The Way of St Francis
Via di Francesco: From Florence to Assisi and Rome
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Guidebook to walking the Way of St Francis, Via di Francesco. 550km pilgrimage from Florence, through Assisi to Rome through Central Italy visiting key sites from the saint's life. Described in 28 stages, the guide to the month-long route includes detailed maps, profiles and information about all the shrines, churches and towns along the way.
- Spring, summer and fall. Winters are possible, too, except for higher elevations where snow is not uncommon.
- Florence, Camaldoli, Santuario della Verna, Cittá di Castello, Gubbio, Assisi, Spello, Spoleto, Cascata delle Marmore, Rieti, Rome.
- Some steep climbs and descents, but no special gear required. All walks are graded either "Easy", "Moderate", or "Hard".
- Must See
- Renaissance Florence, the dark and lovely Casentino National Forest, the active hermitage of Camaldoli, St. Francis' beloved Santuario della Verna, historic Gubbio, beloved and beautiful Assisi, charming Spoleto, Marmore Falls. The walk is sprinkled with sacred sites from the life of St. Francis and culminates in the Eternal City of Rome.
This guidebook to the Way of St Francis describes a 550km month-long pilgrim trail through the green heart of Italy. The route begins at Florence and goes through Assisi before its climax in Rome, exploring the mountains of Umbria, Tuscany and Lazio on the way. The route is split into 28 stages, each graded from 'easy' to 'hard'. Some stages include steep climbs and descents, but no special gear is required.
Alongside a detailed route description, colour maps and accommodation information, the guidebook contains a concise biography of Francis of Assissi and stories of his life that relate to each location visited. Also included is a walking tour of the Seven Pilgrim Churches of Rome. This book is a trove of information that makes a perfect companion for anyone setting out to walk the Way of St Francis.
The Way of St Francis is one of the most popular pilgrim routes in Italy, and it offers a great range of sights: olive groves, vineyards, Renaissance Florence, the Casentino National Forest, hilltop towns, ancient ruins, mountains, the Marmore Falls, the Vatican City and more.
St Francis and the Way of St Francis
Geography and climate
When to go
Eating in Italy
Budgeting and cash
Post, phones and internet
Planning and training
What to take
Maps, GPS and waymarking
Using this guide
1 Florence to Santuario della Verna
Stage 1 Florence to Pontassieve
Stage 2 Pontassieve to Passo della Consuma
Stage 3 Consuma to Stia
Stage 4 Stia to Camaldoli (village)
Stage 5 Camaldoli to Badia Prataglia
Stage 6 Badia Prataglia to Santuario della Verna
2 Santuario della Verna to Assisi
Stage 7 Santuario della Verna to Pieve Santo Stefano
Stage 8 Pieve Santo Stefano to Sansepolcro
Stage 9 Sansepolcro to Citerna
Stage 10 Citerna to Città di Castello
Stage 11 Città di Castello to Pietralunga
Stage 12 Pietralunga to Gubbio
Stage 13 Gubbio to Biscina
Stage 14 Biscina to Valfabbrica
Stage 15 Valfabbrica to Assisi
3 Assisi to Rieti
Stage 16 Assisi to Spello (easier route)
Stage 16A Assisi to Spello (harder route)
Stage 17 Spello to Trevi
Stage 18 Trevi to Spoleto
Stage 19 Spoleto to Ceselli
Stage 20 Ceselli to Arrone
Stage 21 Arrone to Piediluco
Stage 22 Piediluco to Poggio Bustone
Stage 23 Poggio Bustone to Rieti
4 Rieti to Rome
Stage 24 Rieti to Poggio San Lorenzo
Stage 25 Poggio San Lorenzo to Ponticelli
Stage 26 Ponticelli to Monterotondo
Stage 27 Monterotondo to Monte Sacro
Stage 28 Monte Sacro to Vatican City
Tour of the Seven Pilgrimage Churches of Rome
Appendix A Route summary table
Appendix B Useful contacts
Appendix C Language tips
Appendix D Further reading
Maps, GPS and waymarking
It would be difficult if not impossible to source and then carry the paper maps required to cover the entire route. Detailed Italian hiking maps are hard to come by, and, besides, a comprehensive coverage would involve a great many individual sheets – too many, indeed, to make it a practical option.
