Epworth: Via Francigena from Lucca to Siena

Following in the footsteps of the pilgrims, through spectacular Tuscan countryside and charming UNESCO towns and villages.

Challenge Highlights

  • Raising awareness and monies for Epworth Medical Foundation
  • Following in the centuries old footsteps of pilgrims on the Via Francigena in Tuscany
  • Stay at friendly quality hotels and villas
  • Immerse yourself in the classic Tuscan landscape of green rolling hills covered in vineyards
  • Visit the charming UNESCO towns of San Gimignano, Monteriggioni and Siena
  • Feasting on culinary delights and tasting superb Chianti wines

Overview

Spectacular landscapes and rolling Tuscan countryside covered in vineyards, charming UNESCO towns and picturesque rolling hills are just some of the highlights on this section of the Via Francigena. Northern Tuscany has so much to be discovered, especially for those travelling on foot. Starting in Lucca, we spend a day visiting its beautiful gardens and villas and discovering some of the nearly one hundred churches that characterise this beautiful town. The first part of the walk trails through the open, flat lands of the Val d'Elsa and lead into the Tuscan Hills. The next section of the walk takes you back in time, exploring the narrow streets and renowned medieval towns in Tuscany, including San Gimignano and Monteriggioni. As we reach Siena, the landscape changes to open green rolling hills. Stay in quality hotels and villlas and enjoy the delicious culinary delights of Tuscany.

Challenge Grade

The walking is graded moderate (3). Daily walks are between 14 and 24km on well marked trails over diverse terrain – from relatively flat to rolling hills. The accent is on keeping a steady pace to take in all of the attractions, with time to stop and take photos. You will need a good level of fitness to participate fully in this adventure.

Itinerary

On arrival into Lucca please make your way to the group hotel. Lucca is one of the jewels of Via Francigena and we suggest you arrive a day or two early so you can explore at your leisure. This quintessential Tuscan town with its imposing Renaissance walls hides a charming maze of cobbled streets, narrow promenades and historic cafes. This afternoon we will have a trip briefing and depending on the arrival time, we may take an orientation stroll in the city centre to savor our first glimpse of Italy and to sample its famous and beloved Italian food, pizza. Overnight Hotel San Marco or similar

Meals:  D

A guided walking tour is the perfect way to discover this walled city: we walk on the defensive walls, enjoying panoramic views on the old centre, lush gardens of noble mansions now converted to hostels, as locals jog and cycle all around. We then descend to the city centre and loose ourselves in the maze of narrow cobbled streets filled with artisanal workshops and steam-oven bakeries selling focaccia and the buccellato, the typical cake - recipes may vary and are usually passed down through generations and jealously treasured by each bakery. Our last stop is the Cathedral, housing the labyrinth stone (symbol of the Via Francigena) and the Volto Santo, a statue said to represent the real face of Christ. For lunch, we meet Guido, a young farmer who after graduating in agronomy decided to restore his father’s farm and dedicate himself to goat farming and cheese making. We dine on his raw milk cheeses and other products from the surrounding farms including wild boar meat, olives, tomatoes and honey-glazed ricotta. From here we set off on foot through rolling hills covered in vineyards to Gambassi Terme; one of the most beautiful and scenic parts of the itinerary, with spectacular views of the surrounding hills and countryside scattered with farms and country houses. In Gambassi, our first day of walking is rewarded by an evening at Tenuta Sant’Ilario. Surrounded by vineyards and olive groves, strategically located on a ridge between two hills overlooking the Val d’Elsa, this charming farmhouse was once part of a Medieval village near the Pieve di Chianni, the Romanesque church where Archbishop Sigeric stayed in 994 AD. Now a luxury agriturismo producing olive oil, fruit and vegetables – it’s the perfect place to relax, enjoy the natural surroundings and soak in the pool. Overnight Tenuta Sant’Ilario

Meals:  B,L,D

The countryside between Gambassi and San Gimignano is classic perfection, like walking into a renaissance painting. The trail takes us through hills and vineyards, crossing the peculiar village of Collemuccioli, the Sanctuary of Pancole and the Pieve di Cellole surrounded by cypresses, where the local monks live immersed in a peaceful and meditative atmosphere. Our destination is San Gimignano: one of the most visited and famous cities along the Francigena. This medieval town is also known as the “Manhattan of Middle Age”. Today only 14 of the 72 towers remain standing - the biggest of them being the Torre Grossa, which we climb for a 360° view of the old town centre and the picture-perfect countryside we walked through. There is time to wander the busy but enchanting narrow streets and enjoy an award-winning ice cream before we head together to the Rocca. This castle perched at the top of the town, houses a historical winery dedicated to the local Vernaccia wine, the most appreciated white wine in a land dominated by reds. We enjoy a tasting of three Vernaccia varieties with some bruschette, pecorino cheese and a taste of the local “Finocchiona” - a local delicacy made with pork, red wine and fennel seeds. We spend the night in Piazza della Cisterna, one of the main squares of the city. Overnight Hotel della Cisterna or similar

