Just in: 2018 Updates to the Way of St Francis guidebook

Dear friends,

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The Way of St Francis guidebook has been a big success, launched into its Second Printing in only 18 months. As with any pilgrim route, changes on the ground require constant updates so that walkers have the most accurate and current information. In September and October 2017 I walked the entire route and was able to verify existing info while discovering some changes of which pilgrims should be aware. Hence the comprehensive updates below.

Many of the edits also come thanks to those who’ve shared their comments and ideas with me over the last years since the book’s original publication. Each of the suggestions has helped to make a better end result and for this help I am extremely grateful.

Check the comprehensive lodging list for complete and current information on lodging contacts.

The GPX tracks for the stage have also been carefully edited and updated. Please make certain to use the tracks files marked “2018” when you download them from Cicerone Press.

The Via di Francesco/Way of St Francis is a wonderful pilgrimage walk for those looking to be immersed in nature, Italian culture and cuisine, and some of Italy’s most amazing historical sites. Enjoy!

– Sandy Brown

Key: All text in black updates the 2015 printing. These updates are already included in the 2017 printing. Text in red updates both the 2015 and 2017 printing. Green text updates both printings.

Introduction

The Modern Way of St Francis

  • The Di Qui Passo San Francesco has recently merged with the Via di Francesco and has been retired as an official route. However, some markings still remain on the trail.

Getting There

  • Perugia/Assisi/San Francesco Airport (PEG) – Now serves London (Stansted), Catania, Bucharest, Tirana, Trapani, Brussels (Charleroi) and Munich.

Getting Around

  • Train – Train service is also available at Marmore (Stage 21).

Pilgrim credential and testimonium

  • Delete former credential instructions –

Go to the website: http://www.piccolaccoglienzagubbio.it and download the credential application form. Fill it out and either send the completed form via email to credenzialedelpellegrino@gmail.com or by mail to:

Piccola Accoglienza Gubbio
via Baldassini 22
06024 Gubbio PG, Italia

This wonderful service is run by volunteers, who send credentials out each week. Make sure to show your address exactly as it should appear to be correctly mailed by your national postal service. Allow 6-8 weeks for delivery.

It is also possible to secure a credential in person at the Pilgrim Office adjacent to the Lower Basilica di San Francesco in Assisi. By the time of publication credentials should be available at St James Episcopal Church in Florence (Via Rucellai 9, 055 294417).

  • Minimum mileage – 100km is the minimum walking distance required to receive a testimonium in Assisi or Rome.

 Maps, GPS and Waymarking

  • Delete OpenCycleMaps download – Open Street Maps can easily be downloaded into excellent hiking apps like Galileo Pro on your smartphone. 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.

 Accommodation

  • Hostels – Pilgrim hostels usually offer blankets and pillows. Plan to bring a sleeping bag liner and hiking towel since linens are rarely offered.

Business Hours and the Riposo

  • Riposo – In small towns and villages this can make it a challenge to find groceries on Sunday mornings, so be certain to plan ahead.

When to Go

  • Climate – July 1 through August 15 are historically the hottest weeks of the year and are best avoided unless you’re ready for very hot temperatures.

(New Section) Water Fountains

  • Only occasionally are there water fountains in the middle of a stage and when there are, they are seldom marked for drinkability. Our maps show locations of water fountains that are confirmed as potable, but carrying a 2-liter water supply in fall and spring and a 3-liter supply in the summer is recommended.

Training

  • The often steep hills will challenge anyone who hasn’t trained adequately in advance, though most anyone will find themselves stronger and more fit after walking several days.

Discovering Florence

  • Basilica Santa Croce – Cost of admission to Basilica Santa Croce is now € 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 1 – Florence to Pontassieve

Stage 2 – Pontassieve to Consuma

  • Difficulty – Replace “Moderate” with “Hard.”
  • Forest logging – Use of GPS is important in this section due to recent logging on the forest trails.
  • Consuma – Cammere Carletti has new contact information: http://www.affitticonsuma.it, tel 346 7916151, irina.consuma@yahoo.com, €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.
  • Corrected info – Email for Hotel Miramonti is info@hotelmiramonti-ar.com. 45/65 Euro price includes breakfast. Dinner and sack lunch are available.

Stage 3 – Consuma to Stia

  • Difficulty – Replace “Hard” with “Moderate.”
  • Distance – Replace 17km with 16.5km
  • General Description – Delete phrases “A couple of very steep climbs make this a difficult walk, but otherwise this is…” and retain “A long, downhill hike on forested mountain paths and quiet farm roads. Leave early to enjoy the delightful town of Stia on the banks of the Arno.”
  • Stia – The new phone number for Albergo Falterona is 0575 583545.
  • Updated route and GPX tracks – Local stewards have redirected the original route from Campolombardo into Stia. In the paragraph beginning “In a couple of hundred meters…” delete everything from “After a creek crossing on stones….” until “The lane quickly arrives in the heart of Stia’s Centro Storico with Chiesa Santa Maria Assunta, as well as restaurants, shops, bars and hotel Albergo Falterona. Insert these paragraphs:

“After a creek crossing on stones, take the wide gravel road to the left, following it for 500m until it reaches small farms and then another 600m as it becomes a paved road. Views to the left include the Convent of Santa Maria della Grazie built in 1432 to mark an apparition of the Virgin Mary. Continue on this road, the Strada Comunale di Sassi Bianchi, turning left at the first intersection. Continue on this quiet country road, now the Via Londa, walking its switchbacks downhill.

At a bridge with low stone walls cross the headwaters of the Arno River. At the stop sign turn right onto a paved, two lane road. Continue on past the furniture factory and just after the Via Dante Alighieri/Castello Porciano signs on the left, turn right at the “Firenze 49” sign onto the Via della Campo Sportivo for a 400m shortcut down to a soccer field at the valley floor. At the far end of the field and before the parking lot turn left following the sign marked “Centro Storico” up a stairway and along a covered alley to the picturesque town square of Stia. Here you’ll find many of the town’s shops, bars and restaurants as well as the Santa Maria Assunta church, where today’s stage ends.”

  • Laundry – A coin-operated launderette is three blocks past Fattoria La Foresta on the right.

Stage 4 – Stia to Camaldoli

  • Variant – Watch out for the variant at the Giogo Secchieta 76 trailhead (Paragraph beginning “In 100m come to an asphalt road….”) that directs you to Camaldoli Monastery. Although the track will allow you to reach the Monastery it does so by sacrificing a visit to the Camaldoli Hermitage.
  • Correction – In paragraph that begins “The trail goes steeply upward….” Delete the final sentence “In this area watch also for signs…..”

Stage 5 – Camaldoli to Badia Prataglia

  • General Description – This section of the Sacre Foreste is notoriously bereft of way marks. Look carefully for red/white CAI markings to lead the way.

Stage 6 – Badia Prataglia to Santuario della Verna

  • Santicchio – An overnight at the Mountain Retreat Casa Santicchio (www.santicchio.org, tel. 0575 1787586, info@santicchio.org, 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. No bed linens are available.

Stage 7 – Santuario della Verna to Pieve Santo Stefano

  • Additional lodging option — Check also Camping La Civetta (Via la Civetta 11, 338 4689145, info@lacivetta.it) with its beds in bungalows and tents. Linens available. Cooking possible, breakfast by request.

Stage 8 – Pieve Santo Stefano to Sansepolcro

  • Trail revision and revised GPX tracks – A logging operation in late 2014 has almost completely obscured the trail described in the guidebook. However there is a nearby variant that works fine. In the paragraph that begins “The road turns to gravel…” delete the directions from the end of the sentence that begins“Follow this straight…. “ all the way to the end of the paragraph. Replace it with:

At the first freeway underpass, cross beneath and head up the driveway to a house and outbuildings. Walk past the house and continue on through the gate. Soon the two-track road passes a clear-cut section of the forest and becomes a single-track pathway. When it reaches the gravel road, turn left.

