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Our day eight on the Way of St. Francis from Gubbio to Biscina was an interesting day, full of surprises and a big need for faith that all would work out in the end.
Our planned destination for the day was the Eremo San Pietro, a donativo, at only 16 kilometers from Gubbio. I was looking forward to a short, easy day. However, it was not destined to happen.
“I don’t think you really know for sure what you’ll do until it comes down to the moment when you have to make that decision for real.” ~ J.W. Lynne, The Unknown
This day's map is shown below. There are lots of accommodation choices if you wish to break up this stage farther, mostly agriturismos, but also some more economical places, if you look on the map below.
As far as restaurants and cafes after Ponte D'Assi, five kilometers into the stage, there are none, all the way to Valfabbrica, 35 kilometers away, if you plan to go that far! So come prepared with food and water.
As you can see from the elevation profile below, this day is no walk in the park. There is a total elevation gain of over 800 meters (2625 feet) again today.
There is one healthy climb in the middle of 263 meters (863 feet), a healthy climb into Biscina of 200 meters (656 feet), and a smattering of ups/downs along the way.
We started off the day, with a glorious sunrise over the Chiesa di San Giovanni Battista which I could see from our 2nd story room, and with full bellies from the lovely breakfast at the B&B Residenza Le Logge. Nick decided to hang out in Gubbio longer to catch more photos in the daylight, so Rich and I set off without him.
Starting out where we left off on day seven, by the Chiesa di San Francesco, you walk along the main road, the Via Giacomo Matteotti, through Gubbio, for about 130 meters until you arrive at the large traffic circle just to the south of the main piazza the Piazza San Giovonni.
There is signage at this main circle for the Via di Francesco, that states that Valfabbrica is 37 kilometers away!
It is much easier to navigate through Gubbio than any other city thus far with its helpful signs.
Once you walk straight through the circle, the street is now called the Via Campo di Marte. The 13th century walls are wonderfully preserved on this street as you walk along it. There are views of the Sant'Ubaldo Basilica on the hill above the wall.
About 1/2 kilometer from the start, you pass by the Porta San Pietro, St. Peter's gate. Note that it is a double gate! It was restored in 1378. The inner gate is the Porta Vittoria, and has an upper room that was used as a punishment cell by the Abbey of San Pietro, just on the other side. (According to the Key to Umbria website.)
Just beyond the gate, the street becomes the Viale della Rimembranza, or the Avenue of Remembrance. This is a lovely street lined with oaks, each and every oak was planted in remembrance of a soldier from Gubbio that was killed in WWI.
A tad more than 700 meters into the day, the Way makes a right hand turn onto the Via Manzoni. In a few meters, after walking straight through a small traffic circle, the street is now the Viale della Vittorina.
A short 350 meters later, a bit more than one kilometer into the day, you will encounter the loveliest of monuments, with St. Francis and the Wolf of Gubbio. If you are unfamiliar with this legend, so famous in Gubbio, click the link for a brief story of how St. Francis tamed the wolf.
And just beyond the monument is the most amazing and not to be missed, Chiesa di Santa Maria 'della Vittorina, a 13th century church with frescoes. According to the placard out front, this church was first built in the 9th century to commemorate the victory over the Saracens. In 1231 it was given to St. Francis and it became the first Franciscan church in Gubbio. According to legend, this was the place where St. Francis encountered the Wolf of Gubbio.
Spend a silent moment or two, gazing at the simple splendor of this very old and sacred place.
Next, we continued our walk thru the large park that surrounds the church, the Parco della Riconciliazione (Reconciliation Park). There is yet another large frieze depicting St. Francis and the Wolf, and a water fountain if you need it.
The Reconciliation Park is a most pleasant place and I was actually sad to leave it. I wished I could spend a lingering day here, appreciating what all it had to offer!
Just a few meters beyond the Santa Maria church you come to a large traffic circle, at 1.3 kilometers and this large supermarket, the EMI, on the corner. We hungrily went in and loaded our packs with supplies for the next several days. The supermarkets in Italy don't get better than this!