Although walking directions are given in great detail in this guide, and each stage includes a 1:50,000 ‘overview’ map, it may ease worries to have a GPS or GPS smartphone application for additional help. GPX tracks for the entire walk can be downloaded at www.cicerone.co.uk. Additionally, nearly all the trails covered in this guide are included in Open Street Maps which can easily be downloaded into excellent hiking apps like Galileo Pro. When shopping for a GPS app, make sure to find one that allows downloadable maps so that it is not necessary to be connected to a cell service while hiking.
Italy has an extensive system of hiking trails, and often the route follows portions of this network. Maintained by volunteers of the Club Alpino Italiano (CAI), the trails are marked in horizontal red-and-white stripes, often with the trail number superimposed in black marker. In this book, all references to CAI trails in walking directions refer to the red-and-white striped markings. CAI trails are usually identified in Open Cycle Maps, which makes it an excellent base map resource for GPS users.
For details of the different pilgrimage waymarkers you will encounter along the Way, see ‘The modern Way of St Francis’, above.
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Click on below links for current updates and Accommodation .June 2016
Acquiring your credential
• New email address – The volunteers at the Diocese of Gubbio are now in charge of answering pilgrim requests for credentials. Contact them at www.piccolaccoglienzagubbio.it, tel 366 1118386, [email protected] Give two full months for delivery and make certain to include your mailing address exactly as it should appear on the envelope. They have also set up a PayPal account where you can make a donation.
• Basilica Santa Croce – Cost of admission to Basilica Santa Croce is now €6. The credential stamp of the Basilica Santa Croce is available at the Franciscan bookshop inside the basilica, just off the right side of the nave near the sacristy. The basilica opens at 10:00 each day and is sometimes closed for holidays.
Stage 2 – Pontassieve to Consuma
• Consuma – Cammere Carletti has new contact information: www.affitticonsuma.it, tel 346 7916151, [email protected], €30 per person, including breakfast. The rooms are about 0.5 km from the heart of town and Irina or another staff member will happily drive tired pilgrims. The kitchens are not available for pilgrim use, but the restaurant serves an ample menu.
Stage 3 – Consuma to Stia
• Stia – The new phone number for Albergo Falterona is 0575 583545.
Stage 6 – Badia Prataglia to Santuario della Verna
• Santicchio – An overnight at the Mountain Retreat Casa Santicchio (www.santicchio.org, tel. 0575 1787586, [email protected], 40-55€ includes sheets, towels, breakfast and dinner. Wine extra.), allows the option of shortening this stage by lengthening the prior very short stage from Camaldoli and walking through Badia Prataglia to Santicchio. After Frassineta and just 100m before the summit at Poggio della Forca turn right on 070A instead of turning left to Rimbocchi. Follow the path about 700m to Casa Santicchio.
• Santuario della Verna – Twelve beds are available in the pilgrim dormitory at Santuario della Verna. The beds are by donation, but a cost of €25 covers dinner and breakfast. Ask at the reception desk for towels and linens.
Stage 8 – Pieve Santo Stefano to Sansepolcro
• Trail 22 behind the Euro Hotel – A logging operation in late 2014 has almost completely obscured the trail, which now requires great caution by hikers. Follow the trail from behind the hotel as marked and traverse the hillside with the river below. Carefully continue 450m after the hotel, through the logged area, until after 30m after the logged area ends. Here, take an uphill path to the right. In just 100m you come to the gravel road and turn left. If you need to climb a steep and slippery bank you’ve gone the wrong way.
