Via Lauretana - Italy

Via Lauretana is the ancient Christian pilgrimage route connecting the two ‘holy cities’ of western Christian faith, Rome and Loreto (Ancona). During the 16th-17th centuries Via Lauretana was most renowned since all travellers in Italy had to pay at least a visit to Loreto. Today, this ancient route is seen as a key link of Italy’s cultural and natural landscapes and spiritual values. On Loreto hill, in the city of Loreto, the Holy House Sanctuary dedicated to the ‘black Virgin’ Mary, was built during the 15th and 16th centuries, on the ruins of the home where Mary and her family from Nazareth lived, when they arrived at Loreto in 1294.

The hill of Loreto rises at about 130m above the alluvial plain of Potenza and Musone Rivers. Nowadays, although heavily urbanised, it is considered an important area in terms of landscape protection due to its natural, historical and cultural assets, such as the 'Santa Casa' olive grove, the historical agricultural landscape at the south hill-side, the hill of Montorso, a protected marine area where the locals use to host religious events and festivities.

Via Lauretana crosses the entire country, from the Tyrrhennian to the Adriatic coast.Following the route from Rome, the pilgrims travel north to Foligno (Perugia) going along the ancient roman road Via Flaminia and passing through Castelnuovo di Porto, Civita Castellana and Borghetto. Then, they cross the Umbria region before they turn towards the Sanctuary of San Francesco d’Assisi. Once arrived at Colfiorito, the route crosses the mountains Appennino umbro-marchigiano and it continues approximately along the Strada del Chienti road, through the mountain area covered partly by the Monti Sibillini National park, Serravalle del Chienti, Bavareto, Gelagna, Muccia, Ponte la Trave, Polverina and Valcimarra. It then goes down the eastern coast, crossing Belforte del Chienti, Tolentino, where the Sanctuary of San Nicola, another important sacred site, is situated. The last part of this route crosses Macerata, Villa Potenza, Sambucheto and Recanati, where the landscapes become marshy agricultural land, and finally it enters the city of Loreto from the main entrance Porta Romana (the gate facing Rome) and ends in the ‘Piazza della Madonna’ square.

This pilgrimage route is also known as the ‘Sanctuaries road’ because of the large number of sanctuaries, churches, Abbeys and monasteries (in particular Benedictine centres) that are located nearby. Also, the traveller has the chance to observe various types of landscapes of heterogeneous nature, composing a complex landscape and ecological system with alluvial plains and wetland zones, river ecosystems, mountains and hills, woods and rural landscapes, e.g. the National parks of Regionale di Veio, Fluviale del Nera, Monte Subasio, Regionale di Colfiorito, Monti Sibillini, National Reserve of Abbadia di Fiastra, Regionale del Monte Conero and many more protected areas. The interesting integration of spiritual and natural assets along the Via Lauretana route is apparent. Most importantly though, the need to efficiently preserve Via Lauretana’s natural and cultural heritage for the present and future generations is well established.

Responsible: Chiara Serenelli