Our day five on the Way of St. Francis from Citerna to Città di Castello was a pilgrimage day full of mud and mist!
“Not to hurt our humble brethren is our first duty to them, but to stop there is not enough. We have a higher mission, to be of service to them whenever they require it.” ~ St. Francis of Assisi
On this day, we were to experience this teaching of St. Francis!
Here is my Google map for the day, uploaded from my GPS tracks, and accommodations and features placed on the map.
The day is full of ups and downs as you can see in the elevation profile. None of the hills are too bad, but the first two climbs were muddy for us and a bit slippery.
After eating our simple breakfast of coffee and toast, we set off from the Monastero Del Ss. Crocifisso E S. Maria at dawn. It was a brisk, misty morning, as you can see, with Rich and Nick setting out.
We paused to admire the sunrise through the mist.
We continued onward to Citerna and walked through the silent town. Nothing at all was open. The Piazza Scipione Scipioni was deserted.
We arrived at the eastern medieval gate to Citerna, after a bit less than one kilometer, with the sunrise now in full bloom. Again, we paused to enjoy the amazing views over the valley. The signposts here say "Lerchi 11.1 kilometers," and "Città di Castello 19.6 kilometers."
The Via di Francesco takes a left turn at the eastern gate and follows the eastern ramparts. It is a wonderful place, especially in the early morning light!
The road switchbacks down the hill, passing this little shrine at 1.36 kilometers. I always like to whisper a prayer of gratitude, whenever I pass such a chapel or church.
Only about 100 meters later, bear right at this little Capella, shown below. Another quick prayer was whispered.
The way onward on this quiet paved road was unremarkable. We were still seeing the morning glow, which made the walk quite pleasant as the easy downhill saunter continued.
At approximately 3.25 kilometers, come to the small St Francis shrine, where the quiet road meets the busy SS221. Turn left, to walk on the road briefly, with no shoulder for the pilgrimage traveler.
Not even 100 meters later, fortunately, the Way of St Francis turns right, off the busy highway and onto this pleasant gravel lane.
At 3.66 kilometers, the descent ends and you take a bend to the left. Your 215 meter (705 feet) climb, the first one of the day, now begins!
As the lane climbed, the mud was more significant. And suddenly, we came to a poor local man, trying to negotiate this muddy lane in a tiny Fiat 124, 2-wheel drive car! You can see how that attempt turned out!
The guys stepped into action, attempting to push the Fiat out of the ditch. Nick's Italian was extremely useful to coordinate the effort. Don't ask me why Rich kept his backpack on! He told me later he didn't want to get it muddy!!
The harder they tried to get the Fiat out of the ditch, the worse the situation got. The Fiat sank deeper and deeper, even high-centering the vehicle. However, the Fiat owner just wouldn't give up, wouldn't stop trying to get out of the ditch. They even tried piling up muddy rocks in the ditch for traction. It was difficult and dirty work!
After about 30 minutes of trying to free the Fiat, without success, Nick looks at us and says, "At some point we need to just get going." I felt horrible, and said, "We just can't leave him here like this."
And, out of the blue a 4-wheel drive Suzuki came along, and the driver even had a tow strap! Hallelujah! No need to make any difficult decisions.
The Suzuki made quick work of pulling the Fiat out of the ditch. All's well that ends well! We had fulfilled St. Francis' higher mission, to be of service whenever it is required.
We walked away happy, proud and fulfilled! Just another day in the life of a pilgrim!
We carried on, negotiating more mud on the lane that was becoming more primitive with tractor tracks.
We rounded the big bend seen in the photo above, and turned steeply into the sun.
After walking through fields, often skirting them, we entered a gorgeous forest. This was at about five kilometers into the day, with a little more than half of the first big climb accomplished.
I looked down and saw little bundles on the ground. Hmm, I thought they looked familiar, and when I picked them up, indeed, they turned out to be chestnuts falling from the trees!
