Did you know that there is a direct access to heaven in Assisi? Our Eden is the Woods of San Francesco, a path of peace and beauty of 64 hectares and 800 years of history. It stretches for two and a half kilometers among hornbeam, oak trees, forest land, farmland and ancient works of man.
This place of the soul, in the area where the holy patron of Italy lived and preached together with his friends creating the Franciscan order, can be accessed from the upper entrance, which opens into city walls on the forecourt in front of the Upper Basilica, and it can be accessed from the bottom entrance near the former monastery of Santa Croce. Since 2011 the Woods of San Francesco is open to visitors and to pilgrims using the FAI – Italian Environment Fund, which purchased and recovered it in all its parts.
Key word: slowness
This path, which enters into the Woods, can be travelled in 45 minutes, but your soul on the road with your body has got another step and another time, so we give advice: stow your clocks and your phones in your bags because in this landscape of other times the key words are slowness and contemplation.
Among holm oak and dogwood, the route is well illustrated by sign, it descends in hairpin bends towards the Tescio river. It leads you to do beneficial stops to enjoy the wildlife around: if you are lucky you can admire the fast flight of a sparrow hawk or you can catch the flicker of a porcupine which hurries off to hide into the bush.
Continue toward the Galli Bridge, a work in travertine dating back to 1356, renovated in the late 15th century and rebuilt by the Municipality between 1948 and 1949. So you reach the valley floor where you can admire the remains of a distant world, dwelt between 13th and 14th century by Benedictine nuns: the huge complex of Santa Croce. What remains of the religious building are the renovated hospital facilities, the same - name– Romanesque church, the windmill and the tower, each one with its own history to remember and to tell. So take a break to listen to what these old stones have to say.
Plots of history, art and nature
The Benedictine complex was short lived and in the late 14th century was abandoned by nuns who relocated inside the city wall. Today the parish house of the monastery relives as an information point and welcome visitors.
The hospital (Hospitalis Pontis Gallorum) operating since 1250 up to 14th century, was a reception place for pilgrims; a plaque in the vicinity of a walkway confirms the opening.
So you can access the Romanesque church of Santa Croce, of the 13th century, with a simple and a sober interior. Don’t forget to see the fresco of the 1643 “Adoration of the unadorned Cross” located in the apse, attributed to the painter from Assisi Gerolamo Marinelli.
The landmarks of the route will lead you toward the stream Tescio and the clearing dominated by the fourteenth-century tower (the FAI has entitled it to Annamria Colizzi, a member deceased). It can be visited by accessing from the first floor through an iron staircase.
The artifact was probably a fortified mill, of existing ones between the 13th and 14th century in the Marche, Tuscany and Umbria. Maybe originally it used to grind wheat and olive oil, then it was used to make lime.
On the top of the tower, you will find a fantastic view suddenly before your eyes: an endless design, composed of 121 olive trees arranged in double row creating three wide circular elements tangent each other, whose a greater one in the middle, and a mast twelve meters high which symbolizes the marriage between heaven and earth. You are looking at the “Third Paradise”, by Land art that the master Michelangelo Pistoletto has given to the Fai. The artist’s invitation is to walk the winding road among the rows becoming part of the work: a consideration about the desirable coexistence between the man and the nature, here symbolized by the third sphere.
From the tower you can go the path back, taking a break, if you want, at the old mill of the 12th century, active up to the beginning of ‘900: today is a pleasant tavern, which will prepare picnic baskets too.
Tel. +39 075 813157 – Fax +39 075 81 98 638 – email: email@example.com
From April to September from 10.00 A.M. to 07.00 P.M. and from October to March from 10.00 A.M. to 04.00 P.M.
Open every day except non festive Mondays. Last entrance one hour before closing.
Winter closure from the second week of January up to the end of February.
Closed on January 1st, on December 25th and 26th and during Franciscan festivity.