Florence – Assisi – St. Francis Way – Rieti – Rome
May 4–20, 2019 (17 days)
HIKING THE ST. FRANCIS WAY
• Explore Tuscany and Umbria’s plethora of great cities and picturesque villages including Florence, Siena, San Gimignano, Pisa, Lucca, Assisi, Perugia, Spello and Spoleto – most of which are UNESCO-listed.
• Enjoy a 7-day hike covering over 139km from Assisi to Rieti along St. Francis Way; crossing natural parks, mountain passes and valleys on the Apennine Mountains and stunning medieval hilltop towns and villages. The spectacular landscapes and heritage of St. Francis Way make this route unforgettable.
• Join an optional 3-day extension to Rome to discover the highlights of the Italian capital.
Depart for Italy.
After arrival at Florence Airport, transfer to your hotel in the spa town of Montecatini Terme. Time to relax before dinner. (D)
Morning walking tour of the historic centre of Florence. See the spectacular Duomo, capped by Filippo Brunelleschi’s red-tiled cupola, as well as Piazza Signoria, Ponte Vecchio and the Church of Santa Croce – the burial place of some of the most illustrious Italians, such as Michelangelo, Rossini, Machiavelli and Galileo.
Afternoon at leisure to further explore Florence on your own. You may wish to admire the Renaissance masterpieces housed in the Uffizi Gallery, visit the Accademia, home of Michelangelo’s David, or hike up to the Piazzale Michelangelo for a panoramic view of the city. (B,D)
Famous for a wealth of art, history, striking landscapes and outstanding produce, Tuscany offers the best of all worlds. Get a taste of the Tuscan countryside on this full day excursion. Start with a walking tour of Siena, home to the famous Palio horse race. The city developed on three hills with the Piazza del Campo at its heart. Chance to sample Tuscan cuisine on your own. In the afternoon, head to the medieval hill town of San Gimignano, admiring the marvellous scenery surrounded by olive trees, vines and old stone buildings along the way. Enjoy a wine tasting before returning to your hotel. (B)
Siena landscape © Gino Cianci, Fototeca ENIT
Enjoy another day trip through the scenic rolling hills and vineyards of the Tuscan countryside. Pass by Vinci – birthplace of Leonardo da Vinci. In Pisa, see the iconic leaning tower and the famous Piazza dei Miracoli.
In the afternoon, continue to the walled city of Lucca and explore the historic town on your own. Take a pleasant walk along a section of the town walls and enjoy a beautiful view over the roofs, alleys, house-towers, churches and elegant palazzos, or visit the town’s antique shops. (B,D)
Leaning Tower, Pisa © Steven Lek
Depart Montecatini and cross the Appenines. Stop in San Marino, the world’s oldest republic, established in A.D. 301. San Marino lies 657 metres above sea level and offers spectacular views of the surrounding countryside and Adriatic coast. This afternoon, continue your journey to Assisi, Umbria. A UNESCO-listed city-sanctuary, Assisi is unique for its medieval art and architecture, as well as its rich spiritual heritage. As the home town and burial place of St. Francis, Assisi is the most important Franciscan pilgrimage destination. (B,D)
Fortress of Guaita, Mount Titano © Max Ryazanov
This morning, visit Assisi and its many outstanding palaces and churches including the Basilica of St. Francis. The Upper Basilica features a celebrated cycle of Giotto frescoes, with 28 panels depicting scenes from the life of St. Francis. The Lower Basilica is darker and more austere, and features masterworks by Cimabue, Simone Martini and Pietro Lorenzetti.
Spend the afternoon in nearby Perugia, perched high on a hill overlooking the valleys below. Its historic centre is a maze of cobbled alleys, arched stairways and piazzas framed by magnificent palazzi. (B,D)
Basilica of St. Francis, Assisi © Sviluppumbria, Fabrizio Ardito
Basilica of St. Francis, Assisi © APT Umbria
Drive north to Urbino, one of the cultural capitals of the Renaissance and an idyllic hill town where houses and palaces of weathered brick and pantiles cluster around steep narrow streets, surrounded by misty mountains and green and yellow hills. Urbino is famous for its university, Piazza del Rinascimento, the church of San Domenico, the dome, the monument to the great Raffaello and the beautiful Ducal Palace.