What a delightful walk through this groove. We came upon people gathering up the chestnuts in big buckets. The Woman in the photo below was collecting Porcini mushrooms as well! You can also see how steep the lane is in this photo.
We were also noticing wild boar tracks everywhere throughout the forest. Rich was able to spot one earlier when he was walking ahead of Nick and I, but I never caught a glimpse of any.
At approximately 5.7 kilometers, when we finally reached the top of the tractor tracks, the Via turned left onto this gravel lane. The views from this first altitude top were really pretty nice, even though filled with fog.
At the top, the pilgrimage traveler can catch the first sighting of the Monte Santa Maria Tiberina, with its towering castle on the hill. This is a famous tourist attraction, but the Via di Francesco does not pass it, only views it from afar. You will see lots of views of it for the next several kilometers. It looks like a fantastic place to visit.
A few meters after the turn, you come upon signs announcing the Casale Le Burgne ahead, with food and snacks available for pilgrims. You can inquire through the link if you wish to stay at this agriturismo for the night. A few meters later, their entryway is distinct.
The way onward, on the gravel lane for the next 1.5 kilometers is open, with more views and quite pleasant. You can catch many more views of the Monte Santa Maria Tiberina.
At approximately 7.22 kilometers, join a paved road, by turning right. You will wind your way down from the ridge on this road for the next 1.3 kilometers.
When you come to a T-intersection at approximately 8.53 kilometers, take a left turn. In only 130 meters or so, follow the signs turning right and you are back onto another gravel lane, shown below. The fog was persisting!
Pass by a home with a St. Francis sculpture carved into the remainder of a cut down tree, not pictured. At this home you have reached the bottom of the first hill in the elevation profile, and are now beginning the second climb of the day of about 150 meters (500 feet).
By 8.94 kilometers, new routing now has the pilgrimage traveler take a left turn off the road, onto a fresh, new track at this sign pictured below. It feels like you are walking into the field!
This route is different from the official Italian website tracks. This recent upgrade is about 1/2 kilometer shorter than the old route, but it climbs really, really steeply!
The Fattoria Monteupo is a farm that raises buffalo and makes cheese from their milk! Thank-you to the farm, that gives us access through these fields. I did not see any buffalo when we walked through on day five of the Way of St. Francis from Citerna to Città di Castello.
The paths were muddy as we climbed steeply through these fields.
At about 10.2 kilometers we reached the second altitude top with little fanfare. There are no sweeping views this time.
We tried to take a break in the forest, after I realized we had summitted the second altitude top for the day and we were a bit more than halfway into the day.
Unfortunately while looking for a log to sit on, we stirred up some Asian killer hornets and Nick got stung through his shirt! That immediately ended our break! We bailed out of there quickly, before more of us got stung.
Fortunately, the stinger was not to be found in Nick's flesh. We kept an eye on the bite for the rest of the day, but it never got too bad.
1/2 kilometer later, when we reached the juncture with the Arboretum, the Archeologia Arborea, S. Lorenzo, the signpost informed us that the next town of Lerchi was less than one kilometer away.
Descending the second hill on the other side, the pilgrimage traveler comes to open fields with nice views of the town of Lerchi ahead.
After dropping all the way down into town, when the road becomes paved and at about 11.5 kilometers into the day, you come to the intersection with the SS221, pictured below.
We turned right onto the SS221, and headed for the center of town. It is not quite 400 meters later, at almost 12 kilometers, when the Way of St. Francis from Citerna to Città di Castello leaves the main road at this church, below.
As we were checking out the turn, we spied a bar and a supermarket, just a bit farther on the left! We looked at one another and headed straight for the bar. There would be no bee stings here!
After our nice break with a caffè latte, of course, we walked back to the church to begin the third and final climb of the day.
The road from town, though steep, is on an easy graded road, so it isn't bad. The first two climbs were muddy and slippery, but because this road is crowned, there was no mud! Yay!
