journey with an ‘urban hike’ to Porta Romana. From there, the road takes the modern pilgrims, their guides from the Tuscan Association of Vie Francigene, and their minibus of supplies and emergency support to Ponte d’Arbia, San Quirico d’Orcia, Radicofani and Acquapendente (Viterbo), finishing in Bolsena on December 6. The home stretch to Rome will be completed on bus the next day, due to time and logistical constraints, but the group will make a stop in the Church of Saint Catherine of Siena in via Giulia, viewing the church’s balzana (Sienese flag) as well as the flags of the 17 contrade of the city. The discounted price tag for the first fifty participants is 90 euro; for the rest, 200.
The weeklong journey, part of Siena Capitale Italiana della Cultura 2015, joins the recent trend of European ‘slow tourism.’ Massimo Tedeschi, president of the European Association of Vie Francigene, describes the trek as a new version of ‘an ancient journey that today aims to be a place of dialogue between people of different cultures and religions, a place of peace and tolerance…where anyone can find their own kind of leisure and their own space.’