Pilgrims walking towards Castelo Sant' Angelo, near the end of their pilgrimage

Classic Tours - The Road to Rome

Overview

Since the Middle Ages, Christian pilgrims from all over Europe have travelled to Rome along various routes - the earliest and best-known being the Via Francigena.
In recent times efforts have been made to re-open this ancient route and The Road to Rome will offer the opportunity to visit many of its most important sites. It will also offer the chance to reflect on their spiritual richness and encourage the spiritual journey of group members through meditations and workshops. Although an appropriate standard of fitness is essential, this will be a reflective journey, not a power walk.

Tour Focus

Walking part of the historic Via Francigena over 16 days

Assisi to Rome
The tour is structured to provide a personal experience of pilgrimage, allowing the participant to choose his or her own level of involvement in the journey.
As well as being a complete pilgrimage in its own right, the focus is also on providing an introduction to the 1900km pilgrimage trail from Canterbury in England to Rome in Italy. Since our main luggage will be transported everyday between our nights’ accommodation we will only need to carry a daypack with the essentials. We will stay overnight at hotels and monasteries selected for their convenience and ambience.
The 16-day walking journey includes a rest day. Throughout the journey there will be ample opportunity for discussion and sharing of experiences, which is an essential part of pilgrimage, both group and individual. These days, pilgrimage is an exciting and challenging opportunity to depart from our usual lifestyles and experience the world beyond the horizon. Walking gives us the opportunity to slow down, to appreciate the world through which we normally race. The physiological benefits of longer distance walking are many, including an increased sense of well-being. Pilgrimage also gives us the opportunity to participate in an ancient religious/spiritual tradition. Preliminary reading about the pilgrimage will add to your experience and your own knowledge and experience will be appreciated by your fellow pilgrims.

The route we follow from Assisi to Acquapendente and then to Rome
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Full ITINERARY for Road to Rome Tour

This itinerary includes four days in Assisi and three and a half days in Rome, and travel to and from the beginning and end of the walk.

