The Abbots' Trail crosses the Tuscan-Emilian Apennines in the provinces of Piacenza, Parma and Massa Carrara in the town areas of: Bobbio - Coli - Farini - Bardi - Borgotaro - Pontremoli.
It is around 125 kilometres long and much more demanding then the better known Via Francigena, winding along footpaths, mule tracks and gravel tracks through valleys and across ridges for an overall altitude gain of more than 5000 metres.
Very little of it is on tarmac roads and these are limited to the larger towns.
The Abbots' Trail is a mountain trail used since the 7th century above all by those travelling on foot as the shortest route from Pavia to Lucca and onwards to Rome. The route was used by the Lombard kings and pre-dates the conquest of Byzantine Cisa and took in Bobbio abbey too where pilgrims going to Rome from France and Britain stopped to venerate the mortal remains of St. Columbanus, great Irish abbot and father, with St. Benedict, of European monasticism. For this reason St. Columbanus 'hospitales' had already sprung up along the route in the Lombard era. The route was also followed by the abbots of Bobbio en route to the popes in Rome on whom the abbey depended directly.
The trail starts in Pavia and passes through Canevino, Pometo and Caminata before climbing to Bobbio and continuing to Bardi, crossing Borgo Val di Taro and descending to Pontremoli, a total of around 192 km.