The starting point of the southern route is the Franciscan sanctuary of Greccio in Lazio, set high up on the rocky cliffs that surround the Holy Valley of Rieti. The journey begins in the place where, in around 1223, St Francis began one of the most cherished Christian traditions: the nativity scene.
The southern Via di Francesco has a total length of around 180 km. We recommend doing it in 10 stages (with a choice of detours), although you are free to decide to increase or reduce the distance of the individual stages to suit you.
The first stages take you to the main sanctuaries in the Holy Valley: Greccio; Fonte Colombo; La Foresta and Poggio Bustone. This first stage involves climbs and descents of medium difficulty, although the effort is rewarded by the beautiful natural landscapes.
From Rieti Cathedral, the road starts climbing, first towards the Sanctuary of La Foresta, then on to the Sanctuary of Poggio Bustone. The itinerary continues through Umbria to Piediluco, where you are greeted on the banks of the serene lake.
You hike first along the banks of the river Velino, and then up along the river Nera. This is a flat stage, in a narrow valley (Valnerina), where it is possible to take a detour to discover the majestic Marmore Falls.
After a demanding climb, you leave the Valnerina for the Spoleto Valley, much loved by St Francis: Nihil iucundius vidi valle mea spoletana (I've never seen anything more pleasing than my spoletina valley).
Abbeys, churches and monasteries testify to the spiritual charm of this stretch of the Way, which passes through historical towns rich in art and history: Spoleto, Trevi, Foligno, Spello and Assisi.
The journey continues almost entirely on hillsides covered in olive groves, surrounded by a landscape that inspires peace. The climbs and descents, one of the features of the Way, follow one another but are never excessively uneven. Your pilgrimage concludes in meditative silence at the tomb of St Francis within the Lower Basilica of Assisi.
On the website www.viadifrancesco.it you will find all the stages, with maps, descriptions of the route, gradients, GPS coordinates and a list of resting places and specialised accommodation for pilgrims. Don't forget to ask for the Pilgrim's Card.
The Lazio section of the Via di Francesco is indicated by CAI signage (white and red signs) and yellow and blue signs. In Umbria and Lazio, the path is well signposted with the colours of the Way: yellow and blue signs will guide you to Assisi.