Via Francigena is one of the most popular routes for walkers of all ages and in 1994, it was designated a Council of Europe Cultural Route. The over one thousand kilometres of its Italian section connect Passo del Gran San Bernardo and Rome, crossing the heart of the Apennines in the provinces of Piacenza and Parma.
Here is an itinerary to have an unforgettable experience, among abbeys, parishes and cathedrals that have a long story to tell.
Via Francigena enters the Piacenza area with the Guado di Sigerico (Sigeric's Fork) and, after a walk along the banks of the Po river, it arrives at the gates of Piacenza city, where the route touches Piazzale delle Crociate, the splendid Piazza Cavalli and then leads to the Via Emilia.
Climbing the Nure river and going through woods and countryside, you reach the Castle of Paderna, then the Cistercian Abbey of Chiaravalle della Colomba, where every year (between May and June), the famous "Infiorata del Corpus Domini" takes place; for this occasion a wonderful floral carpet is set up along the central nave of the basilica.
The path then continues, entering the province of Parma, towards Fidenza.
The Duomo of Fidenza, or Cathedral dedicated to San Donnino was in the past a must-see for pilgrims on their way to Rome, and nowadays for walkers who want to embark on the journey. In this area there are many dairies to visit, and traditional dishes to taste, such as anolini enriched with a generous sprinkling of Parmigiano Reggiano.
Getting back on the road, you arrive in Cabriolo with its small but beautiful Pieve di Cabriolo, a Romanesque church dedicated to Saint Thomas Becket.
You continue then towards the remains of Noceto fortress, Felegara and Fornovo, where the statue of the pilgrim in front of the Church of Santa Maria Assunta points the way.
From Fornovo, following the Val Sporzana, you arrive in Respiccio where the remains of an ancient xenodochus (free hospice for foreigners and pilgrims in the Middle Ages) can still be seen. From here Via Francigena is also known as Strada di Monte Bardone and it begins its climb towards the Passo della Cisa.
The route then leads to Bardone, where pilgrims are welcomed by a splendid Romanesque Pieve, and then to Terenzo.
After a little challenging climb along Val Baganza, you get to Cassio, whose ancient village is characterised by a stone-paved street. Here, in fact, there is an ancient tradition of stone-working carried out by the so-called "scalpellini".
From Cassio the path runs parallel to Strada Statale della Cisa and then creeps into Berceto; its Cathedral, founded in the Longobard era, surprises with its grandeur and magnificence.
You shouldn’t miss the many dishes offered by the local tradition based on the Porcino Mushroom of Berceto.
8 km from Berceto, Passo della Cisa and the Sanctuary of Modonna della Guardia greet pilgrims about to leave Emilia.