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Walking and Hiking in Umbria: A Walk Around Assisi’s Eight Gates

This article was reproduced by permission of its author, Giuseppe Bambini, and was originally published in the now defunct quarterly magazine AssisiMia, edited by Francesco Mancinelli.

The following journey lets one observe the medieval walls of the town, with interesting and unusual views.  It is advisable to wear comfortable clothing and shoes suitable for a country hike and bring a camera:  it will definitely be used.  There are no problems of direction and it is sufficient to follow the description and have a map of the town.  The entire journey—at an even pace and without any hurry—takes about 4 hours.  However, the journey can be shortened at several points.

The eight town gates along the journey were all built in the second half on the 13th centry, because the municipality’s Council “Consiglio del Comune e della Magistratura” decreed to build them in 1260.  And now, have a nice walk around the walls.

Porta Cappuccini

ROUTE:  From Piazza Matteotti, locally called Piazza Nova, go uphill along Via Santuario delle Carceri.  As soon as you go through the gate Porta Cappuccini turn left onto a dirt track that goes uphill—lined with two rows of cypress tress—that line the external perimeter of the Rocca Minore (14th century) or Rocchicciola.  Once you reach the castle’s keep, leave the dirt track and take the evident path downhill, which has a beautiful panorama of the fortress Rocca Maggiore.

The dirt road runs along the walls and, after passing some awful huts, leads to the Porta Perlici gate.  Soon after going through the arch, turn right along Via Porta Perlici.

Porta Perlici

After walking for about 200m, right at the beginning of a parking area on the right, take a downhill dirt road on the right that initially runs along a metallic green fence. Soon after the path forks, do not take the path that descends to the asphalt road underneath but take the road on the left that rises towards the town walls.  At the next fork, go straight on.

Below runs the gully of the Tescio Torrent with the Tardioli Mill and a tower in ruins.  If it’s on a sunny afternoon, the Rocca Maggiore’s profile cuts across the slopes of the Col Caprile.

A ramp with a steep ascent takes you back behind the walls.  By looking ahead past a thick strip of broom and asparagus you can see the Rocca Maggiore’s polygonal tower.  Destroyed  in civil battles and wars with Perugia—that gave birth to the Local Town Council of Assisi1198-1202—it was rebuilt in the 14th century.  The cemetery is below.  By taking a few short steps to the left you reach a square area in front of the fortress.

Continue along an obvious path downhill that leads into an olive grove near a private farmhouse.  Veering right leads you down onto the dirt track below, hence to the left of the farmhouse.  It is polite to ask permission to walk through the property. Once you take the dirt road that runs along the  walls and after passing a gate (that must be shut after passing through) you descend amidst olive trees in the direction of the Basilica of St. Francis.  You skirt the new car park; a short flight of descending steps leads to Porta San Giacomo, which has a solitary cypress tree growing on it.

Porta San Giacomo

If you cannot walk thorugh the private property an alternative route is possible.  From the direct road near the house veer right and descend towards the cememtery; veer left and walk along a lovely cypress tree lined drive and then you reach Porta San Giacomo.

Without going through under the arch veer right onto an asphalt road that goes downhill towards the Tescio valley.  After a few hundred meters, right in front of a dirt road that goes uphill on the right in correspondence to a break in the guardrail, take the grassy field left that within a short distance leads to a characteristic bridge on the Tescio.

Take care when crossing the road as there are no side protection rails!

After this point to Ponte San Vetturino there are two possibilities:

  1. the most obvious and least intersting route (for beginners): Cross the bridge and soon after you reach an asphalt road that you walk along veering left until you reach Ponte San Vetturino.  Views of the bastions of the Convent of Saint Francis.
  2. an unusual route but the most interesting (for experts):  Just before crossing the bridge, take the dirt road to the left that descends to the torrent’s bank.  At this point, keep to the left bank of the Tescio river.  Without a definite route—at times near the bank, at times further away—but without any problems along the route you can follow the current until reaching Ponte San Vetturino.

After walking about 20 meters towards the town parallel to a crossroad with a shrine, take the asphoalt road on the left.  At the next crossroads, go straight on along an uphill dirt track—locally called the Piaggia—that runs along the wall of the external part of the convent of Saint Francis.  Towards the right olive groves, farmhouses, and the unmistakeable mass of the Basilica of Santa Maria degli Angeli.

After going through the Portella di San Francesco, veer right downhill along Via Frate Elia, then walk veering left uphill on Via Apollinare, skirting the walls of the Benendictine abbey of San Pietro.

After a few hundred meters take a large flight of steps on the right that skirts the walls of the Monastero of San Giuseppe.  After walking through Porta Sementone you come to the busy n. 147 road that you take veering left uphill: keep on the footpath!

After having walked about 300 meters, leave the 147 to take a narrow asphalt road uphill on the left.  Go through Porta Moiano continuing uphill, then veer right onto a descending flight of steps.  Continue along a dirt track passing the historic public fountains long in disrepair.

Porta Nuova

The bell tower of the church of Santa Maria maggiore, the Rocca Maggiore, and the Torre de Piazza dominate from behind.  The dirt road—Via delle Fonti di Moiano, locally called Strada dei Cavallacci—keeps for quite a way on the top of the walls, and becomes asphalt and continues running along the walls.  Once having reached Porta Nova, without going under the arch cross the road and continue uphill along Via della Selva.  At the end of the street there are two small columns: and here our route around the town walls ends.

At this point a rest is necessary—rest along the parapet—to admire the great panorama overlooking the Umbrian valley and Assisi: to the forefront the abbey and the church of Santa Chiara.

Cross the road, enter the town park.  Cross the road again and you return to Piazza Matteotti.

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