Browsing category: Rebecca's Ruminations, Walking and Hiking in Umbria

Walking and Hiking in Umbria: The Marchetto Canyon

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.

We would like to propose an easy walking tour which reveals an area of great geological and scenic interest:  Marchetto Canyon.  Comfortable clothing and footwear appropriate for an excursion in the countryside is advised.

By car:  from Piazza Matteotti leave the city through Porta Perlice and take route SS444 in the direction of Gualdo Tadino – below to the left is the deep gorge of the stream Tescio; after about 6 kilometers, directly in front of the little private church of Pian della Pieve, leave route SS444 and turn right onto a dirt road which, after passing over a little bridge, brings you under the arcade of the large Ponte Francescano where you can park your car (6,2 km from Piazza Matteotti).

Walking itinerary:  from the rest stop beyond the arcade of the large Franciscan bridge and before reaching the little bridge, turn left onto a well-marked path (there is a no thoroughfare sign), which goes up along the right slope (on the map) of Marchetto Canyon.

The walls of the Marchetto Canyon

After a brief level grassy stretch, the path becomes discontinuous and begins to rise, then levels out again (here you can glimpse the deeply-embedded ravine below with its deep chasms) until it reaches the destinctive Marchetto bridge (40 minutes from the start) which projects over the wild chasm with an exceptional view of the vertical rock-face and the sinuous progress of the course of water below (be careful!).  The bridge, certainly medieval, in ancient times was known as the Bridge of the Wolves and represents an important arterial path between the city and the vast countryside to the East.

The Marchetto Bridge

Leaving the bridge to your right, proceed following the red and white trail signs 51 to Ponte Cavaliero (18th century), near the confluence of Cavaliero Canyon into Marchetto Canyon.

The Marchetto Canyon from above

Once again leaving the bridge on your right, proceed slightly uphill skirting the gorge until you reach a fork in the path.  Ignore the sign for trail 51 and take the little level grassy road to the right which soon leads to a waterfall Fersena, which can be heard for some distance; over the waterfall is the Norcia-Assisi-Perugia aqueduct by which you can reach the head of the waterfall (once again, be careful!).

Returning to the fork, take up the marked path again.  With a couple of upward turns in the path you come out of the woods; skirt the cultivated field until you reach Casa Poderaccio (40 minutes from Marchetto Bridge).  Beyond the house, leave trail 51 and take a dirt road to the left that, in slight but constant descent (beautiful panoramic view of the wooded northern slope of Mount Subasio and the surrounding hills) will bring you pleasantly back to the starting point (40 minutes from Casa Poderaccio).

At the end of the excursion, returning toward Assisi on route SS444, we suggest a brief stop at Restaurant da Giovannino at Ponte Grande where, in homey and hospitable surroundings, you can taste the characteristic local dishes cooked in the authentic traditional manner.


Perfect Picnic Places: Il Lago di Aiso (Bevagna)

Here’s watcha wanna do, watcha wanna do is this:

I’m especially proud of this picnic spot, not so much because it’s extraordinarily beautiful (though charming it is) or particularly hard to find (though you’ll have to follow my directions carefully), but simply because I had to do some serious recon work to find a place that I liked enough to share.  After a long day of driving around more or less chasing wild geese and rejecting contenders with a growing sense of defeat, this tiny lake came out of left field and surprised me with its quiet grace.

But first, victuals.  This is a perfect excuse to take a stroll down the main corso of pretty Bevagna, where in the space of four or five blocks you can find all you’ll need for a meal al fresco.  Begin at Tagliavento on Corso Amendola…here you’ll find a tempting selection of handmade salame, prosciutto, dried sausage, and other traditional Umbrian charcuterie side by side with some local cheeses and the ubiquitous porchetta.  Umbrians have been coming here for their cold-cuts for three generations, so take your time and choose with care—or let Marco and Rosita suggest something special.

From there, cross over the piazza toward Corso Matteotti; along the Corso you can stop by the greengrocers at number 53, the grocery market at number 49, and the Polticchia bakery right around the corner at Via Fabio Alberti, 9.  And you can’t spit in Bevagna without hitting a wine shop, so stock up on some local Sagrantino as long as you’re there.  This is how small town shopping is done and—when not pressed for time—it’s a pleasure to finish up laden with an anachronistic array of bundles, bags, and packages from four or five different stores.

Now to reveal to you my secret spot:  From Bevagna, take the provincial highway SP 403 following the signs towards Capro and Cannara.  About two kilometers outside of Bevagna, you’ll come to an old brick bridge that runs parallel to the road (where there’s a new bridge now) which has been closed and made into a picnic spot (one of the rejects…too much traffic noise).  Where this bridge begins you’ll see a small road on the right with a sign indicating Il Convento dell’Annunziata (another reject…pretty view but no place to sit.  I’m telling you, I cased the Bevagna countryside).  Turn here, but rather than continuing uphill towards the convent, take the road which continues straight along the plain marked by an arrow reading Lago di Aiso.  After about a kilometer, you’ll come to the small fenced lake ringed by poplars and picnic tables.  For the prettiest view, walk around to the table at the far side, where you’ll have a view of Assisi.

The still lake perfectly mirrors the surrounding trees and fields

This spring-fed lake is small but deep—around 15 meters—and flows into the nearby Topino river.  Though unassuming, it has a wonderful legend surrounding its origins which has been traced back to the 1600s.  It is said that at this very spot there once stood a large farmhouse owned by a wealthy but impious and miserly farmer named Chiarò.  One year he decided to thresh his fields on the feast day of Saint Anne (the 26th of July), despite it being traditionally a day of rest.  His wife, known for her piety and charity, begged him not to work on this holy day to no avail.  As soon as he had finished threshing the last stalk of wheat, the house and surrounding fields suddenly sank into the ground and the deep pit immediately filled with water, drowning the farmer and his fieldhands.

The sound of rushing water from the run off into the nearby Topino river is perfect background music for a picnic

His wife—warned by an angel of what would soon be the fate of her husband–was able to escape with their baby son, but a small stream of water followed her and drowned the farmer’s offspring as well.  The nearby natural spring called the Asillo marks the spot where the infant drowned. Every year, on the night of Saint Anne, those who visit the lake can see the house of Chiarò under the water at the bottom of the lake and hear his cries as he urges on his threshing horses.


