Via Francigena Stage 5: Aulla to San Miniato8 Days & 7 Nights 4 Read 3 reviews
- The Apuane Alps with their famed white Carrara marble peaks
- Walk through a patchwork of exquisite Tuscan landscapes
- Stroll through the historical region of Lunigiana, an area of verdant meadows
- Enjoy staying in the medieval village of San Miniato
- Wander along the Renaissance walls of Lucca which although centuries old are still intact
Self Guided | Go at your own pace on an independent tour.
Pilgrim Trail | You will follow a historic pilgrimage trail, in the footsteps of generations of travelers
This trip is suitable for:
Ideal if you have an interest in:
- Spiritual Journeys
- Historical Journeys
Activity Level & 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.
The trail in the most part is well marked but in some of the agricultural areas, such as the cultivated lowlands, this does become sparser. Along the length of the route, it also travels through several different municipalities and the style of the markers can vary between them and not every region has invested in consistently waymarking the trail.
The type of markers includes brown metal plates with two walkers and the route name on them or smaller ones showing a pilgrim and an arrow pointing the right way at road junctions. Red and white signs with a yellow pilgrim on them are also common. There are also signs with little yellow pilgrims on them and a white arrow which points towards Rome (those that are the same but with a yellow arrow lead to Santiago). In the Valle d’Aosta the signs tend to be yellow with Via Francigena written on them along with a route number.
Even if the signs can be lacking or confusing at times, navigation is straightforward as you can use the Macs Adventure Smartphone App which has maps, GPS tracks, and daily route information. Simply download the GPS tracks for offline use and follow the route on your phone with the assurance that navigation will be simple, and you can’t get lost.
Experience & Fitness
You need to be a regular walker and in good physical shape to complete the Full Via Francigena. If you are doing shorter stages then these are less demanding, but the per day mileage still includes longer distances on some days and a couple of the stages include ascents and descents, especially in the foothills of the Alps at the start of the Via Francigena route. We would recommend taking training walks carrying your daypack ahead of going on this trip.
During your trip you will stay in a variety of accommodations. The properties range from private rooms in pilgrims' hostels to 2, 3 and 4* hotels as well as B&B's and guesthouses. At times you will be staying in remote towns and villages, therefore the accommodations in these places are the best that these particular areas have to offer.
If you require single rooms for your party we would be happy to accommodate you. Solo walkers are also welcomed.
Important: Due to the remote location of some of the smaller towns and villages along the way it is possible that some of your overnight hotels will be a few kilometres from the route or in a nearby town or village. If this is the case, you will always receive directions to and from the trail in your route notes. Please be aware that this may result in slightly longer or shorter walking days.
Daily breakfasts are included. Breakfasts are usually continental or Italian-style with a choice of bread, 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 groceries, cafes, and restaurants en route. You can opt to include dinners as well if you wish.
- Overnights in a variety of accommodations
- Breakfasts included
- Baggage Transfers
- Detailed maps and routes notes and a comprehensive information pack
- Private transfers where mentioned in the itinerary
- Access to the GPS tracks using the Macs Adventure smartphone app
- Emergency telephone assistance from our team in Italy and our UK office if required
- Travel to and from the start and finish points
- Public transportation where mentioned in the itinerary
- Lunches & dinners
- Drinks & snacks
- Any additional travel en route, should you wish to miss a day's walking
- Personal equipment
- Travel insurance
- Mountain rescue / emergency assistance
- Additional nights before, after or during the trip
- Baggage Transfers
- Half board supplement
When To Go
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.
Getting to the Start
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 the End
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.
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.
The distances and ascent/descents are approximations of the recommended routes.
Please be prepared by packing all necessary items. 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, a day pack, sun hat, and sunscreen.
At Macs Adventure we care about the environment. We’re taking action to minimise the impact we have by converting the majority of our tour documentation for online delivery. On this tour, most of your detailed tour information will be digitally delivered. You will have access to this documentation via “My Account” on our website and the Macs Adventure Smartphone App.
