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The Way of Saint Francis

Individual tour - Group tour

The Way of Saint Francis

St. Francis of Assisi is a historical and spiritual figure of great importance, known for his life dedicated to poverty, prayer, compassion, and love of nature. He was born in Assisi, Umbria, in 1181 or 1182, and lived most of his life in this city.

The life of St. Francis was marked by a profound spiritual conversion. Raised in a wealthy family, he abandoned wealth and social status to follow a life of poverty and evangelical devotion. This conversion took place in a particular way in the church of San Damiano, located near Assisi. In 1208, St. Francis received the divine calling to “rebuild the Church” and began gathering followers around him, forming the Order of Friars Minor, also known as the Franciscan Order. This order was committed to following the Gospel in its simplicity, humility and dedication to poverty. St. Francis traveled extensively throughout Italy and abroad to preach the Gospel and bear witness to the Christian faith. His mission was characterized by his humility and his example of life, which inspired many people. St. Francis is said to have received the stigmata, the signs of Christ’s wounds, in 1224, while praying on Mount Verna, located in the mountains near Assisi. This spiritual event is considered one of the most significant moments in the life of the Saint.

St. Francis died in Assisi on October 3, 1226. Its spiritual influence remains very strong to this day. Assisi has become an important center of pilgrimage and Franciscan spirituality,with its complex of Franciscan basilicas, including the Basilica of St. Francis, which houses the remains of the saint. These are just some of the highlights of St. Francis‘ life in Assisi. His spiritual legacy continues to influence millions of people around the world with his testimony of love, humility, and dedication to the gospel.

Let us now retrace his steps, a journey within a journey, a journey first of all interior, a spiritual journey starting from ancient pilgrimage routes that invite us to look within; not necessarily religious walks but paths where we can get lost and discover ourselves, finding a new dimension through meditation.

The journey is a constant element in human history, from the journey in search of food and shelter to the pilgrim’s journey in search of contact with the divinity. Every culture and every people has walked and by walking, they have known each other and met each other, walking through a wild nature, mystical hermitages, monasteries, or what remains of them, and evocative sanctuaries located in a green setting.

Day 1: WELCOME – CHIUSI DELLA VERNA Arrival of the pilgrims independently in Chiusi della Verna (it is possible to add the transfer from the Arezzo train station or other nearby stations when quoting or booking), accommodation in the booked rooms, dinner in the accommodation, and overnight stay.

Day 2: LA VERNA, FRANCISCAN SANCTUARY-PIEVE SANTO STEFANO

LA VERNA: Our journey starts from the Sanctuary of La Verna, in a wild but hospitable corner, far from the famous tourist resorts of Tuscany, in the middle of a fir forest, where over the millennia, writers, saints and pilgrims have rediscovered an uncommon sacredness. Here, in this intense and poetic nature, St. Francis retired in the summer of 1224 for a period of silence and prayer.

To get to the Sanctuary of La Verna, we hike along the ancient path of the Sacred Forests, within the Natural Park of the Casentino Forests. Among ancient silver fir trees and natural caves we arrive at the Sanctuary that contains spirituality, art, culture, and history. The Sanctuary of La Verna is a sacred place located in the mountains of the Tuscan Apennines. It is particularly significant for Christians as it is the place where St. Francis of Assisi received the stigmata, the signs of Christ’s wounds, in 1224.

La Verna is a place of great spirituality and pilgrimage for the faithful, both Catholics and non-Catholics, who come from all over the world to visit the sanctuary and reflect on the life and message of St. Francis. The sanctuary complex includes the Chiesa Maggiore, the Chapel of the Stigmata, and various other places of prayer.

In addition to its religious importance, La Verna also offers a spectacular natural setting, surrounded by forests and mountains, making it an ideal place for silence, meditation, and spiritual retreat. The sanctuary is run by the Franciscan Friars Minor, who welcome visitors and organize religious services, spiritual retreats, and other activities aimed at promoting Franciscan spirituality and St. Francis’ message of peace and love.

Meeting with the guide in the morning and visit to the Franciscan Sanctuary of La Verna. After the visit, continuation to Pieve Santo Stefano on foot and lunch along the way.

