Our day nine on the Way of St. Francis, from Biscina to Valfabbrica was a downhill jaunt for 13.3 kilometers, essentially circling around the Lago di Valfabbrica for most of the stage, through beautiful Umbrian countryside.
“First do the necessary, then do the feasible, then you will be able to achieve the impossible." ~ St Francis of Assisi
It would be a day of deep reflection for us, indeed, doing the necessary. But was there something more to it?
This stage is so short, that we opted to continue onward from Valfabbrica, to Assisi, another 13.3 kilometers, see day ten. But I have chosen to split the stage in my writing, since most pilgrims will end up in Valfabbrica for the night, breaking up the long stage from Gubbio or coming directly through.
When you look at our interactive Google map, below, you can see that there are essentially no services for this stage. The Agriturismo Borgo Sambuco that you will pass by after about seven kilometers, only books out apartments for a week at a time.
The Agriturismo Belmonte, after 11 kilometers into the stage, is only practical if you are walking the standard route, shown in red below. As you will see, we chose the shortcut route in blue, knocking off 2.5 kilometers from the 30 kilometer walk to Assisi.
We took the shortcut, because we did not feel that walking 2.5 more kilometers and 250 meters more of elevation gain, through the countryside, warranted seeing the only feature on the standard route, the 11th century church, the Pieve di Coccorano - S.Antimo. We had seen enough quaint little churches on day eight, and only from the outside, as they were all locked up anyway. I included a link to this church, so you can make your own decision. There are amazing views of the reservoir from the church as you can see if you click on the link.
After the route diversion, the Pieve di Coccorano is a full 3.23 kilometers along the standard route. It may be practical, if you wish to see the historic church, that you could climb up from the shortcut, where it joins the standard route on the east side. It will be a 1.4 kilometer climb (2.8 km round trip) and only about 120 meters in elevation gain to do it this way. I kinda, sorta wish we had thought of this option. It doesn't shorten the distance, but it will cut the elevation gain by about 130 meters.
Regardless, if you are doing only this stage from Biscina to Valfabbrica, on the standard route it would be a total walk of 15.8 kilometers and a cumulative elevation gain of 546 meters for the day, OR, if you were coming from the Eremo di San Pietro to Valfabbrica, it would be a total of about 22 kilometers and a cumulative elevation gain of about 730 meters. Both would be a respectable day's walk!
And here are the two elevation profiles for you to compare for your own day. There is a significant difference, especially if you are heading on to Assisi in one push, as we did. As noted above, the difference is 2.5 kilometers and 250 meters of elevation gain.
We awoke on the morning of our ninth day to a glorious sunrise. I stepped outside our apartment at the Agriturismo Tenuta di Biscina to shoot a picture of it over the Castello di Biscina.
Breakfast was included in our tab, but we had sufficient leftovers of bread, cheese and olive oil from our dinner the night before so we chose not to wait until 8:00 a.m. or whatever time breakfast would be served. We had a long day in front of us.
Egads! Did I really agree to go without coffee? I actually had some tea bags, so I made myself some tea. The Camel, Nick, didn't have anything, once again.
We set off with the skies still showing some glory, as we joined the standard route, at this intersection, about 200 meters after the reception building. Our sleepy-eyed staff woman did manage to get up by 7:30 to settle our accounts. I don't know why we didn't do this the night before.
The nice gravel lane ahead would last for about 2.6 kilometers as we wound our way down from the ridgetop, staying to the left, wherever your pass a smaller lane to your right.
In the early morning light, the views of the lake (reservoir) below, the Lago di Valfabbrica, were superb.
As you descend from the ridgetop, be sure to look back to see more lovely views of the Biscina castle.
As the gravel lane continues to wind down the ridgetop in a southwesterly direction, more views expand before you.
It seems like in the mornings, when the sun is rising, the day is fresh and the veil is thin, I "receive" more images than at other times of the day. I was enthralled with my receptions on day nine on the Way of St. Francis, from Biscina to Valfabbrica!