Get the VIP table with the view of Assisi on the far hill

Buon appetito!


Walking and Hiking in Umbria: Seavalley Up in the Mountains

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 excursion which we propose here unfolds along peaceful dirt roads and small country roads accessible to all and offers out of the ordinary views of the woody eastern slope of Mount Subasio.  The entire itinerary is charactierized by powerful oaks whose presence is due principally to the clayey nature of the hills which look out over the Topino river.  These have been planted and cared for by man since the times of the Umbrians; they are not nature but culture.  When the leaves fall, among the bare branches it is easy to descry the presence of the “golden branch”: mistletoe with its golden berries, symbols of light and of life which regenerates itself.  Since this is a parasitic plant which does not have its roots in the earth, it used to be said that it had come down from the sky, that it was a divine emanation.  The Celts called mistletoe “that which cures all”.  This mysterious plant was the central element in a complex ceremony which was held during the rites connected with the winter solstice.  The Druids—the priests and prophets of the ancient Celts—gathered the plants with a golden sickle and were careful not to let it touch the ground; the water in which it was subsequently immersed was held to be an efficacious antidote for curses and spells.  Even today, the gift of a branch of mistletoe on New Year’s Eve—to be hung inside above the door—brings good luck.  And as for you skeptics, it certainly does no harm!

We recommend comfortable clothing and shoes suitable for a trip to the mountains.  Bring a knapsack with food and drink, a rain slicker, compass, and altimeter, the Map of the Trails of Mount Subasio (CAI), binoculars, and a camera.

By Car: from Piazza Matteotti (445 m) go out under Porta Perlici and take the SS 444 (of Mount Subasio) road in the direction of Gualdo Tadino.  After about 500 m leave the SS 444 road and go right (following signs for Costa di Trex and Armenzano).  The narrow asphalt road, in slight but constant ascent, leads you to the few houses of Costa di Trex, (573 m – 5 km) then to Armenzano (759 m – 10 km).  Here leave the SP 249 road and continue on to the left; after skirting the walls of the castle, go left again on a road which goes down.  Once you have passed a small cemetary shaded by cypresses, you will come to a saddle, the Armenzano Cross (627 m – 11.5 km from Piazza Matteotti) where numerous roads and paths intersect.  You will recognize the spot because of a small country shrine here made of stone and a characteristic country tower for doves.  The saddle is the watershed between the Cavaliero Channel (N-W), a tributary of the Tescio Torrent and the Anna Channel (S-E), confluent of the Topino River.

The shrine at Armenzano Cross

Itinerary: from the Armenzano Cross (627 m) begin to walk (E) along the dirt road and after a few meters you will reach a fork where you bear to the right on a road which ascends slightly.  After you have passed alongside the country dove tower, continue along the peaceful dirt road.  Towards the right, a view will open up of the broad head of the Anna Channel and of the eatstern slope of Mount Subasio, deeply furrowed with numerous streams.

The slope of Mount Subasio

You will reach Falcioni Alto (684 m – 20 min from your departure) signaled by various man-made structures—houses and stables for animals—in a complete state of abandonment.  Here go left and after a few meters turn right; once you have crossed a metal fence, continue along (N-E) on a grassy path through uncultivated fields which will bring you to a saddle between two modest rises.  On a little hill on the left (700m)—delimited below by a low stone wall—remains of a country villa from Roman times have been found.  No visible trace of the villa remains above ground except for a few square blocks and numerous fragments of pottery.  The presence here now of small cement fireplaces, which perhaps anticipate debatable tourist “fruits” in the future is a real disappointment.

Return to the Falcioni Alto fork (15 min round trip) and continue on to the left (S-E) with various brief descents and ascents.  The dirt road will wind along the eathen partition which separates the head of the Anna Channel (on the right) from the head of the Rio Chanel (on the left), both tributaries to the Topino River, while all around you, revealed in all its harmony, lies the countryside so typical of Umbria, miniscule villages, isolated farmhouses, woods, cultivated fields, and oak trees in the midst of fields, all to be leisurely savored.  Continuing on in the same direction, you will come to the intersection at Casurci (701 m – 25 minutes from Falcioni Alto), a miniscule farming village.

The Umbrian countryside

Here you must change direction and turn right onto an ascending road which winds around the Solfea hill. On your left, the view widens to include the Apennines of  Umbria and the Marches with the stubby mass of Mount Pennino (E) and the mountains of Gualdo Tadino (N).  Once you have crossed a mountain pass (720 m), the road begins to descend and Mount Subasio will reappear on your left.  At the next fork, shift directions again and turn right: a dirt road (interrupted several times) will descend through the vineyards and oaks and bring you to the few houses of Vallemare (Seavalley) (660 m – 15 min from Casurci).

This toponym, truly unique among the Mount Subasio spurs, has given rise to various interpretations and legends, the most convincing of which is supplied by Arnaldo Fortini: in 969 an entire population was transplanted from the land of Puglia, at the time of Pandolfo Testadiferro, duke of Spoleto who, at the head of the imperial army of Otto I, conquered and subdued the Saracens and Byzantines in that region.  Perhaps this reference to the sea in this valley makes us remember that people.  In addition, the presence of last names with the prefix “de” or “di”—unusual given the “genitive” last names in this area—could be another small bit of supporting evidence.

Continue your descent and you will come out almost immediately on the narrow asphalt road from Valtopina.  Here turn right until you come to the small inhabited village of Colle Silvo (544 m – 10 min from Vallemare), which you will have seen for some time in the distance.  The charming panorama here invites the traveler to make a well-deserved stop.

Retracing your steps for some thirty or forty meters, you will come to a curve to the right.  Here turn instead to the left (N) onto a small descending road which will begin to wind around the woody head of the Anna Channel, watched over from above by the castle of Armenzano.

One you have passed the small in-cut channel of Colle Silvo, you will come to an intersection.  Here go straight down (N), then cross the Cacciaragani Channel (490m) which is the left branch of the Anna Channel.

Continue on the opposite side which winds up steeply, flanking a fence.  Shortly after, the path levels out: on your left, vast fields with trees for timber and vines.  You will cross a pass between two oaks which face each other, the one on your left is an imposing tree and seems to be completely enveloped, up to its topmost leaves, by a stubborn creeping plant which has a trunk of its own of notable dimensions.

