Self Guided Walking Holidays & Cycling Holidays


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Via Francigena: Aulla to San Miniato
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Highlights

  • The Apuane Alps with their famed white Carrara marble peaks (from which Michelangelo's David was carved)
  • Walking through a patchwork of Tuscan landscapes
  • Strolling through the historical region of Lunigiana, an area of verdant meadows and pretty waterfalls
  • Encountering the Malaspina Fortress in Massa
  • Wandering along the Renaissance walls of Lucca which although centuries old are still intact

Originating in the historical region of Lunigiana, an area of great gastronomy, lush green meadows and waterfalls, your walking tour along the Via Francigena takes you from Aulla at the foot of the Apennines, along the coast into northern Tuscany and the medieval village of San Miniato.

Ancient and strategic strongholds, majestic hills and valleys, the town of Lucca with its Renaissance walls -this journey will not disappoint and you will savour every moment, from the glorious views over the Apuane Alps to the imposing and majestic structure of the Brunella Fortress.

Aulla lies in the shadow of this fortress and at the confluence of two rivers, making it an important and strategic place along the Via Francigena. Briefly cross the border into Liguria, staying in the town of Sarzana and follow trails parallel with the Mediterranean Sea, before returning to Tuscany. The Apuane Alps then come into view, it is from their unique white “Carrara marble” that Michelangelo sculpted his David.

A highlight of your tour is encountering Lucca, once a Roman town and where the Piazza San Michele still occupies the old site of the Roman Forum. All along the route are pretty pilgrimage churches and sites, such as the Church of Giulitta in Capannori and the Spedale in Altopascio, a hospital for pilgrims during medieval times. Your tour finishes in the charming village of San Miniato which sits atop three small hills.

DAY 1: Arrive in Aulla

Aulla is located in the historical Lunigiana region which is divided between Tuscany and Liguria and whose name is derived from Luni, a Roman town which became the main urban centre for the northern Tuscan coast. Aulla lies in the shadow of the imposing 16th-century Fortress of Brunella and at the confluence of the Magra and Aulella rivers. It was a significant trade and pilgrimage centre and therefore an important place on the Via Francigena.


Although Aulla suffered from bombing during World War II the Church of San Capraiso is still standing and worth a visit as the priest here is an expert on the Via Francigena and you can also visit the little museum.


Overnight: Demy Hotel ***, Aulla


DAY 2: Aulla to Sarzana

During your walk today you will cross over into Liguria and walk along the final slopes of the Apennine Mountains before catching your first sight of the Mediterranean Sea glistening in the distance. Reach the quaint medieval village of Biloba which is situated on a hill a few miles south of Aulla and visit the Church of St Bartholomew home to beautiful Ligurian mosaics.


Continue along the trail to the ruins of Brina Castle and then begin your descent into Sarzana, your final destination for today and a town that has ancient origins and was first mentioned in the 10th century.


Walk: 17km


Overnight: Vecchia Locando B&B**, Sarzana


DAY 3: Sarzana to Massa

Walk past the ancient Sarzanello Fortress, at one time a bishop’s residence and then continue along trails with views to the Apuane Alps to your left. You are now in the Carrara area which provided the white marble from which Michelangelo sculptured his David. The mountains in the distance have white peaks, a result of the white marble and it seems as though they are snow-capped. 


Walk: 24km


Overnight: Hotel I Noccioli**, Massa


DAY 4: Massa to Camaiore

Today’s walk is undulating as the trail is situated on the hillsides overlooking terraced vineyards, rather than along the coast. You will walk along quiet roads and trails, past river and streams, over stone bridges and through plenty of hamlets and villages. After a short train ride from Massa to Petresanta you continue on through beautiful forested mountainsides to arrive in Camaiore, situated just inland from the Versilian coast. This town’s growth in the Middle Ages was due to its location along the Via Francigena


Walk: 24km


Overnight: Hotel-Inn Le Monache***, Camaiore


DAY 5: Camaiore to Lucca

Today leave the foothills of the Apuane Alps behind and take trails through pretty agricultural lands, woods and alongside streams. Initially you will be gradually walking up hill but then descend into a  valley which eventually leads you into Lucca. Walk through the Serchio River Park before arriving in the old town centre.


Lucca is without question one of the highlights of your walking tour and is renowned for its Renaissance walls that are still intact. They are incredibly wide in some places and are used as a pedestrian promenade. Lucca was founded by the Etruscans but also occupied by the Romans and the rectangular street plan is a reflection of their design. The Piazza San Michele occupies the site of the ancient Roman forum.