  • Montedoglio Bridge to Levee Road  — Local owners have closed off the path through their private property, so it is important to note this change. Starting with the paragraph that begins, “Turn right here…” through the next paragraph up to the start of the sentence: “Now you are atop the levee (bank)….,” insert this text:

“Turn right here and continue 400m to the concrete bridge across an arm of the Lago Montedoglio reservoir (10.5km). Cross the bridge and continue on the quiet country road, disregarding the markings that have you turn off the road. After  2.9km come to an intersection with the SP 47 road. Turn left and follow the road downhill into the tiny village of Motina. Take the first left at the charming stone building toward Le Vignacce and then take the first right, noting the CAI marker and arrows on the utility pole next to the gravel road.” Now you are atop a Levee…..

  • 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. The hostel closed in late 2016, so there is currently no overnight option in Montecasale.
  • 2.MontecasaleOption2.MontecasaleOption
  • Important sightseeing tip – The town’s Palazzo della Residenza (via Aggiunti 65, http://www.museocivicosansepolcro.it, contains one of the great frescoes of the Renaissance, Resurrection by Piero della Francesca, painted in the 1460’s.
  • Sansepolcro – A new pilgrim hostel, Accoglienza a Sansepolcro, welcomes guests at Il Convento dell Suore Olivetane (Via Ricci, 339 6856139, dfr.ricci@gmail.com, €15, by reservation only)

Stage 9 – Sansepolcro to Citerna

  • Additional Citerna lodging – Agriturismo Draghi is located 3km away in Monterchi, but can pick up pilgrims with in Citerna. Corrected phone is Agriturismo Draghi is 339 3959147 With a true pilgrim welcome is Tao B&B (Loacalità le Pietre 97, 331 7431965, bbtao.citerna@gmail.com, €20/30, 2km from Citerna but 100m off the trail).

Stage 10 – Citerna to Città di Castello

  • Change to Note – Agriturismo Le Burgne offers breakfast to pilgrims, but otherwise food is not available between Citerna and Città di Castello.
  • Le Burgne corrected contact info – 329 0192923, info@agriturismoleburgne.it.
  • 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.
  • Lodging addition – Santa Cecilia monastery of the Clarisse sisters has rooms by donation (Via della Fraternita 1, 075 8553066, clarissesantacecilia@alice.it).

Stage 11 – Citta di Castello to Pietralunga

  • Candeggio contact info – camminodipace@gmail.com. Cost is 15 Euros per person with 10 Euro dinner available.
  • Pieve di Saddi – Contact info change: phone is 329 5620677
  • Il Pioppa Casa – Provides dinner upon request.
  • Correction – Pieve di Saddi is misplaced on the Città di Castello to Pietralunga map (p. 117). Please note the correct placement in the image below.

3.PievediSaddi

Stage 12 – Pietralunga to Gubbio

  • Loreto – Hostel available (Loreto parish hostel, Località Loreto, 346 0899676, luca.cencetti@hotmail.com. Donation. Kitchen available.)
  • Gubbio – Admission to the Palazzo dei Consoli museum is €
  • Gubbio – The correct email address of the Convento di San Secondo is biblioteca.steuco@libero.it.
  • 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 http://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.
  • Gubbio accommodation – Gubbio is served by the pilgrim accommodation line (tel 366 1118386 piccolaccoglienzagubbio@gmail.com) whose volunteers send out Via di Francesco credentials and also help pilgrims find lodging in Gubbio. There are no fewer than nine parochial hostels that offer pilgrim lodging, including Instituto Maestre Pier Filippini (Corso Garibaldi 100, tel 075 9273768, maestrepiefgubbio@virgilio.it, donation), Convento di Sant’Ubaldo (Via Monte Ingino 5, tel 075 9273872, stefanobocciolesi@liber.it, Donation) and Convento di San Secondo (Via Madonna del Ponte 4, tel 075 9273869). Among the hotel options are Grotta dell’Angelo Hotel (Via Gioia 47, tel 075 9271747, info@grottadellangelo.it, from €36/52 plus €6 for breakfast), Hotel Gattapone (Via Beni 11, tel 075 9272489, info@hotelgattapone.net, €50/60), just off Piazza San Giovanni. Look also for Residenza di via Dante (Via Dante 32, tel 075 7772674, info@residenzaviadante.it, €25/80.

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 a pilgrim hostel (sanpietroinvigneto@gmail.com, kitchen available, no food, please make a donation to help out this new pilgrim ministry).
  • Agriturismo Sosta San Francesco – Is two km off the trail on the main Gubbio/Assisi highway.

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. If you travel in late September or early October be certain to book your lodging well in advance since St. Francis day each 4 October bustles with pilgrims.
  • 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 and includes prayers for those who have registered as leaving or arriving at the pilgrim office in Assisi.
  • Assisi Pilgrim Hostel – Is located at Via degli Episcopi 1, 3450 343171, http://www.confraternitadisanjacopo.it, by donation, open April through October)
  • Additional Assisi Accommodation – American Rebecca Winke welcomes pilgrims at her Brigolante Guest Apartments (Vicolo della Fortezza 2A, tel 331 2222349, info@brigolante.com, €75/90 for 1-4 guests).

Stage 16 – Assisi to Spello

  • Additional accommodations – In Urbe apartments (Via Giulia 97, 0742 301145, info@inurbe.it, €75 double), Franciscan missionary sisters at Convento Piccolo San Damiano (Via Fonte Vecchia 22 tel 0742 651182).
  • Email for Monastero di Santa Chiara is santachiara.cnn@gmail.com and phone is 0742 78613.
  • Delete — Hotel del Prato Paolucci
  • Corrected contact information – Convento Santa maria Maddalena is tel0742 302259, address is Via Cavour 1.

Stage 17 – Spello to Trevi

  • Foligno – Additional accommodation option is Afittacamere Rosella (Via Giuseppe Garibaldi 123, tel 740 72340, €15, kitchen available).
  • Additional accommodation in Trevi — La Casareccia pizzeria has rooms in the summer (tel 0742-780994, closed Mondays), and in the Piazza del Municipio the Residence Sant’Emiliano has double and triple rooms. Ask for pilgrim prices (residences.emiliano@libero.it, tel 348 2285443).

Stage 18 – Trevi to Spoleto

  • Correction: Delete the following sentence in this paragraph is incorrect so 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).
    • First alternative for reaching the bicycle path – After this paragraph: ‘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.”TreviExitOption
    • 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”RevisedSpoleto
  • 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.’
    • 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.SpoletoEntry
  • New GPX track – Please make certain to download and use the revised GPX track entitled “18.TrevitoSpoleto2015”
  • Spoleto lodging – Hotel Aurora is closed. B&B Villa Massaccesi (Via XVII Settembre 11, tel 0743 48015, info@villamassaccesi.it) offers a 10% pilgrim discount and use of the kitchen. Check for pilgrim prices at the Casa Religiosa di Ospitalita San Ponziano (via della Basilica di San Salvatore 2, tel 0743 225288, info@sanponziano.it. http://www.sanponziano.it) and at Ostello Villa Redenta (Via di Villa Redenta 1, tel 0743 224936, info@villaredenta.com, €20/40).

Stage 19 – Spoleto to Ceselli

  • Closure of Ponte delli Torre Bridge – (Note: The bridge was temporarily closed on 25 August 2016 for seismic studies. Check with the Tourist Office to confirm the bridge will be open the day of your walk. If it is closed, walk around to the opposite side via historic Basilica San Pietro.)
  • Casa Vacanze Il Ruscello – New phone number is 340 2296792. Pilgrims indicate the use of kitchen is no longer allowed.
  • Ceselli hostel contact – Lina at 339 2428928 or Catia at 333 8430385.
  • Ceselli Community Center – Unlike in the photograph, this center has now been enclosed with windows and doors.