The shrine of the Armenzano Cross  (627 m – 40 min from Colle) is just steps away.

A Seavalley up here was really the last thing I’d expected!

Quest’articolo è riprodotto qua con il permesso dell’autore, Giuseppe Bambini, ed è stato pubblicato originariamente nella rivista ormai fuori stampa AssisiMia, di Francesco Mancinelli, editore.

L’escursione proposta – con caratteristiche riportate nel profilo altimetrico – si sviluppa lungo tranquille sterrate e stradelli campestri accessibili a tutti, offre inconsueti scorci sul boscoso versante E del Subasio. L’intero itinerario è caratterizzato dalla presenza di poderose querce, la cui funzione è dovuta principalmente alla natura argillosa delle colline che si affacciano verso il Fiume Topino. Sono state piantate e curate dall’uomo sin dai tempi degli Umbri: sono cultura, non solo natura. Quando cadono le foglie, tra i rami spogli sarà facile notare la presenza del “ramo d’oro”: il vischio con i suoi frutti dorati, simbolo di luce e di vita che si rigenera. Trattandosi di una pianta parassita senza radici in terra si diceva che, discesa dal cielo, fosse emanazione divina. I Celti chiamavano il vischio “quello che guarisce tutto”.

Questa pianta misteriosa rappresentava l’elemento centrale di un complesso cerimoniale che si teneva durante i riti legati al solstizio d’inverno. I Druidi – sacerdoti e vati degli antichi Celti – lo raccoglievano con un falcetto d’oro ed evitavano che toccasse terra; l’acqua nella quale veniva poi immerso il vischio, era ritenuta un efficace antidoto contro malefici e sortilegi. Ancora oggi è di buon auspicio regalare per capodanno un rametto d’oro da appendere dietro la porta di casa. Per gli scettici: male non fa! Consigliato abbigliamento comodo e calzature adeguate a una gita in montagna.

Munirsi di zainetto contenente qualcosa da mangiare e da bere, giacchetto antipioggia, bussola e altimetro, Carta dei Sentieri del Monte Subasio in scala 1:20000 del C.A.I. sezione di Foligno, binocolo per gustare i panorami e macchina fotografica per chi vuol ricordare.

In automobile: da Piazza Matteotti (445 m) si sottopassa Porta Perlici imboccando la SS 444 (del Subasio) in direzione Gualdo Tadino. Percorsi circa 500 m si lascia la SS 444 e si prende a ds la SP 249 (indicazioniCosta Trex – Armenzano). La stretta strada asfaltata, in leggera e costante salita, conduce alle poche case di Costa Trex (573 m – 5 km), quindi ad Armenzano (759 m – 10 km). Qui si lascia la SP 249 e si prosegue sulla sinistra. Dopo aver lambito le mura del castello, si prosegue ancora a sin in discesa.

Oltrepassato il piccolo cimitero ombreggiato da cipressi si giunge a una sella, la Croce di Armenzano (627 m – 11.5 km da Piazza Matteotti ) – punto di incrocio fra numerose strade e sentieri – riconoscibile per la presenza di una edicola campestre in mattoncini e di una caratteristica torre colombara. La sella rappresenta lo spartiacque tra il Fosso Cavaliero (N-W)tributario del Torrente Tescio, e il Fosso dell’Anna (S-E) affluente del Fiume Topino.

Itinerario: dalla Croce di Armenzano (627 m) si inizia a camminare (E) lungo la sterrata e percorsi pochi m si giunge a un bivio dove si prende a ds in leggera salita.

Fiancheggiata la torre colombara si prosegue lungo la tranquilla sterrata. Verso ds la vista si apre sull’ampia testata del Fosso dell’Anna e sul versante orientale del Subasio, inciso profondamente da numerosi fossi.

Si giunge a Falcioni Alto (684 m – 20 min dalla partenza), segnalato da alcuni manufatti – abitazioni e ricoveri per animali – in stato di completo abbandono.

Qui prendere sulla sin e dopo pochi m piegare a ds. Attraversata una recinzione metallica si prosegue (N-E) su pista erbosa tra campi incolti che porta a una sella tra due modesti rilievi. Sul piccolo colle sulla sin (700 m) – delimitato a valle da un muro di pietrame a secco – sono stati individuati i resti di una villa rustica di epoca romana, di cui non resta traccia visibile in superficie all’infuori di numerosi cocci sparsi e di alcuni blocchi squadrati. Davvero deludente l’attuale presenza di caminetti in cemento, che forse anticipano future discutibili “fruizioni” turistiche. Tornati al bivio di Falcioni Alto (15 min per andare e tornare) si prosegue a sin (S-E) con alcuni saliscendi. La sterrata si snoda lungo il diaframma che separa la testata del Fosso dell’Anna (a ds) da quella del Fosso il Rio (a sin) entrambi tributari del Fiume Topino, mentre tutt’intorno è il tipico paesaggio umbro che si manifesta in tutta la sua armonia: minuscoli borghi, isolati casolari, boschi, coltivi, querce camporili: da gustare in tutta calma. Mantenendo la direzione principale si giunge all’incrocio di Casurci (701 m – 25 min da Falcioni Alto), minuscolo borgo agricolo. Qui si trascura la direzione principale e si piega verso ds in salita, aggirando il colle della Solfea. Sulla sin la vista si allarga sull’Appennino Umbro-Marchigiano con il tozzo massiccio del Monte Pennino (E) e i Monti di Gualdo Tadino (N). Superato un valico (720 m) la strada inizia a scendere mentre sulla ds riappare il Monte Subasio. Al bivio successivo trascurare la direzione principale e piegare sulla ds: una sconnessa sterrata in discesa tra vigneti e roverelle conduce alle poche case di Vallemare (660 m – 15 min da Casurci).

Il toponimo, davvero singolare tra i contrafforti del Monte Subasio, ha dato adito a diverse interpretazioni e leggende, la più verosimile la fornisce Arnaldo Fortini: “nel 969 tutta una popolazione fu trapiantata dalla terra di Puglia al tempo di Pandolfo Testadiferro – duca di Spoleto – il quale, al comando dell’esercito imperiale di Ottone I vinse e sottomise Saraceni e Bizantini in quella regione”.

