Most of us have all heard of the Via Francigena, the path travelled by pilgrims to visit the tomb of St. Peter’s in Rome starting from Canterbury in England, but still few know that the journey continued to Brindisi where the faithful embarked to sail to the Holy Land.
This second stretch after Rome is called the Via Francigena del Sud and presents several variations especially in the sectors nearer to Rome. Indeed, we must remember that in the Middle Ages part of the Via Appia was not available because of the Pontine marshes and therefore the new route had been made along the side of the Monti Lepini.
To appreciate the beauty of the path you can let yourself be carried along by the documentary “Il cammino per Roma o La Via Francigena nel sud lungo la Via Appia, L’Appia pedemontana e interna ai Monti Lepini” directed by Domenico Parisse with the screenplay by Giancarlo Forte who is also the main protagonist of the story of the pilgrim as told in the film.
They met while walking, one, an expert in underwater photography and use of the drone for airborne shots, and the other with the passion of writing, and created BlueHunter Video Productions with which they have already made promotional documentaries of territories such as the one on Lake Albano (Guide of Albano).
Thanks to a skillful use of drones for filming of the unsettling beauty of some of the places crossed by the path, the viewer is not only unable to take his eyes off the video but desires to don a pair of boots and embark on the journey.
It is impressive journey along of about 320 km with 11 stages and that arrives in Rome starting from the river Garigliano, southern border of Lazio, to get to the tomb of the apostle Saint Peter. In part, the original route is not navigable because the paths have been destroyed, have become private land or are asphalt roads with heavy traffic but the new tracks retain all their charm.
The path crosses the 15 municipalities of Castelforte-Suio (Guide of Castelforte), Minturno (Guide of Minturno), Gaeta (Guide of Gaeta), Fondi (Guide of Fondi), Terracina (Guide of Terracina), Sonnino (Guide of Sonnino), Priverno-Fossanova (Guide of Priverno), Bassiano (Guide of Bassiano), Sermoneta (Guide of Sermoneta), Cori (Guide of Cori), Velletri (Guide of Velletri), Nemi (Guide of Nemi), Castel Gandolfo (Guide of Castel Gandolfo), Marino-Frattocchie (Guide of Marino) and Rome.
The protagonist of the film is the Anselmo pilgrim who encounters various historical figures, representative of the places where he passes, like the Knights Templars at the castle of Itri, the beautiful Countess Giulia Gonzaga of the pirate Barbarossa in the castle of Fondi, the sorceress Circe near Circeo, the brigands of Sonnino or the cunning innkeper in Marino.
A narrative voice tells the local stories and some details of the architectures and the routes that are crossed. In this historical-fantastic journey the modern conclusion is at St. Peter’s calling from his smart-phone that conveys the desire to undertake the pilgrimage today.
The route and the enhancement of the path is promoted by the group of pilgrims “Gruppo Dei Dodici”, a group of friends who decided to make known the beauties of these territories to the whole world. Domenico and Giancarlo then interpreted this mission with a documentary while Oreste Polito and Lucia Deidda wrote the book / Guide “Francigena – Srata Peregrinorum“.
The initial landscape is the beaches on the Tyrrhenian Sea and then we cross the Aurunci mountains, the Ausoni and the Lepini, then pass through the woods of the Albani Hills and along the shores of four lakes. For long stretches you will cross ancient Roman cobblestone streets and along the way you will encounter abbeys, hermitages and castles and cross villages unchanged for centuries. Rome, caput mundi (capital of the world), and Saint Peter’s are the final destination of world merit.
Brief description of the Via del Francigena Sud from the documentary-film
film follows one of the routes indicated in the guide FRANCIGENA – Srata Peregrinorum by Oreste Polito and Lucia Deidda. Below we give an idea of the length and level of difficulty.
The summary descriptions that follow give only a general idea of the paths and the charm of the story that you will meet along the way.
Stage 1: Castelforte / Suio- Minturno – 16.0 km, easy
The path is softened by orange groves and olive groves and you cross some asphalted country roads. Most of the territory is within the Parco Riviera di Ulisse and passes through medieval centres. Not to be missed: the church of Sanfa Maria in Pensulis, the ancient village of Suio Alto, the Cathedral of Minturno and the Terme di Suio.
Stage 2: Minturno – Formia – 17,3km, easy
For mostof the stretch near the sea shore the path runs along the Via Appia and becomes more challenging in the stretch of Monte d’Oro with paths immersed in a beautiful Mediterranean flora. Not to be missed in Minturno: visit to the ruins of the Roman city of Minturnae, the Bourbon bridge, the Roman gate, the ruins of the Roman villa of Mamurra on the Mount of Scauri. Not to be missed in Formia: the Cisternone, the Castellone, the houses built on the ancient Roman theatre and the Tower of Mola.