Here is the pavement leaving town, after taking a bit of a jog right then left. You can see ahead the road turns to gravel and begins the climb almost immediately. And thus is the Via di Francesco: up - down, up - down!
The climb on the gravel lane is quite pleasant and through more forests on day five of the Way of St. Francis from Citerna to Città di Castello.
At about 14.2 kilometers, you come to a large open field with a beautiful villa ahead nestled in an olive grove. This appears to be the top of the third climb.
In actuality the true top is not for another 700 meters until 14.9 kilometers total, as you head back into the forest and kind of wiggle waggle along the "top."
The ultimate top is just a few meters beyond this Madonna in a niche, so when you see her, you have essentially arrived at the top.
Once you start the descent from the top, after about 400 meters the Eremo del Buon Riposo, comes into view. It is at about 15.3 kilometers, perched on Monte Citereste.
Just before the Eremo, you will see a sign tacked to a tree. It gives you a number to call if you wish to visit and get a stamp at the Eremo. The hermitage is privately owned, but can be visited by appointment by contacting Andrea Coltellini (caretaker) at 333 5407782 or ahead of time by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We called the number and Andrea only made us wait for him about 15-20 minutes. It wasn't long. While we waited, we checked out the views of Città di Castello! Lovely!
Several more pilgrims arrived while we waited.
Andrea rounded the six of us into the cloister, pictured next, and explained the history of the Eremo. He does not speak English, so Nick translated for us.
Andrea is very proud of the hermitage and extremely protective of it, rightly so. He stated that he is not a priest so he doesn't teach religion, but he surely knows that this is a very special place! He kindly asks all visitors to remain in silence and reverence when visiting the chapel in the grotto. He also warned against using photos of the interior to post on social media, as this place is too holy for that!
He claimed that all the other sites that honor St. Francis are just "Disneyland" compared to the Eremo del Buon Riposo, and that in this place you can actually feel St.Francis' presence and the Presence of God. Indeed, it IS a different place.
He told us, through Nick, that "people" from Assisi have been trying to take "his" relics, but so far have been unsuccessful.
Here is a brief history of the Eremo from Andrea, supplemented by my own research:
St Francis visited this place only twice, on his travels back and forth from Assisi to La Verna. Originally there were only caves on the side of the cliff, "where hermits lived and contemplated," according to the above linked reference to the Eremo di Buon Riposo. When St Francis was here, for the first time in 1213, he found a lovely grotto, where he meditated and rested his weary limbs from his long travels. After which he stated, "oh, what a good rest!” Hence, the name, Buon Riposo. His second time here he stayed only briefly.
By 1291 a small chapel was here, and later a bell arrived in 1352. In 1402 additional buildings were granted from Boniface the 9th. Additional buildings followed in the 15th century as well as many restorations and reconstruction over the centuries.
The hermitage was abandoned by the Franciscans in 1864, and purchased by a private owner, Domenico Palazzeschi, in 1873. To this day, the hermitage is still inhabited by the heirs of Domenico Palazzeschi. The hermitage has been restored to its former glory by Emilio Rossi.
After Andrea's lengthy speech, we were allowed to see the Chapel in the Grotto at the Eremo. It is a very old place and indeed, full of the presence of St. Francis.
On our way out of the hermitage, we were told to be sure to see an olive tree on the side, that is from 1400's!
The gravel road ahead from the hermitage becomes wider and nicer. The walk down the mountain is easy and pleasant on the Way of St Francis from Citerna to Città di Castello. After walking about a kilometer, come to this T-intersection, in the Località Nuvole and turn to the right.
For the next two kilometers, the walk flattens out, as you can see, as it meanders into and out of the forest.
At approximately 17.8 kilometers, pass the Umbria camp, where there is a restaurant, if you need one. At about 300 meters later, the short, steep drop into the city begins. The views abound!