Meals:  B,L,D

On our second day of walking, the first surprise of the day just a few kilometres from the towers of San Gimignano, on Via Francigena, Torraccia di Chiusi is a countryside retreat owned and passionately managed by Stefano – historian and organic wine-maker – and his wife Donatella, zoologist and archaeology enthusiast (as well as sister of one of the most appreciated Italian actresses). Stefania is also the keeper of the keys to an ancient Etruscan altar normally closed to the public, surrounded by cypresses aligned in a specific, ritual formation – she will open the gates and guide us to an exclusive visit. From here we continue through rolling vineyard covered hills and wade across small streams and through meadows dappled in sunlight to reach the Medieval hamlet of Colle Val d’Elsa. Our home tonight is Palazzo San Lorenzo, a 4* hotel housed in a 17th century palace. Overnight Palazzo San Lorenzo or similar

Meals:  B,L,D

Prepare yourself for a restorative meditation in the form of a walk. The road takes you through hills, woods and meadows, quiet churches and unique places like “Abbadia a Isola”. Built In 1001 AC in an area originally surrounded by water and marshes, the abbey would work as a “hospitale”, sheltering tired pilgrims on their way to Rome. After an accurate restoration, the abbey is now serving its original function and houses Via Francigena pilgrims as well as an annual festival dedicated to the joys of slow travelling. From here we set off towards Monteriggioni, which soon appears on the horizon perched on a hill and decorated by a crown of defensive towers - it looks straight out of a fairytale. Its well-preserved, scenographic appearance was included in a video game, bringing worldwide fame to the castle. The crown of towers enshrines a perfect tiny ancient world with hidden gardens, cobbled streets filled with restaurants and shops and a medieval museum narrating the history of the castle. If desired, you can walk on its walls for a 360° view of the surrounding countryside - a perfect characteristic for a defensive castle. Our hotel is located beside the castle. Overnight Hotel Piccolo Castello or similar

Meals:  B,L,D

As we leave the Monteriggioni’s crown of towers behind, we continue on terracotta-colored ground (appropriately called “terra di Siena”), gravel roads, shady trails and through woods full of surprises. One moment we are in forest and then suddenly a castle or the remains of a medieval village appear. At one of these castles, Marcello welcomes pilgrims, walkers, and friends and will serve us a special lunch in the middle of the forest. As we get closer to Siena, we pass through the Porta Camollia and merge into the old town centre walking across the different historical districts, the contrade - which compete against each other in the most famous horse race in Italy. The coveted prize being the Palio. The shell-shaped Piazza del Campo is the setting of the Palio and one of the most beautiful and photogenic squares in the region. When not filled with horses and jockeys, it is a place for locals and tourists enjoying the sun. Here we have a special aperitivo to celebrate our trip together – and later, probably a good plate of “pici” - the local pasta, thick spaghetti usually seasoned with a garlic and tomato sauce, or pepper and “cacio” cheese. Overnight Hotel Italia or similar

Meals:  B,L,D

After breakfast, your journey concludes. Please let World Expeditions know if you would like to extend your stay in Siena

Meals:  B,L,D

What's Included

  • Trip escorted by Epworth Medical Foundation representative
  • $2,500 fundraising amount, tax deductible
  • 6 nights in a mix of 4*, 3* hotels and charming agriturismo
  • Transfer from Lucca to the dairy farm on day 2
  • All meals (including 3 picnic lunch, 1 cheese tasting & lunch on day 2, 1 pilgrim lunch on day 6)
  • Luggage transfers through out
  • Cheese tasting and lunch on day 2
  • Wine tasting San Gimignano fortress on day 3
  • Refreshment stop and exclusive visit to the Etruscan altar at Torraccia di Chiusi farmhouse on day 4
  • Final celebrative aperitivo in Siena on day 6
  • One pilgrim credential per guest
  • Local guide with deep knowledge of Via Francigena - having written the most recently updated guidebook

What's Not Included

  • International Airfares
  • Items of a personal nature including drinks, souvenirs, phone calls, internet, laundry
  • Entrance fees (museums, galleries etc.)
  • Travel insurance

Fundraising Impact

Epworth Medical Foundation - The difference you make

When you donate to the Foundation, your generosity is used to directly benefit our patients. For example, more than half of all medical equipment at Epworth Health Care is funded by the Foundation, and 80 percent of our medical research.

Charitable funds are used to support:

*state-of-the-art medical equipment that ensures our patients receive the very best

*world-class facilities that maximise patient outcomes, safety and comfort

*groundbreaking medical research projects and trials, shared with our patients

*staff education and training opportunities to pass best-practice on to our patients

*support programs to care for our patients’ emotional and financial needs

Travel Dates

Other Challenge Costs

Fundraise/Donation:USD$2500 

Fast Facts

Trip Dates: DepartReturn
 18 Sep 202124 Sep 2021
Duration:7 Days
Activities:charity challenge trek
Grade:moderate  Click for more information
Trip Code:EA10
Registration Fee:USD$160
Travel Cost:USD$0

When you donate to the Foundation, your generosity is used to directly benefit our patients. For example, more than half of all medical equipment at Epworth Health Care is funded by the Foundation, and 80 percent of our medical research.