Umbria Blog | a visit to the San Francesco woodland “Bosco di San Francesco”

Recently I visited one of the most beautiful places in Assisi: the “Bosco di San Francesco”. The famous woods where the saint patron of Italy meditated and prayed.

The woodland of Saint Francis can be accessed next to the Basilica di San Francesco. You will see a large stone wall to the right and a wooden door. Through this door one can access the woodlands. You can also access the trail midway from the Santa Croce Visitors’ Centre in the valley below.

There are three different historical landscape itineraries:

1) the “landscape” route
2) the “historical” route
3) the “spiritual” route

In the summer season Assisi is crowed with tourists and visiting the woodlands of San Francesco is a good alternative to avoid the hustle and bustle. Since November 2011 the woodland is open to public and is managed by the FAI National Heritage Fund, the Fondo Ambiente Italiano. The FAI is a non profit foundation that operates thanks to the support of individuals and businesses to defend Italy’s art, nature and landscapes. 

A visit to the Bosco di San Francesco is much more than a simple stroll through the forest. It is a wonderful example of the Italian rural landscape encompassing 64 hectares and more than 800 years of history. The wonderful landscapes and the silence are an  experience for all the senses to find inner peace with nature. An enchanted area where nature is something magical. 

The trails are well marked and make sure to reserve plenty of time if you want to walk more then one trail.

Walking trail nr. 1 is a route which highlights the historical role of the Italian rural landscape. The trail leads from the Piazza della Basilica Superiore to the visitor center and Santa Croce complex where nuns used to live. Here is the Osteria il Mulino, which -as its name suggests- was restored from an old mill.

Walking trail nr. 2 follows the valley of the Tescio river to the so-called Terzo Paradiso (Third Heaven, an extraordinary work of Land Art that Michelangelo Pistoletto created for the Bosco di San Francesco featuring 121 olive trees arranged in three circles). You can walk around this work of art. Within the Terzo Paradiso is a 14th century tower that can be climbed using an external staircase. Outside of the Terzo Paradiso, a short trail, there are some picnic tables and chairs.  

From here one takes the same trail back to the visitor’s centre and to head uphill back to Assisi you need to take the same trail back.

Route Garmin

Useful information:
The trails in the woodlands of Bosco di San Francesco are well maintained. You’ll walk on carpets of creaking dry leaves. The walk is pleasant and on your way you will see a variety of points of interest: religious statues, a bridge, a 12th century mill, a 13th century church, a historic tower and a monastery. The footpaths are not easily accessible for buggies and wheelchairs. Wear comfortable shoes and clothes. Water and a sandwich are recommended. Picnicking is allowede, but do take your own garbage with you. Dogs are only allowed on leads.  

Tickets:
The entrance is 5 Euro per person. There are special rates for children.

Opening hours:
Tuesday – Sunday and Italian bank holidays
April – September 10-19
October – March 10-16
July – August open from Monday – Sunday
Closed on January 1, 24, 25 and 26 December, and from January 7 until the end of February
You can still enter one hour before closing time.

Bosco di San Francesco
Assisi (PG)
T. + 39 075 813157
faiboscoassisi@fondoambiente.it
www.boscodisanfrancesco.it
www.fondoambiente.it

Saint Francis of Assisi

The medieval city of Assisi is an important religious destination for many people. It is built at the foothill of Monte Subasio.

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Cathedral of Saint Francis in Assisi

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View from the Saint Francis Cathedral at dusk

Giovanni di Pietro di Bernadone became known as Francis of Assisi (1182 – 1226). In his youth he lived a luxury life. His father was a successful merchant of Assisi, but Francis was not satisfied with his life. At the age of 20 he joined the army. After a battle between Assisi and Perugia he spent a year in prison. He devoted a lot of time to seeking a closer relationship with God and discovering God’s purpose for his life.

He was convinced that God wanted him to help poor and sick people. “Do not get any gold, silver or copper to take with you. No bag for the journey, no extra shirt.” and he believed that those words confirmed the calling he sensed to live a simple lifestyle and eat simple food so he could best preach the Gospel to those in need.

Even animals were brothers and sisters of God, they were God’s creatures. Humans and animals are to be treated as equals. He spoke to the animals, and they responded.

Many other young men were inspired by Francis’ service to God. They also gave up their possessions and decided to join Francis. They slept in caves or in huts, they worked with their hands to earn food, they prayed and talked with people about God. This group became part of the Catholic Church called the Franciscan Order, which is still active serving the poor throughout the world today.

The last years of his life Saint Francis was very ill. His companion Clare took care for him. Clare also left her wealth behind and adopted a simple lifestyle to serve God and to heal people. Clare founded the sister order of the Franciscans.

Saint Francis died in 1226. He initiated the Franciscan Order and he was canonized in 1228. After the canonization of Saint Francis they decided to build a church in his honour. This construction was followed by the Basilica of Santa Chiara to honor Saint Clare.

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Santa Chiara – church of Saint Clare in Assisi

The Basilica St. Francis is made of two main levels, one upper and one lower and a crypt.  The walls and ceilings of the upper church are an example of Italian Gothic style, colorful and joyful. Giotto painted the legend of Saint Francis. The lower church was built first. It contains the crypt with the remains of Saint Francis, and is covered in frescoes by artists of the early Sienese school.

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Towards the lower church – Saint Francis cathedral

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The entrance to the upper church – Saint Francis cathedral

It’s two years now that you can visit a new part of Assisi, the “Bosco di San Francesco”. A walk through the landscapes of Saint Francis. A beautiful and peaceful hike away from the crowds. There are three routes. The entrance is through the town wall above and east of the upper church. For information visit FAI.

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The entrance to the Bosco di San Francesco

– posted by Sylvia van der Male –