Following the Pilgrims’ footsteps

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Recently the so-called “slow travels” have gained a consistent segment in the tourism industry. These kind of trips include transfers on foot or by bike. They are a fascinating way to “escape” the routine and get in touch with nature, with your body and also to go back in time and rediscover ancient periods. A good example of this type of tourism is represented by the paths of the Via Francigena (or Rome streets).

Since High Middle Ages Pilgrims going to Rome from all over Europe, used to walk through these streets. They traveled different routes but, sooner or later, They where all reunited on the main one, which the Archbishop Sigerico described in his travel diary from Canterbury to Rome. Other than being faith routes, these street were also used by merchants, armies, politicians and men of learning of the time. These ones handed over new technologies, information, ideas and also stimulated comparison and integration between different cultural identities.

The Piemonte route was the preferred one for those who came from France to go directly to Rome, the heart of Christianity. Local governments decided to recover and to give prominence to these beautiful trails that allow the traveler to get directly in touch with distinctive and prestigious historical or natural sites, but also to savor wines and foods. Along the route there are a lot of taverns that recreate, both in appearance and content, the medieval times, in order to allow visitors a 360 ° experience.

The Piemonte Via Francigena is 650 km long and touches 107 municipalities in 5 different provinces. In 2004, this route was recognized as a “Great European Cultural Route” (like the Camino de Santiago de Compostela), by the European Council. The Via Francigena can’t be considered a single path, but rather a set of paths and roads that were followed by pilgrims in the past based on different factors such as seasonality, banditry, the presence or absence of pull halls. For this reason, today, there several routes to choose, depending on the contemporary pilgrim needs.

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Travel Program

DAY 1 – RIVOLI / AVIGLIANA / SUSA
Visit to the Rivoli medieval castle. It was a royal residence and now houses important art collections and exhibitions. Proceeding towards Avigliana, along the Via Francigena, visit to the St. Antonio of Ranverso Abbey, a typical example of French Gothic. Tour of the Avigliana Lakes Natural Park. The lakes have individual peculiarities that differentiate them one from another. The Small Lake which pours its waters into the Big Lake, has undoubtedly great naturals features, because it is surrounded by forests, meadows and a grove of reeds. Lunch in a typical restaurant. Toward Susa, stop-over to visit the Sacra of San Michele, the architectural complex located on Mount Pirchiriano. It is one of the symbols of Piemonte and one of the most eminent religious structures in the pilgrims’ transit area between France and Italy. Arrival in Susa. City tour, dinner and overnight stay.

DAY 2 – VENAUS / NOVALESA / SESTRIERE / VAL CHISONE
Departure towards Venaus, typical alpine village located on the so-called Mont Cenis segment of Via Francigena. Before 1806, when Napoleon had the SS25 built, this was the main route to get to the Mont Cenis Col and then pass into France. Proceeding to Novalesa on foot. This pleasant walk through the wooded countryside of Val Cenischia offers the opportunity to admire some landscapes and sites of rare beuty, such as the gorges and the waterfalls named after the valley itself. Arriving in Novalesa, the walk continues along Via Maestra, with its peculiar paving. The town ancient past gets right to the visitors through its many evidences as place for stop-over and transit to the Mont Cenis Col. There many taverns and inns which present beautiful internal architecture embellished with frescoes and heraldry emblems; The Santo Stefano Church, with its rich collection of paintings donated by Napoleon and the jewelry masterpiece represented by the Urn of Sant’Eldrado; the Museum of Alpine Religious Art and the Mountain Life Museum of Ethnography. The Abbey of Novalesa, entitled to Saint Peter and Saint Andrew is a mandatory visit of the town. It is one of the oldest Benedictine monastic foundations of the Alps (726 A.D.). Departure towards Sestriere, lunch and tour of the town. Proceeding to Pinerolo with a stop-over in Fenestrelle to visit the Fort. It is the largest European alpine fortress, built on the ridge of the mountain. Walk in the center of Pinerolo, dinner and overnight stay.

