I’m thrilled to be offering old and new friends the opportunity to walk with Theresa and me from Assisi to Rome September 3-15 of this year. I’m working with my friend, Bret Thoman of St. Francis Pilgrimages, and we’ve put together a super itinerary for our group. You can download the PDF and registration form here to learn the details. Suffice to say, it will be the walk of a lifetime.
Since our brochure didn’t have enough room to show some of the most amazing photos of the walk I thought I’d post photos to whet your appetite! The pics come from either my 2013 or 2014 hikes. I’ve also added a little text to explain more of what the days’ journeys will be like.
September 3: Arrival in Assisi. Meet Theresa and me along with fellow pilgrims at an orientation session in St. Francis’ lovely hometown. There’s a pilgrim mass each evening in the lower Basilica of San Francesco, so we’ll enjoy that before having a fine dinner together inside beautiful and beloved Assisi. If you’d like to explore Assisi a little more, you should plan to arrive a day or two early. We can help you make arrangements to have a guided tour of town, or you can simply walk and discover. Enjoy the churches, museums and castle of the town, or just enjoy the Italian sunshine and amazing views to the valley below.
September 4: Assisi to Spello – 11 miles. Spectacular views of the Tiber River Valley greet us as we walk along the slopes of Mount Subasio to beloved Spello, a hill town famous in its own right. On the way we visit Francis’ beloved Carceri Hermitage then relax for lunch or a beverage in Spello. Since the scenery would be very similar for the next two days of the walk, we skip two stages ahead to sophisticated Spoleto, whose historic cathedral holds one of the few handwritten notes of St. Francis (Overnight Spoleto). Option: Avoid the first stiff climb up Subasio with a taxi ride to the Carceri Hermitage where you rejoin the rest of the group.
September 5: Spoleto to Macenano – 12.7 miles. Pass Spoleto’s medieval castle and cross its dramatic Ponte delle Torre bridge into a vast forest. A brisk 45-minute climb takes you to the Monteluco Franciscan convent, and then a long downhill wilderness trail leads you along dramatic gorges into the Valnerina recreational area. Freshen up at your hotel in convenient Macenano and walk to a sumptuous dinner at the ancient Abbey of San Pietro in Valle, a gentle 1.5km above Macenano. (Overnight in Macenano)
September 6: Macenano to Piediluco – 15.5 miles. We walk through farms and pastures to majestic Marmore Falls and serene Lake Piediluco, where St. Francis preached. A climb up to the tiny hill town of Labro gives a peek into life in a medieval village untouched by time. A private van carries you three miles from the shores of Piediluco to the hill town of Labro (Overnight in Labro).
September 7: Labro to Poggio Bustone – 10.5 miles. We leave behind high pastures and walk up to the St. Francis Birch Tree, where tradition says a beech tree protected St. Francis during a harsh winter storm. Walk downhill through lush forests to the hill town of Poggio Bustone, site of the spiritual transformation that began Francis’ ministry (Overnight in a comfortable Poggio Bustone pilgrim hostel). Poggio Bustone dangles on a steep mountainside and its narrow streets are little changed in centuries.
September 8: Poggio Bustone to Rieti – 11 miles. — A quiet and green walk through the gorgeous village of Cantalice and then the Franciscan sanctuary of La Foresta where legend attributes a key miracle to St. Francis. The day ends in nearby Rieti, capital of the Sabine olive-growing region of Italy and itself an historic Roman town (Overnight in a Rieti hotel). Theresa and I loved quiet and scenic Cantalice, with its winding alleys and hidden piazzas.
September 9: Rest Day in Rieti. Central Rieti is a shopper’s paradise, but also has a colorful history since before Roman times. There’s lots to do in this town that is capital of the Sabine olive-growing region, and we’ll stay two nights at a lovely hotel in the heart of Rieti’s old city. The local area is steeped in St. Francis lore, as well, so we’re offering another possibility for those interested:
Option: Rieti/Greccio guided tour. A local expert guides you through the Underground Rieti Salt Road and takes us in a private van to the nearby Franciscan sanctuary of Greccio, the scenic mountainside convent where Francis and local villagers created the first Christmas nativity scene. (Overnight in a Rieti hotel).
September 10: Rieti to Poggio San Lorenzo – 13.5 miles. Walk along the Roman Salt Road through quiet farms of the Sabine Region to the tiny, Roman village of Poggio San Lorenzo (Overnight in Poggio San Lorenzo). This is a mostly flat day’s walk and the scenery of woods, farms and olive groves is much different from the previous days’.
September 11: Poggio San Lorenzo to Ponticelli –14.4 miles. A day of forested ridges, olive groves and sheep pastures with views to castles and quiet villages (Overnight in Ponticelli). The word “undulating” is best to describe the terrain here. With a combination of rocky soil, lots of sun, and regular rain, olive oil from the Sabine area is prized among Italian varieties. Most of the non-agricultural areas are protected forestland, meaning the day’s walk is quiet and far from automobile traffic.
September 12: Ponticelli to Montelibretti – 8.2 miles. Forests and olive groves punctuate today’s walk, with constant views of towering Castello Orsini on one of the nearby forested mountaintops (Overnight in Montelibretti). The Orsini family was a powerful, medieval clan of Roman nobles and their castles and secured the Sabine area and reminded visitors of the power of nearby Rome. Today the castle is restored as an opulent hotel, whose grounds include a lovely swimming pool and excellent restaurant.
September 13 Montelibretti to Monterotondo – 10.3 miles. With Rome near, the territory changes to olive groves and vast fields of grain as you walk through the Gattaceca Nature Reserve. In clear weather the first glimpse of St. Peter’s is visible in the far distance. Enjoy an evening stroll (passegiata) through the delightful Old City (Overnight Monterotondo).
September 14: Monterotondo to Monte Sacro – 12 miles. After half a day’s walk in the peaceful Marcigliana Nature Reserve you will follow sidewalks into the outskirts of urban Rome (Overnight Monte Sacro). The path carefully avoids the congestion of Italy’s largest city and allows a quiet walk through small and large farms. The transition to the outskirts of Rome is abrupt and for the first time on the trek we walk sidewalks next to busy streets — with ample gelato stores along the way!
September 15: Monte Sacro to Vatican – 9.5 miles. Though Rome is bustling around, you will share quiet paths with bicyclists and strollers along the Ariane and Tiber riverfronts until rounding a bend in the Tiber at Castel Sant’Angelo for our final entry into glorious Vatican City. It’s the Holy Year and we will have reservations to walk through the Holy Doors of St. Peter’s Basilica. Pilgrims share a final dinner together at a delightful Roman restaurant (Overnight Rome). Will you plan another day or more to enjoy Rome?
We still have a few places available on the trip. I hope you’ll join us for what will certainly be an unforgettable trip!