Tens of thousands of people hike the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage route in Spain each year. But less known and far less traveled is the Via Francigena in Italy.
Beginning this fall, Berkeley-based Wilderness Travel will offer guided trips on 80 miles of this ancient route, which once ran 1,000 miles from Canterbury, Britain, to Rome.
The guided hike starts in Siena and ends up at St. Peter's Square in Vatican City.
Barbara Banks, director of new trip development for Wilderness Travel, said participants will walk with a native of the region who lives along the route. The guide will take take guests to the best portions of this 7th century trail.
"Pilgrimage is becoming a really meaningful thing in people's lives," Banks said. "Whether they are from a particular spiritual tradition or not, it's a way to mark a certain beginning or ending to their lives and a way to mark major transitions."
For Catholic travelers, Banks said, the company will help obtain a "testimonium" from the Vatican certifying they have completed a portion of the trail.
The 10-day trek will wind through the Italian countryside past wheat fields, olive groves, cypress trees and ancient Roman and Etruscan ruins. The trip crosses into historic towns such as Siena, Montefiascone, Capranica, Viterbo and Sutri.
There are currently two departures for the trip: Sept. 16 and Oct. 7. Pricing starts at $4,995 per person, excluding airfare.
Info: Wilderness Travel, (800) 368-2794