Head to Gubbio, a beautiful city that shows traces of different dominations, from the Roman to the papal. Highlights include the cathedral, the Ducal Palace, the Capitán’s Palace and the Palazzo dei Consoli. (B,D)
Gubbio © Gino Cianci, Fototeca ENIT
Assisi via the ‘Carceri’ to Spello: 610m uphill / 680m downhill / 17km
Your first hiking day of St. Francis Way will take you from Assisi to Spello. A beautiful uphill trail leads through the slopes of Monte Subasio to the astonishing ‘Eremo delle Carceri’ hermitage. This magnificent monastery was one of the places where Francis regularly retreated for prayer. The trail continues through an oak forest to the 9th-century Abbey of San Benedetto. A long descent takes down you to the beautiful medieval walled town of Spello. Check into your hotel for the night. (B,D)
Eremo delle Carceri © Sviluppumbria, Fabrizio Ardito
Spello to Viale Settecamini: 280m uphill / 330m downhill / 26km
Depart Spello and walk on the flat bottom of the valley on country roads into the city centre of Foligno. From the plains of Foligno, walk up through Umbria’s renowned olive groves and follow the paved road that takes you through the small towns of Matigge and Santa Maria in Valle. Continue your ascent to the picturesque medieval town of Trevi, which offers a breathtaking view on the Via Flaminia, as well as a plethora of churches, towers and noble palaces. On your way downhill out of town, pass the convent of Madonna delle Lacrime and the church of Croce di Bovara. Descend to the town of Campello sul Clitunno in the valley of the Marroggia river, before arriving at Viale Settecamini. Check into your hotel in Spoletto for 2 nights. (B,D)
Walkers near Trevi © Sviluppumbria, Fabrizio Ardito
Viale Settecamini to Spoleto: 120m uphill / 10m downhill / 12km
The route towards Spoleto passes the old castle at the top of the hill above Poreta. At the fortified village of Eggi, visit the church of San Giovanni Batista and see the frescoes painted by Lo Spagna. Continue through the countryside to Spoleto, one of Umbria’s loveliest cities and one with close ties to the legacy of St. Francis. At the entrance of the town, do not miss the Basilica of San Salvatore, an exceptional example of artistic heritage from the Lombard period. (B,D)
Castello di Poreta © Sviluppumbria, Fabrizio Ardito
Spoleto to Macenano: 730m uphill / 800m downhill / 24km
The first portion of today’s hike is a mountainous stretch that will take you across the spectacular Ponte delle Torri (230m long and 80m high), made from local limestone, up to the Franciscan sanctuary of Monteluco. Continue along the Valnerina to Ceselli. Then, enjoy walking over flat land along the tree-shaded banks of the Nera river, to the village of Macenano. Check into your hotel in Piediluco for 2 nights. (B,D)
Ponte delle Torri, Spoleto © Sviluppumbria, Fabrizio Ardito
Macenano to Piediluco / 180m uphill / 80m downhill / 24km
From Macenano, follow the river down to the ancient Roman village of Arrone. A pleasant country road follows the Nera River down to the impressive Marmore Waterfalls, created by the Romans, and the tallest man-made waterfall in Europe. A steep trail in the woods takes you to the village of Marmore and to the banks of the River Velino, which feeds the falls. Walk upstream to Lake Piediluco, with the town of Piediluco on the opposite side – your last stop before you leave Umbria. (B,D)
Marmore Waterfalls, Valnerina © Sviluppumbria, Fabrizio Ardito
Piediluco to Poggio Bustone / 610m uphill / 260m downhill / 17km
Walk to the perfectly preserved medieval village of Labro, topped by a castle overlooking the lake, and follow a trail through fields and juniper bushes to Faggio di San Francesco, a majestic stand of beech trees, under which St. Francis found shelter during a violent thunderstorm. Descend across meadows and woods to the Sanctuary of St. Francis and the town of Poggio Bustone, where Francis turned to the people and said “Buon giorno, buona gente” (“Good morning, good people”). Overnight in Poggio Bustone. (B,D)
Piediluco © Gino Cianci, Fototeca ENIT
Poggio Bustone to Rieti / 260m uphill / 590m downhill / 19km
For your last day of hiking, depart Poggio Bustone for the sanctuaries and trails of the Holy Valley in Lazio. Pass the village of San Liberato and the historic town of Cantalice, hanging on the rocks. Descending gradually, you will reach the sanctuary of San Felice all’acqua, with its miraculous spring, and then continue in the woods down and up again to the sanctuary of La Foresta. A downhill walk will take you to the pretty town of Rieti. The main monuments of Rieti are concentrated in the two main squares, Piazza Battisti and Piazza Vittorio Emanuele II – the ancient Roman Forum. Check into your hotel in Rieti for 2 nights. (B,D)
La Foresta Sanctuary, Rieti © Sviluppumbria, Fabrizio Ardito
Morning at leisure to relax or to attend Sunday Mass if you wish. Celebrate the conclusion of the tour with a get-together at a local winery with local specialities and wine.
Following lunch, enjoy an afternoon tour of the historic centre of Rieti including the cathedral and its stunning Romanesque bell tower from the 13th century, as well as the Piazza San Rufo, traditionally considered to be the exact centre of Italy. (B,L,D)
Rieti from the river © Sandro Bedessi, Fototeca ENIT
Transfer to Rome Fiumicino Airport for your flight back to Canada or join an optional 3-day extension to Rome. (B)
3-DAY EXTENSION TO ROME
Day 17: Mon, May 20 / RIETI – ROME
Transfer to Rome. With wonderful palaces, millennium-old churches, grand romantic ruins, opulent monuments, ornate statues and graceful fountains, the Italian capital has an immensely rich historical heritage and cosmopolitan atmosphere. On arrival, enjoy a panoramic tour of the city. Afternoon walking tour of Ancient Rome including the Trevi Fountain, the Pantheon, the lively Piazza Navona and the Spanish Steps. (B,D)
Rome © Sandro Bedessi, Fototeca ENIT
Day at leisure to further explore the city on your own and do some shopping. You may wish to visit the Vatican Museums, which boast one of the world’s greatest art collections, including the Michelangelo-painted Sistine Chapel, and St. Peter’s Basilica, said to be built on the ground where St. Peter is buried. (B,D)
Spiral staircase in the Vatican Museums © Vicente Villamon
Transfer to Rome Fiumicino Airport for your flight back to Canada or extend your stay in Rome. (B)