When one speaks of the Via Francigena today, he or she unconsciously refers to the standard Sigeric itinerary. Nonetheless, the Via Francigena is not a single "road' in any real sense of the word. It comprises several possible routes that have 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 used the well-built ancient Roman roads northwards from Rome, i.e., the routes of Via Aurelia and the Via Cassia which are now mostly converted into busy main highways. Therefore, where necessary for the safety of walking pilgrims, today's Via Francigena has diverted to safer trails and alternative paths (or else to quieter secondary roads when no convenient pathways are available), and even to parts of older (i.e., pre-Sigeric) versions of the Via Francigena that include historical and artistic centres of interest to walkers along the route.
The word “corridors” is used intentionally, as the actual roadways or paths between overnight stopping points en route changed according to the various seasons, potential areas of civil unrest that had to be skirted, the use of new bridges as they were built, detours around sections of thoroughfare damaged by landslides, flooding, avalanches, etc., a change in route to include a local religious festival, a new shrine or monastery, an improved route as family visiting and trade between two nearby towns increased, and the different routes selected by different local guides.
As well, there were always route options simultaneously in use, roughly parallel to one another but utilizing different intermediate villages and different river crossings. In this regard, for example, the Via Francigena corridor used at different times up to as many as four different Alpine passes in Switzerland, depending on weather conditions, the amount of fallen snow, and local preferences.
(Continued on the next page.)