Forse questo richiamo al mare tra questa valle, fa ricordare quella gente. Inoltre la presenza di cognomi con prefisso “de” oppure “di” – inconsueti rispetto ai cognomi “genitivi” della zona – potrebbe rappresentare un’altra esile conferma. Si prosegue in discesa andando subito a sbucare sulla stretta strada asfaltata proveniente da Valtopina.

Qui prendere a ds giungendo all’abitato di Colle Silvo (544 m – 10 min da Vallemare), già visibile in lontananza.

L’ameno panorama circostante invita il viandante a una meritata sosta.

Tornati indietro per alcune decine di m, in corrispondenza di una curva a ds imboccare sulla sin (N) uno stradello in discesa che inizia a girare intorno alla boscosa testata del Fosso dell’Anna, vigilata dall’alto dal castello diArmenzano.

Oltrepassata la piccola incisione del Fosso di Colle Silvo, a un incrocio proseguire diritto in discesa (N) quindi si traversa il Fosso Cacciaragani (490 m) che costituisce il ramo sin del Fosso dell’Anna.

Si prosegue sul versante opposto con ripide svolte in salita, costeggiando una recinzione. Poco dopo il sentiero rimpiana: sulla sin vasti campi con alberi da legno e radi filari di viti maritate. Si passa attraverso un vallo

costituito da due roverelle affacciate fra di loro, quella di sin è imponente e appare completamente avvolta fino alla chioma da un tenace rampicante, che si diparte da un tronco anch’esso di notevole dimensioni.

L’edicola della Croce di Armenzano (627 m -40 min da Colle Silvo) è lì a due passi.

Una Vallemare quassù proprio è proprio una sorpresa!


Perfect Picnic Places: Fonte di Monte Lauro (Bettona)

Here’s whatcha wanna do, whatcha wanna do is this:

The last time I took a walk around Bettona, I noticed some antique photos hanging in the main piazza’s bar.  Local citizens dressed in 1920s regalia were snapped posing around a little brook, and the picture was inscribed with the name Fonte di Monte Lauro.  When I asked the proprietor of the bar if the spring was still around so I could go take a look, he shook his head and told me it wasn’t worth my time as the place had been abandoned for years.  Then he proceeded to shaft me for a cappuccino.  So I went looking for the spring anyway.  And–lo and behold–I found an absolutely charming little picnic place.  Moral of the story:  any barista who will shaft you for a cappuccino is not to be trusted.

Whom you can trust, however, is Donatella from Bottega del Gusto on Via Vittorio Emanuele, 1 in Bettona, whose gourmet shop is stocked with all you’ll need to throw together an impromptu picnic.  Have her slice up some top quality local cheeses, prosciutto, or salame for a tasty sandwich on fresh torta al testo (Umbrian flat bread), which she can warm up for you.  She also has truffle paté, which can be spread on bread, a variety of the best Umbrian wines, biscotti, fresh jam crostate and artisan chocolate.  You’ll be tempted to stop and lunch at one of the tiny bistrot tables in their charming shop, but press on!

Once you’ve chosen all your picnic makings, head to Bettona (about a 15 minute drive).  You need to climb all the way up the hill to the ring road that encircles the historic center of town.  Follow that ring road around the city walls until you see the yellow sign indicating a right turn downhill with Acqua Minerale Monte Lauro written on it.

Ok, I'll admit the sign isn't very promising. Stay with me...

Follow those signs for about a kilometer until the road ends in front of a utility shed.

The signs don't get better

Leave your car here and walk just a few meters down the path until you get to the brook with a footbridge which leads you to a stone pavilion and picnic table on the opposite side.

The little footbridge is super fun for kids (and me. I thought it was fun, too.)

The cool woods and sound of the bubbling spring-fed brook are a wonderful backdrop for a relaxing picnic.  There are a few paths that wind their way into the woods beyond the picnic area, which I didn’t have time to explore.  Perhaps you will, once you’ve digested your Umbrian goodies!

The water from this fountainhead, with its alkaline and chalybeate properties, was used in the past to treat gastro-enteric maladies. (Chalybeate means it contains salts of iron. I had to look it up.)

Buon appetito!


Perfect Picnic Places: San Francesco al Prato (Perugia)

Here’s watcha wanna do, watcha wanna do is this:

This week, after a series of picnic spots out in the country, I’m going to mix things up a bit and point you to a sanctuary in the middle of the bustling Umbrian city of Perugia.  This cosmopolitan provincial capital is stuffed with wonderful restaurants and pizzerias, but in a day of touring its fabulous museums and churches you may find your soul yearns for a bit of green after all that stone.  But first, provisions!

All three of the places I’m going to point you to are within a couple of blocks of the main Corso Vannucci, so with a pretty basic tourist map of the historic center of town you’ll be good to go.  You’re going to pick up your food in reverse order of how you will be consuming it, because cold pizza is only good for breakfast.  So first, head to one of my favorite spots in Perugia, if not the universe:  Pasticceria Sandri (Corso Vannucci, 32).  This historic pastry shop opened in 1860 and has been serving up cakes, pastries, and confections to Perugians since.  Before you head inside, stop for a moment to look in their shop window—the ever-changing display, stuffed with their dramatic edible works of art, is themed around local events and holidays.  Once inside, make sure you take the time to admire the lovely antique frescoes and wooden display cases before your attention is absorbed in choosing some sweets for your meal.  If you need to think it over, try a glass of their cool almond milk in the summer or sumptuous hot chocolate in the cooler seasons while you ponder.

The historic inside of Pasticceria Sandri

Once you have dessert taken care of, get some fruit.  Bananas, that is.  Head around the corner and down a block to Piazza Matteotti, where on the west side of the piazza next to the post office you will see an old Perugian institution:  a brightly painted stand from which the eccentric owner hawks nothing but bananas.  If you are in Perugia and have a banana craving, he’s the go-to man for you.

Now that you’re set for the end of your meal, rewind for the main course:  pizza.  In nearby Piazza Piccinino, 11/12 you can order a take-away pie from the Pizzeria Mediterranea.  This Neapolitan-style pizza is so good we will actually drive all the way from Assisi (where pizzerias are second only to churches in density) to eat one.  If you want the quintissential Italian pizza, go for the margherita.  Otherwise, any of their toppings are highly recommended.  Order it to go, and ask if they will slice it for you before you leave, so you can eat it more manageably al fresco.