The Via di Francesco now takes a left (south) onto the street in front of the EMI. This road, called the Via della Piaggiola, you will follow for about the next 4.5 kilometers, in a long straight shot all the way to the town of Ponte D'Assi on the Way of St. Francis from Gubbio to Biscina.
In less than a kilometer, the street becomes the Strada Dritta, aptly named in Italian, meaning "straight road." I suppose there are not many straight roads in Italy, so this one carries the name! And as you would imagine, it is a walk on easy terrain. Enjoy it while you can!
Because of its walking friendliness, we did encounter lots of exercise walkers along this stretch. In fact, farther ahead the Strada Dritta does actually become a walking path.
Your first landmark along the Strada Dritta, at about 400 meters after the EMI, is the SS219 highway, which you walk under. As you can see below, initially walking on this road may be hazardous. We should have been on the left side of the road, facing traffic!
Next, at about 2.2 kilometers, is the historic leper hospital, the Chiesa Del'Ospidale di San Lazzaro. According to the placard, it was built in the second half of the 12th Century. We were unable to peer inside.
Just shy of 3.0 kilometers, come to this prominent Y-intersection. Stay Right.
You can see in the photo above, that just after this intersection, the Strada Dritta becomes a pedestrian only path. You are now entering the town of Cipolleto.
See that hill ahead? Yes, that is where we are going!
The next prominent landmark is the Chiesa Di S. Maria Assunta, at approx. 3.56 kilometers at another Y-intersection. Stay to the right.
There is a B&B Affittacamere Giada, right near the Maria Assunta church, just to the west. I saw no signs for it, but you can click on the link for more information.
After the chapel, the road is no longer paved, but becomes a gravel path, see below. It is quite nice!
The pedestrian way even reduces to a single-track path for a short while.
At about 4.5 kilometers, enter the town of Ponte D'Assi. In town, the Strada Dritta becomes the Via di Case Olmi.
After walking through town for 400 meters, at about 4.9 kilometers, the Way joins the SR298 by taking a left hand turn to continue southward. After walking across a river on a bridge, about another 100 meters, we stumbled into the Bar New York! How wonderful. We just had to stop for a caffè latte and a stamp! It was delightful and the folks there were very pleasant when we told them we were from the USA!
Walking along the highway was not pleasant. After we crossed the bridge and walked through town, the highway was open and without any shoulder. However, in places, there was a casual pilgrim path through the grass.
At 5.75 kilometers, after walking along the SR298 for about 800 meters, you turn right onto a diversion, see below, where it feels good to get off the highway.
You will pass by signs for the Agriturismo Villa Maria Pia at the first intersection. This accommodation is a few meters to the right. The Via di Francesco signs at this intersection announced that our destination, the Eremo San Pietro, was 10.2 kilometers away! Yay! I was so looking forward to a short pilgrimage day!
After about 1/2 kilometer on this diversion, come to the second intersection, where the Way wants you to go to the right, on a lane that winds down and under the highway SS219 for about a quarter of a kilometer to the other side, where it continues onward.
Or, you could just join the highway once again for this short distance, like we did, and avoid the path under the bridge, which was very muddy when we went through.
After you cross the highway bridge, at about 6.6 kilometers, take the first left, towards the Agriturismo Ponte di Riocchio. If you are on the path under the bridge, stay straight on the other side to join the same road, shown below.
It is on this quiet, paved road that the big climb of the day begins on day eight of the Way of St. Francis from Gubbio to Biscina.
These hanging bundles of corn, and the squash at the first farm along the way caught my eye.
However, beware of the little dog that lives here. He was tied when we walked by, but when Nick passed through later, he was loose and he bit Nick!! According to Nick, the owner was present and aware, but did nothing!
While the road flattens out for a bit, as you can see in the photo below, after the cluster of buildings, the serious climbing begins.
By approximately 7.8 kilometers pass the delightful-looking Agriturismo Ponte di Riocchio. It is in the cluster of buildings above. There is a wonderful St. Francis fountain at the agriturismo, see below.
As the climb continues, at 8.2 kilometers, the pavement ends. The road takes a big bend and suddenly gorgeous views of Gubbio open up.
