Italy

The Kingdom of Italy was established in 1861 from a number of city states ruled by Austria, Spain and other foreign powers. But although the northern regions soon became modern and powerful, colonising parts of Africa and areas of the Mediterranean, the southern areas and islands remained poor and ungovernable. The Via Francigena route was first established in the richer, northern areas around the River Po, and now runs from the St Bernhard Pass to Rome. It’s one of a number of other pilgrim routes which follow the Roman roads or medieval routes.
All along these routes are cultural treasures – from the Roman period, from the Renaissance, the Baroque, the treasures of the papal states and great trading republics. The countryside itself offers huge variety from the Alps of the north to the olive groves of Sicily. The Italians, accustomed to tourism, have managed the rise of walking tourism well – routes are peppered with bars, restaurants and farmhouse accommodation. Tourism offices have a variety of supporting material and can help with accommodation.

History

The Romans succeeded the Etruscans as the most powerful central Italian people and developed a civilisation which spread all around the shores of the Mediterranean, which they called Mare Nostrum – our sea. Their armies dominated the provinces via a network of paved roads and public buildings, many of which survive until today. With the collapse of the western Roman empire, Italy was disputed between the eastern empire (Byzantium) and invaders from north – the Lombards and then the Franks, who strategically allied with the Papacy. In the middle ages and Renaissance periods, Italy’s central core was controlled by the Pope, the north by expansive trading city states and the south by the Norman French. The wealth of the city states and Papacy was spent on art, architecture and war, reulting in the brilliant architecture we see today.

The major north European powers, Spain and Austria, and later Napoleon, invaded and divided the country, which was eventually united under Garibaldi in 1861. The south, remaining poor, sent emigrants to colonies. Italy emerged well from the 1st World War, but Mussolini allied with Germany in the 2nd . Civil war enabled the allies to invade and, by the time peace came, the country was badly damaged.

A new constitution and membership of the EU provided the basis for the Italian economic miracle, which has now slowed considerably, with much youth unemployment.

Websites and maps

The Via Francigena is well- promoted through the websites of the parent organization, EAVF, and regional websites. Viefrancigene.org

This site has GPS points, maps and accommodation information. The route in the south is included in a far less comprehensive website: Viefrancigenedelsud.it, Festivals are listed on this site, although you should check with local tourism offices Festival.viefrancigene.org

Camminafrancigena.it collects blogs, press articles and other impressions of the route, in Italian.

You can also browse: Lombardia.viefrancigene.org & Francigenalazio.it

                        


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