• Montecasale – While this guide recommends an alternate path rather than the more difficult, official route from Pieve Santo Stefano to Sansepolcro, the official route is definitely an option. Follow the main road south out of Pieve Santo Stefano (with the freeway on your right) and follow the signs to a left turn. This leads to a lovely series of paths that take you to Cerbaiolo and, after about 25km, to the ample accommodation at the Eremo Montecasale. This key Franciscan site on the official route receives over 5000 pilgrims each year. Adjacent to the Capuchin hermitage here there is a bar, restaurant and pilgrim house with 12 rooms of 2-6 beds each. David Ricci, an energetic and friendly pilgrim steward, will be your host. (Fraz. Basilica 60/B Locanda Montecasale, www.accoglienzafrancescana.com, tel 0575 740178, [email protected]). Pilgrims who overnight at Montecasale can walk the 7km to Sansepolcro the next morning, and continue on to Citerna for their overnight.
Stage 10 – Citerna to Citta di Castello
• Lerchi – Please note the dangers involved if you choose to take the road from Lerchi directly into Città di Castello. Cars travel at better than 70 km/hr in this section and there is no sidewalk or path on either side of the road most of the way. If the day has been too long, the bus is a much safer choice.
Stage 11 – Citta di Castello to Pietralunga
• Pioppa Casa Agriturismo – Food is available from the agriturismo owners, Davide and Lily. When making your reservation mention that you are pilgrims and if possible you would like dinner and breakfast.
Stage 12 – Pietralunga to Gubbio
• Gubbio – Admission to the Palazzo dei Consoli museum is €5.
• Gubbio – The correct email address of the Convento di San Secondo is [email protected]
• Gubbio – If you have additional time in Gubbio, the local diocese has created a 90-minute mini-camino inside the city that has a credential, completion certificate and free Tau cross at the conclusion. The walk takes you from San Vittorina (the wolf church) up to the top of the hill at the Basilica di San Ubaldo. For more information or to order online go to www.fratellolupogubbio.it or simply pick up the booklet at the Tourist Information Office (car park cash desk) on Via della Repubblica near the San Francesco church.
Stage 13 – Gubbio to Biscina
• New accommodation option before Tenuta di Biscina – The hermit at San Pietro in Vigneto is gone and in his place at the 15th century hermitage is the friendly and helpful Stefano Giombini, who has beds for pilgrims (333 4789564, [email protected], kitchen available, no food, please make a donation to help out this new pilgrim ministry).
Stage 14 – Biscina to Valfabbrica
• Entry to Valfabbrica: Though it is not called out on the map and not mentioned in the directions you will walk under a significant landmark -- new highway bridge -- as you enter Valfabbrica, just before crossing over the Chiascio River bridge.
Stage 15 – Valfabbrica to Assisi
• Assisi – The annual Marcia della Pace (Peace Walk) occurs in the last week of September, culminating on 4 October for the Festa di San Francesco. Assisi bustles with noisy tourists and pilgrims during the festivities and hotel reservations are scarce.
• Pilgrim office information – The pilgrim office is open in the summer from 10:00 – 1:00 and 3:30 – 5:30, depending on volunteer schedules. The Pilgrim Mass takes place each evening at 6:00 in the lower basilica and includes prayers for those who have registered as leaving or arriving at the pilgrim office in Assisi.
• Taxi in Assisi – If you are flying into Perugia or want a taxi from the train station try Radio Taxi Assisi, www.radiotaxiassisi.it, tel 075 823100, [email protected]
Stage 17 – Spello to Trevi
• Foligno – Additional accommodation option is Afittacamere Rosella (Via Giuseppe Garibaldi 123, tel 740 72340, €15, kitchen available).
Stage 18 – Trevi to Spoleto
• Correction: Please ignore the direction to turn left: ‘At the peach-colored house in 300m, follow the road downhill and to the right in the direction of the Spoleto road sign. At the next fork, turn left. Soon the road comes to another fork, with yellow arrows pointing downhill onto the Via Don Sturzo.' Instead, turn left in the direction of the cafe/bar.