San Bernardino's famous dictum: "Make it clear, make it short, and keep to the point" earned him the post of Patron Saint of Advertising

Time for your picnic!  Start walking down Corso Vannucci and turn into Via dei Priori, which you will follow until it ends in the inviting green Piazza San Francesco.  If you are there at lunchtime on a sunny day you will join the numerous students and office workers who spread out on the grass to enjoy the relatively tranquil lawn to sunbathe and relax.  While you eat, enjoy the view of the facade of the fifteenth century Oratorio di San Bernardino which–adorned with pink and green marble reliefs by Agostino–is one of the finest examples of Renaissance art in Umbria and the majestic San Francesco al Prato which—despite ongoing restoration work—has one of the most graphically elegant pink and white stone facades in the city.

San Francesco al Prato is finally getting the restoration it's badly needed for the past 300 years.

In a city which can be hectic in its rhythm and austere in its architecture, this spot is a haven of both peace and exquisite art.

Buon appetito!


Perfect Picnic Places in Umbria: San Leonardo (Assisi)

Here’s watcha wanna do, watcha wanna do is this:

I’m upping the ante a little bit this week by taking you to a spot where you can barbecue!  Umbria has a long and proud tradition of great pork (the beef ain’t bad, either), so with a tad more organization and accoutrements, you can enjoy your meal hot off the grill while looking out over the rolling green hills of Mount Subasio Park.

The spot up at San Leonardo has a small pavilion with a fireplace—along with picnic tables—so you’re going to have to bring up some firewood (or charcoal, but try to get firewood if you can) and a grilling rack (you can get them cheap at any household store, the bigger supermarkets, or the weekly outdoor markets) along with your sundry picnic gear.

The fireplace and pavillion at San Leonardo

To stock up on your grillin’ meat, head to Assisi’s Macelleria Passeri on Via S.Gabriele Dell’Addolorata (right next to the greengrocer at n. 4) where pretty much anything you have a hankering for passes over their butcher’s block, but I suggest the fresh sausages and chops.  They also have a small rosticceria section (pre-prepared dishes) which are generally pretty good, so take a look and see if there are any pastas or sides you can warm up as well.

Round out your meal with any other groceries by simply walking across the street to the small local market Bottega del Bongustaio (known locally as Gambacorta) at n. 17, where they have a fabulous gourmet deli section, fresh bread, wine, and chocolate.  I suggest picking up some truffle patè you can spread on crackers to tide you over while your meat is cooking.

Now, get yourself on the ring road around Assisi (SP 444–this road eventually goes to a town called Gualdo Tadino, so follow those signs) and when you get to the top of Assisi, follow the road as it leads you under a city gate called Porta Perlici so narrow that only one car can fit through at a time.  Once you pass under this city gate you will suddenly find yourself in the mountains…continue about six kilometers until you pass by a row of houses on your right (Pian della Pieve) and come to an arrow pointing the way towards Madonna dei Tre Fossi on your right.  Turn here.

Madonna dei Tre Fossi Sanctuary. Photo by Giampiero Nottiani

You are going to follow this road for about 5 kilometers, passing the small sanctuary of Madonna dei Tre Fossi on your right. (Make a brief stop here if you’re lucky and find it open.  The painting of the Madonna inside this charming stone church is said to work miracles for the faithful.)  After you pass the church, continue on the main road following the signs towards an agriturismo called La Tavola dei Cavalieri.

The tiny chapel of Satriano

Once you reach this agriturismo, you can continue past it following the road as it curves left for another kilometer and reach San Leonardo at the peak of the hill, but I suggest you take a tiny detour to the right.  After about 10 meters, turn left and follow the road downhill to the Satriano sanctuary, where the dying Saint Francis briefly rested during his final journey home from Nocera Umbra.  This famous journey is commemorated every September with a historic reenactment by the Fraternal Knights of Assisi on horseback.

The view from San Leonardo on the hilltop

Back at San Leonardo, get your fire started and then take a quick walk up the road to enjoy some of the most beautiful views in Umbria over Mount Subasio and surrounding foothills.  And later, while enjoying your perfectly cooked pork, ponder the simple country chapel of San Leonardo which dominates this spot.  The story goes that years ago a local farmer, Rufinetto, would pass by the chapel every day on his way to town and ask the saint, “Leonardo, can I take a penny for my cigar?”  Hearing no response, according to the principle of silent consent, the farmer would take his coin from the offerings left by the faithful and use it to purchase his daily smoke.  As time went on, the story spread until one day one of Rufinetto’s neighbors hid behind the church.  Upon hearing the farmer ask, “Leonardo, can I take a penny for my cigar?” the neighbor called out “NO!” and poor Rufinetto responded “Oh, Lord, Leonardo is ornery today!” and high-tailed it out of there.  History does not record if Rufinetto quit smoking, but I would toss a coin in through the door just in case his ghost still hankers for a good cigar.

The humble San Leonardo chapel...toss in a coin for Rufinetto!

Buon appetito!


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!Quest’articolo è riprodotto qua con il permesso dell’autore, Giuseppe Bambini, ed è stato pubblicato originariamente nella rivista ormai fuori stampa AssisiMia, di Francesco Mancinelli, editore.

