When the young Pliny wrote to his friend Apolinnare describing the area he said “the town appears beautiful: imagine a vast amphitheatre that only nature can produce…”. If you set off from the source of the river Tiber and travel down through beautiful, green countryside you suddenly find yourself in the Val Tiberina. You journey from Tuscany to Umbria, from Sansepolcro to Città di Castello surrounded by lush green hills that are like a renaissance fresco. There are wide plains, gentle hills, fields, woods castles, churches farmhouses and villas. The natural environment seems unspoiled and man lives in harmony with his surroundings. There is a sense of peace and the structures that have survived from the past have created an invaluable cultural heritage. It is the Tiber river that runs for about 50 kilometres through the wide, fertile plain that has influenced the local history in so many ways. There are numerous foot-paths that criss-cross the area and the most famous is the “sentiero Francescano” that starts in La Verna and goes past most of St Francis’ favourite places. There are churches, convents and hermitages that are off the normal tourist routes but have great spiritual significance and historical value.
One route to reach Assisi following in the footsteps of St Francis, whether leaving from the North (La Verna) or the South (Rome)
Coming from Assisi, you can decide to reach the Eternal City on foot following the St Francis Way – of Rome
The St Francis’ way is an itinerary on foot, by bicycle and on horseback that links together several “places” that bear witness to the life and preaching of the Saint of Assisi; a “new” pilgrimage route, which intends to reintroduce the Franciscan experience in the lands that the Poor Man walked through on his travels.In its adherence to the story of St Francis, the Way is plausible and charming: the landscapes that the pilgrim will see are the same that brought joy to the simple heart of St Francis; stop-off locations preserve the memory of his words and his gestures; the people you meet along the route are related to him. In spite of everything, Umbria has remained Francesco’s land, nourished by a spirituality that speaks of love for the small things, of respect and gratitude for creation, of generous hospitality to the next man, whoever he may be.
Walking along the St Francis’ Way is, therefore, an authentic spiritual journey that satisfies man’s desire, even modern man, to seek the meaning of his own existence deep within himself. The figure of St Francis, towering over Assisi, which is the final destination of the walk, in reality accompanies you throughout the journey, speaking to the heart and mind of the traveller about the possibility of leading your everyday life in total harmony with the world, with man and with God. It is a precious art of living and the most authentic result of the journey to Assisi: a gift that the Umbria of St Francis is able to give the pilgrim or any person approaching it with an open heart.