• Detour due to ongoing construction – Since construction south of Fonti del Clitunno is ongoing it is safer for pilgrims to plan to detour earlier to the bicycle path. There are two options for getting to the bike path, the second of which allows a stop at the beautiful Fonti del Clitunno (and its services).
o First alternative for reaching the bicycle path – After ‘At the peach-colored house…. ’ follow these directions: ‘Follow the road in front of the café/bar straight as it gradually leads downhill. Stay on this road, the Via Corciano, without deviation past the iron cross, with the stone wall on your left side, until it ends at the bottom of the hill in about 1.1km. The road ends at short wall at a T-junction with a busier road below. Go right to get around the low wall and then make an immediate left onto this two-lane arterial road. In just 50m is a road turning off to the right. Follow this road downhill, noting the bike path marked on the right. Continue on this road over the two highway bridges and a third bridge with a stone wall on the left. Immediately after the third bridge turn left onto the Assisi-Spoleto bike path, which you will follow all the way to the outskirts of Spoleto.’
o Second alternative for reaching the bike path: A little further on, after these directions: ‘Go straight ahead on the wide shoulder of Viale Settecamini until Il Camminetto Ristorante, where a bike path commences on the left side of the road” follow these directions: “Look for the traffic light after the restaurant with signs pointing right to Rome, Terni and Spoleto. Turn right onto this road and carefully walk along the shoulder. Cross a railroad bridge and go around the roundabout, which crosses over the freeway, then continue across the Marroggia Creek on a third bridge. Immediately after this third bridge, turn left onto the paved bike path, which you follow to the outskirts of Spoleto.’
• Revised entry to Spoleto from the bike path – This new information removes the last hazardous stretch from the highway (and replaces the text in the guide from ‘Turn off the bike path’ to ‘on Via Flaminia.’)
o Cross the bridge to continue on the bike path. In 1.7km the path crosses the canal next to an auto bridge and then circles back under the bridge to continue on the right side of the canal. In about 1.2km the path ends at the Bici Grill restaurant (closed Mondays). Go through the parking lot and pick up a continuation of the bike path, now painted red/orange asphalt. The path follows under the freeway overpass, crosses the road and continues between concrete curbs on the opposite side. In 100m when the path branches to the right and left pick up the left branch next to the wall and follow that branch as it hugs the wall, passing sports fields on the right. Curve right with the path onto Via Lorenzo Betti and in about two blocks veer left onto the main arterial, the Via del Risorgimento. In one block, turn left, leaving the suburb of San Nicolo and entering Spoleto proper and in just one half block turn right onto Via Giordano Bruno, catching sidewalks where they are available for the next three blocks. At the end of the street, veer toward the left onto the Via dei Filosofi, and follow it as it crosses the Via dei Mestieri at a roundabout and gradually heads back alongside the canal. For the next 400m the road follows the canal with an ample sidewalk on the left. Across are a series of shopping centers, including two supermarkets and a pharmacy. Just after the EuroSpin Supermarket the car road divides. Follow the direction of the cars going ahead toward town onto a narrow, two lane, one-way street. Go straight toward the low, church tower and in one long block turn left. Walk two blocks and turn right, entering the city gates of Spoleto at Piazza Garibaldi.
• New GPX track – Please make certain to download and use the revised GPX track entitled ‘18.TrevitoSpoleto2015’
Stage 21 – Arrone to Piediluco
• New Entry to Piediluco – Thanks to guardians of the Via di Francesco a new route between Marmore and Piediluco limits the amount of time on the highway to only 350m (replaces the text from ‘For the next half hour’ to ‘the long, narrow town.’)
o Carefully follow the main highway toward the left and, in about 350m, turn left after a white stucco and stone house onto a broken asphalt road that leads slowly uphill. Following the signs, in 300m turn right at a fork onto a two track, white gravel driveway which you follow until it ends at a gate marked ‘27 Via Ponte del Prato.’ Now turn right onto a dirt road and immediately take the fork to the right. The track quickly narrows to a footpath and begins to climb more steeply until the trail ends at a gravel road. Turn right and immediately come to complex intersection of roads and paths. Looking to your left, take the dirt track that is just to the right of the two power poles. This pleasant path undulates gradually upward, and views of Piediluco and its lake soon open to the right. Soon you come to the red brick and concrete walls of the town’s cemetery. Turn right at the end of the cemetery wall, crossing through trees, and go left on the asphalt road. Follow this road downward and toward to the right as it becomes the Via del Rio Cervaro. At the bottom of the hill turn right and go under the highway bridge, following the road. Walk around a field, past a wastewater treatment plant, football field and parking lot and at the stop sign turn left onto the main road of the long, narrow town of Piediluco.