l’itinerario Assisi-Nocera, qui proposto, percorre in senso inverso l’ultimo viaggio di S.Francesco (settembre 1226) durante il quale, gravemente malato, fu riportato ad Assisi da un gruppo di cavalieri, che lo prelevò da un luogo nei pressi di Nocera (probabilmente Bagnara) dove si trovava in cura. Ogni anno durante il primo fine settimana di settembre viene rievocata la storica “Cavalcata di Satriano”, come esaurientemente descritto nell’articolo di Pier Maurizio Della Porta nel precedente numero di Assisi Mia. Il “Sentiero Francescano” ripropone quello storico itinerario e si sviluppa in ambiente tipicamente umbro di media collina: dolci profili e verdi vallate, casolari e vecchie pievi, torri colombare e antiche rocche in posizione dominante. La lunghezza del percorso (20 km.), la durata complessiva(7 ore soste escluse) e il dislivello da superare (650 m. in salita e 700 m. in discesa), saranno sicuramente ricompensati dalle piacevoli sensazioni offerte dall’escursione. Le caratteristiche dell’itinerario – sufficientemente tabellato con segnavia bianco rossi 51 – sono tali da richiedere un minimo di allenamento. Consigliato abbigliamento comodo e calzature adeguate a una gita in montagna, macchina fotografica e binocolo. Indispensabile lo zainetto con borraccia, giacchetto antipioggia, panino, kit di primo soccorso, bussola e la “Carta dei sentieri del Monte Subasio” scala 1:20000 del CAI sezione di Foligno (l’ultima parte del percorso non è compreso nella carta); può essere utile anche un altimetro. E’ utile ricordare inoltre che alcuni tratti si sviluppano su proprietà private: un po’ di cortesia e rispetto da parte dell’escursionista nei confronti dei proprietari eviterà spiacevoli equivoci e consentirà di fare interessanti conoscenze. Da queste parti chi vive in campagna gradisce scambiare due chiacchiere con i viandanti, specie se forestieri! Il ritorno è previsto con il treno dalla stazione di Nocera Umbra (informarsi circa gli orari), via Foligno. Alla stazione di Santa Maria degli Angeli, per raggiungere Assisi (piazza Matteotti), partono autobus ASP ai 10′ e 50′ di ogni ora, buon viaggio! ITINERARIO Da piazza Matteotti (445 m) si prende in salita via Santuario delle Carceri che in breve conduce alla medievale Porta Cappuccini (469 m); all’interno vi sono tracce di affreschi e con lo stemma di Assisi – croce e leone – non facilmente riconoscibile. Appena superata la porta piegare a sin. su sterrata alberata che costeggia la parte esterna delle mura della Rocchicciola. Giunti al Cassero prendere a ds lo stradello sassoso che inizia a salire, superata una fontanella, prendere a sin un viottolo (segnavia 51 che si segue fino alla fine) che entra nel bosco diventando sentiero. Con alcuni saliscendi sbuca sulla strada asfaltata Assisi-Armenzano; di fronte all’uscita dal sentiero si imbocca una sterrata, superato un gruppo di case ben restaurate (tenersi sulla ds.) si è di nuovo sulla strada asfaltata che si prende verso sin giungendo in breve a Costa Trex (573 m – 1,30 dalla partenza). In amena posizione panoramica sulle vali del Tescio e del Marchetto, deve il suo particolare nome alla sincope dell’antico toponimo Costa Tre Chiese, che ancora risultano presenti. Si percorre la strada asfaltata per circa 1 km in direzione Armenzano, quindi a un bivio con un monumentale cipresso, si imbocca a sinistra una sterrata in discesa. Ai bivi tenersi sulla ds., il sentiero traversa il fosso Sanguinone e percorrendo la valletta si giunge in breve al caratteristico ponte Marchetto (424 – 0.40 da Costa Trex) Costruito a strapiombo sulla incassata forra del Marchetto, con eccezionale vista sulle pareti e sull’andamento sinuoso del corso dell’acqua, il ponte, di origine medievale, era anticamente conosciuto come ponte dei Lupi e rappresentava un’importante via di comunicazione tra Assisi ed il vasto contado orientale. La confluenza tra il Sanguinone ed il Marchetto è poche decine di metri più a valle. Traversato il ponte Marchetto si prende a ds. giungendo in breve al ponte Cavaliero (XVIII sec) in prossimità della confluenza del fosso Cavaliero nel fosso Marchetto. Lasciato sulla ds. il ponte si prosegue in leggera salita (N) costeggiando il fosso. Con un paio di svolte in salita il sentiero esce dal bosco, quindi costeggia una recinzione giungendo a casa Poderaccio (521 m – 0.40 a ponte Marchetto). Prendere verso ds. la sterrata e subito dopo imboccare a sin. un sentiero che sale verso il crinale, in corrispondenza di una curva a sin. prendere a ds. un sentiero in salita andando a sbucare su un largo sentiero (cancello). All’incrocio con la strada sterrata proseguire diritti (sulla ds. è visibile una casa abbandonata), quindi continuando per il sentiero in salita si sbuca su uno stradello che bisogna seguire verso destra. Arrivati sulla sterrata proveniente da casa Poderaccio si prende verso sin. e con alcune svolte in salita si è a casa Zampetto (775 m). Poco dopo si prenda a ds. uno stradello che in discesa porta in breve alla cappellina di Satriano (745 m – 1.20 da casa Poderaccio), luogo adeguato per una piacevole sosta. La cappella votiva, costruita nel luogo dove si ritiene sorgesse l’antico castello di Satriano, venne inaugurata – per volere dell’allora podestà e francescanista Arnaldo Fortini – il 5 settembre 1926, a 7 secoli dalla morte di Francesco, a ricordo dell’ultimo viaggio del Santo morente verso la sua città natale. Si torna sulla sterrata e all’incrocio si va diritti (S-S-E) su pista erbosa superando un varco nel recinto. Procedendo sulla ds. si incontrano fienili e casali. Superato un altro varco sulla recinzione si piega a sin. in salita e dopo alcune decine di metri si piega a ds. imboccando un sentiero ingombro di rovi (per evitarli passare a ds. della recinzione). Si giunge così al passo Il Termine (875 m – 0.30 da Satriano). Il nome del sito deriva dall’essere vertice di confine fra i comuni di Assisi, Nocera e Valtopina. Si continua in leggera discesa (S-E) quindi ad un bivio prendere a sin. (E) in discesa costeggiando una recinzione con segnali “Azienda faunistica”. Si tocca una piccola lapide a ricordo di Primo Pizzicotti, qui ucciso il 25 giugno 1944 dalle truppe tedesche. Il sentiero in discesa diventa finalmente evidente, a un bivio si prende a ds. sbucando su una sterrata (748 m) che si segue verso sin.; percorse alcune centinaia di metri imboccare a ds. uno stradello in salita che conduce ai ruderi della Rocca di Postignano (778 m. – 1.00 dal passo Il Termine), già visibile in lontananza. Posta al vertice di un conico colle, fu edificata nel X secolo dai conti di Postignano, nel 1217 venne sottomessa ad Assisi ed in seguito subì il dominio dei Trinci di Foligno. Della possente rocca oggi non restano che pochi ruderi. Si riprende la sterrata verso ds. aggirando il colle sul quale poggia la rocca, dopo 10 minuti si imbocca a sin. un sentiero in discesa – ingombro di ginestre – che incrocia di nuovo la sterrata proveniente dalla rocca di Postignano. Proprio di fronte si imbocca un sentiero che sbuca nuovamente sulla sterrata che si percorre verso ds. in discesa giungendo a Villa di Postignano (505 m) già visibile in lontananza. Percorrendo la strada asfaltata in discesa si oltrepassa il ponte sul torrente Caldognola e si giunge sulla SS 3 (Flaminia); superato il passaggio a livello a sin. si trova la stazione ferroviaria di Nocera Umbra (349 m – 1.10 dalla Rocca di Postignano). Un treno starà forse ad aspettarvi per riportarvi ad Assisi: stanchi ma contenti!


