(XINHUS-ANSA) - Rome, July 27 - Italian Premier Romano Prodi
is pushing for the routes used by medieval pilgrims to reach Rome to be revived
for modern-day walkers, religious or otherwise.
Prodi, a devout Catholic, got the idea 13 years ago
when he cycled along the pilgrimage route to Santiago di Compostela in Spain and
realised that his own country had many pilgrim ways as well.
"Of course doing it on a bike is one thing, the real
pilgrim goes on foot. But I did it like that and it was a wonderful experience,"
he recalled during a radio show this week.
Prodi is particularly keen on restoring the Via
Francigena, the route which started in Canterbury, in southeast England, and
meandered down through France, across the Alps near Aosta, down through Parma to
Tuscany before reaching Rome.
This pilgrimage, covering a distance of 1,930 km,
took about three months for most medieval Christians who walked it.
An American journalist, Eric Sylvers, walked the 900
km stretch from the Alps to Rome earlier this year for charity and intends to
write a book about his experience along the way.
"Many towns keep their bit in good condition but
what's needed is a broader project to rehabilitate the whole thing," said
Sylvers in an interview.
He also warned that some sections were practically
unusable because they ran alongside heavily trafficked highways.
Moves to clean up the Via Francigena began in the
1990s and a Via Francigena Association was set up in Fidenza, one of the towns
on the route. But signposting and accommodation are still inadequate in many
Another important pilgrim route was the Via
Carolingia, used by Charlemagne to travel from Aachen in northwest Germany to
Rome in the year 800. It passes through Strasbourg, Basle, Como, Mantua, Ravenna
"The pathways of our ancestors are a great heritage,"
Prodi said. "I'm pressing everyone to get the great pilgrimage routes restored".
The idea is to re-establish footpaths and rights of
way, tidying up the landscape and ensuring that pilgrims have access to
"We don't need to change the Constitution or make any
major investments. We just have to put our hearts into it," Prodi