Day Two on the
Way of St Francis ~
Pieve Santo Stefano to Montagna, 23.3 Kilometers (14.5 Miles)

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Our day two on the Way of St. Francis from Pieve Santo Stefano to Montagna was a wonderful, long forest walk, on almost no pavement. One can easily see how living in these natural settings, St. Francis would compose the following verse:

The world is my home.
The world is my heart.
The world is my monastery.
~ St Francis of Assisi, paraphrased into a song by Richard Bruxvoort Colligan, click here to hear the beautiful song!

It is a walk in which you can connect to nature, and connect to the Saint himself!

Maps and Stats, The Way of St Francis, Pieve Santo Stefano to Montagna

Here are my GPS tracks, uploaded to a google map, with amenities placed on them as usual. I included two days of GPS tracks, since most sources suggest that you do the pilgrimage from Pieve Santo Stefano to Citerna in 2 days, either via the mountain route through Montagna for 46.3 kilometers (28.8 miles), or via the alternative valley route directly to Sansepolcro and then onward to Citerna for a shorter total of 33.7 kilometers (21 miles). Seeing the loop will help you visualize the routes and help you make an informed decision which one to take. 

We chose the mountain route, shown in blue on the map, firstly because we wanted to see the Eremo di Cerbaiolo, secondly, we felt this route would be more scenic and thirdly, the length from Sansepolcro to Citerna, if we took the valley route, is only 11.4 kilometers (7.1 miles), a too short of a day for us. Montagna is a perfect middle spot on the mountain route from Pieve Santo Stefano to Citerna for a 23.3 km (14.5 miles) first day, followed by a 23 kilometer (14.3 miles) second day. 

While the "valley" route, shown in red on the map, is supposedly easier and the reason most pilgrims tend to take it, there is still a respectable climb over a ridge, with a gain of 260 meters (850 feet) as you can see in the second elevation profile below. Also be advised that here is quite a bit of pavement walking on this alternative. And the third disadvantage of the alternative, in my opinion, is that there is significant backtracking into and out of Sansepolcro, if you study the map below, clicking on the red, alternative route. 

Do be advised that there are some differences on this day's route, from the official Italian route that I had to follow, and the actual signage, which directed the pilgrim different ways for several short sections. The moral of the story, at least for this day, was to trust the waymarks. Unless, of course, you download my tracks

However, the mountain route as you can see below, has a very healthy 700 meter gain (2300 feet), by far more strenuous than the valley route. So choose wisely. Plus, as you will see as you read on, the route is quite steep and rocky, so if there is any type of weather, you may want to consider the alternative. 

Elevation Profile, Day Two, Way of St. Francis, Pieve Santo Stefano to MontagnaElevation Profile, Day Two, Way of St Francis, Pieve Santo Stefano to Montagna
Elevation Profile, Day Two, Way of St. Francis Pieve Santo Stefano to Sansepolcro, Valley AlternativeElevation Profile, Day Two, Way of St Francis, Pieve Santo Stefano to Sansepolcro, Valley Alternative

Photo-Rich Travelogue, The Way of St Francis, Pieve Santo Stefano to Montagna

We walked through a quiet Pieve Santo Stefano, down the main street, after filling our bellies to the brim at the fabulous buffet breakfast provided by the Hotel Santo Stefano. Now that's my kind of start for the day!

As is often the case, there are no waymarks within the towns on the Way of St. Francis, so follow my directions carefully until you get through town or download my GPS tracks here. Even with the official GPS tracks, the way was a bit confusing to me.  

After about 250 meters from the hotel, when the bus lane appears, and multitudes of signs appear, shown below, this is where you turn to the left. 

Left Turn at Brown Signs on the Way of St Francis Pieve Santo Stefano to MontagnaLeft Turn at Brown Signs

You will find yourself on a short, narrow alleyway, shown below, that leads to the Piccolo Museo del Diario. This museum houses a collection of diaries that documents life for the locals. 

Via Tiberina Alleyway Towards the Piccolo Museo del DiarioVia Tiberina Alleyway Towards the Piccolo Museo del Diario

At the front of the museum, to your left and by the entrance, is an archway, where the Via goes. Turn left and walk through the archway into a small plaza and take an immediate right, where you can see a bridge ahead, shown next. This is the bridge over none other than the Tiber River. Take it. 