• New GPX track – Make certain to download and use the GPX track for this stage labeled ‘21.ArronetoPiediluco2015.’
Stage 22 – Piediluco to Poggio Bustone
• Labro – New accommodation right in charming Labro is available at Albergo Diffuso Crispolti (www.albergodiffusocrispolti.com, Via Vittorio Emanuele 16, tel 0746 636135, [email protected])
• Add the italicized words to the section after Labro – ‘Continue 400m beyond the bar to the Carabinieri and come to a fork in the asphalt road. Take the footpath in the middle of the fork going uphill. A steep climb now begins. Turn right at the fork in 300m, right again onto the asphalt road with a fence, and soon turn right again onto an asphalt road that you follow for the next 400m. Watch for a waymark that directs you left off the asphalt road onto a gravel road going steeply uphill.’
• New approach to Poggio Bustone – In order to add detail to the entry to Poggio Bustone, here is a fuller route description (replacing the text from ‘Soon the CAI markers’ to ‘Municipio of Poggio Bustone.’)
o Soon the CAI markers suggest turning off the road onto a narrow path. Do not take the path, which leads only onto an overgrown and impassable trail: instead stay on the road and follow it as it merges with the Via della Casetta, a paved road that joins from the left. Continue downhill 800m to the stop sign, which is at the Via Francescana. While a left turn takes you directly to the Franciscan Sanctuary above town, turn right and then immediately take a left onto Via San Marco to reach the heart of the village. Now in Poggio Bustone proper, follow the broken asphalt among closely spaced houses downhill. At the dark stone pavers, make a hard right, continuing steeply downhill. The road curves to the left, then makes a hard left. Make a hard right toward the yellow building, stepping onto a broken asphalt road with the yellow building on your left. Just after the building you see it houses the town’s pharmacy, just opposite the main square. Go left toward the overlook and, if you are staying at Locanda Francescana, look for its restaurant – Restaurant Francescana – several doors downhill to the right.
• New GPX track – Be certain to use and download the revised GPX track labeled ‘22.PiedilucotoPoggioBustone2015.’
Stage 23 – Poggio Bustone to Rieti
• Rieti – B&B La Terrazza Fiorita is in the heart of Rieti and its owner, Ritta, knows the Via di Francesco, Via di Roma and Rieti very well (ViaPellicceria 3, tel 347 7279591, [email protected] , €25, breakfast by request).
Stage 24 – Rieti to Poggio San Lorenzo
• Poggio San Lorenzo – Additional accommodation at Collina Sacro Cuore. When turning off the path onto the final stretch of asphalt before Poggio San Lorenzo, turn left and follow the signs of the Via di Roma. After about 300m toward the town of Torricella in Sabina you reach the modern convent building of the sisters of the Order of Ancelle Sacro Cuore di Gesu who have who may have beds available (Loc. Faloni, tel 765 735017, [email protected], €40 incl breakfast and dinner. By reservation only).
• Poggio San Lorenzo – A new accommodation, La Casa del Pellegrino, is now available in the heart of Poggio San Lorenzo (www.casadelpellegrino-psl.eu, tel 3401 619680, [email protected], €20 incl breakfast, washing machine available).
Stage 25 – Poggio San Lorenzo to Ponticelli
• Ponticelli – A new agriturismo offers accommodation just before Ponticelli. Giuseppe welcomes you at Casale delle Stelle (Via XX Settembre 16, www.casaledellestelle.it, 3382 261916, [email protected], from €49 for a double room).
