Terzo Paradiso - Foto di Lucio Lazzara per FAI - Fondo Ambiente Italiano
Nature parks and theme parks

The Woods of Saint Francis

A refuge of serenity and spirituality a stone’s throw from Assisi

An enchanting path immersed in nature, traced in the heart of the place that was the home of Italy’s patron saint, St Francis, and where he and his companions founded the Franciscan order.

The Bosco di San Francesco near Assisi offers a unique experience of peace and beauty surrounded by nature. Extending over 64 hectares with a history spanning 800 years, inside is a fascinating journey through hornbeams, oaks, woodlands, cultivated fields, ancient and modern man-made works.

It can be reached either from the centre of Assisi via the one-and-a-half kilometre long path, which starts just outside the square in front of the Upper Basilica and descends to the valley, or from the lower entrance at the former monastery of Santa Croce, from where a second ring-route starts, in the interior about two kilometres long.

Thanks to the efforts of the FAI-Fondo Ambiente Italiano, the Bosco di San Francesco has been open to visitors and pilgrims since 2011. After careful restoration, the forest has been transformed into an authentic treasure trove of biodiversity, with woods, meadows, streams and olive groves that are home to numerous plant and animal species. Walking along its paths, it is possible to observe roe deer and squirrels or listen to the songs of numerous birds.

Watchword: slowness

In the woods along two paths, one immerses oneself in the hilly Umbrian landscape and experiences slowness and contemplation.

Stage 1
From the centre of Assisi to the Complex of Santa Croce

Distance: 2 km | Height difference: 200 m | Difficulty: medium | Duration: 25 minutes

Starting from the centre of Assisi, amidst dense expanses of holm oaks and dogwood trees, we walk along the Tescio river, where its placid flowing suggests a regenerating stop in nature. Continuing on, we reach Ponte dei Galli, a travertine bridge dating back to 1356, restored at the end of the 15th century and rebuilt by the Municipality of Assisi between 1948 and 1949.

After crossing the bridge and reaching the valley floor, we arrive at the Complex of Santa Croce, inhabited between the 13th and 14th centuries by Benedictine nuns. Several structures of the original complex are still visible, such as the Romanesque church of the same name, characterised by a simple interior, where the notable apsidal fresco from 1643, the “Adoration of the Naked Cross”, attributed to the Assisian painter Gerolamo Marinelli, stands out; the rectory, on the other hand, has been transformed into an information and visitor reception point. A plaque near a footbridge indicates other recently restored structures such as the “hospitale”, the place of hospitality for pilgrims, which remained in operation during the second half of the 13th century.

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Stage 2
Loop from the Complex of Santa Croce to the “Third Paradise” and back

Distance: 2 km | Height difference: 100 m | Difficulty: average | Duration: 40 minutes

From the Complex of Santa Croce, continuing along the Tescio river, with caution because the path can be slippery in some sections, you reach a clearing dominated by the Annamaria tower and one of the most significant points of the entire route: the Land art work “Terzo Paradiso” (Third Paradise), donated to the FAI by the master Michelangelo Pistoletto. The most striking view is obtained by reaching the highest point of the tower, where the spectacular design of a revisited infinity is revealed to the eye. Composed of a double row of 121 olive trees forming three circles, the largest central one with a 12-metre-high steel pole in the middle symbolising the union of heaven and earth. The artist himself invites visitors to walk along the rows of this symbolic serpentine to become part of the work and reflect on the harmony between nature and man.

From the tower it is possible to take the path back to the ancient fortified mill, used between the 13th and 14th centuries to produce oil or flour, lime and today converted into a place of refreshment.

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For information:

Admission is free for FAI members

For detailed information on opening, activities, prices, consult the FAI website