About 9.7 kilometers come to a Y-intersection and stay to the right. You will see the Agriturismo Baroncelli Bellavista ahead. When you reach this place, you are almost to the altitude top.
When you reach these lofty heights, more fabulous and open views toward Gubbio greet you!
400 meters after the Agriturismo Baroncelli Bellavista, come to a T-intersection, shown below. Take a left turn here onto another quiet, paved country road.
By about 10.2 kilometers, come to the altitude top of the day, not quite 1/2 kilometer past the Agriturismo Baroncelli Bellavista. More views open up on the other side.
At 10.8 kilometers, come to an intersection with multiple signs for various accommodations. Turn right in the direction of the Affittacamere Casalotto Francescano and onto a nice gravel lane.
Immediately after the turn is the Agriturismo La Brocca di Valdichiascio, if your day ends here.
At approximately 11.5 kilometers, pass by the Affittacamere Casalotto Francescano, yet another place to stay. It also looks lovely.
The Way onward through this area toward the next agriturismo is quite nice and you will catch views of the Castello di Vallingegno on the hillside to your right, not pictured.
It is at 12.7 kilometers that you will reach the lane to the Agriturismo il Beccafico Alpaca. A very friendly dog came running out to greet us when we passed by. We talked to other pilgrims who stayed at this place who said it was a marvelous experience. It just wasn't quite enough kilometers into the day for us to stay here.
Pictured next is a view of the gravel road ahead, on the open descent after the Il Beddafico Alpaca.
After a huge bend to the right, at about 13.4 kilometers into the day, a road joins from the left, but you stay straight. The Via signs say that the Eremo di San Pietro in Vigneto is only 2.7 kilometers away, but Valfabbrica is 24! I was so happy to be so close and my steps were light on the Way of St. Francis from Gubbio to Biscina.
As you switchback down the mountain, pass a ruined old building on your left and continue your descent on a steep, but smooth road.
The Chiesetta delle Ripe - Madonna della Grazia is at the bottom of the long descent at about 14 kilometers, pictured next.
This little shrine, with wooden crosses lining the fence, is a popular pilgrim place where you can leave your thoughts and memorabilia.
Along the Way through here, you will catch views of the castle, the Castello di Biscina on the ridge. Look closely on the dark ridge in the photo below and you will be able to make out the castle tower on the skyline. We didn't know it at the time, but this was actually to be our destination for the day.
And finally, at 16 kilometers, we arrived at the Ostello Eremo di San Pietro in Vigneto.
We peered through the gate at the Eremo. It looked like an incredible place to stay.
At first we were confused when we arrived at the Eremo. I thought it was just closed for the midday break. But according to the Italian pilgrims who were having lunch by the gate, the Eremo di San Pietro was closed for the season, as of several days ago! We had just missed them! I should have suspected when I didn't get an answer to my email several days beforehand! The Italians did get a response, just several days prior to us.
Ok, we knew that we now had to make another plan. The signage here said that Valfabbrica was 21 kilometers away! I really, really didn't want to walk that far, more than 35 kilometers in a day.
The Italian pilgrims had made a reservation at the B&B Bellugello, off Camino by 1.3 kilometers and the turnoff several kilometers farther down the pilgrimage road.
Both of the Italians spoke great English, and I asked the girl to please call the B&B for us, which she did. They were fully booked for the night. She stated that they had also called the other accommodation in Bellugello, the Agriturismo La Sosta di San Francesco, prior to the B&B and they were also booked out. Oh dear!
There was one more possibility in Bellugello, the parish church that was listed in their Italian guide book, but not mine. By this time we had contacted Nick via WhatsApp and let him know of our dilemma. He called the parish church for us and was told that the church was closed permanently to pilgrims. Strike three!
At this time, Nick, who had left Gubbio later than us, was about eight kilometers behind us. He said he would figure something out and he would call us back. He was walking by the many agriturismos we had passed and would seek information and advice from one of them. He was best suited for the job, since he spoke fluent Italian.
We walked onward into the unknown, continuing down the gravel lane, deeper into the wilderness!
