A Canterbury Trail

January 10, 2013 / Places
Sutri, Lazio

Rising above Via Cassia — an important consular road back in the days of the Roman Empire — just about midway between the Eternal City and Viterbo, sits the ancient hill town of Sutri.

Noted for its precious archeological finds covering the Bronze, Etruscan, Roman and Middle Ages, Sutri waves the orange flag of the Italian Touring Club, symbolic of the town’s high-quality, environmentally sound tourism. It goes without saying that Sutri’s treasure trove of priceless antiquities is the major draw for this community of 5,000 residents.

With a documented history of over 2,500 years, Sutri includes from its past: an excavated Roman amphitheatre; an Etruscan necropolis with dozens of rock-cut tombs; a mithraeum —  a secretive place of worship for practitioners of the mystery religion of Mithraism; the Church of the Madonna del Parto; and, the ornate Romanesque Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta.

Not to be overlooked, Sutri was also a popular rest stop during the Middle Ages for millions of religious pilgrims making their way from up north to the Holy See in the south along Via Francigena (the road from France) — the Italian portion of a series of roads and trails that actually stretched from Canterbury in England, across the Channel into France, over to Switzerland, and eventually into Italy and down to Rome. Truly, Via Francigena gives credence to the age-old saying, “All roads lead to Rome.”

In 994 AD, Sigeric the Serious, the Archbishop of Canterbury at the time, documented all 80 stages of his 1,700 km (1,100 mi) return trip from his pilgrimage to the Holy See.

It was Sutri that served as the Archbishop’s third stage rest stop along the Via Francigena route back home to Canterbury — no doubt a winding and arduous journey with many a tale told along the way to pass the time.


by Tom Weber

Tom is a veteran print-broadcast journalist who resides in the Colli Euganei (Euganean Hills) in the province of Padova in the Veneto region of northestern Italy. He hosts the eclectic travel/foodie/photography blog The Palladian Traveler.com, is a regular contributor to Los Angeles-based TravelingBoy.com, and is a member of the International Travel Writers Alliance. Feel free to follow Tom as he “meanders along the cobblestone to somewhere.”

5 Responses to “A Canterbury Trail”

  1. A fascinating bit of history, Tom. Thanks for showing us how all of Europe way back when was connected. Imagine all the Canterbury-like tales told along that extended trail!

  2. OK, I surrender, you talked me into it! I’m coming to Vicenza and visiting all these other gems you write about!

  3. You’re recollections revive memories of visits to that part of the world, and the converssatins around a glass of wine with village friends when we returned from our sorties.

  4. Angela Finch

    Very interesting note. I have wondered which route the early pre-Christian and Christian pilgrims travelled to Rome from England. Is it still possible to travel the Francigena trail?


Leave a Reply