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Home The Via dei Romei Transportation and lodgings

Transportation and lodgings

Only noblemen and ecclesiastics travelled by horse, a delicate and costly means, which symbolised an elevated social rank.  Along the routes, lodgings were provided by charity institutions: the “hospitals for pilgrims” (hospitalia).


Travel adventuresWhere the marshes cancelled out the land routes, the main way to travel in the Middle Ages was along the internal waterways in small boats, with little draught and a flat bottom, suited to navigating rivers.


Travel could also be done only partially by water, where the streets were in bad conditions or were covered with swampland.  And this was the situation of the vast Po Delta and the marshes which ran alongside the river's entire lower reaches.


Where the Roman roads remained, in the drier hilly and mountainous areas, people in Middle Ages tended to travel on foot or using pack-animals. The elderly and women of noble birth used carriages pulled by oxen or sedan-chairs.


Only noblemen and ecclesiastics travelled by horse - a delicate and costly means which symbolised an elevated social rank. Even the merchants preferred pack-animals which were easier to manage, faster than carriages and capable of climbing the steepest slopes even if they were unable to carry heavy loads.


Journeys of penitence and devotion, however, needed the benediction of a priest and had to be made on foot. This meant that only a minimum of baggage could be taken - a staff to lean on and for self-defense, a container for water and little else, and a sum of money not large enough to tempt thieves.


KnightLodgings were provided along the way by pilgrims' hotels (hospitalia). These “hospitalia” could be autonomous or attached to a monastery, parish church or cathedral.  According to the evangelical order, these places should have provided rest for the night, water, and a place to sleep, which varied from a little hay on the ground to an actual bed, usually in a common room shared with other travelers.  For locals, the hospitality was free.  For the wealthy, a donation was asked or the promise of including the establishment in their will.


Generally they were a day's travel apart and were found at particularly difficult or dangerous parts of the route.  The upkeep of that particular piece of the route was also the responsibility of the hospitalia.


With the increase in commercial traffic in the early Middle Ages, charging for lodgings became the norm once again. This “new” spirit of free enterprise in the hotels and hostels noted in the early medieval sources is a legacy leftover from Roman times, when these types of establishments dotted the consular streets, thus giving names to towns such as Tavernelle, Tavernuzze, etc.


In some of these places, considered in the early centuries of Christianity to be dens of sin and wickedness, guests were only able to eat and drink while in others large beds would accommodate a number of people.


It should not be forgotten that the rich and powerful were able to demand lodgings of their subjects (but only for three days), at farms owned by them or by their relatives or in family-owned monasteries.

Last modified Feb 02, 2017

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