At 17 kilometers, the Via di Francesco leaves the nice gravel road and turns onto a two-track path that eventually reduces to a single track, pictured next. You can see an aqueduct in the distance in the photo.
It is at 17.6 kilometers that you need to cross this spillway on the stepping stones provided. You can see the aqueduct to the left of the photo. This stream marks the very bottom from the altitude top.
It is at 18.3 kilometers after a bit of a climb up from the stream crossing, that the goat track comes out to a gravel road, at the top of a small hill, pictured below. Here there are signs to Bellugello, to the right, but the Via continues to the left. If you are staying in Bellugello, this is your turnoff.
As we were walking onward, thinking about our lack of accommodation for the night, I was gearing myself up for the 35 kilometer walk all the way to Valfabbrica! I knew I could do it if I had to. I had done it before!
I was also looking on the map to see if there wasn't some accommodation between the next town of Biscina and Valfabbrica. No, not really. At least none with any economy.
Or, I thought, I could sleep in the woods, if I had to as well! I was hoping the church, the Chiesa di Caprignone ahead, would have a porch that we could sleep under.
All different scenarios were running through my brain. The longer we walked into the unknown, the deeper into nowhere we seemed to go!
But then, I just breathed, and knew that whatever happened, we would be just fine. It was a lovely downhill walk on the gravel lane, and I did my best to stay in the moment.
By 19.3 kilometers, the Via comes to the Chiesa di Caprignone. Alas, there was no porch here. Needless to say, I wasn't going to spend the night here!
There is a bench to sit and rest, that is on the other side of the photo that you will see when you first arrive.
The gravel lane ends at the church and the path onward through the forest is thick and lush! It was hard to be worried, when walking in such a wonderful place! Yet I couldn't help continuing to feel that we were walking farther and farther from civilization. My fear was impeding any rational thought.
One half kilometer after the Chiesa di Caprignone, at about 19.8 kilometers, your downhill walk ends when you cross this drainage, pictured next, on the Way of St. Francis from Gubbio to Biscina.
If your day ends in Biscina, from this drainage, you will have a final, almost 200 meter (656 feet) push to end your day. You will feel it after what you have so far accomplished! I know I did!
It was while walking through this section, that we finally received a WhatsApp text from Nick that he was able to secure an apartment for us at the Agriturismo Tenuta di Biscina. He was told they had already closed for the season, but agreed to reopen for the night, at 45 Euros per person, breakfast included. We would have a 2-bedroom apartment. Without much notice, they could cook a simple dinner for 11 Euros per person if we wanted it. Would that be alright with us??
Indeed it would! Biscina was only two kilometers away. And since Nick got a late start on the day, he would roll in around 5:00 o'clock. Perfect for him too. So we sealed the deal.
Normally I wouldn't want to pay such a high rate, but this was way better than walking all the way to Valfabbrica. Plus, we could now do a 30 kilometer push all the way to Assisi the next day. So the costs would all even out.
As we walked onward, there was a new spring in my step. The day, while not as easy as I expected, was easy enough and would soon be over.
The climb up from the drainage was through the forest initially, then several hundred meters later, we came to this clearing. I was so happy to be almost done with the day, as you can see the clouds were building.
With the clearings, we knew we were coming to farms and civilization. The fields ahead were gorgeous.
In the photo below, if you look on the ridge, just to the left of the yellow field, you can see the Agriturismo in Biscina and the tower of the Castello! We were getting close now.
When the olive trees come into view, the Way takes a bend to the right at a farmer's lane intersection. We saw a Via di Francesco sign here that said that Biscina was still 2.3 kilometers away (more like 1.5 kilometers by my measurements), Valfabbrica, 17.
Less than 100 meters later, take a bend to the left at another farmer's lane intersection and climb up to the cluster of buildings, shown next. It was heartening to me that we were back in civilization, knowing that if indeed we had no accommodation, I could have at least asked someone for help, to call for a taxi.
Several meters later, when walking through the farm buildings, you will come to this lovely pilgrim's fountain, at a total of 20.6 kilometers, approximately.
