Walking to Heaven: Italy's Via Matilda with Kate Bolton-Porciatti - Context Travel

Walking to Heaven: Italy's Via Matilda with Kate Bolton-Porciatti


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Stretching from Lombardy, across the Apennines to Tuscany, the Via Matilda traverses the ancient feudal lands of the 11th-century countess Matilda of Canossa - a thousand years of history in 400 thousand footsteps. Join a local expert on Italian cultural history to learn more about Italy’s most seraphic hiking trail.

Our journey begins in the Renaissance city of Mantua and ends in the walled medieval town of Lucca. We meander through the Valley of the River Po, past sleepy Renaissance towns and ancient monasteries where Parma ham and balsamic vinegar were first made around a thousand years ago.

The route then rises into the mountainous ridge of the Apennines - through mystical scenery. Bucolic hills drift into dune-like “calanchi” (corroded sandstone slopes) above which rise dramatic hill-top castles, towers and tors. A millennium ago, they formed a chain of fortifications protecting Matilda’s territories. The most famous of them is Canossa Castle – a legendary place, Italy’s Camelot - now romantically ruined. Timeless cultural traditions live on in the higher Apennines, including the recitation of epic poetry in remote mountain villages.

Countless hikers and pilgrims have traversed this territory over the centuries, partisans and prisoners of war have taken refuge here, while artists and poets have been inspired by its celestial views. Today, it is a glorious way to explore a forgotten Italy - far from the madding crowd.

Led by an expert on Italian cultural history, Kate Bolton-Porciatti (who has walked the route in its entirety), this interactive seminar will explore the history, culture, flora and fauna of the Via Matilda. Designed to inform curiosity as well as future travels, participants will come away with an increased appreciation of one of Italy's most hauntingly beautiful pilgrim routes.

Kate Bolton-Porciatti is a professor of Italian cultural history and music at the Istituto Lorenzo de’Medici in Florence, where she teaches BA and MA courses in the humanities. She also lectures at the British Institute, Florence, and at the Chigiana Music Academy in Siena. Kate has published extensively as an academic and a journalist; she is a music critic for BBC Music and a travel writer for The Daily Telegraph, UK. Before moving to Italy permanently in 2005, she was a senior producer and broadcaster for BBC Arts & Classical Music in London and has won prestigious Jerusalem and Sony Awards for her programs. She did her M.Phil. thesis in Italy, exploring the musical culture of early Renaissance Florence.

This conversation is suitable for all ages, though the content is geared towards adults.

90 minutes, including a 30 minute Q&A.

Customer Reviews

Based on 55 reviews
98%
(54)
0%
(0)
2%
(1)
0%
(0)
0%
(0)
K
K.M.
Great program

This program was well organized, interesting and informative.

S
S.-.B.
A Relaxing Virtual Walk along a Pilgrim's Route

This was a delightful hour and a half tour of many beautiful portions of scenery, ancient fortifications, and towns/cities along an old pilgrimage route from Mantua to Lucca, Italy. I had not known of the influential Matilda of Canossa so this session also informed me of her importance to the area and other significant historical facts. The speaker's soothing voice provided guidance along the route and pointed out key sites. Google Earth zoom-ins and road maps assisted in identifying where we were and where we were headed to. Ah, the beautiful photographs...so many to enhance the journey. Ms. Bolton-Porciatti also quoted poets and writers who were associated with the area, adding to the presentation. Her description of the terrain was on target with the photos. A most informative and entertaining session!

M
M.
Italy's Via Matilda

This was a very interesting conversation with Kate Bolton-Porciatti. She was a great presenter and very knowledgeable. I was very interested since I had been to the area on previous trips, was aware of the Castile of Canossa but had not been able to visit. This talk gave so much more historical information and context to the whole area of Matilda's lands. I definitely want to visit!

R
R.
Superlative

What a pleasure it was to attend this seminar ! Expertly organized with tantalizing video and breathtaking photography! Succinct in that we covered all 300 kms. within the allotted time in a logical and well-planned sequence. Kate is obviously an expert on the subject, detailing each stop with historical, practical and cultural details so the journey is never dry. She also has a soothing and professional delivery that exudes a confidence that encourages one to sign up right away to do the actual tour (with context ?).

T
T.E.
Another experience for the post-pandemic bucket list

So glad I made this the first Contest Travel Conversations seminar I ever attended. The Via Matilda sounds like what the Camino Francés must've been before its popularity exploded. Kate's presentation is scenic and evocative as she weaves stories around what you're seeing—a nice way to get "out" of the house during lockdown, to a place that apparently hasn't yet made it onto major travel-media radars.

Customer Reviews

Based on 55 reviews
98%
(54)
0%
(0)
2%
(1)
0%
(0)
0%
(0)
K
K.M.
Great program

This program was well organized, interesting and informative.

S
S.-.B.
A Relaxing Virtual Walk along a Pilgrim's Route

This was a delightful hour and a half tour of many beautiful portions of scenery, ancient fortifications, and towns/cities along an old pilgrimage route from Mantua to Lucca, Italy. I had not known of the influential Matilda of Canossa so this session also informed me of her importance to the area and other significant historical facts. The speaker's soothing voice provided guidance along the route and pointed out key sites. Google Earth zoom-ins and road maps assisted in identifying where we were and where we were headed to. Ah, the beautiful photographs...so many to enhance the journey. Ms. Bolton-Porciatti also quoted poets and writers who were associated with the area, adding to the presentation. Her description of the terrain was on target with the photos. A most informative and entertaining session!

M
M.
Italy's Via Matilda

This was a very interesting conversation with Kate Bolton-Porciatti. She was a great presenter and very knowledgeable. I was very interested since I had been to the area on previous trips, was aware of the Castile of Canossa but had not been able to visit. This talk gave so much more historical information and context to the whole area of Matilda's lands. I definitely want to visit!

R
R.
Superlative

What a pleasure it was to attend this seminar ! Expertly organized with tantalizing video and breathtaking photography! Succinct in that we covered all 300 kms. within the allotted time in a logical and well-planned sequence. Kate is obviously an expert on the subject, detailing each stop with historical, practical and cultural details so the journey is never dry. She also has a soothing and professional delivery that exudes a confidence that encourages one to sign up right away to do the actual tour (with context ?).

T
T.E.
Another experience for the post-pandemic bucket list

So glad I made this the first Contest Travel Conversations seminar I ever attended. The Via Matilda sounds like what the Camino Francés must've been before its popularity exploded. Kate's presentation is scenic and evocative as she weaves stories around what you're seeing—a nice way to get "out" of the house during lockdown, to a place that apparently hasn't yet made it onto major travel-media radars.