By 1.8 kilometers you have dropped down into a drainage, the gravel lane loops around to the southeast, and there is a small climb out on the other side. If you look to the north, you will continue to see views of the castle looming above.
The early morning sunlight lit up the pastures and the white cows, for continued wonderful views.
By about 2.62 kilometers, the Via veers left onto this narrower lane, shown next, where you have also arrived at a little hill top.
Just beyond the turn, you ascend to these nostalgic, overgrown buildings.
The Via continues on the gravel lane, with little ups and downs, until the lane turns into a path at about 4.16 kilometers and you drop steeply and precipitously into a drainage, via a series of man-made, wooden steps. These steps were quite slick and muddy for us.
The bottom of the drainage is at about 4.22 kilometers, and then you must climb up on the other side via more steps. There was no water in the drainage when we crossed it.
After climbing up from the drainage, the top on the other side is at about 4.67 kilometers, and of course the path goes right back down on the other side!
The forest through here is very thick, the track is sometimes narrow, sometimes wide, but it was muddy when we went through. I could identify maples and oaks, and aside from that, maybe ash?
A few meters onward, at about 4.72 kilometers, we came to the second precipitous drop on steps and a climb out on the other side. It is not half as steep as the first.
At approximately 5.2 kilometers, the path comes to a T-intersection, shown below, and turns left onto a gravel road once again. The signs say it is 10.3 kilometers to Valfabbrica. Our short cut will shorten this distance by 2.5 kilometers, at least.
There is a steep drop on this gravel lane, as you can see in the next photo, as you approach more ruined buildings. When you reach these buildings you will be able to see the castle on the hill once again! Thus far, you have reached 5.35 kilometers. You can see the reservoir again as well, as the Via loops back towards it.
Next, the gravel road takes a long switchback down to a T-intersection at 5.83 kilometers, where it then turns right onto a wider, now paved road, shown below. At this intersection, you will see signs informing you of accommodations in Valfabbrica!
At about 6.9 kilometers, the Way comes to a bridge that spans a canyon that is incredibly steep and deep. I got dizzy looking over the edge! The bridge marks the bottom of the elevation loss for now on day nine of the Way of St. Francis, from Biscina to Valfabbrica.
At approximately 7.22 kilometers into the day, when you see a concrete wall on your right and a road heading to the right, this is the important decision point where you choose the longer route to the Pieve di Coccorano to the right, or the shorter route to the left.
Look for this sign, pictured below, hidden in the brush by the wall, showing your choices for the routes ahead. The historic church is seen on the map in the photo, designated by the yellow dot.
The choice of the route to the right begins on broken pavement. If you look above you, on the hill above the wall is the Agriturismo Borgo Sambuco, though you really can't see any buildings. The Agriturismo also has a sign on the wall, almost hidden in the vines. If you are actually going there, you would turn to the right.
And if you look to your left, the way we chose to go on the shorter route, you will immediately see the second bridge. This bridge spans the same deep gorge, and the photo below gives a bit more of a perspective of how deep it is.
And if you look up, guess what you see? The Biscina Castle, of course!
It was somewhere along the route on day nine, that we decided, with certainty, to end our pilgrimage in Assisi. It just felt right for the two of us, at this time. We were weary of no connections, with other pilgrims or to the people of the land.
Plus we were weary of the physical journey itself. We really needed to throttle it down after many years of care-providing for Rich's mother and we simply did not have the energy to continue.
We were weary of the constant wet clothing, in the rain and humidity, that never seemed to dry out. The sun, the beaches and the history that was Sicily was calling out our names
It is at about 9.0 kilometers that you will get good views of the dam that created the Lago di Valfabbrica reservoir.
At approximately 9.3 kilometers, you will pass by the lane from the longer, standard route, where it joins the pavement on day nine of the Way of St. Francis, from Biscina to Valfabbrica. From here, you could do a climb up to the historic Pieve di Coccorano, if you have changed your mind and you want to see it.
The walk down the hill from the dam is nice and easy. By about 10 kilometers, the Via leaves the dam road and takes a right hand turn onto another quiet paved road, pictured next. The Way follows this road for the next 2.2 kilometers.
