Umbria, the green heart of central Italy, a lower altitude section of the Apennines midway between hills and mountains. A pilgrimage area with strong agricultural, commercial and craft traditions its routes between Mt. Vettore and Lake Trasimeno stretch back thousands of yearsUmbria’s footpaths have the undoubted strength of linking together historic medieval towns with priceless artistic treasures. You’ll almost certainly notice this in the Mt. Subasio area with its natural park of the same name. Subasio is a peak of almost 1300 metres and a protected area of more than 7000 hectares of broad-leaved trees with small, vibrant green valleys, river canyons and some of the most beautiful towns in Umbria. There are thirteen, very well signed footpaths in the park winding through red juniper and hornbeam trees and past small limestone outcrops and the burrows of the wild boar and squirrels that inhabit the park.
The footpath which links Assisi with the splendid town of Spello has been classified as “Tourist”. Don’t miss out on a day’s trekking along the western slopes of Mt. Subasio from St Francis’s home town to one of the best preserved medieval towns in central Italy. It is a highly panoramic hillside footpath which climbs steeply up initially from Assisi’s old walls reaching the monastery village Eremo delle Carceri where St. Francis and his order meditated in approximately an hour. The footpath then continues towards Sasso Piano, a 1125 metre high rocky outcrop where the landscape changes suddenly into a barer, more mountainous environment with an Alpine feel to it.You can stop off half way through the walk at Rifugio del Mortaro almost at the top of the mountain at 1284 metres. The refuge is a former Italian Air Force observatory just above a depression called Mortaro delle Troscie, a geological formation around 40 metres deep and 200 metres wide along the descent towards the arid pastures of Fonte Bregno where the path continues into the forest once more. A spring is an area which is set up for a rest and cool down. After this you continue in the direction of Sasso della Botte, a rocky formation emerging out of the chestnut and hornbeam vegetation, which leads to the beginning of footpath number 56.
We’re coming to the end of our route now and we start to see a few conifers amongst the other trees. There is broom everywhere now together with the red juniper and honeysuckle which is so characteristic of central Italy. The fragrances of the forests above Poggio Caselle are an experience in themselves. As we continue on down the forests give way to olive groves right down to the gates of Spello and a well-earned rest, the paintings of Pinturicchio and some wonderful views of this medieval town.
Where to sleep: Hotel Le Silve near Assisi, deep in the forests of the Subasio Natural Park, built in a restored tenth century hostelry, has highly panoramic rooms and an excellent restaurant. The hotel also has apartments and farmhouse apartments.