Via di Roma, The Way of St. Francis – Full route

Italy

Holiday overview

Destination

Italy


Type

Pilgrim Routes, Self Guided


Difficulty

Moderate


Month

Jan - Dec


Price

£ 2550 pp


Duration

26 nights


The ‘Way of St. Francis'(Roman Way) is a section of the pilgrim route to Rome, a European cultural path which starts in Tuscany and ends in Rome, passing the many areas connected with the life of St. Francis. The route, which also carries the symbol of the keys of St. Peter, finishes in front of St. Peter’s tomb in Rome. Every year many pilgrims and walkers from all over the world follow this path, passing hermitages, sanctuaries, ancient forests, olive groves and valleys rich in art and history.

The ‘Way of St. Francis’ (Roman Way) is a section of the pilgrim route to Rome, a European cultural path which starts in Vienna and ends in Rome, passing the many areas connected with the life of St. Francis. The route, which also carries the symbol of the keys of St. Peter, finishes in front of St. Peter’s tomb in Rome. Every year many pilgrims and walkers from all over the world follow this path, passing hermitages, sanctuaries, ancient forests, olive groves and valleys rich in art and history.

 

This walking route begins in Tuscany, at the La Verna monastery, where St. Francis received the signs of the stigmata. The route then crosses Umbria from north to south and finishes in Rome.

 

This walk can be done in its entirety, taking 26 nights, or in several sections.

 

Price:

£2,550 per person based on two people sharing.

Single supplement: £515.

There is an additional supplement for one person walking alone – please ask.

 

Included:

26 nights accommodation in hotels or agriturismo with private bathrooms; breakfast each day; 8 dinners; transfers as mentioned in the itinerary; walking maps with route instructions; luggage transportation; local back-up.

 

Not Included:

Travel to and from the holiday, meals not mentioned in the programme, drinks with meals, insurance.

 

Departure Dates:

Daily according to accommodation availability from the 1st April until the beginning of November.

Day 1: Arrival at Città di Castello

Arrive at your hotel in the old centre of Città di Castello, a town situated in the Upper Tiber Valley and surrounded by a green landscape of rolling hills. It is a town bubbling with life and an important economical centre of the valley. Worth visiting are the municipal museum -with works by painters such as Raphael, Luca Signorelli, Giovanni and Andrea della Robbia, Pomarancio and Ghirlandaio- and the two museums dedicated to the works of Alberto Burri. On request you can start the tour in the monastery of La Verna.

 

Day 2: La Verna – Pieve Santo Stefano

Distance: 16 km

Walking time: 4 ½ hours

Difficulty: medium

Ascent / descent: + 330m, – 970m

 

After breakfast you will be taken by vehicle to La Verna Abbey, built upon the mountain bearing the same name. This is the spot where Saint Francis received the signs of the stigmata. Still remaining from this period are the small church Santa Maria degli Angeli and the cells of St. Francis and his companions. After your visit of the abbey you will start your first walk, climbing to the top of mount Calvano. From here there are magnificent views over the valley of Pieve Santo Stefano far below.

 

Day 3: Pieve Santo Stefano – Eremo di Cerbaiolo – Montagna

Distance: 24,4 km or 22,5 km

Walking time: 7 or 6hrs 30 min (not visiting the hermitage of Cerbaiolo)

Difficulty: difficult

Ascent / descent: +968m, – 746m

 

Today’s walk leads you to the hermitage ‘eremo di Cerbaiolo’ , the pass ‘Valico di Viamaggio’ and the mountain village of Montagna. Leaving Pieve Santo Stefano the route climbs towards the hermitage. There is a saying that “whoever has visited La Verna and not Cerbaiolo has seen the mother but not the child”. Cerbaiolo is cradled against the mountain, surrounded by an oak wood. It was a dreary and abandoned place when Francis and his companions stayed here in 1216, but two years later the first Franciscan monks came to live here and restored the hermitage.The route continues climbing to the Valico di Viamaggio from which you reach the top of Monte Verde. You descend towards the village of Montagna. Here you will be picked up and brought by taxi (incl. in the price) to Sansepolcro. You will stay in the centre of town. On request you can stay in the monastery of Montecasale about 6 km outside Sansepolcro.

 

Day 4: Montagna – hermitage Montecasale – Sansepolcro

Distance: about 13 km

Walking time: 3 hours

Difficulty: easy

Ascent / descent: + 186m, – 570m

 

After breakfast you will be taken by vehicle back to Montagna. You will walk through woodland with occasional clearings, from which you can enjoy amazing views over the surrounding hills and mountains. Your descent continues to the monastery of Montecasale, where there was once a tavern for pilgrims on their way to the Holy Land. Further downhill you reach Sansepolcro, the birthplace of the painter Piero della Francesca, whose famous painting ‘The resurrection’ can be admired in the town’s museum.

