Begin in Pontremoli, the town right on the cusp of the border between Tuscany and Emilia-Romagna. The Apennines are behind you and Pontremoli itself sits along the banks of bubbling mountain river Verde. Or rather, sits in it: inside there are no less than six bridges criss-crossing the water in the labyrinth of medieval streets.
Join the Via Francigena heading south, and within 8km you’ll enter Ponticello, a quite incredible 1400-year-old village. Burrow into the underground streets and wind up the narrows stairways until you head on to Villafranca in Lunigiana.
Villafranca is a great place for a wander, with affordable pilgrim menus and places to stay if you plan to walk to Aulla the next day. But we suggest you hop on the train to Aulla and stay the night at the brilliant pilgrim hostel Parrocchia di San Caprasio. It’s also very close to Taverna Lunigianese (just across the river bridge) where you can sample a pilgrim menu, a generous and inexpensive three course set meal offered to walkers, including wine. Perfect after a good day’s hiking!
Alternatively, if you stay in Villafranca in Lunigiana you can take an extra day to walk to Aulla yourself (it’s 14km).