The Via Francigena (so callede because it comes from the land of the franks) is part of a group of roads, also known as the Rome Pilgrimage Routes, which lead from Central Europe to Rome. As far back as the 10th century, Bishop Sigeric described the Francigena path he took to return from Rome to Canterbury. In the Europe of the Middle Ages, this route already represented an important road communications system. In 1994 the Via Francigena was designed a "Council of Europe Cultural Route" giving a supranatural importance, on a par with the Camino of Santiago de Compostela.
The land and the city of Lucca are crossed by the Via Francigena that, at the time, in addition to the pilgrimage, was used for trade and military movements. These opportunities and luck led to the development of the city and of the territory crossed, indeed many religious structures were equipped for the accommodation of travellers (monasteries, churches, etc.), service providers (hospitals), villages and castles.
Even today, Lucca, jewel of art and culture, rich in ancient atmospheres, welcomes the Pilgrim with the same hospitality, giving secular refreshment to the body and the spirit.
The stretch of the Via Francigena from Lucca starts coming from the town of Camaiore and past the Monte Magno, in the Valley of the torrent Freddana then go back towards the town of Piazzano you enter on the road along the river Contesora where is the little church of S. Michele Arcangelo (formerly adjacent to a hospital for pilgrims now destroyed said "Hospital de Contesora").
Continue towards San Macario in Piano and the follows the Cerchia stream to the village of Ponte San Pietro. Here, before the construction of the bridge, the Pilgrim could cross the Serchio boat, as is testified by the name of the village "Nave" (boat) shows, and thus reach the city by following the road along the left bank of Serchio River, crossing in part the current River Park, a protected area and scenic environment rich in Marsh flora and fauna.
Left behind River Park, after a few hundred metres, Lucca's imposing Renaissance walls come into view and you enter the city through Porta Santa Maria.
From here starts a real path of worship: the basilica di San Frediano with beautiful mosaic on the top of the façade; the Church of San Michele in Foro (built exactly in the Centre of the ancient Roman Forum) style façade lucchese-Pisan topped by the imposing statue of the Archangel; St. Martin's Cathedral which houses a wooden statue of the Holy face and where, on a marble pillar adjacent to the Tower, there is a mysterious carving in the shape of "Labyrinth" by the various meanings. Also in the city centre, in one of the oldest churches of Santa Giulia and in the adjacent lane of Altopascio, there are some remains of the venue of the mansion of Lucca, of "Tau"-monastic order of chivalry that from XI century offered help and hospitality to Pilgrim Wanderer defense.
Progressing eastward through the medieval Porta San Gervasius and Protasius, and then the neoclassical Porta Elisa (made in honor of Napoleon's sister, Duchess of Lucca) on the walls and just outside the walls, is a must visit to the sanctuary of S. Gemma.
From here the Route continues East, meeting the area churches and villages of ancient memory in surrounding municipalities of Capannori, Porcari and Altopascio, Montecarlo.
So travelling, slowly, the modern traveler can understand the soul of places, can discover slowly this itinerary of faith, rich lucchese history, legends and traditions, can meet great monuments and small curiosity, can truly "walking to know" and increase their cultural heritage as well.