Cross Tiber River on BridgeCross Tiber River on Bridge

Once you cross the bridge, take a left turn and follow the river on the street that parallels it. 

In a bit more than 200 meters, you will come to an intersection, where you will see your first official Via di Francesco sign in the median. From here, the waymarks are good. 

Right Turn Up Steep HillRight Turn Up Steep Hill

Your warm up is now over, after only about 1/2 kilometer! Climb steeply up and out of town on this street called the Via Alberto Maria Camaiti. 

Follow this street for approximately 200 meters, take the second right onto the Via del Gioiello. Continue on this street for another 200 meters, approximately, staying left at a Y-intersection, until you see the pictured intersection with this dirt road, below. You have left the pavement for essentially the rest of the day, and your forest walk has begun. 

Forest Walk Begins Here  on the Way of St Francis Pieve Santo Stefano to MontagnaForest Walk Begins Here

Very quickly, the road becomes steep and rocky, but not all that bad. 

Climb Steeply on Rocky RoadClimb Steeply on Rocky Road

As you climb, there are lovely views of Pieve Santo Stefano, so don't forget to stop and look behind you, as the trail winds up to the ridge above. 

Look Back at Pieve Santo StefanoLook Back at Pieve Santo Stefano

At approximately 1.8 kilometers, on the Way of St Francis, Pieve Santo Stefano to Montagna, you come to an open, flat area, where the road has thinned temporarily to a trail. The cammino bends to the left. You have to look very carefully through here, on the rocks and trees for the yellow Tau waymarks! Or just follow my GPS tracks. 

Open Flat Area on TrailOpen Flat Area on Trail

After this area, the bend leads you off the ridge top, where the steep grade lessens, and even descends for a bit. Soon you are walking on a nice, much less rocky road again through the thick forest. 

At about 3.35 kilometers into the day, you see an open field ahead. 

Come to Open Field on Your LeftCome to Open Field Ahead

The lane follows to the right of the field on tractor tracks muddy for us, for about 350 meters. 

At approximately 3.8 kilometers into your day, come to a T-intersection with a stronger tractor lane and turn right. Follow this lane until another field opens up, that you now follow to the left of the field, on a slight ascent.  

The morning light was absolutely gorgeous. The world is my monastery!

Second Open Field, Follow on the Left on the Way of St Francis Pieve Santo Stefano to MontagnaSecond Open Field, Follow on the Left

In about another 200 meters, ignore the tractor tracks descending steeply to the right, and stay straight on. Again, it is a bit tricky finding waymarks, but you will see painted yellow Tau's on the trees if you look carefully. It is helpful to know that you are walking in a generally easterly direction. 

Soon after you leave the fields, the Via di Francesco starts to climb with a vengeance, but this time through a very rocky and eroded trail. Here is just one of the sections that was tricky to negotiate. If it has rained or is raining, extra care will be required. 

Rocky Eroded TrailRocky Eroded Trail

At about 4.85 kilometers, on the Way of St. Francis, from Pieve Santo Stefano to Montagna, there is a turn to the left that was clearly painted on the rock, a yellow and blue waymark. I finally figured out that if the stripes are bent at right angles, that indicates the direction of the turn! If they are just straight stripes, you walk straight!

Chevron-Shaped Waymark - Indicates Left TurnChevron-Shaped Waymark - Indicates Left Turn

The depression at the turn was full of water when we went through, although you can't see it here in the photo. There had been recent storms in the area. 

At not quite five kilometers, we encountered slick slabs of rock that could be loose, so grippy footwear is nice through here, especially when wet. Fortunately, the slabs had dried out when we got here. 

Slick Rock SlabsSlick Rock Slabs

And then suddenly you realize you are at the top of a point, at about 5.15 kilometers into your day. I am always so grateful to reach a summit, no matter how small! The world is my home!

First Small Summit TopRich at First Small Summit Top

After a descent off the top, of about 200 meters, you quickly come upon the decision point - whether or not to visit the hermitage, the Eremo di Cerbaiolo. It is only about one additional kilometer, because you do not need to retrace your steps, and about a 70 meter elevation loss and then re-gain. Not bad. 

You can see the hermitage from the top of the summit point, beckoning you to come and visit! 