There are three main pieces of equipment that are essential to you enjoying your pilgrimage, and they are comfortable walking shoes with good wool or anti-blister socks, and a day pack that gives you good back support.
Most surfaces along the way are smooth and so walking shoes should suffice rather than boots. It is hard surface walking for the most part, so we recommend walking shoes that have a good level of padding or walking socks that offer cushioning. There are a few sections of the route which include mountain paths, in particular in Stage 1 in the Alps. For this part of the route waterproof walking boots with good ankle support and sturdy tread are recommended.
This depends on the time of year you are walking; if travelling in the spring or autumn it can be cool in the morning, but it soon heats up in the late morning and afternoon so make sure and bring some layers with you. During the summer months, the area can be prone to afternoon thunderstorms, so waterproofs are also essential in case of heavy showers, or you may find since it’s still hot that a lightweight rain poncho is more suitable.
You will receive a full kit list as part of your trip documentation.
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.
Your required fitness level will depend upon which section of the Via Francigena you choose to do. Please read the grade and terrain section of each individual section or the full walk to give you an idea of the walking on that particular itinerary.
Certain sections of the Via Francigena, such as the start and end of the trail, are very popular. Therefore it is better to book earlier rather than later to ensure bookings at the hotels and B&Bs
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.
You may be able to take public transport or taxis onto the next accommodation, please check with the accommodation provider or our local partner as they are best able to give you up to date advice.
If you choose the option of baggage transfers (additional charge) your bags will be transferred between your accommodations. Just ask your hosts where to leave your bags in the morning and they will get picked up. Please limit your bags to one per person of 20kgs.
ItineraryDay 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.
The Demy Hotel is a brand new building owned by the family De Micheli who carefully manages it. The hotel is equipped with every comfort to ensure you have an enjoyable stay.
Albergo Ristorante Pasquino is a welcoming hotel in Aulla with comfortable rooms. Enjoy fresh pasta and delicious local dishes in its restaurant.
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.
Located on the border between Liguria and Tuscany, close to sea and mountains. At the Vecchia Locanda B&B, the friendly owners Dino and Francesca will make you feel at home.
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.
A lovely BB with pretty garden and comfortable rooms all with private bathroom.
Please note that we recommended walking from Avenza to Massa, then taking a train from Massa to Pietrasanta. From Pietrasanta you can rejoin the route to Camaiore. We suggest this route option to enhance your experience along the way.
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.
If you would like to walk from Massa to Camaiore (total distance: 38km/23.5 mi) we suggest you get in touch to add an extra night to walk this section over 2 days to make it more manageable.
The hotel has 12 comfortable rooms. Every room has different characteristics and furnishings, with twentieth-century and liberty style furniture. All the rooms have air condition, a bathroom (shower), TV, telephone and safe.
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 uphill 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.
This delightful B&B has nine guest rooms, including two suites overlooking the city’s famous walls. All rooms feature a private bath and modern comforts: air conditioning, LCD satellite TV, fridge, wireless internet coverage and buffet breakfast service.
We advise spending some time 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).
Expect a warm welcome at this lovely hotel ideally situated on the Via Francigena. The rooms have been renovated and are equipped with private bathroom, telephone, TV with satellite channels and air conditioning.
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.
Depending on your energy levels you can choose various distances for today's walk. Either start from your accommodation in Altopascio (29km), Galleno (22km), or Ponte a Cappiano (15km). Please let us know in advance if you would like to shorten this day.
With rustic furnishings, air-conditioned apartments and rooms at the Agrituristica Cafaggio feature a seating area, satellite TV and private bathroom. The apartments have a kitchenette complete with a coffee machine, oven and electric kettle.
After breakfast your walking holiday will come to an end. See the Travel Info section for some useful details for your onward travel.
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