After the Protestant Reformation, pilgrimages between northern and southern Europe became less frequent and, as a consequence, parts of the Via Francigena fell into disuse, and other sections became absorbed into the newer road networks. Because the Via Francigena linked monasteries rather than major cities, by the sixteenth century there were more direct and better-constructed routes used for commerce and general travel.
Today's pilgrimages along the Via Francigena attract people of all ages and beliefs, their common factor being their desire to stand back from the daily pressures and take time to reflect on their lives and the lives of those around them.
Walking the entire Via Francigena is a journey of at least 1,700 kilometres, and is a physical challenge. Most pilgrims choose to travel on foot, but some opt for bicycles, and a few choose horseback. On foot, the entire journey takes about twelve weeks, based on an average of between twenty and thirty kilometres per day; climbing to heights above 2,500 metres and being exposed to a very wide range of weather conditions.
In 1994 the Via Francigena was designated a European Cultural Route by the Council of Europe.
In November 2005, Italian politician Romano Prodi announced that he would revitalize the Via Francigena.
On 11th August 2007 a group of 27 cyclists, including several members of Canterbury City Council, rode from Canterbury Cathedral via the Via Francigena to Rome in sixteen days. This was a charity ride to raise money for the restoration of the Canterbury Cathedral and for other causes.
In November 2009 the Italian government launched a project to recover the Italian leg of the Via Francigena. The object of the plan is to recover the entire route (disjointed parts of which are already signposted) “not only in spiritual and religious terms but also in terms of the environment, architecture, culture, history, wine and cuisine and sport.”
This initiative was promoted by the Region of Tuscany, which hosts 400 kms of the Via Francigena, and which presented a plan detailing the low environmental impact infrastructures that will be created. The plan will be shared with other local authorities located along the route as an encouragement to carry out similar recovery work. Tuscany has also announced cooperation with the Opera Romana Pellegrinaggi (ORP), the Vatican’s organization for encouraging pilgrimages.
When one speaks of the Via Francigena today, he or she intends to refer to the Sigeric itinerary. Nonetheless, the Via Francigena is not a single "road' in the strict sense of the word. It comprises several possible routes that changed over the centuries as trade and pilgrimages developed or waned, depending on the time of year, political situation, and relative popularity of the shrines of saints along the route or simply the building of a new bridge that permitted an easier crossing of a river.
Currently there is still not one single official Via Francigena route; there never was, and probably there never will be. In many parts the original Via Francigena followed the ancient Roman roads: the routes of Via Aurelia and the Via Cassia which are now mostly converted into main highways. Where necessary today's Via Francigena has diverted to safer trails and alternative paths (or else to quieter secondary roads when nothing else is available), and and even to parts of older (i.e., pre-Sigeric) versions of the Via Francigena to include historical and artistic centres of interest along the route.
Photo (at above right): This is the Spedale di San Pietro e Giacomo (Hostel of Saints Peter and James), and accommodates pilgrims of the Via Francigena. It is located in the centre of Radicofani, an ancient village in Tuscany that is a historical stopping place for pilgrims of the Via Francigena. Radicofani is at times not mentioned in some Pilgrim's guides, perhaps due to the road going uphill to get there. Yet, Radicofani belongs to one of the most authentic and interesting parts of the Via Francigena.
It is catching both from an historical standpoint, and for the lanscape and nature the whole area offers. Moreover, passing through Radicofani allows the avoidance of a section of motorway that can be a safety problem for pilgrims. The Spediale at Radicofani has six beds, and offers genuinely accredited pilgrims one night’s accommodation. It is open all year, and simply asks pilgrims to make a donation.