 

Day 5: Sansepolcro – Monterchi – Celle

Distance: about 17,8 km

Walking time: 5 hours

Difficulty:medium

Ascent / descent: + 460m – 260m

 

A shorter walk today with less climbing sees you leave Sansepolcro and cross the fertile Tiber valley and enter the region of Umbria. The terrain becomes more hilly and the route climbs through the woods to the town gate of Citerna, a small medieval town, which is listed as one of the most beautiful villages (borghi) of Italy.

 

Day 6: Monterchi – Città di Castello

Distance:15,1

Walking time: 4 hours

Difficulty: medium

Ascent / descent: + 475m – 674m

 

Today you walk through a hilly landscape with oak woods and fields before arriving in Città di Castello. You will pass the hermitage del Buon Riposo, built on the spot where St. Francis stayed in a cave during his journeys to La Verna. The last stretch of descent will take you past Villa Montesca, where Maria Montessori taught, across the bridge over the Tiber and into the centre of Città di Castello.

 

Day 7: Città di Castello – Pietralunga

Distance: 29,8 or 21,1 km

Walking time: 10 or 7 hours

Difficulty: difficult

Ascent / descent: + 900m, – 607m

 

After breakfast you will be transferred to Mount Sasso to begin a beautiful walk through Umbrian hills. Of particular interest today is Pieve de Saddi, one of the earliest Christian communities. Your walk today finishes at Pietralunga, a small town built on a hilltop. At the main square you can see the remains of the Longobard castle.

 

Day 8: Pietralunga – Gubbio

Distance: 25,2 km

Walking time: 8 hours

Difficulty: difficult

Ascent / descent: + 370m, – 450m

 

Today another spectacular walk awaits you, with beautiful views of the surrounding hills and mountains. You will pass the Abbey of San Benedetto before reaching the high plain of Gubbio. The town not only offers fascinating cultural sights but is also a lively town with small shops, excellent restaurants and cosy squares. You will stay in a hotel near the church of St. Francis in the historical centre of town.

 

Day 9: Gubbio – Biscina

Distance: 22,8 km

Walking time: 7 hours 15

Difficulty: medium – difficult

Ascent / descent: + 520m, – 500m

 

This stage of the ‘Sentiero della Pace’ leads to the castle of Biscina. In the beginning a steep climb brings you out of the valley of Gubbio. Walking through the beautiful surroundings, you will pass the small church of Caprignone, the hermitage of S.Pietro in Vigneto and the chapel Madonna delle Ripe, finishing near the Castle of Biscina.

 

Day 10: Biscina – Valfabbrica

Distance:17,3 km

Walking time: 5 ½ hours

Difficulty: medium

Ascent / descent: + 450m – 360m

 

Passing the small churches of Sambuco and Coccorano, you will walk along the Chiascio River before arriving at Vallfabbrica.

 

Day 11: Valfabbrica – Assisi

Distance:14,4 km

Walking time: 4 ½ hours

Difficulty: medium

Ascent / descent: + 450m – 360m

 

You will make out the castle and basilica of St. Francis from afar before reaching the bridge Ponte Croce, where you can make a short detour and walk in the ‘Forest of St. Francis’. Passing through the town gate known as Porta S.Giacomo, you descend to Assisi with astounding views of the upper church of St.Francis. On the way to your hotel you cross the town centre, passing the famous Franciscan monuments. On request you can stay in the monastery of S.Giuseppe

 

Day 12: Assisi – Spello

Distance: 15,8 km

Walking time: 5 hours

Difficulty: medium / difficult

Ascent / descent: + 690m, – 685m

 

Leave Assisi by the Porta Cappuccini arch and you will enter immediately into the Monte Subasio Natural Park. A steep climb will take you to the hermitage ‘Eremo delle Carceri’ (830m), one of the places which best captures the ‘sense’ of the prayers of St. Francis, who used to retreat here with his most faithful companions to pray and meditate in the silence of the woods. You can visit the cave where St. Francis slept and the ‘devil’s hole’ which is a reminder of his temptation.

From the hermitage you will descend towards Spello, passing the abbey of San Benedetto with its beautiful 11th century crypt. The woods give way to olive groves as you reach the village of Spello, the old Roman castrum clinging to the hillside. Several Roman features remain, including three town gates, the remains of an amphitheatre and some beautiful mosaics. Don’t miss the church of Santa Maria Maggiore, with its beautiful Baglioni chapel decorated with frescoes by Pinturicchio.

