They're called Sicily's Vie Francigene and, like those which led from France to Rome, they're ancient roads travelled by pilgrims from all over Sicily to Messina, from whence to continue the pilgrimage to Rome, Santiago de Compostela or Jerusalem. Some of these medieval streets have now been completely erased, others have been transformed into more up-to-date state roads and still others have remained just lanes. The Association Amici dei Cammini Francigeni di Sicilia, has for some years been working to reconstruct the Roman road network through the careful study of archaeologists, historians and topographers. The Association's members intend to test the network in person and make information, maps and advice available to new pilgrims. They also want to create a network of services along the routes so as to provide accommodation, hospitality and anything else which might be useful.
Here are a few examples:
- The Magna Via Francigena. This retraces the Roman Via Aurelia and, passing through Castronovo di Sicilia, connects Palermo to Agrigento. Today 160 Kilometres connect the Arab Balarm with the stronghold of Agrigentum, along ancient historic roads and through ancestral landscapes. For those who don’t feel like walking the entire track, the route is divided into 9 easy stages or 8 standard stages, each one 20–25 kilometres in length.
- Palermo – Messina per le Montagne. This crosses theMadonie, Nebrodi and Peloritani mountains and was the medieval mountain alternative to the coastal route;
- The Via Francigena Fabaria. This is so called because it passes through a district of Vizzini, Fabara. It runs from Gela towards Maniace and Bronte, where it meets the Palermo-Messina per le Montagne route;
- The Via Selinuntina, a Roman road which goes from Marsala to Siracusa and currently runs from Marsala to Gela;
- The Via Francigena Mazarense, from Mazara to Palermo. This is known from a document mentioning the existence of the Via Francigena in a district of Marsala. There’s also the alternative route towards the Jato valley;
- The Via Palermo – Messina per la Marina. Today this is followed for almost all of its length by the SS 113 highway which connects the two Sicilian capitals;
- The stretch which from Lilibeo, modern-day Marsala, used to run through Mazara, Selinunte, Agrigento and Gela to reach the plain of Vizzini – attested to by the Via Francigena via Fabara – and then to the plain of Catania; from here, skirting west around Etna it reached the Abbey of Santa Maria di Maniace and reconnected with the other routes in Montalbano.
La Magna Via Francigena: Routes