The Beckoning Eremo di Cerbaiolo in the DistanceThe Beckoning Eremo di Cerbaiolo in the Distance

We made the decision to go, descending on a nice lane for not quite 1/2 kilometer, then turning left at the bottom, to climb back up to the hermitage at about a total of 6.26 kilometers on the Way of St Francis, Pieve Santo Stefano to Montagna. 

Originally built in 1216, the hermitage is now a modern re-construction in 1970, after it was bombed out in WWII. It is still a most reverent and serene place. There is a cave where St. Francis meditated as he often did throughout this area, and most glorious views out over the valley, all the way to the Montedoglio Reservoir, shown below. 

View of Valley From the Eremo di CerbaioloView of Valley From the Eremo di Cerbaiolo

As you approach the hermitage on the dirt road, first you enter through a gate. Next, you will see a grotto with a manger scene, with steps walking up to it, which we did not take and are not pictured. 

(We were to learn that manger scenes are an incredibly popular thing in Italy, revered all throughout the year. Apparently, in 1291, St. Francis of Assisi asked Giovanni Vellita from the village of Greccio to create a manger scene so he could hold a Christmas Eve mass there. Thus began a tradition that has survived over the centuries, since we know how well-loved St. Francis is in Italy!)

Shortly after the manger grotto, you come to a steep set of stairs, where it is shorter to leave the road and climb these stairs to the hermitage. There is a turn in the opposite direction to bypass these stairs and stay on the Via, but why would you if you have come this far? The sign says to the panoramic path of the Passo di Viamaggio, and we will take this path from the hermitage, after visiting it. 

Stairway to the Hermitage, Eremo di CerbaioloStairway to the Hermitage, Eremo di Cerbaiolo

After visiting the hermitage, for which I have decided to show no interior photos, the way onward is on this shortcut, from the upper terrace and onto the "Percorso Panoramica" or the Panoramic Path. There is no need to retrace your steps. 

Shortcut via the Percorso Panoramica on the Way of St Francis Pieve Santo Stefano to MontagnaShortcut via the Percorso Panoramica

The panoramic path climbs steeply and switchbacks above the hermitage. 

Climb Steeply Above the HermitageClimb Steeply on Switchbacks Above the Hermitage

After only a 350 meter climb at about 6.6 kilometers into the day, come to the ridgetop with a cross, with more panoramic views. 

Cross at Ridgetop Above HermitageCross at Ridgetop Above Hermitage

After admiring the views, follow the trail on the dramatic ridgeline as it gently ascends. You will see plenty of waymarks on the rocks and trees. 

Walk the RidgelineWalk the Ridgeline

At 7.28 kilometers, approximately, arrive at the junction with the main trail that did not detour to the hermitage. The way is straight ahead, up steeply once again. After walking a few hundred meters after the junction, stay to the right.

Merge with the Main RouteMerge with the Main Route Here

The route is now on tractor lanes, wider and more level as the forest opens into more open space. 

The Way Opens Up on the Way of St Francis Pieve Santo Stefano to MontagnaThe Way Opens Up

At about 8.25 kilometers, come to a gate that you must open and close. Be careful, this gate is electrified, so make sure you use the plastic handle to open and close it!  Soon, the cows on the Way explained the gate, so be sure to close it. You will encounter the second gate like this a bit farther along. 

Go Through Gates to PasturesGo Through Gates to Pastures

The tinkling of the cow bells made for an enchanting sound on the Way of St Francis, Pieve Santo Stefano to Montagna. 

Cows in PastureCows in Pasture

At about 8.5 kilometers, come to a ranch where the cows were being rounded up and herded into the corral. 

Pass this RanchPass this Ranch

The views after the ranch are quite nice. The world is my heart!

More Gorgeous Open CountrysideMore Gorgeous Open Countryside

At a total of approximately 9.55 kilometers, on the Way of St Francis, Pieve Santo Stefano to Montagna, come to a bend in the road by a single home and take a left turn. 

And after about another 350 meters on this open gravel lane, come to a T-intersection with the SP258. Turn right onto the road, and 100 meters later come to the inviting Bar L'Alpeapproximately 10 kilometers total for the day

We did not know about this bar, and since Nick doesn't drink coffee, we did not stop, at about halfway into the day. In retrospect, I wish we had! 