 

Day 13: Spello – Trevi

Distance: 19,9 km

Walking time: 6 hours

Difficulty: medium

Ascent/Descent: + 260m -295m

 

A walk along the valley will take you to Foligno, which is one of the few towns built in the valley rather than on the hills. Cross the bridge over the river Topino and enter into the old town centre where you will find an impressive cathedral with two Romanesque façades; the 14th Century Palazzo Trinci, which hosts both an archeological museum and an art gallery; and the Oratorio della Nunziatella (1494) with a fresco by Perugino. At Sant Eraclio the route enters the olive groves and you will pass small hamlets and villages with narrow streets on your way toTrevi.

 

Day 14: Trevi – Poreta

Distance: 13,3 km

Walking time: 4 hours 45 min

Difficulty: medium

Ascent / Descent: + 560m -475m

 

The walking today is a shorter distance but involves a number of of uphill and downhill stretches on hills covered with olive groves and woods. You climb to an old Franciscan hermitage which now houses an enclosed order, then you descend through the olive groves before walking up to Campello Alto, at 514m above sea level. This is a fortified hill village built in 921 by Rovero di Champeause, baron of Burgundy. A last downhill-then-uphill stretch will bring you to Castello di Poreta, where you will stay overnight. Your accommodation is in an isolated position on a hill and offers a wonderful panoramic view over the Spoleto valley.

 

Day 15: Poreta – Spoleto

Distance: 16,1 km

Walking time: 5 hours

Difficulty: medium – hard

Ascent / Descent: +550m -464m

 

See Osteria where there was once a hotel for pilgrims, before climbing to Bazzano superiore, then passing the remains of a castle you will come to Bazzano inferiore. Emerge into the olive groves above Eggi, which is built on the top of a small hill and has a 14th Century castle. A quiet country lane then brings you to Spoleto, once a Lombard duchy. Spoleto is a proud medieval town, with a beautiful cathedral (il Duomo) and an impressive castle which dominates the town from above.

 

Day 16: Spoleto – Patrico

Distance: 9,7 km

Walking time: 3 hours 45

Difficulty: medium

Ascent / Descent: +704m -180m

 

From the Ponte delle Torri you will climb to Monteluco before entering the ‘sacred’ woods of Monteluco. These woods were recognised as having a mystical atmosphere even in ancient times, and were treated with fear and respect. St. Francis was attracted by the mysticism of the place and in 1218 the Franciscans built a small sanctuary here. Inside this monastery are the grotto of St. Francis, now a chapel, and the tiny cells of the monks. Still climbing, you will reach the highest point of today’s route at the pass of Castel del Monte, where you will leave the Via di San Francesco to go to the hamlet of Patrico where you will stay for the night.

 

Day 17: Patrico – Monterivoso (Ferentillo)

Distance: 21,2 km

Walking time: 6 hours

Difficulty: medium

Ascent / Descent: +120m -830m

 

Walk back to Castelmonte to re-join the route and begin the decent into the Valle del Nera towards Ferentillo. The walking will be largely through fields and following the winding river. You leave the route in Ferentillo for your hotel in Monterivoso.

 

Day 18: Monterivoso – Piediluco

Distance: 15,3 km

Walking Time: 51/2 hours

Difficulty: medium

Ascent / Descent: +180m -60m

 

Continue along the river Nera today before reaching the impressive ‘Cascate delle Marmore’ waterfalls, artificially created during the Roman period. You will walk on until you reach the lake of Piediluco, where you find your hotel for the night. It is said that St. Francis visited Piediluco several times on his journeys to Rome or Rieti. Overnight in Piediluco.

 

Day 19: Piediluco -Poggio Bustone

Distance:18,7 km

Walking time: about 5 ½ hrs

Difficulty: heavy

Ascent-Descent: + 750m -450m

 

Today you will pass the evocative Labro and the characteristic village of Morro Reatino, which still has a beautiful castle gate and the remains of its old medieval town walls and towers. Continue your walk towards Francis’s beech: a tree so well-loved that it has itself become a little living sanctuary. The beech tree is famous for its exceptional shape, with branches which are sinuously interwoven creating waves and knots of unusual beauty. It is said that the tree assumed this shape to shelter Saint Francis from a storm which took him by surprise during a solitary retreat. The last stretch takes you on a shortcut downhill on mule tracks to the village of Poggio Bustone where St. Francis slept in a cave in the rocks. Today in this place there is a small church known as ‘Sacro Speco’ (the ‘Holy Cave’). From Poggio Bustone you will be transported by vehicle to your hotel in Rieti.

 

Day 20: Poggio Bustone – Rieti

Distance: 17 km

Walking time: 5 hrs 10 min

Difficulty: medium

Ascent-Descent: + 210m -625m

 

After breakfast you will be transferred back to Poggio Bustone for your walk on to Rieti. You will pass through the enchanting Cantalice, and the sanctuary of La Foresta, walking very near to the impressive Mount Terminillo.