Perfect Picnic Places in Umbria: Il Monastero di San Benedetto (Assisi)

Here’s watcha wanna do, watcha wanna do is this:

Go to Farmer Shop on Via San Francesco n. 4a in Assisi, where you can stock up on prosciutto and a variety of different salami, all made from an heirloom breed of pigs raised on a farm right outside of town, and some amazing local cheeses (try the aged sheep wrapped in fig leaves).  Pick up some of their freshly baked bread, as well.  And finally, the kicker, a bottle—or two—of their organic, unfiltered, unpasteurised, bottle re-fermented beers from the San Biagio estate (ask them to get you the chilled ones they keep in back.)

From there, pass over to the other side of the Piazza del Comune to Il Mercantino greengrocers on Via S.Gabriele Dell’ Addolorata n. 4 for some fruit to snack on (anything marked “nostrali” is grown locally, so try some seasonal Umbrian produce).

Finally, stop in at Pasticceria Sensi on Corso Mazzini n. 14 and choose some of their freshly-made pastries (and pick up some water).

Now, take a look at your Assisi map and find Via San Benedetto, which begins about a kilometer from  Porta Nuova off the main road 147, passes quickly through a residential area outside of the historic center of town, and begins to switchback up the slope of Mount Subasio.  There are periodic signs for Il Monastero di San Benedetto along the road, and you want to follow those.  About 6 km up, you get to the newly renovated but closed monastery on the right.

The monastery was abandoned by the order for a period during the middle ages, and used as a hideout for Assisi's banned political dissidents

Now, of course I would never condone hopping the fence into the monastery, as that would be illegally trespassing.  Which I would never condone.  But, let’s say, hypothetically, that one were to hypothetically step on the low stone wall to the left of the locked gate and hypothetically swing their legs over the wrought iron fence (being hypothetically careful to not hypothetically break their precious bottle of beer in the process).

This patio is a siren song for a new breed of "outlaws"

Inside, one would hypothetically discover one of the most peaceful spots around…the centuries-old stately stone monastery surrounding by woodland and a sunny paved patio looking out over the valley below which seems made for a relaxing picnic.

It would be a "crime" to miss out on this view of Assisi from above

Buon appetito (hypothetically)!


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.Quest’articolo è riprodotto qua con il permesso dell’autore, Giuseppe Bambini, ed è stato pubblicato originariamente nella rivista ormai fuori stampa AssisiMia, di Francesco Mancinelli, editore.

L’itinerario proposto consente di osservare le mura medievali della città, con scorci interessanti e inusuali. Consigliato abbigliamento comodo e scarpe adeguate a una gita in campagna, portate la macchina fotografica: verrà sicuramente usata. Non ci sono problemi di orientamento, è sufficiente seguire la descrizione e avere in mano la nostra rivista Assisi Mia: la pagina centrale con la pianta della città sarà utile per verificare in ogni momento l’itinerario descritto. Per l’intero giro – con passo comodo e senza fretta – occorrono circa 4 ore, l’itinerario può comunque essere accorciato in vari punti. Le otto porte cittadine toccate lungo il percorso, risalgono tutte alla seconda metà del XIII sec, essendo stata deliberata la loro costruzione dal Consiglio del Comune e dalla Magistratura nel 1260. Ed ora, buona passeggiata intorno alle mura.