Stage 21 – Arrone to Piediluco

  • Cascata delle Marmore – Please note the recommended but unmarked lower entry to Marmore Falls which removes the need to climb back down inside the park to get to the bottom of the falls. (Take the unmarked part just after the green gate and follow it to the right. Cross a field and parking lot to reach the lower ticket office)
  • Lodging at Cascata delle Marmore – Lodging available at Il Casolare della Cascata, SS Valnerina 209 tel 0744 62362, info@ilcasolaredellacascata.com, €25 per person
  • 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.’)
    • 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, info@albergodiffusocrispolti.com)
  • 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.”
  • Steep shortcut from Faggio San Francesco – Insert this paragraph before the paragraph beginning “After a rest, take the road left…”
    • If you’re not afraid of steep trails, a shortcut to Poggio Bustone lies here at the chapel. Cross to the bottom of the cow pasture behind the chapel to the fire pit where you’ll see a CAI marker reading “Poggio Bustone.” Follow this trail downhill on a steep bank to a gravel road      below. Turn right on the gravel road and follow it to the marker for the CAI 419 trail. Turn left on the trail and proceed as described below.
  • Easier route that avoids the cross-country track – In the paragraph beginning “After a rest, take the road left…” insert this additional sentence at the end of the paragraph:
    • You may also turn right and follow the paved road for a somewhat longer but less slippery alternative.
  • 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.’)
    • 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.”
  • New Poggio Bustone Accommodation – At the bottom of the village, Hotel Villa Tizzi (Via Villa Tizzi 4, 0746 688956, info@villatizzi.it, €50/70 includes breakfast) has beautiful views of the valley.

Stage 23 – Poggio Bustone to Rieti

  • La Foresta accommodation – (The sanctuary has five bedrooms for pilgrims tel 0746 200727 by donation. Delete prior contact info. At 500m after the gates is Le Querce di Tara, via Foresta 37, 348 4273023 mauro.rinaldi@over-service.it, €15 per person).
  • 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, rietidascoprire@vocafone.it , €25, breakfast by request). Centro Spiritualità Madre Cabrini offers rooms (Via S Francesca Cabrini 5, tel 746200727, villacabrini@virgilio.it, pilgrim prices).

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, ancellescuore@libero.it, €40 incl breakfast and dinner. By reservation only).
  • Poggio San Lorenzo – A new accommodation, La Sosta del Pellegrino, is now available in the heart of Poggio San Lorenzo (Via Quinzia 28, Francesco tel 3921 445940 or Rosaria 3336 359291, info@camminidellarte.it, €15).
  • New stage ending – is now at Poggio San Lorenzo Piazza rather than Agriturismo Santa Giusta.
  • PoggioSanLorenzo

Stage 25 – Poggio San Lorenzo to Ponticelli

  • Revision to Notes – Strikeout former paragraph and replace with “Rolling hills with steep but brief ascents make this a deceptively challenging stage.”
  • New accommodation in Monteleone – (B&B Santa Vittoria (Via Mutuesca 181, tel 347 5988875, b.b-santavittoria@libero.it)
  • Ponticelli – A new agriturismo offers accommodation just before Ponticelli. Giuseppe welcomes you at Casale delle Stelle (Via XX Settembre 16, http://www.casaledellestelle.it, 3382 261916, settimi@hotmail.it, from €59 for a double room. Breakfast, dinner and laundry are available).
  • Additional phone number for Ponticelli hostel – call Daniela at 347 3120149.

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, parrocchia@duomosantamariamaddalena.it, tel 0690 626060, by donation)

 

Stage 27 – Monterotondo to Monte Sacro

  • Water tower — is at 16.9 km from start of stage.
  • Correct street name in Monte Sacro – replace “Via Nomentana” with “Corso Sempione.”MonteSacro
  • 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, http://www.cittagiardino.com, tel 3355 637986, info@cittagiardino.com, €50/70 single incl breakfast). Delete Minerva Casa Vacanze. Add the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (Piazza Vulture 15, tel 068 293786, €35) and Casa Per Ferie Santa Rita (Via Nomentana 514, tel 068 6800016) are both options. See also B&B Happy Goose (Via Forzano 20, tel 347 7697735, info@bnbhappygoose.it, €20/25 pilgrim price).

Stage 28 – Monte Sacro to Vaticano

  • Milvian Bridge info – site of the Battle of the Milvian Bridge on October 28, 312. Because of a dream the night before the battle, Constantine fought under the Christian banner and his victory the next day is marked as the beginning of Christianity’s acceptance as the official religion of the Roman Empire.Vaticano
  • Alternate Route to Vatican – beginning at the “giant red geometric sculpture” It’s possible here to leave the official route and opt for a more urban (and interesting) itinerary. Go straight here and in one block turn left onto the Via Flaminia, which you follow 1.5km to the imposing city gate just before Piazza del Popolo. Pass through the gate and immediately look to your left for Basilica Santa Maria del Popolo, home to works by Raphael, Bernini, Caravaggio, Bramante and others. Continue diagonally through the piazza, veering right on Via Ripeta, which you follow 1.1km during which it becomes Via della Scrofa. Turn right onto Via Sant’Agostino, passing Piazza Sant’Agostino on the right. In just two blocks you see the entrance to Piazza Navona with its Fountain of the Rivers by Bernini. Keep the entrance to your left and continue straight instead as the road narrows to become Via dei Coronari, a delightfully authentic Renaissance lane named for the rosary bead makers (corone in Italian) who labored here. Follow Via dei Coronari 450m until its end, cross Via di Panico and then take the first right onto Via del Banco di Santo Spirito. Just a block ahead is the beautiful Ponte Sant’Angelo bridge with its angelic sculptures. Cross the bridge toward Castel Sant’ Angelo, turn left and you see St. Peter’s Basilica straight ahead.
  • Pilgrim Office off St. Peter’s Square – It is no longer necessary to pass through the guards in order to secure your Testimonium. Instead, look for the Opera Romanum Peregrinorum 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 at the Sacristy in St. Peter’s Basilica. Use your pilgrim credential as your entry pass. The Sacristy is usually closed for riposo between 1:00 and 4:00.

 

Latest book updates for the Way of St Francis

With the updates in the second printing of the Way of St Francis: From Florence to Assisi and Rome there are many who are left with the original printing who don’t have the second printing updates. Here’s a post that fixes that, sharing the most important updates between the first and second printing. This update is also available in PDF form here Way of St Francis Updates-2017a.

Introduction

The Modern Way of St Francis

  • The Di Qui Passo San Francesco has recently merged with the Via di Francesco and has been retired as an official route. However, some markings still remain on the trail.

Getting There

  • Perugia/Assisi/San Francesco Airport (PEG) – Now serves London (Stansted), Catania, Bucharest, Tirana, Trapani, Brussels (Charleroi) and Munich.

Getting Around

  • Train – Train service is also available at Marmore (Stage 21).

Pilgrim credential and testimonium

Piccola Accoglienza Gubbio
via Baldassini 22
06024 Gubbio PG, Italia.

This wonderful service is run by volunteers, who send credentials out each week. Make sure to show your address exactly as it should appear to be correctly mailed by your national postal service. Allow 6-8 weeks for delivery.

It is also possible to secure a credential in person at the Pilgrim Office adjacent to the Lower Basilica di San Francesco in Assisi. By the time of publication credentials should be available at St James Episcopal Church in Florence (Via Rucellai 9, 055 294417).

  • Minimum mileage – 100km is the minimum walking distance required to receive a testimonium in Assisi or Rome.

 Maps, GPS and Waymarking

  • Delete OpenCycleMaps download – Open Street Maps can easily be downloaded into excellent hiking apps like Galileo Pro on your smartphone. 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.

 Accommodation

  • Hostels – Pilgrim hostels usually offer blankets and pillows. Plan to bring a sleeping bag liner and hiking towel since linens are rarely offered.

Business Hours and the Riposo

  • Riposo – In small towns and villages this can make it a challenge to find groceries on Sunday mornings, so be certain to plan ahead.

When to Go

  • Climate – July 1 through August 15 are historically the hottest weeks of the year and are best avoided unless you’re ready for very hot temperatures.

(New Section) Water Fountains

  • Only occasionally are there water fountains in the middle of a stage and when there are, they are seldom marked for drinkability. Our maps show locations of water fountains that are confirmed as potable, but carrying a 2-liter water supply in fall and spring and a 3-liter supply in the summer is recommended.

Training

  • The often steep hills will challenge anyone who hasn’t trained adequately in advance, though most anyone will find themselves stronger and more fit after walking several days.