PIEVE SANTO STEFANO:We walk to Pieve Santo Stefano, covering about 18 kilometers, a small Tuscan town where during one of his journeys, St. Francis of Assisi met a woman named Madonna Venturina. This woman was in despair because her son had been unjustly sentenced to death. St. Francis, moved by her pain, promised to intercede for her and to ask God to show a sign of his mercy.

St. Francis then went to the judge’s palace and asked to see the woman’s son. When the young man appeared in front of him, St. Francis asked him to bring some roses that were growing nearby. Despite being in the middle of winter, the boy miraculously found roses in bloom and brought them to St. Francis, who placed them in the hands of the judge. The judge, struck by this miracle, decided to pardon the young man and set him free. This episode, known as the “Miracle of the Roses“, is still celebrated in Pieve Santo Stefano through various traditions and celebrations.

The link between Pieve Santo Stefano and San Francesco is also reflected in the presence of churches and places of worship dedicated to the saint in the surrounding area. The story of the “Miracle of the Roses” has become an integral part of the religious and cultural tradition of the city, which has continued to honor the figure of St. Francis over the centuries.

Arrived in Pieve Santo Stefano, short transfer crossing the green borders between Tuscany and Umbria, until reaching Pietralunga, accommodation in a hotel or farmhouse, dinner and overnight stay.

UMBRIA, THE SAINT FRANCIS WAY

Day 3: PIETRALUNGA-GUBBIO Breakfast in the accommodation, meeting with the guide and continuation of our journey along the spiritual Way of Saint Francis; after a brief visit to the historical center of Pietralunga, we will leave for Gubbio, along secondary roads and mule tracks, in the silence of the mountain valleys.

PIETRALUNGA: As soon as we arrive in Pietralunga we immediately feel captured by the history of the village, closely linked to Saint Francis of Assisi, who he visited during his life and where he left a significant mark.

One of the most famous episodes involving Saint Francis and Pietralunga is linked to the legend of the “Miracle of the Mule“. In fact, the story tells that St. Francis visited Pietralunga to preach the Gospel to the locals. During one of his preachings, St. Francis was confronted by a hostile assembly, composed of both men and mules. Despite the hostility of those present, St. Francis continued to speak to them about the Gospel.

During his speech, it is said that one of the mules approached St. Francis and knelt in front of him, as if listening to his words with respect and devotion. This event, considered a miracle, led to the conversion of those present and the acceptance of the message of St. Francis.

The story of the “Miracle of the Mule” has become an integral part of the religious and cultural tradition of Pietralunga. The city still celebrates this legend today through various manifestations and religious events.

In addition to the legend of the mule, Pietralunga is also known for the presence of places of worship and sanctuaries dedicated to St. Francis, which attract pilgrims and tourists interested in Franciscan spirituality and the life of the saint.

Break for lunch during the day. Arrival in Gubbio in the late afternoon, hotel accommodation, dinner and overnight stay.

Day 4: GUBBIO-BISCINA Breakfast and meeting with the guide, visit to the historic center of Gubbio and departure on foot towards Biscina.

GUBBIO: We continue our journey towards the picturesque medieval town located at the foot of Mount Igino famous for its architectural beauty, its historical character and its connection with St. Francis of Assisi: Gubbio.

St. Francis is linked to Gubbio through various legends and episodes of his life. One of the most famous stories concerns the so-called “Wolf of Gubbio“. According to legend, the city of Gubbio was terrorized by a ferocious wolf that attacked cattle and threatened the inhabitants. St. Francis, who was in Gubbio at the time, decided to confront the wolf to put an end to its threat. With great courage and compassion, St. Francis approached the wolf and, instead of attacking it, spoke to it with kindness. It is said that the wolf became tame and ceased to be a threat to the city, becoming almost a pet for the inhabitants of Gubbio. This story symbolizes the power of St. Francis‘ compassion and kindness, and is an important element of Gubbio’s religious and cultural tradition.

In addition to the legend of the wolf, St. Francis left an indelible mark on the city through his presence and spiritual teaching. He visited Gubbio several times during his life and founded a Franciscan community in the nearby hermitage of Valsorda. His spirituality and message of humility, peace, and love of nature continue to inspire Gubbio’s residents and visitors to this day.

Gubbio still celebrates its connection to St. Francis through various religious events and celebrations, and many tourists visit the city to explore the places related to the saint’s life and immerse themselves in his spiritual legacy.