Bar L'AlpeThe Inviting Bar L'Alpe at the Viamaggio Pass

At the bar, you have arrived at the famous Valico di Viamaggio or the Viamaggio Pass, a significant landmark in WWII. The Germans built the Gothic Line here, to prevent the advancement of the Allies from the south. This pass was the only suitable road for the transit of heavy vehicles. To read more about this historic area, click on the link.

Most of the historic bunkers defending this Gothic Line are overgrown in the forest, but we did see one quite obviously in a clearing, see farther below.  

Not even 100 meters down the road and you come to this chapel on your left, where the Way of St. Francis leaves the pavement for a trail. There are many signs at this intersection explaining the significance of this area in WWII. 

Back into the Woods at ChapelBack into the Woods at Chapel

The trail soon starts to climb very steeply, as you can see in the photo below, on the Way of St Francis from Pieve Santo Stefano to Montagna. The trail has so many diversions, that you just need to pick one as you switch back up this quarter kilometer stretch. You will eventually join a fence line that is on your right and follow it. 

Very Steep Climb UpVery Steep Climb Up

After crossing through several gates, the fence line is now on your left. This fence line looks like this, in the photo below. 

Follow the Fence LineFollow the Fence Line

As you ascend through this area, keep your eyes peeled for trenches from the Gothic Line on your right. They didn't show up well in photographs, but there are several, the most prominent one at about 10.5 kilometers into the day. 

Continue to cross through more gates. This one is unique.

Go Through the Unique Gate on the Way of St Francis Pieve Santo Stefano to MontagnaGo Through the Unique Gate

After crossing the above gate, come to this open area, shown below, where beyond the clearing you see a strong cut into the mountain ahead. I was thinking, hmm, I wonder if that is the route. 

That's the Way AheadThat's the Way Ahead

At about 11 kilometers, indeed, the Via di San Francesco does join the cut, by turning right onto the road running through it, pictured below. We still had a bit of a climb to reach the top, I thought. 

Getting Closer to the TopGetting Closer to the Top

Then, after a bit more than 100 meters on this road, the Way turns off to the left, and back into the thick forest, at this gate, shown below. I like it!

Leave the Road at the GateLeave the Road at the Gate

The forest is dense and holds the final ascent for the day. A few meters later, take a sharp right hand turn and onto a trail that essentially parallels the road through the cut.

The waymarks are sufficient through this section to find your way without a problem. It is the red and white waymarks that are the most frequent here, with an occasional yellow Tau, and some orange dots thrown in for good measure! I had no idea what the orange dots represented!

Final Climb in the WoodsFinal Climb in the Woods

At 11.7 kilometers, you can feel you are at the altitude top, which coincides with yet another gate, shown below. You are just below the top where the road goes, and you can climb up there if you wish. I didn't see the point. 

Top Out at Second GateTop Out at Second Gate

You will briefly see signs for yet another cammino called Il Cammino di Sant'Antonio, the Way of St. Anthony. Yet another route following the life of a saint. Apparently, St. Anthony lived at the Cerbaiolo hermitage for three years.

There is a very sharp descent on the other side of the altitude top, along the ridgetop, for about the next 700 meters. And suddenly, the trail ends with an intersection with this gravel road, shown below, at approximately 12.4 kilometers total for the day. You take a left hand turn onto this road. 

Return to Gravel RoadReturn to Gravel Road

For more than six kilometers you will walk on this gravel road. It is easy walking with a small incline, followed by a small decline on the Way of St Francis, Pieve Santo Stefano to Montagna. 

Gravel Road Levels OutGravel Road Levels Out

The first landmark where you will arrive is the nature reserve, L'Alpe della Luna Riserva Naturale, at 15.8 kilometers. This is a very cool and shady area, with a small, natural waterfall, just to the left of the road, at this bridge, shown below. The world is my monastery!

Walk Through Nature ReserveWalk Through Nature Reserve

This nature reserve makes for very pleasant walking!

Walk By Gorgeous Old TreesWalk By Gorgeous Old Trees

After leaving the nature reserve, come to the very inviting and economical Rifugio Pian Della Capanna at 16.8 kilometers into the day. This would be a respectable distance for the end of your day, if you so desire. Click on the link for current information.

Again, in hindsight, I wish we would have stopped for a coffee break here, but we kept walking. Why, I don't know! There is a picnic area across the street if you wish to stop for a picnic. 