Discovering Florence

  • Basilica Santa Croce – Cost of admission to Basilica Santa Croce is now € 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 1 – Florence to Pontassieve

Stage 2 – Pontassieve to Consuma

  • Difficulty – Replace “Moderate” with “Hard.”
  • Forest logging – Use of GPS is important in this section due to recent logging on the forest trails.
  • Consuma – Cammere Carletti has new contact information: http://www.affitticonsuma.it, tel 346 7916151, irina.consuma@yahoo.com, €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.
  • Corrected info – Email for Hotel Miramonti is info@hotelmiramonti-ar.com. 45/65 Euro price includes breakfast. Dinner and sack lunch are available.

Stage 3 – Consuma to Stia

  • Difficulty – Replace “Hard” with “Moderate.”
  • Stia – The new phone number for Albergo Falterona is 0575 583545.

Stage 4 – Stia to Camaldoli

  • Variant – Watch out for the variant at SP 72 that directs you to Camaldoli Monastery. This variant missed a visit to the Camaldoli Hermitage.

Stage 6 – Badia Prataglia to Santuario della Verna

  • Santicchio – An overnight at the Mountain Retreat Casa Santicchio (www.santicchio.org, tel. 0575 1787586, info@santicchio.org, 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 7 – Santuario della Verna to Pieve Santo Stefano

  • Additional lodging option — Check also Camping La Civetta (Via la Civetta 11, 338 4689145, info@lacivetta.it) with its beds in bungalows and tents. Linens available. Cooking possible, breakfast by request.

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. The hostel closed in late 2016, so there is currently no overnight option in Montecasale.

Montecasale Option start

Montecasale option end

  • Important sightseeing tip – The town’s Palazzo della Residenza (via Aggiunti 65, http://www.museocivicosansepolcro.it, contains one of the great frescoes of the Renaissance, Resurrection by Piero della Francesca, painted in the 1460’s.
  • Sansepolcro – A new pilgrim hostel, Accoglienza a Sansepolcro, welcomes guests at Il Convento dell Suore Olivetane (Via Ricci, 339 6856139, dfr.ricci@gmail.com, €15, by reservation only)

Stage 9 – Sansepolcro to Citerna

  • Additional Citerna lodging – Agriturismo Draghi is located 3km away in Monterchi, but can pick up pilgrims with in Citerna. Corrected phone is Agriturismo Draghi is 339 3959147 With a true pilgrim welcome is Tao B&B (Loacalità le Pietre 97, 331 7431965, bbtao.citerna@gmail.com, €20/30, 2km from Citerna but 100m off the trail).

Stage 10 – Citerna to Citta di Castello

  • Le Burgne corrected contact info – 329 0192923, info@agriturismoleburgne.it.
  • 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.
  • Lodging addition – Santa Cecilia monastery of the Clarisse sisters has rooms by donation (Via della Fraternita 1, 075 8553066, clarissesantacecilia@alice.it).

Stage 11 – Citta di Castello to Pietralunga

  • Candeggio contact info – camminodipace@gmail.com. Cost is 15 Euros per person with 10 Euro dinner available.
  • Pieve di Saddi – Contact info change: phone is 329 5620677
  • Il Pioppa Casa – Provides dinner upon request.

Stage 12 – Pietralunga to Gubbio

  • Loreto – Hostel available (Loreto parish hostel, Località Loreto, 346 0899676, luca.cencetti@hotmail.com. Donation. Kitchen available.)
  • Gubbio – Admission to the Palazzo dei Consoli museum is €
  • Gubbio – The correct email address of the Convento di San Secondo is biblioteca.steuco@libero.it.
  • 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 http://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.
  • Gubbio accommodation – Gubbio is served by the pilgrim accommodation line (tel 366 1118386 piccolaccoglienzagubbio@gmail.com) whose volunteers send out Via di Francesco credentials and also help pilgrims find lodging in Gubbio. There are no fewer than nine parochial hostels that offer pilgrim lodging, including Instituto Maestre Pier Filippini (Corso Garibaldi 100, tel 075 9273768, maestrepiefgubbio@virgilio.it, donation), Convento di Sant’Ubaldo (Via Monte Ingino 5, tel 075 9273872, stefanobocciolesi@liber.it, Donation) and Convento di San Secondo (Via Madonna del Ponte 4, tel 075 9273869). Among the hotel options are Grotta dell’Angelo Hotel (Via Gioia 47, tel 075 9271747, info@grottadellangelo.it, from €36/52 plus €6 for breakfast), Hotel Gattapone (Via Beni 11, tel 075 9272489, info@hotelgattapone.net, €50/60), just off Piazza San Giovanni. Look also for Residenza di via Dante (Via Dante 32, tel 075 7772674, info@residenzaviadante.it, €25/80.

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 a pilgrim hostel (sanpietroinvigneto@gmail.com, kitchen available, no food, please make a donation to help out this new pilgrim ministry).
  • Agriturismo Sosta San Francesco – Is two km off the trail on the main Gubbio/Assisi highway.

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. If you travel in late September or early October be certain to book your lodging well in advance since St. Francis day each 4 October bustles with pilgrims.
  • 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 and includes prayers for those who have registered as leaving or arriving at the pilgrim office in Assisi.
  • Assisi Pilgrim Hostel – Is located at Via degli Episcopi 1, 3450 343171, http://www.confraternitadisanjacopo.it, by donation, open April through October)
  • Additional Assisi Accommodation – American Rebecca Winke welcomes pilgrims at her Brigolante Guest Apartments (Vicolo della Fortezza 2A, tel 331 2222349, info@brigolante.com, €75/90 for 1-4 guests).

Stage 16 – Assisi to Spello

  • Additional accommodations – In Urbe apartments (Via Giulia 97, 0742 301145, info@inurbe.it, €75 double), Franciscan missionary sisters at Convento Piccolo San Damiano (Via Fonte Vecchia 22 tel 0742 651182).
  • Email for Monastero di Santa Chiara is santachiara.cnn@gmail.com and phone is 0742 78613.
  • Delete — Hotel del Prato Paolucci
  • Corrected contact information – Convento Santa maria Maddalena is tel0742 302259, address is Via Cavour 1.

Stage 17 – Spello to Trevi

  • Foligno – Additional accommodation option is Afittacamere Rosella (Via Giuseppe Garibaldi 123, tel 740 72340, €15, kitchen available).
  • Additional accommodation in Trevi — La Casareccia pizzeria has rooms in the summer (tel 0742-780994, closed Mondays), and in the Piazza del Municipio the Residence Sant’Emiliano has double and triple rooms. Ask for pilgrim prices (residences.emiliano@libero.it, tel 348 2285443).

Stage 18 – Trevi to Spoleto

  • Correction: Delete the following sentence in this paragraph is incorrect so 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).
    • First alternative for reaching the bicycle path – After this paragraph: ‘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.”
    • 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.”Trevi to Spoleto Rev 1

Trevi to Spoleto rev 2

  • 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.’
    • 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.Trevi to Spoleto rev 3
  • New GPX track – Please make certain to download and use the revised GPX track entitled “18.TrevitoSpoleto2015”
  • Spoleto lodging – Hotel Aurora is closed. B&B Villa Massaccesi (Via XVII Settembre 11, tel 0743 48015, info@villamassaccesi.it) offers a 10% pilgrim discount and use of the kitchen. Check for pilgrim prices at the Casa Religiosa di Ospitalita San Ponziano (via della Basilica di San Salvatore 2, tel 0743 225288, info@sanponziano.it. http://www.sanponziano.it) and at Ostello Villa Redenta (Via di Villa Redenta 1, tel 0743 224936, info@villaredenta.com, €20/40).

Stage 19 – Spoleto to Ceselli

  • Closure of Ponte delli Torre Bridge – (Note: The bridge was temporarily closed on 25 August 2016 for seismic studies. Check with the Tourist Office to confirm the bridge will be open the day of your walk. If it is closed, walk around to the opposite side via historic Basilica San Pietro.)
  • Casa Vacanze Il Ruscello – New phone number is 340 2296792. Pilgrims indicate the use of kitchen is no longer allowed.
  • Ceselli hostel contact – Lina at 339 2428928 or Catia at 333 8430385.