BISCINA: We set off again on a journey through the gentle and green Umbrian hills to arrive in Biscina. The Castle of Biscina dates back to the twelfth century; it was originally a fief of the Counts of Coccorano. The castle is located halfway between Assisi and Gubbio. It was one of the strategic control points of the ancient road and the Chiascio river, which flows at the foot of the hill. Some brigands attacked St. Francis as he was on his way from Assisi to Gubbio, after having stripped off his clothes and embraced a new life. It is hypothesized that the episode took place around 1208, and the monastery that hosted it could be that of Caprignone, which has now disappeared. Friar Thomas of Celano, a disciple of St. Francis, reports the story in its entirety, describing how St. Francis, dressed in rags, was attacked by brigands and thrown into a pit of snow. After breaking free, he continues to sing God’s praises on his way to a monastery where he works as a scullery-boy. In the end, the prior of the monastery, repenting of the treatment reserved for him, asks for forgiveness from St. Francis.

Break for lunch during the day. Arrival at the farmhouse near Biscina, accommodation in the booked rooms, dinner and overnight stay.

Day 5: BISCINA-VALFABBRICA Breakfast in accommodation and meeting with the guide to continue the pilgrimage along the Way of Saint Francis. From Biscina, a long descent with ups and downs begins which takes us to Valfabbrica, on the border between Gubbio and Assisi. It is said that Saint Francis stopped several times in Valfabbrica and therefore it should be considered an important stop for the pilgrim.

VALFABBRICA: Walking for about 14 kilometers we arrive in Valfabbrica, a beautiful and historic village in central Umbria, which also offers several attractions of interest, both cultural and naturalistic. We arrive at the Church of San Giovanni Battista: the main place of worship in Valfabbrica located in the historic center of the town. The church preserves some valuable works of art and is worth a visit for its architecture and historical value. The presence of St. Francis at the Abbey of Valfabbrica, as well as documented, is taken for granted as it is located on the ancient medieval route that leads from Assisi to Gubbio and it is precisely what St. Francis did after the spoliation of his father’s possessions and went to visit his friend Federico Spadalonga who lived in Gubbio and had been his comrade in arms. Tradition has it that St. Francis passed through Valfabbrica during some of his missionary journeys and pilgrimages to the region. During these visits, the saint is said to have preached the Gospel, stopped to pray, and met with local residents to share his message of humility, love of nature, and compassion. Today, Valfabbrica still preserves traces of the presence of St. Francis through places of worship, churches and sanctuaries dedicated to the saint. These historic sites attract pilgrims and tourists interested in Franciscan spirituality and the life of the saint.

We also cross part of the Monte Cucco Regional Park, located near Valfabbrica , which offers wonderful opportunities for lovers of nature and outdoor sports. It is possible to go hiking, climbing, mountain biking and observe the local fauna and flora.

Break for lunch during the day. Accommodation in a farmhouse / hotel in Valfabbrica, dinner and overnight stay.

Day 6: VALFABBRICA-ASSISI After breakfast, we meet with the guide and continue our journey towards Assisi, leaving the splendid Valfabbrica behind us.

From Valfabbrica there are two paths that lead to Assisi: a longer path that passes through the woods and another, defined as shorter, but very difficult and tiring. Either one or the other, the fact is that you will have to overcome the hill and then see the magical town of Assisi on the horizon.

ASSISI: After about 16 kilometers of walking among the green Umbrian landscapes we finally arrive in Assisi, the birthplace of Saint Francis. The city is rich in history, culture and spirituality, and attracts visitors from all over the world who wish to explore places linked to the life of St. Francis and Franciscan spirituality. The journey that Saint Francis took in Assisi and its surroundings is an integral part of its history and of the Franciscan tradition.

The Basilica of San Francesco d’Assisi is in fact one of the main places of pilgrimage for devotees of San Francesco. The Church of San Damiano, located just outside the walls of Assisi, is the place where Saint Francis received the divine call to “rebuild the Church”. It is said that his spiritual conversion took place here. Located on the hills above Assisi, the Eremo delle Carceri (Hermitage of Prisons) is a hermitage where Saint Francis retreated in prayer and meditation. The sanctuary is surrounded by nature and offers splendid views of the Umbrian countryside. The Basilica of Santa Chiara is instead dedicated to Saint Clare of Assisi, co-founder of the Franciscan order together with Saint Francis. It is at the foot of Assisi, in a small church located inside the Basilica of Santa Maria degli Angeli, where Saint Francis founded the Franciscan Order and received the approval of the Rule from Pope Innocent III: La Porziuncola.