Stage 3: Formia-Itri-Fondi -26,5km
A long but very pleasant day, you go along one of the most preserved stretches of the Appian Way: the Gorges of St. Andrea at the pass of Itri. The path is magnificent with the reliefs of the Aurunci mountains and the mighty castles in the two urban centres. Not to be missed in Itri: the Castle and the Museum of the Brigantage. In Fondi: the Church of Santa Maria Assunta, the Cathedral, the Jewish Quarter, the Prince’s Palace, the Castle and tower, and the Cloister of S. Domenico (where he taught St. Thomas Aquinas).
Stage 4: Fondi – S. Magno – Terracina – 23.55 km
One of the challenging stages, but it is rewarded by breathtaking views. After a stretch of flat land of about 9 km, the trail climbs up to 300 m in the mountains and continues on an ancient Roman road. Then you walk on a modern road to the Roman Temple of Jupiter Anxur. The trek then winds down to Terracina following paths. Not to be missed: the Abbey of St. Magno, the village of Valle Marina, the Torre dell’Epitaffio, the Roman pre-Traiana road and the temple of Giove Anxur.
Stage 5: Terracina – Fossanova – 20.60 km
The route follows low-traffic roads and paths that from the sea of Terracina cross the plain of the river Amaseno to the beautiful Abbey of Fossanova. Not to be missed in Terracina: The Duomo, the ancient centre (Piazza del Municipio) and the city walls. The village of Fossanova, intact for centuries, consists of all the buildings belonging to the splendid Cistercian Abbey of the twelfth century where St. Thomas Aquinas died in 1274.
Stage 6: Fossanova – Priverno – Sezze – 18.12 km
A nice stage with the first part on country paths along the Amaseno river in a wide valley with many villages perched on the Lepini Mountains. The final part is uphill on a mule track on the side of Monte Trevi. Not to be missed in Priverno: the Cathedral of S. Maria Annunziata of 1183, which houses the skull of S. Tommaso d’Aquino, the adjacent Palazzo Comunale (XIII century), the church of S. Benedetto (IX-X centuries.) with the painting of S. Giacomo and the church of S. Giovanni (XI century). Not to be missed in Sezze: the cathedral of S. Maria (13th century).
Stage 7: Sezze- Bassiano- Sermoneta – 23.90 km
A difficult stage for its length but pleasant. You can enjoy beautiful views and cross a wide high mountain valley. Not to be missed in Bassiano: the medieval walls and the Hermitage of the Crucifix, a place of high spirituality used by hermits for many centuries. The forest is a splendid natural monument. Sermoneta is perhaps the most beautiful village of the Monti Lepini that has been preserved intact over the centuries. Castello Caetani is one of the most beautiful manors in Italy.
Stage 8: Sermoneta – Norma – Cori – 19.60 km
The route does not present any particular difficulties. You walk on a rocky shelf of the Lepini and along an ancient mule track that overlooks an extraordinary panorama: the oasis of Ninfa and the Pontine plain. Along the way you pass next to the beautiful Cistercian Abbey of Valvisciolo. Do not miss a visit to the ancient town of Norma with its megalithic walls. In Cori it is absolutely worth visiting the Annunziata complex.
Stage 9: Cori – Giulianello – Velletri – 20.50 km
With this stage we pass from the province of Latina to that of Rome. A walk with few gradients, in a rural setting between olive groves and vineyards. We recommend a visit to the Borgo di Giulianello, a traditional centre of the countryside near Rome with its picturesque lake. Velletri is then one of the most famous towns in Lazio described by foreigners of the Grand Tour. Not to be missed: the Palazzo Comunale and the ancient Cathedral with parts dating from the fourth century.
Stage 10: Velletri – Nemi – Castel Gandolfo – 20.00 km
Except for the first part that climbs between small villas, the rest flows through the thick chestnut woods of the Colli Romani Natural Park with the view of two beautiful lakes, that of Nemi and then Albano, celebrated by poets and recorded by painters from all over Europe. It is a very impressive stage. The two towns are located in a beautiful position on their respective lakes. Do not miss the appealing centre of Nemi as well as Castelgandolfo the papal palace with the astronomical observatory, the church of St. Thomas and the gardens of the Papal villas.
Stage 11: Castel Gandolfo – Rome – 20.50 km
The first part runs between the villas of the Castelli Romani. Then you enter the Via Appia Antica, a path full of monuments, history, poetry, worthy of the name of “Regina Viarum” till you come to your destination.