Stage 21 – Arrone to Piediluco

  • Cascata delle Marmore – Please note the recommended but unmarked lower entry to Marmore Falls which removes the need to climb back down inside the park to get to the bottom of the falls. (Take the unmarked part just after the green gate and follow it to the right. Cross a field and parking lot to reach the lower ticket office)
  • Lodging at Cascata delle Marmore – Lodging available at Il Casolare della Cascata, SS Valnerina 209 tel 0744 62362, info@ilcasolaredellacascata.com, €25 per person
  • 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.’)
    • 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, info@albergodiffusocrispolti.com)
  • 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.’)
    • 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.”
  • New Poggio Bustone Accommodation – At the bottom of the village, Hotel Villa Tizzi (Via Villa Tizzi 4, 0746 688956, info@villatizzi.it, €50/70 includes breakfast) has beautiful views of the valley.

Stage 23 – Poggio Bustone to Rieti

  • La Foresta accommodation – (The sanctuary has five bedrooms for pilgrims tel 0746 200727 by donation. Delete prior contact info. At 500m after the gates is Le Querce di Tara, via Foresta 37, 348 4273023 mauro.rinaldi@over-service.it, €15 per person).
  • 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, rietidascoprire@vocafone.it , €25, breakfast by request). Centro Spiritualità Madre Cabrini offers rooms (Via S Francesca Cabrini 5, tel 746200727, villacabrini@virgilio.it, pilgrim prices).

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, ancellescuore@libero.it, €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, info@casadelpellegrino-psl.eu, €20 incl breakfast, washing machine available).
  • New stage ending – is now at Poggio San Lorenzo Piazza rather than Agriturismo Santa Giusta.Poggio San Lorenzo revision

Stage 25 – Poggio San Lorenzo to Ponticelli

  • Revision to Notes – Strikeout former paragraph and replace with “Rolling hills with steep but brief ascents make this a deceptively challenging stage.”
  • New accommodation in Monteleone – (B&B Santa Vittoria (Via Mutuesca 181, tel 347 5988875, b.b-santavittoria@libero.it)
  • Ponticelli – A new agriturismo offers accommodation just before Ponticelli. Giuseppe welcomes you at Casale delle Stelle (Via XX Settembre 16, http://www.casaledellestelle.it, 3382 261916, settimi@hotmail.it, from €59 for a double room. Breakfast, dinner and laundry are available).
  • Additional phone number for Ponticelli hostel – call Daniela at 347 3120149.

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, parrocchia@duomosantamariamaddalena.it, tel 0690 626060, by donation)

Stage 27 – Monterotondo to Monte Sacro

  • Water tower — is at 16.9 km from start of stage.Monte Sacro with water tower
  • Correct street name in Monte Sacro – replace “Via Nomentana” with “Corso Sempione.”
  • 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, http://www.cittagiardino.com, tel 3355 637986, info@cittagiardino.com, €50/70 single incl breakfast). Delete Minerva Casa Vacanze. Add the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (Piazza Vulture 15, tel 068 293786, €35) and Casa Per Ferie Santa Rita (Via Nomentana 514, tel 068 6800016) are both options. See also B&B Happy Goose (Via Forzano 20, tel 347 7697735, info@bnbhappygoose.it, €20/25 pilgrim price).

Stage 27 — Monterotondo to Vaticano

  • Milvian Bridge info – site of the Battle of the Milvian Bridge on October 28, 312. Because of a dream the night before the battle, Constantine fought under the Christian banner and his victory the next day is marked as the beginning of Christianity’s acceptance as the official religion of the Roman Empire.
  • Alternate Route to Vatican – beginning at the “giant red geometric sculpture” It’s possible here to leave the official route and opt for a more urban (and interesting) itinerary. Go straight here and in one block turn left onto the Via Flaminia, which you follow 1.5km to the imposing city gate just before Piazza del Popolo. Pass through the gate and immediately look to your left for Basilica Santa Maria del Popolo, home to works by Raphael, Bernini, Caravaggio, Bramante and others. Continue diagonally through the piazza, veering right on Via Ripeta, which you follow 1.1km during which it becomes Via della Scrofa. Turn right onto Via Sant’Agostino, passing Piazza Sant’Agostino on the right. In just two blocks you see the entrance to Piazza Navona with its Fountain of the Rivers by Bernini. Keep the entrance to your left and continue straight instead as the road narrows to become Via dei Coronari, a delightfully authentic Renaissance lane named for the rosary bead makers (corone in Italian) who labored here. Follow Via dei Coronari 450m until its end, cross Via di Panico and then take the first right onto Via del Banco di Santo Spirito. Just a block ahead is the beautiful Ponte Sant’Angelo bridge with its angelic sculptures. Cross the bridge toward Castel Sant’ Angelo, turn left and you see St. Peter’s Basilica straight ahead.Rome option
  • Pilgrim Office off St. Peter’s Square – 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 at the Sacristy in St. Peter’s Basilica. Use your pilgrim credential as your entry pass. The Sacristy is usually closed for riposo between 1:00 and 4:00.

Looking forward to a summer of walking in Italy

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My new Pilgrim Paths website which was so much fun to put together with photos of prior Italian caminos.

Over the past months I’ve been having a blast as I start a trekking business and plan five big walking itineraries in Italy during the 2017 season. It’s part of a dream to help people enjoy great pilgrimage experiences like those with which I’ve been blessed over the last many years.

These long adventures have changed me in so many ways. They helped me build lifelong friendships, they’ve sent me back to school to learn Spanish and Italian, and they’ve changed my outlook on the world. It’s the effect of “slow travel” where it’s not just the sights, it’s the sounds, smells and tastes of each new village or valley.

So what’s fun about 2017 is I’ll get to walk all summer! And with other pilgrims, too! And with my son, Luke, who’ll be our driver and baggage genie. It’ll be a few hundred kilometers — and that’s part of the fun. The distances look like this:

Kilometers Miles
Lucca to Siena (Via Francigena) 128.5 80.1
Siena to Rome (Via Francigena) 276.4 171.7
Assisi to Rome (Via di Francesco) 249.8 155.1
Florence to Assisi (Via di Francesco) 282.4 175.4
Assisi to Rome (Via di Francesco) 249.8 155.1
Total 1,186.9 737.4

The most I’ve walked in one summer was 900 km in 2011, but what makes 2017’s agenda possible is that the third and fourth walks are separated by a month long vacation with friends in Umbria. When it’s all done I expect to be a little weathered, in great shape, and excited — like after every trek I’ve ever done.

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I still owe these friends a visit. We met walking to Siena last year and became great friends.

Biggest of all is the excitement of walking with pilgrims from around the US and the world. So far, my pilgrim clients include walkers from the states of Washington, Florida, California, Rhode Island, Georgia — and New South Wales, Australia. I’m looking forward to knowing them, hearing their stories, and enjoying our many days’ walks together.

It’s been quite a learning experience to start this new business. I had to get a Federal Employer Identification Number, a Washington State Business License, business bank accounts, set up an international wire transfer account and get a license to sell travel insurance which required I be fingerprinted! All part of the fun.

Of course, you’re invited to join me on any or all of these great walks. Our final itinerary, Assisi to Rome in Sept/Oct, is completely booked, but there’s room in each of the others. You can learn more by visiting my website at www.pilgrimpaths. net. I’ve made photographs a big part of the site and I hope you like it.

Pilgrim Paths website launched – come walk with me in Italy in 2017

pilgrimpathsscreenshotOver the last months I’ve been organizing and planning so I can lead a series of accompanied walks in Italy next year. One of the most important steps was to put together a website where prospective pilgrims could study the walks, learn about my approach, and then reserve and register their spot online.