Break for lunch during the day. Accommodation in hotel in the historic center of Assisi, dinner in hotel and overnight stay.

Day 7: ASSISI

Breakfast at the hotel and we dedicate the whole day to visiting Assisi. Together with our guide we will visit the historic center of Assisi, with entrance to the majestic Basilica of San Francesco d’Assisi, the main place of pilgrimage for the saint’s devotees. The Basilica of San Francesco d’Assisi is composed by two overlapping churches: the Upper Basilica and the Lower Basilica, both decorated with frescoes of great artistic value, including works by Giotto and other medieval artists. We walk along the alleys of Assisi, passing by the Roman Forum and reaching the Piazza del Comune, with its monumental fountain rebuilt in the 18th century. We will also visit the Basilica of Santa Chiara, dedicated to Saint Clare of Assisi,co-founder of the Franciscan order together with Saint Francis. The basilica preserves the relics of Santa Chiara and offers a place of prayer and reflection. Guided tour of Assisi with local tour guide.

At the end of the guided tour, we reach a typical restaurant for a tasty traditional Umbrian lunch – drinks included.

In the afternoon, we reach a small hamlet at the foot of Assisi: Santa Maria degli Angeli. It’s right here, in a small church located inside the Basilica of Santa Maria degli Angeli, where Saint Francis founded the Franciscan Order and received the approval of the Rule from Pope Innocent III: The Porziuncola. A very popular and fascinating story is that of the Roses without thorns.. According to this story, the Rose Garden, located in the Sanctuary area, is what remains of the ancient forest where the friars lived. Here, Francis rolled among thorns one night to overcome doubts and temptations. According to an ancient tradition, the brambles, touched by the body of Francis, transformed into roses without thorns, giving rise to the “Rosa Canina Assisiensis”, which still blooms today inside the Basilica of Santa Maria degli Angeli.

This beautiful story symbolizes the harmony and peace that St. Francis believed was possible among all of God’s creatures, both human and otherwise. Roses without thorns are therefore considered a symbol of the purity and love of Saint Francis for nature and for all God’s creatures. Inside the Basilica of Santa Maria degli Angeli you can still see the Rose Garden of San Francesco where roses without thorns grow.

After the visit to the Basilica of Santa Maria degli Angeli and La Porziuncola, departure back home. END OF OUR SERVICES.

The Way of Saint Francis is a pilgrimage route that follows in the footsteps of the saint through central Italy, it is a spiritual journey that allows pilgrims to follow the steps given by the saint, to meditate on his life and the message of love, humility and peace. Pilgrims can explore the paths that cross the evocative Umbrian landscapes and visit places linked to the life of St. Francis along the way.

The tour includes:

  • 6 nights’ accommodation in 3* hotels / farmhouses on a half-board basis (breakfast and dinner): 1 night in La Verna, 1 night in Pietralunga, 1 night in Gubbio, 1 night in Valfabbrica, 1 night near Biscina, 1 night in Assisi ;
  • Accommodation in a double / twin room (or other types depending on the group);
  • Tour guide / Tour leader for the entire itinerary with overnight stay (service in English, Italian, Spanish or other languages on request);
  • Accommodation of the tour guide / tour leader in a single room on a half-board basis (breakfast and dinner);
  • Lunch baskets for each stage;
  • Excursions and visits as scheduled (entrances to museums and other places of interest included);
  • Guided tour of Assisi with private tour guide;
  • Luggage transport service from one hotel to another;
  • Transfer from Pieve Santo Stefano to Pietralunga;
  • Transfer in case of reduced physical capacity of pilgrims to cover the indicated distances;
  • Medical, baggage and cancellation insurance NOBIS All-Inclusive;
  • Practice handling fees and SorprendimiUmbria assistance on site during the tour;
  • Travel kit, visit program and itinerary;

The tour does not include: Tips, tourist tax to be paid on site (in the hotels and farmhouses), transfers that have not been mentioned, extras in general and anything not expressly indicated under “the tour includes”.

What to bring? Equipment suitable for hiking is required: trekking shoes, backpacks, trekking poles, water bottle, anti-blister plasters such as Compeed, hats to protect from the sun, sun cream.

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