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Walking and Hiking in Umbria: The Franciscan Trail

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 route Assisi-Nocera runs in the opposite direction to Saint Francis’ last journey (September 1226) where, seriously ill, he was brought back to Assisi by a group of horsemen who found him in a spot near Nocera (probably Bagnara). Every year duing the first weekend in September the historic “Cavalcata di Satriano” is reenacted.

A historic photo of the Cavalcata di Satriano, a tradition which continues today

The Franciscan Trail takes the same historic route through typically Umbrian countryside featuring medium-sized hills with undulating contours and green valleys, farm houses and old parish churches, dove towers and age-old fortresses in dominating positions. The route’s distance (20 km), the length of time (7 hours excluding pauses) and the altitude (650 m uphill and 700 m downhill) shall be rewarded by the pleasurable sensations offered by the excursion. A little fitness is necessary for the walk and the route is indicated by red and white signposts reading 51. You can also follow the CAI map “Carta dei Sentieri del Monte Subasio”. One should also keep in mind that some of the tracks run through private property and hence one should be respectful and courteous to proprietors so as to avoid any unpleasantness and to perhaps make some interesting acquaintences. Those who live in the countryside in this area appreciate chatting with passersby especially if they are foreigners.

The return trip will be by train from the Nocera Umbra train station (check on the times) via Foligno. Have an enjoyable journey!

ROUTE:  From Piazza Matteotti (445m) take Via Santuario delle Carceri uphill which within a short distance leads to the medieval gate Porta Cappuccini (469 m); under the arch there are traces of frescoes and Assisi’s coat of arms—a cross and a lion—which are not easily decipherable. Soon after the arch turn left onto a tree lined path which runs parallel to the external walls of the small fortress “La Rocchicciola”. Once you arrive at Cassero, take the rocky road on the right that goes uphill. Once you pass the drinking fountain take the small track on the left (signpost 51 that you follow until the end) that enters the wood and becomes a path. After a few ups and downs the road leads onto the asphalted road Assisi-Armenzano; take the dirt track right in front, and after passing a group of well restored houses (keep on the right) one is on the asphalted road again. Go left and within a short distance you will arrive at Costa Trex (573 m – 1.30 from the start).

Costa Trex is in a pleasant panoramic position situated above the valleys of the rivers Tescio and Marchetto. Its name originated from the ancient toponym Costa Tre Chiese (three churches) that still exist today. Take the asphalted road for about a kilometer in the direction of Armenzano, then at a fork with a huge cypress tree take the dirt track on the left downhill. Keep right at the forks, the path then crosses the Sanguinone ditch and then follow the small valley and within a short distance you will reach the characteristic Marchetto bridge (424 – 0.40 from Costa Trex).

The bridge of medieval origins was known as the Bridge of Wolves and was an important thoroughfare between Assisi and the eastern countryside. The bridge is built overhanging the ravine of the Tescio river and has exceptional views of the winding course of the river and of the steep sides of the ravine.
Once you have crossed over the Marchetto bridge turn right and within a short distance you will reach the Cavaliero bridge (18th century) close to where the Cavaliero ravine merges with the Tescio ravine. With the bridge on your right walk uphill northwards along the edge of the ravine. The path veers out of the woods after a couple of uphill bends and runs along a fenced property leading to the Poderaccio house (521 m. – 0.40 from the Marchetto bridge).

Take the dirt track on the right and soon after take the path left that goes up towards the crest. Where there is a bend that veers left, take the path uphill on the right that then leads onto a large path (gate). At the intersection with the dirt road go straight across (on the right side there is a derelict house) and continue along the path that goes uphill which then leads onto a small road that you follow veering right.

Once you have reached the dirt road that comes from the Poderaccio house go left and after some uphill bends you will reach the Zampetto house (775 m.). Shortly after take the road on the right and go downhill, after a short distance you will reach the small Satriano chapel (745 m. – 1.20 from the Poderaccio house), an ideal spot for a rest. The votive chapel was built on the alleged spot where the ancient Satriano castle stood and was inaugurated—according to the will of the mayor and Franciscan follower Arnaldo Fortini—on 5 September, 1926, seven centuries after the death of Saint Francis and in memory of the dying saint’s last journey towards his hometown.

Go back to the dirt road and at the crossroads go straight on (S – SE) along a grassy trail passing a gap in the fence. Continue right and you will pass some farmhouses and barns. After passing another gap in the fence veer left uphill and after about 20 meters veer right taking a path full of brambles (to avoid them keep to the right of the fence). Here you reach the pass “Il Termine” (875 – 0.30 from Satriano). It was given this name because it marks the boundary between the municipalities of Assisi, Nocera, and Valtopina. Continue downhill (S – E) and when you arrive at a fork go left (E) downhill walking along a fence with the sign “Azienda Faunistica”. You go past a small memorial plaque in memory of Primo Pizzicotti who was killed in this spot by German troops on 25 June, 1944.

At last you can see the downhill pathway. At a fork turn right and you will find a dirt road (748 km) that you follow keeping left; after a few hundred metres take the road on the right uphill that leads to the ruins of the fortress Rocca di Postignano (778 m – 1.00 from the pass Il Termine) which can be seen in the distance. The fortress was situated at the top of a cone shaped hill and was built in the 10th century by the counts Postignano. In 1217 it was taken over by Assisi and later by the Trinci family from Foligno. Today only some ruins remain of what was once a mighty fortress.

Take the dirt road veering right and go around the hill where the ruins stand, after 10 minutes take the downhill path on the left—full of broom bushes—that leads to the dirt road that comes from the fortress. Take the path straight on that leads to a dirt road that you follow downhill keeping right until you reach Villa di Postignano (505m) that can be seen in the distance. Taking the asphalt road downhill you reach the Caldognola bridge and to the state highway SS3 (Flaminia); walk over the railway crossing and on your left you will see the Nocera Umbra railway station (349m – 1.10 from the Rocca to Postignano). Perhaps a train will be waiting to take you back to Assisi, tired but content!

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