The website is now “live” and I’m delighted already to receive my first reservations! I’m continuing to build it out with info I think will be helpful. In the meantime you can find details there about:

  • Itineraries — including dates, distances, descriptions and more for the five itineraries — Lucca to Siena, Siena to Rome, Florence to Assisi and twice from Assisi to Rome
  • Reservations — costs, deadlines, terms
  • Approach — baggage service, full van service, good quality hotels, full-time accompaniment, maximum 10 pilgrims per trip, and more
  • Online payment portal — I want to make it very easy so you can reserve your trip and register online.
  • Coming up — we’ll have options for travel insurance and more. And I’m starting to think about 2018 trips, which will potentially include walks in Spain and Portugal.
As you know, I’m delighted to work with the highly experienced and expert travel consultant, Salvatore Accardi of Rieti, Italy who is making all the accommodation reservations and payments. I’ve now led two group walks with Salvatore as the behind-the-scenes travel consultant and he’s been flawless in his arrangements.
I hope you’ll plan to join us for one or more of these amazing walks! There are two that I believe will fill up very quickly, so please don’t hesitate.

Come walk with me in beautiful Italy in 2017!

2017pilgrimpathwalks(N.B to all readers: The final dates for these trips are listed at my pilgrimage company’s new website: www.pilgrimpaths.net. Please look there for all the details about our 2017 walks including exact dates and pricing.)

Over the last years I’ve come to understand how much fun it is to be a pilgrim walker — to me it’s travel at its best. But over the last months I’ve come to understand how much fun it is to be a pilgrim leader. By the end of September I will have led a couple of dozen people on pilgrimage adventures from Assisi to Rome, and it’s a total blast! I love watching people accomplish things they never dreamt they could, and see things they never imagined they would see.

So this year I made a big decision. I’ve decided to work with an Italian tour company to put together a series of package pilgrim itineraries in 2017 that will allow people to join me on what I consider to be the two great pilgrimage routes of Central Italy: the Via Francigena and the Via di Francesco.

I’ve come to love both of these Italian cammini over the last couple of years. My book, The Way of St Francis: From Florence to Assisi and Rome is the sole English-language guidebook for the Via di Francesco, and I’ve researched it in-depth and walked it several times over the last three years. It’s a green and scenic walk, punctuated with historical, artistic and gastronomical treasures. Then, just this year, I walked from Piacenza through Lucca and Siena on the Via Francigena, also a beautiful and historic route with world-class wonders of its own.

So my question is: “Wanna walk with me in Italy in 2017?” I’ve posted my schedule below and I invite you to come along on any or all of these five package itineraries. They offer potential pilgrims short or long walking opportunities along these scenic and historic pilgrim trails. The benefit is that my Italian tour company and I will make all the overnight and food arrangements along the way in convenient hotels and agriturismos, we will guide you in preparation and packing and then I will accompany you so you won’t have to worry about directions or translations. We will also have a daily baggage service which allows you to carry only a light day pack. Your job is to walk, discover, and enjoy. The trip will be limited to no more than 10 in a group, and a key consideration is that pilgrims walkers must be fit and healthy enough for what are often challenging days of trekking.

Here are your 2017 options:

July 1-8, 2017: Lucca to Siena on the Via Francigena*

The bookends of this adventure are two of Italy’s most beloved and historic towns — Lucca and Siena. In between are historic towns in their own right, like the towered city of San Gimignano and the walled hill town of Monteriggioni. Unforgettable scenery nearly every day through the heart of Tuscan hill country.

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Lucia’s cathedral facade.

  • Day 1 – Gather, tour, overnight in Lucca
  • Day 2 – Lucca to Altopascio
  • Day 3 – Altopascio to San Miniato
  • Day 4 – San Miniato to Gambassi Terme
  • Day 5 – Gambassi Terme to San Gimignano
  • Day 6 – San Gimignano to Monteriggioni
  • Day 7 – Monteriggioni to Siena
  • Day 8 – Tour of Siena
  • This trip can be paired with the following trip for a Lucca to Siena to Rome itinerary

July 9-21, 2017: Siena to Rome on the Via Francigena*

Siena’s cathedral is one of Italy’s treasures and the charming town is filled with art and architecture of the Middle Ages and Renaissance. Climb to the castle at Radicofani on a day of stunning scenery. Look out from Montefiascone’s Pilgrim Tower over Lake Bolsena and then enjoy pleasant and picturesque Italian villages before making your triumphal entry into Rome.

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Piazza del Campo in Siena.

  • Day 1 – Gather, overnight in Siena (optional Siena tour)
  • Day 2 – Siena to Buonconvento
  • Day 3 – Buonconvento to San Quirico d’Orcia
  • Day 4 – San Quirico d’Orcia to Radicofani
  • Day 5 – Radicofani to Acquapendente
  • Day 6 – Acquapendente to Bolsena
  • Day 7 – Bolsena to Montefiascone
  • Day 8 – Montefiascone to Viterbo
  • Day 9 – Viterbo to Vetralla
  • Day 10 – Vetralla to Capranica
  • Day 11 – Capranica to Campagnano di Roma
  • Day 12 – Campagnano di Roma to La Storta
  • Day 13 – La Storta to the Vatican

July 23-August 7, 2017: Assisi to Rome on the Via di Francesco*

Few Italian towns are as beloved as historic Assisi which holds the birthplace and final resting place of St. Francis and his friend, St. Clare. Explore quiet hill towns and majestic panoramas on a trek through beautiful Spoleto and Nera Valleys of Umbria and Sabine region of Lazio. End with a joyful entry into the unsurpassed Eternal City of Rome.

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The Basilica di San Francesco in Assisi

  • Day 1 – Gather, tour, overnight in Assisi
  • Day 2 – Assisi to Spello
  • Day 3 – Spello to Trevi
  • Day 4 – Trevi to Spoleto
  • Day 5 – Spoleto to Macenano
  • Day 6 – Macenano to Arrone
  • Day 7 – Arrone to Piediluco
  • Day 8 – Piediluco to Poggio Bustone
  • Day 9 – Poggio Bustone to Rieti
  • Day 10 – Rieti rest day (optional Greccio, Fontecolombo and city tour)
  • Day 11 – Rieti to Poggio San Lorenzo
  • Day 12 – Poggio San Lorenzo to Ponticelli
  • Day 13 – Ponticelli to Montelibretti
  • Day 14 – Montelibretti to Monterotondo
  • Day 15 – Monterotondo to Monte Sacro
  • Day 16 – Monte Sacro to the Vatican

September 3-10, 2017: Florence to della Verna on the Via di Francesco*

After enjoying the capital of the Renaissance we figuratively step back in time to ancient forests and monasteries of the Middle Ages. The beautiful Casentino National Forest is the setting and St Francis’s beloved Santuario della Verna atop serene Mount Penna with its active Franciscan convent is the goal. This is a challenging itinerary and includes mountain hiking in the Central Apennine range.

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Florence’s famed Duomo and Baptistery

  • Day 1 – Gather, tour, overnight in Florence
  • Day 2 – Florence to Pontessieve
  • Day 3 – Pontessieve to Consuma
  • Day 4 – Consuma to Stia
  • Day 5 – Stia to Camaldoli
  • Day 6 – Camaldoli to Badia Prataglia (or Santicchio)
  • Day 7 – Badia Prataglia (or Santicchio) to Santuario della Verna
  • This trip can be combined with the following trip for a Florence to Assisi itinerary or can be combined with the following two trips for a Florence to Assisi and Rome itinerary.

September 10-19, 2017: Santuario della Verna to Assisi on the Via di Francesco*

From the heights of Tuscany to the fields and forests of Umbria we enjoy sites off the tourist track. Gubbio, a pristine medieval town, is the centerpiece while Assisi is the crown. In between are blue lakes, fields of sunflowers and vast forests of pine and oak. Each night features another gastronomical delicacy from the rustic Italian kitchens of the Valtiberina and Valdichiascio regions.

