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

Umbria Blog | The caves of Monte Cucco

Many people know the famous caves of Frasassi in the Marche. These are impressive caves visited by many tourists during their holiday in the Marche or in Umbria.

Not many people know that also Umbria has some beautiful caves: the caves of Monte Cucco. The mountain ‘Monte Cucco’ is located in the natural park of Monte Cucco where in the valley are the villages of Fossato di Vico, Sigillo, Costacciaro and Scheggia. This is a beautiful area that is less known and has many opportunities for active holidaymakers.

We visited the caves, but you can also go hang gliding, trekking, canyoning, cycling, horseback riding and more. You can find a lot of information on the website of the park: Discover Monte Cucco.

For the more adventurous tourists the caves are well worth the effort. You need to be fit and healthy and will have to bring good walking shoes and warm clothing. After a walk uphill from about 2 km you arrive at the entrance to the caves where you enter via long and steep stairs descending into the caves. There is a constant temperature of 6 °C and the humidity is 90°.

It is a beautiful experience and impressive to quite literally walk in a mountain where also others left their traces throughout the centuries. There is an inscription found from the 15th century. Today one walks through the caves which are lit and where stairs and bridges are made to be able to pass the most difficult tracks, but at the time one only had a torch and ropes …

We did the “Discovery Trail”, but you can also walk a longer route and even have an introduction to caving. You will be accompanied by experienced guides and can make a reservation via the website: https://www.grottamontecucco.umbria.it

The Discovery Trail you can do without a reservation. In June and September on Saturdays and Sundays and in July and August every day, at 10 am and at 3 pm. At the parking lot is a information kiosk from where a guide leaves for the caves. Also read the instructions on the cave’s web site underneath the price list.

We had problems to find the place, but in the end, it’s easy to find. About halfway the village of Sigillo is a road up the mountain. Somewhat hidden is a brown sign that points to the Monte Cucco. Go up the mountain and keep driving. If you’re near the top, there is a road to the right which you do not take but keep following the same road up and you’ll arrive at the parking lot.

Umbria Blog | Walking with Anime Pioniere

I often receive newsletters and activities from the Oasi La Valle, a nature reserve at Lake Trasimeno and a paradise for bird watchers. This time I found an invitation in my mailbox to join a walk organised by a fairly new organisation called Anime Pioniere. They organise walks in nature often in lesser known areas along the Umbria Tuscany border: Trasimeno, Cortona, Città di Castello, San Sepolcro.

Sunday the 12th of March the morning started at the Oasi La Valle where we witnessed the ringing of birds and where the walk started. 6 km, not too much height difference, hence also adapted for families with children like ourselves. We climbed the hill and over the hills’ ridges we walked from San Savino to San Feliciano. Of course we finished the walk with a small lunch, a good Italian habit. We had some antipasti and fried fish from the lake with the local fishermen.

We paid euro 15 p.p. for the tour at the Oasi La Valle, the walk and the light lunch.

It was a wonderful early spring day. Here is an impression:

Do you enjoy a walk in nature with trained guides in mostly undiscovered parts of Umbria and Tuscany? Follow the Anime Pioniere: they organise interesting walks all year round, mostly on Sunday or on Italian bank holidays. We were quite a group with almost 50 participants, all Italians. They hope they will also have tourists to join them during the summer period. During the walk we learned about the area, its history and its fauna. They also speak English. It is recommended to wear proper shoes for walking and also ask for the difficulty when making a reservation, especially when you have kids.

Have fun!