Prodi keen to revive medieval pilgrim routes 2007-07-28 12:31:05   Print

Medieval pilgrim routes in Italy.

Medieval pilgrim routes in Italy. (Ansa/Xinhua Photo)
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    (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 sections.

    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 and Assisi.    

    "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 inexpensive hostels.

    "We don't need to change the Constitution or make any major investments. We just have to put our hearts into it," Prodi said.

Editor: Feng Tao
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