A 5-day walk from the Adriatic Sea to the Tuscan-Romagna Apennines through the beautiful Marecchia Valley, with its varied landscape made up of woods, rivers and ancient fortified hilltop towns.
Traveling the St Francis Way from Rimini to La Verna you will be able to enjoy all this and more. Come along, you won’t regret it!
The Marecchia Valley has always been a communication route between central Italy, Rimini and Romagna. It was also an obligatory point of passage for the many pilgrims coming from northern Italy and the countries east of Aquileia.
Even though the association between St Francis and Emilia-Romagna isn’t immediate, the history of these places is strongly marked by the passage of the Saint during his wanderings.
As a matter of fact, the Saint made his way through Emilia Romagna several times. On 8 May 1213, in particular, in San Leo, Count Orlando Catani of Chiusi in Casentino gave him Mount Verna as a gift, where he built what is now the famous sanctuary of La Verna. To commemorate this visit, the town of San Leo has incorporated the figure of St Francis in its coat of arms.
There are also numerous signs that support the ancient traditions according to which monasteries were founded and miraculous episodes took place when Saint Francis passed through the Marecchia Valley. Among these, the convent of the Poor Clares and the Friars Minor in the municipality of Sant’Agata Feltria, founded during his visit in 1213, and the convent of Sant’Igne, built in 1244 in the woods at the foot of the cliff of San Leo. In Villa Verucchio, in the cloister of the Franciscan Convent, stands the gigantic cypress said to have been planted by the Saint himself. Legend has it that the Saint planted a stick around which roots and leaves grew: today it is studied by botanists for its size and unusual longevity.
What was once the path first travelled by St Francis, has now become a beautiful route passing through villages, churches and breathtaking landscapes. The Way was officially inaugurated in 2013 to mark the 8th centenary of the Count’s gift, and it is a great way for pilgrims to retrace the saint’s footsteps – on foot, on horseback or by mountain bike. It’s not a difficult route, as the various stages are not especially long or arduous in terms of ups and downs. However it does pass through the Apennines, so it requires a certain familiarity with mountain hiking.
Take these five days to rediscover nature, and maybe even yourself. Some great landscapes and some beautiful, peaceful places await you.
Hamlets along the Way
For a cultural interlude, stop in Verucchio, a little town with a castle in what were once the lands of the Malatesta. Another beautiful village is that of San Leo, where Dante stopped on his route into exile and where Count Cagliostro was imprisoned in the fortress.
We also recommend a short diversion to the Balconi di Piero viewpoints in San Leo and Petrella Guidi, where you can admire the landscapes that inspired the artist Piero della Francesca on his journeys.
Services and practical information
The route is signposted with the Franciscan symbol of the yellow Tau which complements the red and white CAI signposts found along most of the route. On the signposts there is also a detailed description of each stage, a cross-section with altitudes, and some suggestions for overnight accommodation. The route has 5 stages, now that the intermediate Balze – Verghereto and Verghereto – La Verna stages have been omitted, shortening the route by a day, for an overall distance of 70 miles.
A new variant, from San Leo to the Viamaggio Pass passing through Pennabilli and Badia Tedalda, was introduced in summer 2017. If you’re preparing for your next trip and you like to read up in advance, we can recommend the guide “Il Cammino di San Francesco da Rimini a La Verna” (Italian only).