Just after the camp, the Way of St. Francis joins the paved SP103. Below is Rich and Nick on this road.
A few hundred meters later the SP103 took a hard bend to the left, but we stayed right to continue the steep drop into town on this road, the Via Romolo Carbini.
Our excitement grew as we neared the medieval city, on the Way of St. Francis from Citerna towards Città di Castello.
Continue on down the steep Via Romolo Carbini, winding around until you reach the city, first walking parallel to the E45 highway and then under it and coming to a T-intersection, shown below, at 19.5 kilometers. The descent is now completed. Turn right onto the Via Aretina.
Walk along the Via Aretina as it bends northward towards the center of town and crosses the Tiber River, shown below.
After crossing the bridge, in a few meters, come to a large roundabout. Stay to the left and join the street called the Viale Nazario Sauro.
Up ahead, you will see the 16th century walls looming, pictured below. Stay on the Viale Nazario Sauro for only about 100 meters, and you will see a side street to the right that parallels it, and with a wall separating the two streets. You want to take this side street to the right, shown in the right side of the photo below. This was confusing to me at first, as the turn is not well-marked. Once inside the city, as is often the case, the route is not marked at all!
You ascend on the parallel street, following the walls on both sides. This street ends at the cathedral gardens, the giardini duomo, shown below. There is a stairway that leads up to the gardens.
Cross the gardens on a path, and in front of you is the grand Cattedrale dei Santi Florido e Amanzio. You have reached the end of day five on the Way of St. Francis from Citerna to Città di Castello!
The cathedral is very Baroque, very garish, with lots of incredible frescoes and paintings. I have included a few photos from the inside to give you an idea of the grandeur of this place.
The ceiling is just WOW! Here is a photo of the frescoed dome and arches above.
The ceiling in the nave is full of medallions and a fabulous central fresco, pictured next.
We walked to our Hotel Le Mura, which I had reserved for the three of us. It is a lovely place and with an absolutely fabulous breakfast in the morning that is included. It is one of the more economical of the accommodations I found in the city.
There is no pilgrim accommodation in Città di Castello since the Monastero Clarisse Murate closed to pilgrims.
For a look at more possibilities on booking.com, click here.
The Hotel Le Mura is only a few meters off-trail and right along the south walls of the city, as you can see, below.
There are many more attractions to see in Città di Castello, but we only had energy for a few more, after taking a shower and a nap and washing our clothes.
First and foremost are the massively impressive medieval walls. I did not walk the entire length of them, but only the section along the Viale Nazario Sauro, just to the west of the cathedral.
As you would expect in a preserved medieval town, there are many interesting alleyways and bridges connecting buildings. This was along the Via del Gatto, and there are two bridges if you look closely in this photo!
Città di Castello is a city full of towers. Perhaps the most famous is the Torre Civica or the Civil Tower, just beyond the cathedral, right along the Via di Francesco and pictured below.
There is one you can tour as a museum and climb up to the top for a view of the city. This is the Campanile Cilindrico, the Round Bell Tower. We did not tour it, but contented ourselves with viewing it from the outside.
And that concludes our tour of the city. But the very best conclusion of all was dinner at the Pizzeria Gennarì, on the east side of town. They make the pizza in wood-fired ovens and I think it was the best pizza I have ever had!
This pilgrimage day was the best length of 20 kilometers. We had time to nap, explore the city and hang out in the plazas for happy hour, despite the extra time needed to help the man out of the ditch.
The day did require energy, but not over the top. It was another successful and enjoyable day on the pilgrim road.
May your own Way of St. Francis from Citerna to Città di Castello be clear and dry and may you be of service to your fellow pilgrims on the journey!
Many readers contact me, Elle, to thank me for all the time and care that I have spent creating this informative website. If you have been truly blessed by my efforts, have not purchased an eBook, yet wish to contribute, I am very grateful. Thank-you!
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