After about 5 hours of walking you will arrive in Rieti, your final destination for today. The WWF has created a trail along the river here which allows visitors to admire some of the most beautiful corners of Rieti, surrounded by greenery and in pleasant coolness thanks to the waters of the river Velino. You will be able to wander around the streets of this splendid town and enjoy a tasty dinner in one of the many characteristic local restaurants. A guided tour of underground Rieti is available. Your overnight stay will be in the same hotel as the previous night.

 

Day 21: Rieti – Poggio San Lorenzo

Distance:21,7 km

Walking time: 6hrs

Difficulty: medium to difficult

Ascent and Descent: + 274m -230m

 

Leaving Rieti today you will walk along part of the Via Salaria (the Salt Road) which connected the Tirrenian coast with the Adriatic coast. The village of Poggio San Lorenzo dates back to the Roman period and nearby is the famous animal park ‘Giardino Faunistico di Piano dell’Abatino’ where you can walk among downy oaks, holm oaks, field maples, manna ashes, Turkey oaks and hornbeams. The park is also home to around 300 native and exotic animals including sloths, chital deer, Bennett’s tree-kangaroos, meerkats, lamas, roe deer and raccoons.

 

Day 22: Poggio San Lorenzo – Ponticelli di Scandriglia

Distance: 21,7 km

Walking time: 6 hrs

Difficulty: medium

Total Ascent-Descent: +670m -770m

 

The scenery is particularly beautiful today thanks to the combination of ancient oaks, the archeological area of the ancient Sabine town of Trebula Mutuesca and the church of Santa Vittoria.

Continuing on your way you will reach the village of Poggio Moiano which rests at the foot of Mount Moiano and is famed for the floral pictures created for the solemn procession during the Feast of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus (the last Saturday in June). Also in the area protected by the Lucretili mountains is the village of Scandriglia, another little marvel which we will encounter today.

At the end of the today you can visit the sanctuary of Santa Maria delle Grazie, which has welcomed a good number of saints, before you are transferred to your hotel in Osteria Nuova.

 

Day 23: Ponticelli di Scandriglia – Montelibretti

Distance:14,4 km

Walking time: 4 hrs

Difficulty: medium

Toatal Ascent-Descent: +414m -200m

 

This morning you are transferred back to the route, which today crosses the road for Nerola, where you can visit the Orsini castle perched on a high rocky outcrop. Through the countryside you walk on to Montelibretti with its 10th Century Palazzo Barberini. The olive mills here might tempt you in for an olive oil tasting. Your overnight stay is close to the old centre of town.

 

Day 24: Montelibretti – Monterotondo

Distance: 17,2 km

Walking time: 5 hrs 15 min

Difficulty: medium

Ascent-Descent: +289m -262m

 

You leave Montelibretti and soon the olive groves of the hills give way to vast orchards. At the end of your day’s walking the Via Salaria will lead you to Monterotondo, where there is plenty to see: the basilica of S. Maria Maddalena, the church of Madonna delle Grazie, and the Palazzo Orsini-Barberini, where you can admire the dining room frescoed by the Flemish artist Paul Brill.

You stay overnight in the centre of Monterotondo.

 

Day 25: Monterotondo – Monte Sacro

Distance: 18,3 km

Walking time: 5 hrs

Difficulty: medium

Ascent-Descent: +13m -125m

 

The route today is mostly flat walking. You will enter the Natural Park of Marcigliana, a protected nature reserve which preserves all the charm of the Roman countryside with its gentle hills and valleys marked by deep ditches. The site of one of the most ancient towns of protohistoric Lazio, Crustumerium, was discovered here in the Marcigliana area. Leaving the Park behind you will find yourself approaching Rome, the climax of the Via di Roma. The end of today’s walk brings you to Montesacro, a district of Rome which was founded in 1924. Among the places of interest is the Acqua Sacra water spring where many Romans come to fill up their bottles with mineral water straight from the source.

 

Day 26: Monte Sacro – Basilica di S.Pietro

Distance: 15,3 km

Walking time: 4 hrs 15 min

Difficulty: easy

Ascent- Descent: +30m -0m

 

Today you complete the final section of the Via di Roma. You will pass near the Mosque and the ‘Parco della Musica’ auditorium which hosts the big musical events of Rome. You will cross one of Rome’s oldest bridges, the Ponte Milvio and continue along the right bank of the Tiber to the beautiful Ponte Sant’Angelo bridge, which since medieval times has been the most frequented route for pilgrims heading for Saint Peter’s. Pass Castel Sant’Angelo and finally, you will walk along Via della Conciliazione to reach the impressive Basilica of Saint Peter.

 

Day 27: departure after breakfast