Walk: 30km


Overnight: Hotel Luna, Lucca


DAY 6: Lucca to Altopascio

We advise to spend some of the morning in Lucca before setting off towards Altopascio as there is so much to see here and it is a delightful city to stroll around and explore. The Piazza San Michele is fringed by restaurants and cafés so this is a great place to stop for a cappuccino and soak in the atmosphere. Explore the wonderful Piazza Anfiteatro and Lucca’s major art museum, housed in the Villa Guinigi. Be sure to walk some or all of the city walls, which have a broad, tree-lined promenade.


This afternoon make your way along trails via the towns of Capannori and Porcari, both of which have pretty little churches. Your destination for the day is Altopascio which is known as the "town of bread", due to its bread-making traditions. Here you will find the Spedale, an infirmary which was in use during medieval times for pilgrims. There is an interesting church and bell tower in the centre of the town.


Please note that the majority of the walk today is along roads. Therefore if you prefer you can spend longer in Lucca and take a 15 minute train ride to Altopascio (payable locally).


Walk: 18km


Overnight: Cavalieri del Tau***, Altopascio


DAY 7: Altopascio to San Miniato

Today you will walk along a short stretch of original medieval pavement before arriving at the Ponte a Cappiano, a fortified bridge built by Cosimo de’Medici in the 16th century. The pretty town of Fucecchio is located over the Arno River and once you have passed through (perhaps stopping for lunch in a local café) you will then head upwards into San Miniato, a medieval village set atop three small hills at the very centre of Tuscany.  It occupies a strategic location, at the intersection of the Florence-Pisa and Lucca-Siena roads, hence its historical importance. During the Middle Ages there was a constant flow of both friendly and hostile armies, traders and travellers from near and far.


Walk: 30km


Overnight: Hotel Miravalle, San Miniato


DAY 8: Onward travel

Today the tour finishes after breakfast and you may make your way independently to Rome for your return journey home.

Accommodation

On your trip you will stay in a variety of accommodations. The properties range from 2 and 3* hotels to B&B’s. At times you will be staying in remote towns and villages, therefore the accommodation in these places are the best that these particular areas have to offer.


Alternative accommodation

During the high season you might be booked into alternative accommodations which are not listed on the tour webpages. If those listed are unavailable the alternative accommodation will be of the same or better standard as those described.


Single Rooms & Solo Walkers

If you require single rooms within your party we would be happy to accommodate you although there is a single room supplement payable. Solo walkers are also welcome and again a supplement is payable.


Meals

Daily breakfasts at your hotels and B&B’s are included. Breakfasts are usually continental or Italian-style with a choice of breads, croissants, meats and cheeses. Sometimes it is possible to order packed lunches at your hotel or B&B the evening before or you can buy lunch in grocery’s, cafes and restaurants en route. You can opt to include 5 dinners if you wish. (at an additional cost)


Baggage Transfer

Baggage transfers are not included, however you can pay an additional fee for this service. If you choose to include baggage transfers we request that you have only one piece of luggage per person and it should weigh only 20kg.

Availability

This trip is available from mid-March to the end of October. You can start your holiday on any date in the season.


Time of Year

Spring in Italy is sublime and May and June are absolutely lovely. Autumn is a great time of year as the landscape is made up of a gold and red pallet so September is unmissable. July and August can be very hot so you will have to start early to miss the heat of the day and then perhaps have a long lunch and finish walking in the mid to late afternoon.


Single Rooms & Solo Walkers

If you require single rooms within your party we would be happy to accommodate you although there is a single room supplement payable. Solo walkers are also welcome and again a supplement is payable.


Grade & Terrain

This walking holiday is graded moderate. However the daily distances vary between 17 and 30 km, so you need to be in good physical shape to complete this section of the Via Francigena. There are also some elevation gains and losses especially during the first section of the tour.


Navigation, Route Notes & Maps

You will also be provided with detailed route notes and maps to help you find your way. As always when walking you should be able to read a map and use a compass in case of bad weather. The trail is also marked by the official red and white signs of the Via Francigena, which have a picture of a yellow pilgrim on them. However these waymarks will not appear all along the way but intermittently.


Unlike many of the more well-established Caminos, the Via Francigena has seen a relatively recent resurgence in popularity, meaning that trail marking is intermittent (not every region has invested in consistently waymarking the trail), and you should be confident in navigating with a compass and map, as well as using the route notes that we will provide you with.  A few  of the original sections of the Via Francigena are now (fairly busy) roads, and where necessary you may either follow these roads for a short time, or divert away from the traditional route to enjoy a more relaxed walk. 


Baggage Transfers

Baggage transfers are not included as standard, however you can pay an additional fee for this service. If you choose to include baggage transfers we request that you have only one piece of luggage per person and it should weigh only 20kg.


Travel Insurance

It is a requirement of booking this tour with Macs Adventure that you have suitable travel insurance which covers you for the activity, emergency evacuation and hospital care.