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Palazzo dei Consoli in Gubbio

  • Day 0 – Optional tour of Santuario della Verna
  • Day 1 – Santuario della Verna to Pieve Santo Stefano
  • Day 2 – Pieve Santo Stefano to Sansepolcro
  • Day 3 – Sansepolcro to Citerna
  • Day 4 – Citerna to Citta di Castello
  • Day 5 – Citta di Castello to Pietralunga
  • Day 6 – Pietralunga to Gubbio
  • Day 7 – Gubbio to Biscina
  • Day 8 – Piscina to Valfabbrica
  • Day 9 – Valfabbrica to Assisi
  • Day 10 – Assisi tour (overnight option)
  • This trip can be paired with the following trip for a Santuario della Verna to Assisi to Rome itinerary

September 20-October 5: Assisi to Rome on the Via di Francesco*

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Me with two Italian pilgrim friends entering Rome.

The two capitals of pilgrimage in Italy are Assisi, home to St. Francis and St. Clare, and Rome, home to Sts. Peter and Paul and a panoply of others. This itinerary links Assisi and Rome in a green and beautiful walk of sixteen days through Umbria and Lazio and enters busy Rome along a scenic and quiet bicycle trail.

  • Day 1 – Gather Assisi (tour option)
  • Day 2 – Assisi to Spello
  • Day 3 – Spello to Trevi
  • Day 4 – Trevi to Spoleto
  • Day 5 – Spoleto to Macenano
  • Day 6 – Macenano to Arrone
  • Day 7 – Arrone to Piediluco
  • Day 8 – Piediluco to Poggio Bustone
  • Day 9 – Poggio Bustone to Rieti
  • Day 10 – Rieti rest day (optional Greccio, Fontecolombo and city tour)
  • Day 11 – Rieti to Poggio San Lorenzo
  • Day 12 – Poggio San Lorenzo to Ponticelli
  • Day 13 – Ponticelli to Montelibretti
  • Day 14 – Montelibretti to Monterotondo
  • Day 15 – Monterotondo to Monte Sacro
  • Day 16 – Monte Sacro to the Vatican

So what’s next?

Drop me a line and let me know which of these — or which combination of these — are interesting to you. I’ll stay in touch as we get pricing and additional details. And one other little prize: Theresa and I are also putting together a two-week “stay-cation” in August 2017 at a lovely Umbrian guest house from which we’ll take day trips to artistic, historic and gastronomic sites. More details to follow. Hope you can join in the fun!

*Itineraries are tentative and subject to change. Pricing information to follow.

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Lake Bolsena along the Via Francigena.

Latest book updates and important news from the Via di Francesco

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Russell Jackson’s guidebook at the end of his Way of St Francis pilgrimage, as seen in his post on the Way of St Francis (official group) page on June 12, 2016.

As The Way of St Francis: From Florence to Assisi and Rome enters the heart of its inaugural pilgrimage walking season it’s been an exercise in joy (and a little worry) to watch pilgrims from all over the world use this new resource as they make their way on the Via di Francesco in Italy. On our Facebook group — which has become a gathering place for over 400 pilgrims to share questions and stories about their present, past and future pilgrimage adventures — I’ve enjoyed celebrating pilgrim achievements and wincing at the occasional pitfall. What I’ve learned is that the trail is ever-changing due to weather and human-made changes, that it’s vitally important for pilgrims to follow the directions (!) and that pilgrim guidebooks are a group effort. The book really benefits from pilgrims’ actual experiences and I’ve taken many suggestions to heart in the new update I’ve prepared. So, make sure to follow the directions — and then send me your suggested book updates.

If you’re planning to walk in 2016, please download and use this update. The update will also soon be available on the book’s Cicerone page. Here you go:

Author Update June 2016

Highlights of the update:

  • Credential and testimonium — important new information about how to receive these.
  • Additional directions for Pieve Santo Stefano to Sansepolcro — a logging operation has obscured the path and pilgrims have reported difficulty in the 500m after the Euro Hotel. These new directions should reduce confusion.
  • Lodging updates throughout.

Now for the important news. We have learned from pilgrim stewards in Umbria the very good news that this year the Via di Francesco route in Umbria will be combined with the route of Di Qui Passo San Francesco (sometimes known as “Angela’s Route”). This means that the large blue/yellow signs for the Via di Francesco and the painted yellow “Tau” signs for Di Qui Passo will be replaced with new way mark signs all throughout Umbria. In most cases the routes are already identical, but in some cases the two routes have diverged. Most importantly, the “Challenging Route” on Mount Subasio between Assisi and Spello will be replaced with Angela’s route. The “easy route” remains the same. Also, our guidebook’s route on the bike path between Trevi and Spoleto will become a formal, way marked, option for pilgrims who want to save a day and don’t mind missing Poreta. After Spoleto, the Via di Francesco route, which our guidebook follows, becomes the sole route and Angela’s route will be mothballed. We will post updates on the revised, combined route as we receive them from Umbria. It’s outstanding news that these routes will be combined. The fact that Italian pilgrim stewards are becoming more united in their trail markings is great news for pilgrims from all nations.

I’m in love with Italy, and other closing thoughts on VF 2016

Roman street utility cover. Somehow even covered in grime there’s a certain majesty to it.

In 500 kilometers I walked less than a third of the 1700 km Via Francigena. I missed the days in England (though I visited Dover and Calais last year), all of famously unmarked France, expensive but beautiful Switzerland, and the mountainous northern stretches of Italy. But I did enough to confirm that the Via Francigena (VF) is one amazing walk.

What surprised me most was that the VF track stops at some surprisingly lovely and memorable towns. I’d expected to enjoy Lucca, Siena and San Gimignano. I didn’t realized I’d also fall in love with lesser known places like Piacenza and Monteriggioni and San Miniato and Formello. In fact, if an Italian town has an old quarter —  a centro storico — I fall for it and I fall hard. Even industrial Viterbo, which I was ready to hate, has a charming center made of labryntine streets with little cafes and piazze that lend it that same irresistible charm.

And even Rome. It happened again as I was walking through Piazza del Popolo onto Via del Corso on my way to do some shopping. I suddenly remembered I love this town too. I mean, I love it.

When I came to Rome the first time it was on a bus tour. We were driven in and out of town as quickly as possible with warnings of “watch out for gypsies!” ringing in our ears. I can’t say I ever saw a gypsy, but I did get the impression that Rome was not a nice or friendly place. It wasn’t until I discovered Trastevere in April that I saw Rome’s softer side.

What I saw in that charming Rome neighborhood was a Roman version of Italian village life, the relaxed and intimate daily routine that puts your life into the lap of your neighbor. You open your shutters in the morning and your across-the-street neighbor waves as she’s beating out her rug. You water the plants on your terrace and your behind-you neighbor asks if you’re going to the outdoor market later. You see the same people each day at the market and the cafe and the post office and the concert. You welcome the tiny intrusions into your privacy, knowing you are part of each other’s story.

Italy does community so much better than America. Italians are very critical of their own country, but they’ve got an ingredient that we lost years ago with a suburbanization that is buried deeply under a thick layer of cocooning in front of the TV. As much as we love our privacy I believe we isolated Americans would love true community even more. This the kind of lifestyle we were made for, and even the gaping tourists are charmed by it.

That’s not to say Italy is flawless. I admit to making a rude gesture or two into the rear view mirrors of Italian drivers who nearly ran me down on the thin white line that doesn’t suffice for a sidewalk. I found restaurant prices around famous landmarks in Siena and Rome to be fabulously unreasonable. Too much cigarette smoke in lovely outdoor cafes. Too few healthy food options for breakfast and lunch. Still, I love Italy, and the VF was one good, long baptism into its beauties.

I promised folks I would give an overview of the trip along with some brief commentary on lodging, which is all very helpful for me since otherwise it all becomes a blur. Here you go:

0. April 25-26 Arrive Piacenza and rest day. Overnights Domus San Martino. A nice little boutique hotel in a very charming Italian town. I chose to start in Piacenza due to its favorable rail connections and proximity to a major airport (Milan) near the northern stretches of the VF.

1. April 27 Piacenza to Fiorenzuola d’Arda (32km). Overnight Ostello Parrochia San Fiorenza. I was alone in this very basic, donativo hostel of about six beds above the school yard. I learned that this stretch of the VF is quite flat, mostly in asphalt, well-marked but somewhat monotonous.

