Plan your routes using Club Alpino Italiano’s footpath map Fra L’Arno e il Tevere or the excellent walking site www.wanderreitkarte.de
Talk to Chris Warren with a wealth of experience of mountain and hill walking in Tuscany. He can tailor walks to your particular needs and guide you if you wish.
The entire area is covered by a network of ancient tracks still in use by farmers and foresters and old before St. Francis and his companions came to preach. Since the time he made his sanctuary here and received the stigmata, it has also been a centre of pilgrimage
Tuscany’s rolling hills, distant peaks, cypress lines, olive groves and half-hidden villages form the landscape around Caprese Michelangelo. This becomes gradually wilder as you climb toward the sanctuary of La Verna and the mountain basin of the Casentino National Park. Villa Simonicchi lies halfway between the two.
Simonicchi to L’Eremo
Leave Simonicchi walking on the SP 54 provincial road, meeting footpath 039 at Muggibiano. Continue climbing on path 039 until at the top you meet trail no. 50 leading from La Verna. Bear left along the flat mountain ridge on no. 50, passing path no.079 on your left, until you reach the panoramic point, looking over Tuscany and La Marche towards the Adriatic. Here you find L’Eremo. Return the way you came, but this time turn right on the 079 through the chestnut forests, passing Tramoscano and continuing to Vestebbia. Bear left there to meet the SP 54 at Simonicchi.
L’Eremo della Casella is a stone lodge and chapel on the flat ridge of Mt. Sovaggio. It marks the spot where St. Francis spent the first night of his final journey to Assisi. You can stay there too, rest on stone beds, grill your supper over an open wood fire and look out in the morning over the mountain-tops to the sea, much as it must have been 800 years ago. But the stone beds are hard – not for the faint-hearted.
Circuit walk from Simonicchi via Gregnano and La Pietra Trail 079, 047, 044, SP 54, Simonicchi
Simonicchi is on signposted footpath 079 leading eastwards through Mazzolo to Gregnano. This is mostly surfaced and is easy walking. It runs along the side of a ravine so steep that the trees growing there have never been felled – a true virgin forest. From Gregnano the trail branches left on the 047 to La Pietra over high rocky ground and from there descends on a rough track no. 044 to the SP 54, an easy mountain road descent to Simonicchi.
Circuit trails around La Verna.
Many footpaths generate from Mount Penna where St. Francis and his companions made a rough camp in a forest full of massive rock formations. Each day they set off on foot to the villages preaching and begging for alms. After Francis’ death the site of his forest camp was commemorated by the construction of Il Sanctuario della Verna. It stands on the edge of the great mountain basin of the Casentino National Park, with dramatic countryside reminding one of Piero della Francesca’s landscapes of Tuscany.
Trails between Caprese and the river Arno. To the West and S/W of Caprese lie the mountain ranges that descend to the river Arno. Covered with tracks they are reminders that in the days before roads the main highways were literally on the highest ground. They were more direct and safer than the lower passes, with a 360 view of the surrounding countryside. Mountain tracks connected monasteries to religious houses, to refuges and castles. Some of these still exist and can make an interesting break in your walk.