ITINERARIO : Da Piazza Matteotti, localmente detta Piazza Nova, si percorre in salita Via Santuario delle Carceri. Appena sottopassata Porta Cappuccini si piega a sin su sterrata in salita – ombreggiata da due file di cipressi – che fiancheggia il perimetro esterno della Rocca Minore (XIV sec), o Rocchicciola. Giunti al cassero si lascia la sterrata e si imbocca un evidente sentiero in discesa, con bel panorama sulla Rocca Maggiore. Lo stradello costeggia le mura e, superate alcune brutte baracche, conduce a Porta Perlici. Appena sottopassato l’arco piegare a ds lungo Via Porta Perlici. Percorsi circa 200 m, proprio all’inizio di un parcheggio sulla ds, si imbocca a ds uno stradello in discesa che inizialmente costeggia una recinzione metallica verde. Poco dopo il sentiero si biforca, trascurare quello che scende alla sottostante strada asfaltata e seguire quello di sin che sale verso le mura. Alla successiva biforcazione proseguire diritto. In basso la gola del Torrente Tescio con il Molino Tardioli e una torre di avvistamento ormai diruta. Se la passeggiata si svolge durante un pomeriggio soleggiato, il profilo della Rocca Maggiore si staglia contro le pendici di Col Caprile. Una rampa in ripida salita riporta a ridosso delle mura. Con percorso aereo e panoramico si supera una fitta fascia di ginestre (e asparagi), giungendo alla base della torre poligonale della Rocca Maggiore. Distrutta nelle lotte civili e nella guerra antiperugina – che portarono alla nascita del comune di Assisi (1198-1202 – fu ricostruita nel XIV sec. In basso il cimitero cittadino. Tramite breve scalinata a sin si può salire al piazzale antistante la rocca. Si continua su evidente sentiero in discesa che entra in un oliveto in prossimità di un casale privato. Piegando a ds si scende alla sterrata sottostante, quindi a sin al casolare: è consigliabile chiedere il permesso di passare. Ripreso il viottolo che costeggia le mura e superato un cancelletto (che va richiuso dopo il passaggio), si scende fra gli olivi in direzione del campanile della Basilica di S. Francesco. Si rasenta il nuovo parcheggio; una breve scalinata in discesa conduce a Porta San Giacomo, sulla cui cima vigile un solitario cipresso. Se l’accesso alla casa privata non è consentito, è necessaria una piccola variante: dalla sterrata in vicinanza della casa prendere verso ds scendendo al cimitero cittadino; percorrendo verso sin un bel vialetto ombreggiato da cipressi si giunge a Porta S. Giacomo. Senza sottopassare l’arco piegare a ds su strada asfaltata che scende verso la valle del Tescio. Percorsi alcuni centinaia di m, proprio di fronte a uno stradello che sale sulla ds e in corrispondenza di una interruzione del guard-rail, imboccare sulla sin una pista erbosa che conduce in breve a un caratteristico ponticello sul Tescio. Attenzione nell’attraversamento perché privo di protezioni laterali! Da questo punto fino a Ponte San Vetturino vi sono due possibilità: 1- itinerario più scontato e meno interessante (consigliato ai meno esperti) Si traversa il ponticello giungendo poco dopo sulla strada asfaltata che si percorre verso sin fino a Ponte S. Vetturino; particolari vedute sui bastioni del Convento di S. Francesco 2- itinerario inconsueto ma più interessante (consigliato ai più esperti) Appena prima di traversare il ponticello si imbocca a sin lo stradello che scende al greto del torrente. A questo punto si mantiene la sponda orografica sin del Tescio. Senza percorso obbligato – a volte in vicinanza del greto, a volte un po’ distante – ma senza particolari problemi di percorrenza, si segue la corrente fino a Ponte S. Vetturino. Percorsi poche decine di metri verso la città, in corrispondenza di un bivio con edicola, imboccare a sin una strada asfaltata. Al bivio immediatamente successivo si prosegue diritto lungo una sterrata in salita – localmente detta la Piaggia – che costeggia le mura del perimetro esterno del Convento di S. Francesco Verso ds oliveti, casolari e l’inconfondibile mole della Basilica di S. Maria degli Angeli. Sottopassata la Portella di San Francesco si sbuca su strada asfaltata, che si percorre verso sin in salita (siamo di nuovo in città). Appena sottopassata Porta San Francesco (con le ante in legno), piegare verso ds in discesa lungo Via Frate Elia, quindi si percorre verso sin in salita Via S. Apollinare, fiancheggiando le mura dell’abbazia benedettina di San Pietro. Dopo alcune centinaia di m si imbocca a ds una larga scalinata in discesa che fiancheggia le imponenti mura del Monastero di S. Giuseppe. Sottopassata Porta Sementone si sbuca sulla SS 147 che si percorre verso sin in salita: tenersi sul marciapiede! Percorsi circa 300 m si lascia la SS 147 per imboccare a sin una stretta strada asfaltata in salita. Si sottopassa Porta Moiano continuando in salita, quindi si piega a ds su scalinata in discesa. Si prosegue su sterrata lasciando sulla ds i vecchi lavatoi pubblici, da tempo in colpevole stato di abbandono e decadenza. All’indietro domina il campanile della Chiesa di S. Maria Maggiore, la Rocca Maggiore e la Torre Civica (Torre de Piazza). La sterrata – Via delle Fonti di Moiano, localmente detta Strada dei Cavallacci – si mantiene per un bel tratto sulla parte sommitale delle mura, come si può facilmente notare affacciandosi verso il basso, quindi diventa asfaltata e prosegue costeggiando le mura. Giunti a Porta Nova, senza sottopassare l’arco si traversa la strada continuando diritto in salita lungo Via della Selva. Al termine della via si trovano due colonnette; qui termina il nostro percorso intorno alle mura cittadine. A questo punto è d’obbligo una sosta – appoggiandosi al parapetto – per ammirare il grandioso panorama sulla Valle Umbra e su Assisi: in primo piano l’abside e il campanile della Chiesa di S. Chiara. Si traversa la strada, si entra nel piccolo parco cittadino che si supera verso sin. Traversata la strada asfaltata si torna di nuovo a Piazza Matteotti.


Perfect Picnic Places in Umbria: Costa di Trex (Assisi)

Table for two at Costa di Trex

Here’s whatcha wanna do, whatcha wanna do is this:

Go to Santa Maria degli Angeli and find the post office (about two blocks from the Basilica di Santa Maria degli Angeli on Via Los Angeles heading in the direction of Bastia Umbra).  Right next to the post office there is a parking lot, primarily for tour buses.  And in that parking lot there are a couple of kiosks.  Head to the one that says “Porchetta”.  Get yourself a nice towering sandwich filled with thick slices of whole roasted pig spiced with fennel and pepper—an Umbrian specialty.  Make sure you order it not too “grasso” and not too “magro”…a nice mix of lean meat and rich crackling.

Go to the fruit and vegetable kiosk next door, and choose some fruit.  Anything marked “nostrali” is grown locally, so try some Umbrian cherries, apricots, figs…depending on the season.

Finally, head across the street to Lollini pasticceria and pick out some amazing pastries for dessert.  You can also get drinks here.

Now, head up the hill towards Assisi and follow the ring road as it curves around the historic center of town (never going into town) and meets up with the provincial road marked SP 444 (this road eventually goes to a town called Gualdo Tadino, so follow those signs).  When you get to the top of Assisi, the road leads you under a city gate called Porta Perlici so narrow that only one car can fit through at a time.  Once you pass under this city gate you will suddenly find yourself in the mountains…continue about half a kilometer, then follow the road marked Costa di Trex which climbs sharply towards the right.

La Chiesa di Santo Stefano at Costa di Trex

Follow this climbing mountain road for about 5 kilometers…there are some amazing views, so don’t miss them.  After about 5 km you will come to the Santo Stefano church on the left.  Leave your car along the shoulder of the road and set up your picnic on one of the two tables in the field above the church.

"Trex" stands for "tre chiese" or three churches which once stood on this slope of Mount Subasio. Santo Stefano is the remaining one.

Buon appetito!