2. April 28 Fiorenzuola d’Arda to Fidenza (22.5km). Overnight Affitecamere al Duomo, a private guesthouse with simple bedrooms and shared kitchen and bath. On this day I injured my right ankle and had a painful walk to get into Fidenza across miles of asphalt, zigzagging through the countryside to avoid the busier roads. A seldom discussed disadvantage of asphalt walking is the “crown” of paved roads, which are designed to drain water to the edges. Walking all day against traffic, as is recommended, means repetitive stress from the road camber, which I think exacerbated my foot problem.

0. April 29-30 Parma rest and recuperation days. Overnights Astoria Residence Hotel. I limped to this budget hotel by the train station and learned my actual townhouse-sized room was in another building about a half mile away. Fortunately the hotel had loaner bikes, and an old one-speed became my ticket to mobility. Parma is very nice. And the cheese…..

3. May 1 – Train to Sarzana; Walk Sarzana to Avenza. Overnight B&B Giardino Antico. Still favoring my foot, I wasn’t quite ready to head back to a hostel. Once I found this little B&B with its friendly and helpful hostess, I was very happy with my choice.

4. May 2 – Avenza to Pietrasanta. Overnight Ostello San Pietro — basic, but one of the few hostels on the VF with a green lawn. Another cute, small Italian town. This one sporting a large and sunny piazza.

5. May 3 – Pietrasanta to Lucca. Overnight Ostello Misericordia, Lucca. Such a long walk into Lucca, and the VF frustratingly skipped nearby neighborhoods with cafes and stores. Nice hostel with double rooms and a kitchen.

0. May 4 – Rest Day in Lucca. Overnight Camere con Visto. Since hostels allow pilgrims only a one night stay, I booked a room at this great little spot very near the Duomo and across from one of Lucca’s top restaurants. I felt a little guilty about a rest day in Lucca, but I loved the town and am glad I tarried there.

6. May 5 – Lucca to Altopascio. Overnight Ostello Cavallieri di Tau. Once I found the hostel it was back to the library to check in and get keys. Here the old piazze seem deserted and the action takes place out in the new piazza with all the cars. A great bakery there, though, with a cafe that opens at 04:00 and good wifi.

7. May 6 – Altopascio to San Miniato. Overnight Convento San Francesco at San Miniato Alto. Even with GPS working I found it difficult to locate this convent. Once I found it though it was a charming arrangement, with pilgrim rooms right above the cloister. There’s a nice sense of community with the friars and their volunteers, but I never did have time to climb the big tower that can be seen for many miles.

8. May 7- San Miniato to Gambassi Terme – Ostello Sigerico. Though a mile shy of the actual town, the deficit was made up by the excellent volunteer hospitaleri and the detailed tour of the adjoining historic church. Two bars catering to pilgrims, the first with some crazy good calzones.

9. May 8 – Gambassi Terme to San Gimignano – Monastero San Girolamo. I got the feeling that the town’s other pilgrim hostel was the happening place, but I scored a private room here and had a good conversation in Italian with the smart and friendly head nun.

10. May 9 – San Gimignano to Monteriggioni — Castello Casa per Ferie Santa Maria Assunta. This hostel is the only show in town, and if the priest is away, getting a key to it is no easy feat. Once in, it was a perfect place to rest and enjoy the tiny, walled village with its two cafes. Remember that there’s no store in town and the cafes open late.

11. May 10 – Monteriggioni to Siena — La Mercato B&B. I never liked hostels in big cities, so I booked this B&B just off the Piazza del Campo. It was a good find in spite of the chilly breakfast attendant. Siena’s cathedral? One of the most spiritual places I’ve ever been.

12. May 11 – Siena to Ponte d’Arbia — Hostel at Centro Cresti. The only lodging mistake I made. I switched rooms because I believed the floor under me might literally cave in. The hostel itself sits right on a highway and the only access to town is across a dangerous bridge. Next time I will walk the few extra km to Buonconvento, a charming town with more to do and see, whose hostel just had to be better.

13. May 12 – Ponte d’Arbia to San Quirico d’Orcia — La Palazzuolo Hotel. With wet boots and rain gear I was in no mood for another hostel, and I can’t believe I found this room in a nice hotel above the historic center for €50. Everything was dry by morning!

14. May 13 – San Quirico d’Orcia to Radicofani — Ospedale degli Santi Pietro e Giacomo. After the tortuous climb up to Radicofani the hostel was a delight. Within minutes of calling the number on the hostel door I was met by my host and led into the centrally located and historic building. Two bathrooms, plus a small kitchen.

15. May 14 – Radicofani to Acquapendente — Quasi Toscana B&B. Friendly Roberta was my hostess and her guest room had the personal touch of someone who takes pride in her home. I’m glad I arrived in time for the Infiorata, but sad the displays were rained out.

16. May 15 – Acquapendente to Bolsena — Casa Preghiera di Santa Cristina. Everyone else opted for the other hostel in town, ending up sleeping on mattresses on the floor. So this entire hostel was shared by just three of us. Nice hostess, good bathroom and kitchen facilities.

17. May 16 – Bolsena to Viterbo — Overnight in Piegaro. After walking the 30ish km to Viterbo I hopped on the train to my friends’ house near Lago Trasimeno. If you’re looking for a central place to park yourself while touring Umbria, choose the Antica Vetreria in Piegaro. Tell them Sandy sent you.

0. May 17 – Rest day, Piegaro. Overnight B&B Orchard, Viterbo. This was a true gem, and the host, Matteo, was beyond nice. Located in the old city, it was a good home base to explore Old Viterbo.

18. May 18 – Viterbo to Sutri. Overnight Hotel Sutrium. Just off the main piazza, I scored with a room facing the back side. Very basic, but handy and comfortable enough. Because I forgot to pay before I left and the hotel owners didn’t know how to make my credit card info work via telephone it took awhile to sort out the bill. Since I can’t do an IBAN transfer like a European I asked my friend Sebastian in Cologne to send the money via his account. Lesson: even if you give your credit card on booking.com don’t assume the hotel has used it to bill you.

19. May 19 – Sutri to Formello. Overnight La Francigena Casa Vacanza. I loved this little house. Right on the trail in the pedestrian zone. Heated. I had a hot bath!

20. May 20 – Formello to Vaticano. Overnight Air BnB. Everything was full by the time I started looking, and I was surprised to discover that Rome’s pilgrim hostel does not take reservations. You’re supposed to show up at 15:00 and stand in line for a bed. Knowing I’d be late after a long walk I took the safe route and found a place on AirBnB.

A note about Guidebooks: I came to Italy armed with every English language guidebook I could find, all of which fit neatly inside my phone.

I expected the Lightfoot guide to be most helpful, but then came to realize it is purely directional guidance and accommodation listings with scant information about historic towns or buildings. It’s like being told how to get there, but not knowing where you are once you arrive.

I found the Cicerone guide by Alison Raju to be difficult to read in its Kindle form and understood its layout better when I peeked at a hard copy. Alison’s place descriptions are unparalleled and alone make purchase of her guidebook worthwhile.

The SloWays App is an extremely helpful tool, connecting GPS guidance with downloadable maps. Sadly, my phone’s GPS function failed, so the app became almost useless. The daily descriptions are so vague as to be pointless, and SloWays sticks slavishly to the official route adding unnecessary km to the unwary pilgrim.

I ended up relying mostly on the somewhat obscure (for non-Italians) Terre di Mezzo guide. It is unafraid of route-shortening options, has passable directions, and includes interesting historical info. The maps are not wonderful, but GPS tracks are available. After my phone broke I wished many times I had brought my GPS and Terre di Mezzo’s tracks.

And how did I do? I’m glad you asked! After recovering from my foot injury I chugged along pretty well. My last week was blister free once I learned the right formula for tying my boots. As always I lost weight and got too much sun. My rain gear was fine when I used it, but it’s uncomfortably hot, even on cool days, so I tend to avoid wearing it unless I absolutely must. This led twice to me getting my boots wet on the insides. Not good.

Once again, a true highlight was pilgrim friendships. There were few solitary walkers, though, and those who weren’t in couples were either slower (Mike) or faster (Paolo) than me. I leave you with these photos of pilgrim friends. Ciao!