In his journeys in the southern part of Umbria, St. Francis often used the path that, passing through the beautiful Meadows, connects Stroncone to Greccio, home of the first Nativity scene.
This route, a detour of the St. Francis Way, starts from the Church dedicated to the Saint of Assisi, in the centre of Terni. From here, reach the Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta and then move further away from the city centre and cross the bridge over the Nera river.
Continue along this road, stop at the Basilica of San Valentino, which still preserves the remains of the patron saint of the city and of lovers.
After a little less than 4 kilometres, take the detour to the right, and head towards the beautiful medieval village of Stroncone. Among the many attractions of this small town a must is the Convent of St. Francis, which according to tradition was founded in 1213, along with the church and an important library of Franciscan texts, by the Poor Man of Assisi. In the chapel near the church you will be able to see a Madonna Enthroned by Tiberius of Assisi, a follower of Perugino and a pupil of Pinturicchio. Take advantage of the break: when you get back on the road, the way will continue to be (literally) uphill.
Not far from Stroncone you will find the sanctuary of the Madonna del Tresto: the complex, built on the site of the Virgin's apparition to a shepherdess and the result of the expansion of a pre-existing church and monastery, preserves a large collection of pieces of popular art, left by the faithful as votive offerings.
Continue your way, along which you will come across some tombstones: these are evidence of the passage on this same path of St. Bernardino from Siena, a spiritual figure strongly linked to the Franciscan movement.
At the end of your climb to Monte Macchialunga, you will reach a plateau: this place, at an altitude of about one thousand metres, dominated by the greenery and silence typical of the mountain landscapes, is home to the so-called Prati di Stroncone (Stroncone Meadows). In this expanse, dotted here and there with chestnut trees, hornbeams and broom, nature has remained untouched, almost out of time.
There are several paths, of every difficulty and for all interests, that wind along this paradise: two are particularly interesting for us, given the nature of this route. The first option is to continue along the Franciscan route; on the other side, if you want to engage in an excursion to the top of the mountain, take instead the path that detours through the woods, and follow it until you reach the Chapel of St. Francis, the first refuge of the Poor Man of Assisi in this area, to enjoy the remarkable view of the Holy Valley of Rieti.
Whether you prefer to stay on the main route, or you are returning from the detour, continue in the direction of Greccio: the path, already quite easy until this moment, continues now downhill, giving further relief to the legs of the wayfarer.
You have now reached the end of this walk in the footsteps of St. Francis: after a few kilometres of walking you will arrive in Greccio, one of the most beautiful villages in Italy and famous for the first representation of the Nativity, requested by St. Francis in one of his many stays in the small town of the Lazio region. The Saint of Assisi also wanted the construction of the Greccio Hermitage, one of the four Franciscan sanctuaries in the valley of Rieti.