On my bucket list for 2015 there is to walk along the ancient Francigena way in Tuscany. Thanks to Terre di Siena I had the pleasure to walk one part of it to reach Radicofani.
The Francigena way
Via Francigena or Francigena way is the name of the old road of pilgrims’ from Canterbury in England to Rome in Italy. In the Middle Ages it was the major route for pilgrims and it was first documented by the Archbishop of Canterbury Sigeric the Serious at the end of 10th century, when he had to reach Rome to receive his ecclesiastical vestment called pallium.
Tuscany is crossed by Francigena way from North to South having some great stops along the way, such as Lucca and Siena. In Siena you can walk through Vicolo dell’Orafo that is supposed to be the original road, crossing the city. Going Southern Frangina way crosses the beautiful Valdorcia and has its last Tuscan stop in Radicofani.
From La Selvella to Radicofani
My pilgrimage started from Farmhouse La Selvella, located about 4 km from Radicofani. The Francigena way runs along the state road for the first couple of kilometers, but has been recently fixed and made safe. Along the way you can enjoy the panorama (if it’s not a foggy day) and see some beautiful horses running around.
Halfway to Radicofani, in the area of Casa al Cotica, starts the original medieval Francigena way. You recognize where to turn thanks to the special brown Via Francigena signs. The path now runs into the wild, crossing woods, small rivers and fields. On your right side you can admire the high Mount Amiata, while in front of you stands the hamlet of Radicofani.
You’ll know you’ll be close to Radicofani when you’ll hear some sheep dogs barking. Don’t be scared because they’re closed in a fenced area and generally the shepherd is around. You’ll be fine, especially if you don’t get too close to sheeps.
Radicofani and its Robin Hood
So now that you’re in Radicofani, you can enjoy this tiny hamlet that counts about 2000 people (and some lovely cats) in the whole municipality. Because of its strategical position it preserves some important artworks such as the large terracottas by Della Robbia. Inside the Church of Sant’Agata there is a large altar piece depicting the Virgin Mary with Child and Saints by Andrea della Robbia. Very peculiar are the golden Virgin’s crown, the attributes of each holy figure colored accordingly to the material and the frame with the fruits and plants decorations.
In the Church of San Piero there are also three large glazed terracottas depicting different scenes and made by different artists of Della Robbia family. Next to the Church there is the Pilgrims’ shelter, or ospitale in Italian, where they can have free accommodation during their journey. On the back you can see the statue of Ghino di Tacco, the Tuscan Robin Hood.
Legend has it that Ghinotto di Tacco, nicknamed Ghino, was a noble man of the Middle Ages coming from Torrita di Siena. Around 1290 he was exiled from Siena and its surroundings and sought refuge in Radicofani, that was a strategical point between the Papal States and Siennese Republic. It was also an important destination along the Francigena way where pilgrims and merchants used to stop.
Ghino transformed Radicofani in his hamlet and started to rob rich and wealthy people and pilgrims along the way. Although he was a good man and he always left his victims with the money to reach Rome. He also used to offer them something to eat. His story has been told both by Dante in the Divine Comedy and by Boccaccio in the Decameron.
Actually Boccaccio told the story of Ghino and Abbot of Clunj, who was kidnapped and detained inside the fortress of Radicofani. The Abbot was fed by Ghino only with bread and dried fava beans. This strict diet curated the Abbot’s stomach ache, so when he was released and reached the Pope, he asked for a act of grace for Ghino. The Pope therefore nominated Ghino di Tacco Knight of San Giovanni. And we can say this is an happy end.