General Information

The distances and ascents/descents are approximations of the recommended routes. Please be prepared by packing all necessary items, for example, proper rain gear (jacket and trousers), sun hat and sunscreen. Your information pack has a detailed equipment list which includes standard walking gear such as good walking boots or shoes, warm and waterproof clothes for the cooler months and lightweight clothing for summer, and a day pack.


Getting to Aulla

The best airports to fly into to access Aulla are Pisa or Genoa. From Pisa take a train to Aulla (via Pisa Centrale Station). The journey takes between one and a half and two hours and you can find more information regarding train schedules and fares at the Trenitalia website. Alternatively from Genoa Airport you can take a thirty minute shuttle bus from the airport to the main Genoa Train Station and from here there is a direct train which takes approximately two hours to Aulla.


Getting from San Miniato

San Miniato has a railway station and is on the Florence/Pisa line. Therefore you can take a train to either Florence Airport or Pisa Airport from San Miniato, which takes  50 minutes from either airport. Please check the Trenitalia website for more information on fares and schedules.

Getting to Aulla

The best airports to fly into to access Aulla are Pisa or Genoa. From Pisa take a train to Aulla (via Pisa Centrale Station). The journey takes between one and a half and two hours and you can find more information regarding train schedules and fares at the Trenitalia website. Alternatively from Genoa Airport you can take a thirty minute shuttle bus from the airport to the main Genoa Train Station and from here there is a direct train which takes approximately two hours to Aulla.


Getting from San Miniato

San Miniato has a railway station and is on the Florence/Pisa line. Therefore you can take a train to either Florence Airport or Pisa Airport from San Miniato, which takes 50 minutes from either airport. Please check the Trenitalia website for more information on fares and schedules.

Included

  • 7 Nights in 2 to 3* hotels or B&B’s
  • 7 Breakfasts
  • Detailed maps and routes notes and a comprehensive information pack.
  • Organisational assistance and backup from our area manager in Italy and our office

Excluded

  • Travel to Aulla
  • Travel from San Miniato
  • Lunches & dinners
  • Drinks & snacks
  • Baggage transfers
  • Personal equipment
  • Travel insurance
  • Mountain rescue / emergency assistance

Extras

  • Additional nights before or after the holiday
  • 5 Dinners
  • Baggage transfers
  • Single room supplement if single room required
  • Solo traveller supplement (if applicable)

How fit do I need to be?

This walking holiday is graded moderate. However the daily distances vary between 17 and 30 km, so you need to be in good physical shape to complete this section of the Via Francigena. There are also some elevation gains and losses especially during the first section of the tour.

When is the best time of year?

Spring in Italy is sublime and April, May and June are absolutely lovely. Autumn is a great time of year as the landscape is made up of a gold and red pallet so September and October are unmissable. July and August can be very hot so you will have to start early to miss the heat of the day and then perhaps have a long lunch and finish walking in the mid to late afternoon.

How far in advance do I need to book?

The Via Francigena is very popluar and therefore it is better to book earlier rather than later to ensure bookings at the hotels and B&B's.

What personal equipment do I need?

Our pre-departure information pack has detailed advice and a kit list on what to take. This includes good waterproof gear, walking shoes/boots, and lots of other useful bits and bobs.

Which is the best airport?

The best airports to fly into to access Aulla are Pisa or Genoa. From Pisa take a train to Aulla (via Pisa Centrale Station). The journey takes between one and a half and two hours and you can find more information regarding train schedules and fares at the Trenitalia website. Alternatively from Genoa Airport you can take a thirty minute shuttle bus from the airport to the main Genoa Train Station and from here there is a direct train which takes approximately two hours to Aulla.

How do the baggage transfers work?

Baggage transfers are not included as standard, however you can pay an additional fee for this service. If you choose to include baggage transfers we request that you have only one piece of luggage per person and it should weigh only 20kg.

What happens if I can't walk a stage?

You can use public transport or local taxis to continue to your next overnight stop.

fantastic trip!

5

beautiful country, great food. the way was mostly spectacular with a few confusing directions and rare unpleasant road walking

Jonathan

durham, nc

true

trekking the via francigena

3

We walked 3/4 of the via francigena in about 5/52. This was our least favourite section (we did not walk the Po valley, however, so can't comment on that). Lucca is a beautiful city and worth spending time in. San Miniato is also quaint and lovely. Chunks of this walk, however were in industrialized, not so pretty areas. If you're walking the Via...I guess you will do this, but if you just want to pick a section...don't pick this one. Our stay in Carrera (we were not in Massa as according to our notes) wasn't great, but elsewhere the accommodations were good. We did not do the walk into AltoPascio (we were told it was more of walking in industrial area) but instead, spent the day in Lucca and took train (easy to do) to alto Pascio

alex

canada

false

Via Francigena: Stage 5: Aulla to San Miniato

4.0 2

50.0

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