A Walking holiday in unspoilt Italy
Following in the footsteps of Saint Francis of Assisi
Turn on the TV or read a travel article and you will inevitably be led to a search for a place that is tourist-free or untainted by the environmental damage wreaked by humanity.
These journalists care not that they are part of the cause, this is about monetizing and commoditizing nature and the planet.
Holiday mindfulness and spirituality
The routes and resources you will read about were created for intrepid travellers by a team of locals who are aim to instil mindfulness and spirituality into your Italian visit. In so doing, they help redistribute the money you spend to the small communities that are off the usual tourism grid.
The slow food and travel movement was born in Italy and here is an example of low impact travel that allows you to really get under the skin of an area of outstanding natural beauty. Not only will this be a rich cultual experience, but your visit will contribute to the local economy and help the area retain the integrity of its beauty.
The Cammino or walk “Francescano della Marca” is a walk or pilgrimage that retraces the ancient Italian paths used by Saint Francis from Assisi.
Similar to the route at Santiago di Compostela but far less well known, these little used tracks wind through an incredibly wild and varied landscape from Umbria to Ascoli Piceno in Le Marche.
If you want slow travel off the beaten track in Italy then this really is a must.
Like Santiago, for those who complete the whole journey, there is a certificate and map-book award (you must register via this page http://www.camminofrancescanodellamarca.it/index.php/credenziale/ )
Walking resources for your trip
You can either join the annual pilgrimage described below or simply do it yourself.
The main website, in conjunction with tourism boards and villages have done a wonderful job putting together all of the maps and information you will need.
There are lists of Italian accommodation and details of the resources in each village and town such as supermarkets and restaurants. There are also detailed maps with information about the daily distance, ascent and descent (see each stage below)
The history behind walking the Saint Francis Way
The route of the Franciscan Way traces the steps of St. Francis of Assisi in the year 1215. In that year St Francis preached whilst winding his way from sanctuary of the poor in Assisi, through the hill-towns of the Italian Apennines, to the sepulcher of Sant’Emidio in the glorious City of Ascoli Piceno in the southern part of Marche region.
An Italian walking holiday with a difference
This is a relaxed cultural and spiritual pilgrimage of 8 stages and 188km along gravel tracks and paths through stunning countryside with stops in medieval villages of great artistic and architectural importance.
The Franciscan Camino della Marca travels through an extraordinary variety of landscapes that touches four National parks of Mount Subasio, Altolina, Colfiorito and the Sibillini National Park. The walking route passes the rich soil and pastures of high levels plateau, past majestic mountains, rolling hills, springs, rivers, waterfalls and marshes.
Hike these trails and you will traverse woodland and highland, wild gorges and panoramic ridges with views to the Adriatic Sea.
For nature lovers this is a walking holiday which will put you in touch with rare flora and fauna and a landscape which you probably thought no longer existed.
The Annual Pilgrimage walking from Assisi to Ascoli Piceno
The pilgrimage trip takes place from 21st to 28th April 2018 and includes 8 days and 188km of great camaraderie, story-telling, minstrels, music and theatre. The refuelling of tired limbs often takes place with local inhabitants and will comprise of local delicacies, wines and robust menus passed down through the generations. Here are the 8 stages
Saturday 21 APRIL ASSISI to FOLIGNO
With a lunch stop in the wonderful village of Spello and the night spent in the Convento di Sant’Anna in Foligno dating back to 1388.
Sunday 22 April FOLIGNO – COLFIORITO
After breakfast at the convent you ascend up into the hills and a packed lunch is eaten at Sostino. The afternoon will see the party reach the plateau at Colforito, famed for Cheeses. Dinner and the overnight stay will be in the local hotel
Monday 23 April COLFIORITO – PIEVEBOVIGLIANA
After breakfast the tour will visit the Roman cistern and aqueduct “Botte Varano”, travelling through woodland you will reach Mulino di Gelagna bassa a water mill dating back to 1400 where a packed lunch will be served.
The route finishes at Pievebovigliana a medieval village on the Chienti River next to Lake Polverina, famed for its natural beauty and ornithology. A delicious dinner will replenish those limbs; which will be followed by a Theatrical show. Overnight stay in the local gym
Tuesday 24th April PIEVEBOVIGLIANA to VILLA DI MONTALTO (This is one stage on the organised walk but if you are planning the route yourself, then there are 2 stages listed on line). Here are the links to stage one and two
After breakfast you will travel through rolling hills to the 11th Century Church of Saint. Giusto di S. Maroto. Packed lunch stop will be at the ancient village of Valcimarra.
In the afternoon you will travel through woodland and nature unblemished by progress and reach the village of Montalto, a historic centre for charcoal making. You will be treated to a superb meal at a local restaurant before collapsing into bed at the local community hall.
Wednesday 25 April VILLA DI MONTALTO to SARNANO
Travelling through dense beech woods you will follow a path used by wartime partisans down to the icy, crystal clear river at Fiastrone Gorge. Trekking uphill you will reach the Abbey of San Salvatore di Monastero, dating back to the year 1000, where you will break for a packed lunch.
The route will travel over the pastures and ridges of the Sibillini Mountains and down to the sumptuous village of Sarnano, famed for its unusual medieval architecture, its Spa, food and upbeat mind-set. A delicious meal and comfy bed awaits you at a hotel on the main Piazza where a concert will be laid on for walkers.
Thursday 26 April SARNANO to COMUNANZA
Travelling off the beaten track you will see the Gran Sasso range in Abruzzo to the South and the Sibillini Mountains in the West. Packed lunches will be served at Amandola with its porticoed main piazza. Travelling South you will eventually reach Comunanza, where a party and dinner will be laid on for walkers with overnight stay in a community hall.
Friday 27th April COMUNANZA – VENAROTTA
With lunch at the hamlet of Palmiano. You will walk through dense vegetation and past well toiled farmland and eventually reach Venarotta and incredibly preserved architecture of the 15C Convent of Saint Francis. You will be greeted by locals who will lay on a party and a feast for walkers and overnight accommodation in a communal marquee
Saturday 28 April VENAROTTA – ASCOLI PICENO
The last breakfast will be followed by a stroll through rolling hills down to Tirabotte for lunch and then on to the Travertine Piazzas, Porticoes and byzantine architecture of wonderful Ascoli Piceno, where the final stop will be the Cathedral di San Emidio
The trip costs €440 half board and includes half board and all transfers and guides.