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Assisi, the birthplace of St. Francis of Assisi, is a picturesque town in the province of Perugia within the region of Umbria. The stunning Basilica di San Francesco d’Assisi crowns the top of the hill and dominates the landscape of the town. Expansive vistas, winding streets, and scattered shops and cafés atop the hill make for an enjoyable experience for anyone, regardless of religious beliefs. For the faithful there is the added draw St. Francis’ life. Crowds flock to this lovely spot to honor the saint, but most everyone misses a side of Assisi that St. Francis himself enjoyed: a stroll in the surrounding woods.
The Bosco di San Francesco is a wooded area immediately adjacent to the Basilica. A gate in the wall surrounding the garden adjacent to the Basilica affords easy access. Once past the gate, there is a small tourist information booth which is supported by the FAI (Fondo Ambiente Italiano) where you can get information about the three separate but overlapping tourist routes: the “landscape route”, which highlights the historical role of the Italian rural landscape; the “historical route”, which recounts the history of the area through its original buildings; and the “spiritual route”, which is geared towards helping you reflect on the past, present and future relationship between mankind and the natural world.
The Bosco di San Francesco leads you into a charming slice of Italian rural landscape, in this case comprised of a dense wooded area along with occasional open vistas to surrounding hills. It is very tranquil and uplifting. One unexpected and wonderful surprise along the trail: the fourteenth century wall in the middle of the path. How did it get there and who built it? The sign posted near the wall gives some interesting clues. The wall was apparently constructed as part of the expansion that was undertaken between 1260 and 1316. The characteristic details of local pink limestone that are visible today are thought to be part of the original wall. Due to conflicts in the area, other parts of the wall were subsequently destroyed and re-constructed.
The trail is meticulously maintained, but you may want to consider wearing comfortable shoes, especially if you want to actually walk the complete path that stretches for a couple of kilometers into the woods.
Even if you are just going to take a few steps into the woods, take the time on your visit to Assisi to step into the Bosco di San Francesco. After a short walk or a full hike, you will feel rejuvenated by the natural environment and ready to take in more local sights or grab a meal at one of the charming little cafés in town.