Your climb continues after the fountain until about 21.1 kilometers, you come to a T-intersection at the top of the final climb for the day, just past the Snow White and Seven Dwarfs house, shown below. When you see this house, (look closely to see the Disney characters on the porch), you will know that your final climb has come to an end.
After turning left at the T-intersection past the Snow White and Seven Dwarfs house, it is an easy, flat walk on asphalt along the top of the ridge for about 400 meters, until the turnoff for the reception area of the Agriturismo Tenuta di Biscina, shown below.
Even if you are not going to the agriturismo, you can take this turn. It will meet up with the Via di Francesco again, about 650 meters later, as they both go in the same direction.
Otherwise, stay to the left here, walk about another 350 meters, until a T-intersection, where you go to the right. Walk another 250 meters approx. and meet the lane coming from the Tenuta di Biscina. The Castello di Biscina is a few meters more on your right!
If you are going to the agriturismo, after the turn off, it is almost a half-kilometer down the lane until you reach the reception building, shown below.
The staff was friendly and helpful and our apartment was wonderful, however, despite a full kitchen, we did not cook. Breakfast was included in the 45 Euros per person, and we took their "simple" dinner of steak and pasta, with salad and dessert.
Rich and I sprang for a very nice bottle of wine that we could thank Nick for pulling it all off for us! We were very grateful for him and his Italian skills!
After our arrival, we had hurried to wash out our clothes, but indeed, as I thought, it did rain quite hard later that afternoon and once again, our clothes did not dry. Nick barely made it in before the rain began.
We even ran into a woman from Germany in the reception that we had last seen in La Verna, and she also was staying for the night in her own apartment. So we were confused. Had the Agriturismo actually closed?? Or just closed to new bookings? Regardless, it is imperative to call ahead whenever staying in rural accommodations in Italy, especially in the cusp season.
The German pilgrim was only doing a section, here and there on the Way of St. Francis from Gubbio to Biscina. She was an older gal, and just making her own Via! She had arrived in Bellugello by taxi and only walked to Biscina from there. We had a nice dinner together, delivered to our apartment.
And the best, is that by our room at the agriturismo, there were the most lovely views of the ruined Castello di Biscina. This is a most serene place, with a pool as well (closed in October), for you to take a break from your pilgrimage, if just for a few hours, if you are able, and if it fits your plans!
I was unclear if the agriturismo owns the castle or not. Apparently at the end of the 15th century, a noble by the name of Guidubaldo da Montefeltro, was ransomed from captivity, with one hundred thousand ducats and two castles, including Biscina. Interesting!
All in all, it was a successful pilgrimage day, despite it not going according to plan. But the Via did provide and it all worked out in the end, despite a bit of anxiety along the way.
As we walked through the countryside, Rich and I reflected more on what a pilgrimage means to us. We came up with the words reflection, redirection and connection. For us, these are all elements of a pilgrimage.
Reflection, is obvious as you can't help but reflect on everything in your life as you walk!
Redirection, for us, means that sometimes after long periods of reflection we do decide to take our lives in different directions. Redirection toward our own personal priorities was our theme here.
Connection, for us, is to yourself, others, your ancestors, the people of the land and all the pilgrims heading to Assisi (or Santiago, or wherever) in the past/present/future.
We thought that connection with people of the land was stronger perhaps in Spain than Italy. For us, thus far, it just didn't really feel like a pilgrimage. With more countryside walking and fewer stops to connect with the locals, indeed, there were less opportunities to connect. And so few pilgrims along the way to connect to as well.
Since both Rich and I do a lot of reflecting in our everyday lives, for us, the missing piece on this pilgrimage was the lack of connections. We had essentially decided that our pilgrimage would end in Assisi. At least for now.
I was still willing to give the second half of the pilgrimage a go, at a later and different time. At a time, perhaps when more pilgrims would be on the road! So, stay tuned!
May your own day eight on the Way of St. Francis from Gubbio to Biscina be filled with flexibility, living in your moments of reality, making decisions in the moments when you must! And perhaps it may be more than just a few moments ahead of time! Ultreia!
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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