  • Begin at: Rome, travel to Assisi and Acquapendente.
  • End at: Rome and return to Sydney by plane.
Assisi to Rome Itinerary: 16 land-based days
  • Day 1. Our group flight on Cathay Pacific departs Sydney early this afternoon for Hong Kong with a traveling time of nine and a half hours. On arrival in Hong Kong and after a 90 minute stopover, we continue our journey to Rome, arriving the following morning.
  • Day 2. We arrive in Rome in the morning and after clearing immigration and customs, we travel by private coach to timeless Umbria and check into our lodging in the sacred hill town of Assisi, our base for the following four nights. After time to settle in and rest, we gather for an orientation talk, followed by a gentle walk following in the footsteps of St Francis. We visit the Franciscan church of Chiesa Nuova, built in 1615 using the remains of the house where St. Francis was born. We also visit the Cathedral of St. Rufino where St. Francis was baptised. In the early evening, we meet for our welcome session and talk about some of our yearnings to embark on a journey. Dinner and debrief.
  • Day 3. We begin the day with meditation and a gentle walk. Our first workshop draws inspiration from the life of St Francis and how we can learn from his wisdom of the inter-relationship between all living beings. In the afternoon, we visit the monastery of San Damiano, where according to tradition, St Francis, while praying before an ancient crucifix, heard the words: “Go Francis, and repair my house, which as you see is falling into ruin.” We then visit the magnificent the cathedral of Santa Maria dei Angeli, where the Franciscan brotherhood used as their first meeting place. Our welcome dinner is tonight and a debrief will conclude today’s program.
  • Day 4. We begin the day with meditation. After breakfast, we walk to the caves on the slope of Monte Subasio and visit the first home of St. Francis and his followers at the Eremo della Carceri, a place where St. Francis would return to during his life to contemplate and pray. Situated on densely wooded slopes, this church and monastery retrain the peaceful and contemplative mood cherished by St. Francis. The afternoon is at leisure for you to rest, explore Assisi, read or write your journal. As we reflect on the spiritual reverence of Assisi, we gather after dinner for a short discussion about Francis' life.
  • Day 5. On our last full day in Assisi, we continue to explore the life of St. Francis by first visiting the Rocca Maggiore and then the impressive Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi. Both the dimmed Romanesque Lower Basilica and the bright and airy Gothic Upper Basilica of this church are magnificently decorated with some of Europe’s finest frescoes. The church was built in an area of Assisi which was infamous in the Middle Ages and known as the ‘Hill of Hell’ since it was used for public executions. St Francis chose to be buried here and his coffin can be seen in a crypt below the Lower Basilica. The afternoon is at leisure for you to rest, explore Assisi, read or write your journal.
  • Day 6. We begin the day with our regular meditation. After breakfast we depart Assisi by private coach and travel to the beautiful Abbey of Sant’Antimo to visit a working medieval monastery situated against a backdrop of Tuscan hills and valleys. From there we continue to Acquapendente, named after the many streams which once flowed towards the River Paglia. On arrival, we check into our lodging and stroll to the medieval quarter. There is a preparatory talk before dinner about our tomorrow’s walking journey. We conclude today’s schedule with a guided mediation focusing on our life paths and our vision for the future.
  • Day 7. We begin the morning with our regular meditation. On walking days, our main luggage will be transferred by private transfer to our next lodge. We begin our journey together and walk about 25 km to Bolsena, known as the town of miracles because of two events associated with St. Christine. We stop for breaks during the day and enjoy the rolling countryside punctuated by ancient olive groves with occasional glimpses of Lake Bolsena. On arrival in the town of Bolsena, we visit the Basilica of Santa Cristina, a Romanesque church built in 1078 over the catacombs where St Christine was buried and learn about the two miracles associated with the saint. We then check into our lodging and rest. Before dinner, we gather for a briefing and over dinner, we share our experiences.
  • Day 8. After breakfast, we begin our walk together to Montefiascone, an old hilltop town, situated on the rim of an ancient volcano about 18 km away. Faith was a cornerstone for medieval pilgrims and miracles were real. Reflecting on the miracles associated with St Christine, we consider what nourishes us and gives meaning to our lives. Today we walk over the undulating hills around the eastern side of Lake Bolsena, passing some hamlets and rest from time to time in shaded areas overlooking olive groves. Approaching Montefiascone, we see the large dome of St. Margaret’s Cathedral looming in the distance. On arrival in Montefiascone, we check into our lodging and rest. You might like to stroll through the town’s piazza and enjoy the late afternoon’s activities or visit St Margaret’s Cathedral. Before dinner, we gather for a briefing and over dinner, we share our experiences.
  • Day 9. We begin our walk together to Viterbo, about 17 km away. We walk along a section of the ancient Roman Via Cassia. On arrival in Viterbo, one of central Italy’s best preserved medieval towns, we check into our lodging and rest. In the early evening, we walk through Viterbo’s historic centre. After dinner, we gather for a discussion and sharing of experiences of our walk so far.
  • Day 10. REST DAY. A pilgrim’s body was perceived as the container for his or her soul, to be honoured as a faithful servant during the arduous physical journey. In a short morning workshop, we explore how we can care for our bodies and feet so they will serve us well on our long journey of life. We then visit a nearby thermal spa, well known for its curative effects since Roman times and rejuvenate our bodies and soul. The rest of the day is at leisure for rest or individual exploration. You might like to visit to a number of interesting churches en-route to the medieval quarter of San Pellegrino. Before dinner, we gather for a briefing and over dinner, we share our experiences.
  • Day 11. We visit the 13th century Papal Palace, an historical and architectural jewel of the city. After lunch, we depart Viterbo by private coach and travel south to Vetralla, a short distance away. On arrival at our lodge, we check in and rest. The Italians particularly know how to enjoy ‘La Dolce Vita’ (the sweet life). Before dinner, we gather for a talk and reflect on the joyful moments in our lives and how we can create more of these.
  • Day 12. We begin our walk together to Capranica, some 18 km away. On arrival, we check into our lodging and rest. Before dinner, we gather for a briefing and over dinner, we share our experiences.
  • Day 13. On the seventh day of our walk along the Via Francigena, we journey to our final destination, the eternal city of Rome, visiting two Etruscan towns, Sutri and Veio en route. We begin the day with our morning meditation and after breakfast depart for Sutri. Does life provide a destination, or is it a series of journeys complete in their own way? We reflect on this as we begin our walk together to Sutri, 7 km away. We then travel by private coach to the Milvian Bridge, on the outskirts of ancient Rome, visiting Veio en route. Crossing the Tiber River, we walk the final kilometers into the heart of Rome. We check into our lodging, a functioning convent in Trastevere, our base for the following four nights.
  • Day 14. We enjoy a walking orientation of Trastevere including a visit to Santa Maria Trastevere. We continue our walk to St Peter’s Basilica and explore Rome’s most important church. We also obtain our Testimonium, a limited edition parchment created by the Association Via Francigena for pilgrims who have walked the Via Francigena (at least the distance from Acquapendente.)
  • Day 15. This morning, we gather for our final workshop on how this journey has facilitated our personal paths. We reflect on new awareness and wisdoms, and explore how we can apply it in our everyday lives. We also take time to share some of the insights we have gathered, both individually and collectively. The afternoon is free for you to explore the wonders of Rome.
  • Day 16. As a reminder that our existence is both precious and finite, we visit by local transport the Catacombs of St Sebastian after our morning meditation and breakfast. Located outside the walls of ancient Rome, these four-level deep catacombs feature some wonderful Roman paintings and fine mosaics. Built above the catacombs is the Basilica of St Sebastian, one of the seven pilgrim churches in Rome which pilgrims have visited and drawn inspiration from the holy relics housed within for centuries. We visit St Paul’s situated outside the walls before returning to the centre of Rome. The rest of the day is free for you to enjoy your last afternoon in Rome. We gather this evening for our farewell celebration at a local restaurant.
  • Day 17. After our morning meditation and breakfast, we depart for Rome’s international airport by private coach and board our group flight to Sydney via Hong Kong.
  • Day 18. The group flight arrives in Sydney at night.
Our Take:
This is the final section of the historic pilgrim's Road to Rome. Four days in Assisi to get a sense of Francis' life and then fascinating days walking along the Via Francigena to Rome. Visiting the seven pilgrim churches just like medieval pilgrims!