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
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.