After the pavement turns to gravel, and about 300 meters after the turn, arrive at the Chiesa di Barcaccia, yet another quaint church that is locked up.
You will see and hear the SS318 highway on your left shoulder along this stretch, as this gravel road follows its path to the west.
By about 11.5 kilometers, views of Valfabbrica start to appear.
At 12.2 kilometers, come to a T-intersection with a paved road and turn to the left. The signs at the intersection say, Valfabbrica is 1.0 kilometer away!
300 meters later, the Way turns to the left at this intersection shown below, onto the Via San Benedetto, for the final meters into town.
However, as the brown sign shows, to take the Perugia alternative to Assisi, stay straight instead. This alternative requires two days to reach Assisi, with a long detour to Perugia. Click the link for more information. Most likely if you are going to Perugia, you will stay overnight in Valfabbrica.
Walk under the highway, the SS318, and cross the Chiascio River on this bridge.
The final meters into town on the Via San Benedetto are a short slog up the hill.
We arrived at the Piazzetta Caterina square in the center of town, shown below. The most lovely-looking La Rosa Di Francesco accommodation is in the house that is built by the tower, also seen in the photo below. However, unless you are staying for two nights, this place is not appropriate.
The Bar della Fontana on the north side of the square was open and we were thrilled to have our first caffè latte for the day, followed by acqua minerale and a lovely spinach and sausage Italian Torta. The cafe tables were strategically placed for a wonderful view while we relaxed and dined.
Valfabbrica has plenty of pilgrim accommodations, if you are staying here for the night. While sitting on the square we saw signs for the Locanda Francescana (formerly the Ostello Francescano), a private dormitory accommodation with separate male and female rooms, just a few blocks south of the square. There is also the private dormitory, the Terra Media Hostel with 12 beds.
There are also two donativos, the Casa Betania (+39 075 901 619), one block south of the square on the Piazza San Sebastiano, and the Parrochia di Santa Maria Assunta (+39 075 901 155), by the church, one block north of the main intersection on the Via Mameli.
And finally there are two non-dormitory accommodations, the Camere ''Villa Verde'' Di Agricoli Antonia, just past the clock tower (see below) along the Via Roma and the Sui Passi di Francesco, just a few steps more on the Way, along the Via Castellana
1.75 kilometers farther right along the Way, and south of town is one more accommodation, the Agriturismo il Pioppo (+39 334 369 6948), if you prefer this type of accommodation.
After our long lunch, we set off towards Assisi, our final leg. It is at this clock tower at the main intersection in town, a few steps from the bar, where the Via continues by turning right onto the Via Castellana. And here is the end of day nine on the Way of St. Francis from Biscina to Valfabbrica!
While this was a beautiful stage, it was a lonely one. Somehow Nick got behind us and stayed behind us for its entirety. Because this is such a solitary walk, Rich would choose to stay with me, as he always does, because he is a bit protective. And I was grateful.
We discussed our decision to leave the Via di Francesco in Assisi, and how and when we would tell Nick. He is an independent soul and we knew that he would continue regardless. Nonetheless, it would be difficult to let him know that Assisi was an appropriate place for us to stop, this time.
We told him at lunch, overlooking the beautiful square, after he caught up and settled in. He took it well. We would have two more beautiful days together, in Assisi. And he would carry on, walking solitary to Rome.
We felt badly, for a while but soon realized that we were grieving more for ourselves than for Nick. Yes, we had never before "given up" on a pilgrimage.
Yet, I knew we had made the right decision, as I felt peace when it was all said and done. We would head on to Sicily to immerse ourselves in the sun and history, and restore our souls. And so it is (was).
While the St. Francis' quote above may not be entirely appropriate for us on this stage, it is certainly true. We did not know what was ahead for us, but achieving our pilgrimage to Assisi was now certainly possible, even if we had 13 more difficult kilometers to go!
May your own Way of St. Francis from Biscina to Valfabbrica be filled with the necessary, the feasible and achievements that you didn't feel were possible! Ultreia!
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