DAY 3 – SALUZZO / ALBA / ASTI
Breakfast and departure for Saluzzo. Walk in the ancient medieval town protected by fortified walls and the 19th century neighborhoods which were built when the defensive needs stopped. A walk through the hills above the town is also very interesting. Proceeding to Alba, the capital of the Langhe, to get a typical lunch. Tour of Alba elegant old town centre, which has its hub in Piazza Risorgimento. Departure for Asti, a beautiful city with many itineraries and different art styles to discover, which represent the heart of Piemonte and it is placed between the beautiful hill of Langhe and Monferrato (UNESCO World Heritage). Dinner and overnight stay.

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DAY 4 – CASTELNUOVO DON BOSCO / VEZZOLANO / CREA / VALENZA
Breakfast and departure towards Castelnuovo Don Bosco, a town rich in history, which origins date back to the Middle Ages and that gave birth to Saint Giovanni Bosco. Tour of the 3 ancient Romanesque churches. Proceeding to Albugnano where the Abbey of Vezzolano is laying among the beautiful hills of Asti area. The abbey was built by Carlo Magno in 773 and is one of the most visited monuments of Piemonte. Lunch on site and then visit to the Sacro Monte di Crea, located on one of the highest hills of Monferrato. It is located in a vast natural park and it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Transfer to Valenza, town of goldsmiths and gold. Visit to the small old town centre and to the SPA complex of Monte Valenza. Dinner and overnight stay.

DAY 5 – VERCELLI / VIVERONE / IVREA / AGLIÈ / TORINO
Breakfast and departure for Vercelli, a rare jewel of the Middle Ages. Tour of the old town centre with its churches (among which the complex of the Basilica of Sant’Andrea), the Baroque palaces, the medieval towers and the modern boulevards. In the period from April until the summer, it is possible to admire the “squared sea” show, a term used to describe the particular scenario the rice fields create. Transfer to the Viverone Lake with a brief stop at the Sirio Lake, a small oasis of peace away from all city noises. The Viverone Lake, instead, is located at 230 meters above sea level between Biella, Vercelli and Ivrea, at the foot of the Serra, the most beautiful moraine hill in Europe. Lunch in Ivrea (known for its historical carnival during which takes place the famous “Battle of the Oranges”) and tour of the old town centre. Visit to the ducal castle of Agliè. With a history going back 7 centuries, involving dukes, princes and kings, the Castle, formerly belonging to the marquises of San Martino, has an ancient and noble past, as can be seen by the variety of decor that still features in apartments and gardens. Surrounded by a park with ancient trees and vast glasshouses, the castle has over 300 rooms, containing a legacy of furniture and precious, eclectic collections ranging from paintings to archaeological finds and through to surprising ornithological and oriental collections. The frescoed Ballroom and the series of perfectly preserved period rooms make this castle a triumph of elegance and splendor. Return to Turin.

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DAY 6 – TORINO AND ITS SURROUNDINGS
Breakfast. Visit of the Egyptian Museum and then, after a pleasant walk towards Piazza Vittorio Veneto(the largest square in Europe), lunch at the plaza. Transfer to Santena and visit to the Cavour Castle and its museum. Continuation to Pessione to visit the Martini&Rossi Museum of Enology and then to Andezeno, to visit a wine cellar, its vineyard and its museum. Wine and typical food tasting. Return to Torino; dinner and overnight stay.

DAY 7 – TORINO
Breakfast. Transfer to Piazza Castello, to begin the City Sightseeing Tour of Torino. The tour is exclusive and will include the entire centre of the city on a private bus. After the bus tour, visit to Palazzo Reale and its Gardens, Palazzo Madama and Palazzo Carignano. Free time to walk the centre of the city. Dinner and overnight stay.

Following the Pilgrims’ footsteps
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