Pass Rifugio Pian Della CapannaPass Rifugio Pian Della Capanna

The gorgeous forest continues after the Rifugio. 

Onward Up Gravel Road on the Way of St Francis Pieve Santo Stefano to MontagnaOnward Up Gravel Road, Way of St Francis, Pieve Santo Stefano to Montagna
Cammino Bends to the LeftCammino Bends to the Left

At 18 kilometers, come to large clearing, where a very noticeable bunker can be seen off to your right. What a vantage point, the Germans had from this height. 

Pass WWII BunkerPass WWII Bunker

The gravel road ahead is open and with lovely views. 

Road with ViewsRoad with Views

By 18.7 kilometers, finally leave the gravel road for this path to the left, shown below. 

Left Turn Onto PathLeft Turn Onto Path

Once again, this path is loose gravel at times, quite rocky and full of rubble at other times, and negotiates deep holes that may be filled with water. 

More Rocky Paths on the Way of St Francis Pieve Santo Stefano to MontagnaMore Rocky Paths
Nick Negotiates PuddleNick Negotiates Puddle

This rocky path must have been a road, perhaps, because it eventually widens out and becomes more of one. 

Arrive at this lovely home in a ruined state at approximately 21.7 kilometers, called Il Podere, "The Farm," on the map. 

Walk By Il PodereWalk By Il Podere

And just before the Il Borghetto Pellegrino, "Pilgrim's Hamlet" sign, shown below, at 22.2 kilometers, you pass another small stone building.

The sign welcoming you to the Pilgrim's Hamlet was a very welcome one, as we knew Montagna, our destination for the day, was just around the corner! 

Welcome to the Pilgrim's Hamlet on the Way of St Francis Pieve Santo Stefano to MontagnaWelcome to the Pilgrim's Hamlet

And just a bit more than 100 meters later the most gorgeous B&B Il Palazzo appears! Advanced reservations are required here, click the link for or call +39 347 781 7173.

Pass By the B&B Il PalazzoPass By the B&B Il Palazzo

About one more kilometer after the B&B, you enter the town proper of Montagna, shown below. 

Entering MontagnaEntering Montagna

The sign for the left turn to the Alla Batutta is almost immediately after arriving into town. I picture it below, and this is where we stayed. Please call or book ahead for reservations here as well! These places are so remote that they must be assured they will have sufficient supplies for you!

The Alla BattutaThe Alla Battuta

For 48 Euros we were offered a lovely double room including breakfast. What a charming place this was, with an outdoor garden and sitting area, and rooms built right into the rock. 

Nick at the Alla Battuta Entrance on the Way of St Francis Pieve Santo Stefano to MontagnaNick at the Alla Battuta Entrance

The only restaurant in Montagna is now closed, as is the Church of San Michele Arcangelo, which used to house pilgrims but is now a community center. 

Our hostess, Orfelia, offered us dinner for 15 Euros each, which she cooked herself. It was a full course meal, with the first course of pasta, second course with a plate of vegetables and meat, wine and dessert. She was a very happy and gracious hostess and we were happy pilgrims!

Fabulous Meal at the Alla BattutaFabulous Meal at the Alla Battuta

We tucked ourselves into our beds with very full bellies after a successful second day on the Via di Francesco!

Reflections, The Way of St Francis, Pieve Santo Stefano to Montagna

This day had no real issues or dilemmas to overcome. The nature walk was just the right length, despite the elevation gain in the first half of the day. 

The world truly is a monastery, if you walk slowly and with your eyes open to your marvelous surroundings! 


May your own Way of St Francis, from Pieve Santo Stefano to Montagna be filled with familiar and heartfelt moments, where you can truly say, "The world is my monastery!" Ultreia!

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Need suggestions on what to pack for your next pilgrimage? Click Here or on the photo below!

Carbon Trekking Poles

Carbon fiber construction ( not aluminum) in a trekking pole makes them ultra lightweight. We like the Z-Pole style from Black Diamond so we can hide  our poles in our pack from potential thievesbefore getting to our albergue! There are many to choose from!  ( See more of our gear recommendations! )

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An ultralight backpack should serve you well for years, like my Gregory has - six Caminos in all! My 28L Women's pack gets a 5-star on Amazon (Ones for Guys too)!

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Do not forget your quick-dry microfiber towel!

My absolute favorite book on how to be a pilgrim: