Northern variant of Via Francigena
Variante ciclistica nord o delle Pizzorne e Montecarlo
Since the historical itinerary of the Via Francigena is now in a densely built environment, two alternative paths have been officially recognised and provided with special signals (vVF or 'variant of Via Francigena'). Both paths are accessible by bike, and cross two of the areas richest in natural, landscape and hisotrical beauty. The northern branch reaches the foot of the mountains of Altopiano delle Pizzorne, while the southern touches the Monte Pisano.
The original journey from Lucca to Altopascio of around 20 km in length can now take over 40 km or around 34 km, depending on the alternative chosen. The beginning and the end of both alternatives are outiside the territory of Capannori, as they leave from the walls of Lucca and join the historical route when they enter the municipality of Altopascio.
The northern itinerary is rich in cultural and historical points of attraction such as Villa Reale or the village of Matraia, where a panoramic road leads visitors to many other villages, hamlets and hidden churches (Valgiano, the ancient church of San Quirico in Petroio, San Pietro a Marcigliano, Sant'Andrea in Caprile, Tofori, Petrograno). Every single one of them has its own church, villas and farms.
San Gennaro and its parish church host a terracotta statue of an angel attributed to no less than Leonardo da Vinci. Other villages crossed by the path are San Martino in Colle and Gragnano, with its two churches, many villas and a centuries old oak tree.
Tour of the villas – northern itinerary
The alternative path of the Via Francigena corresponds to part of the Tour of the villas, that can be done either on foot or by bike. Many historical villas can be visited along the path: Villa Oliva, Villa Grabau, Villa Reale, Villa Orlando, Villa Bruguier, and Villa Torrigiani.