Stage 26 – Ponticelli to Monterotondo
• Montelibretti – Lodging is available near Montelibretti at Agriturismo Villa Le Mimose (www.villalemimose.com, tel 0774 631054, €35 per person), about 1km off the track before the climb into town. Also right in the heart of Montelibretti is B&B I Due Gelsi (via Garibaldi 23, tel 3476 412908, €30, incl breakfast).
• Monterotondo: New accommodation listing: The Parish of Santa Maria Maddalena (Monterotondo Duomo) has 5-6 beds available for pilgrims. (Piazza di Giovanni Paolo II, [email protected], tel 0690 626060, by donation)
Stage 27 – Monterotondo to Monte Sacro
• Monte Sacro – Not to be confused with the pensione of nearly the same name, the B&B Citta Giardino offers an alternative and convenient overnight, just two blocks off the Via Adriatica and seven blocks from the end of the stage (Via Moncenisio 45, www.cittagiardino.com, tel 3355 637986, [email protected], €50/70 single incl breakfast).
Stage 28 – Monte Sacro to Vaticano
• Spedale della Provvidenza di San Giacomo e San Benedetto – This wonderful hostel in the Trastevere neighborhood of Rome does not take reservations. Arrive at the hostel at Via dei Genovesi 11B by 3:00 to check in.
Receiving Your Testimonium at the Vatican
• Pilgrim Office off St. Peter’s Square – At least during the Holy Year it is not necessary to pass through the guards in order to secure your Testimonium. Instead, look for the Pilgrim Office among the storefronts at the last building on the left before the grand colonnade. Present your credential there for a Testimonium. If the office is closed or is out of blank Testimonia you can also receive a handwritten Testimonium
"Guidebooks have been all but drowned by the rising tide of free digital content. But specialist guides written by cognoscenti and offering in depth, practical advice, flourish. Even in the age of GPS, pilgrims need help in staying on the straight and narrow. [This guide] steers the walking enthusiast some 345 miles... with excellent maps and detailed routes".
"Perhaps the easiest to follow guide and one of the most thorough guides I’ve come across for an adventure of this kind. If more guidebooks were so thoughfully put together and so easy to follow, it might just keep worries at bay and get more of us out there doing instead."
"What better way to honor St. Francis’ respect and compassion for nature - much-needed today - than to walk in his footsteps along the Via di Francesco, a 550-km route in central Italy, departing from Florence and ending at St. Peter’s Square in Rome, passing through the green heart of Italy, Umbria, and, most importantly, the places and paths touched and loved by Francis himself."
Read more of this article and an interview with the author at Italy Magazine
What makes the itinerary as suggested by Sandy Brown stand out is that it combines the most important sites identified with the life of St Francis into a 550-km long walk, while taking great care to make each of the 28 stages of this walk an enjoyable and scenic daily experience with easy access to services and economical overnight lodging.
A review from Slow Italy
The Way of Francis is a timely trekking guide to a pilgrimage route from Florence through Tuscany, Umbria and Assisi to Rome and its seven pilgrim churches. It specifies the dimensions, highlights and difficulties of each stage in a trip which covers 550 kilometers in 28 days. It pays particularly attention to all the places linked to St.Francis, such as Greccio where he made the first nativity crib and Assisi where he began his mission and where he lies. He came to Rome several times and his memory is preserved at the San Francesco a Ripa church in Trastevere where the cell he occupied can be visited. The American author, Sandy Brown, is an Methodist minister with a degree in mediaeval history. The Way of Francis is a detailed, practical guide well-supplied with maps, graphics and photos as well as historical and cultural ‘boxes’.
See more at: Italian Insider
"Your travel guide on St Francis' way was of great inspiration and I will be using it this summer. It really inspired me to do more hikes this year in the UK too. Can't wait to see which other surprises you have for us!"
Sandy Brown (Rev)
Sanford 'Sandy' Brown is an activist, long-distance walker and ordained minister from Seattle, Washington. After reading 'The Pilgrimage', by Paolo Coelho, he planned his first trek on the Camino de Santiago and since then has walked over 3500 kilometres on pilgrim trails in Spain and Italy. He records his pilgrim adventures in his popular blog, www.caminoist.org.
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