Extending just over 300 km, through the green heart of Italy, on foot, bicycle or horseback, this route starts in Umbria, then crosses the whole of Lazio to reach its southern border with Campania.
The “Cammino” links the three most important Benedictine sites, passing along cart tracks, dirt trails and minor roads. It takes in Norcia, St Benedict’s birthplace; Subiaco, where he lived for thirty years and founded numerous monasteries; and Montecassino, where he spent the final years of his life and devised the Rule (book of precepts) that bears his name.
The path is not simply a historical tour but is also a journey into ecology, themes, ideas and tastes as it meanders along country roads and sheep tracks through delightful little towns.
Norcia, where the journey begins, is an enchanting town in the foothills of the Sibillini Mountains; the path then rises, not too steeply, taking us into stunning natural scenery, on the way to Cascia. The next stop is Monteleone di Spoleto, a fascinating medieval hill town set in an amazing pastoral landscape. Leonessa, the first town in the Lazio region, is a splendid ancient town at the foot of the Reatini Mountains, where medieval and the Renaissance styles are superbly blended. The mountains are left behind as we travel through extensive beech forests, to arrive in Poggio Bustone, a place of great significance in the life of St Francis.
Then we pass through Rieti, a town of papal and Franciscan note, and following the River Turano upstream we pass through the quaint tiny villages of Rocca Sinibalda and Castel di Tora. Then, after crossing the upland above Lake Turano, we reach the Lucretili Mountains, and Orvinio, with its majestic castle, considered one of the most beautiful towns in Italy.
We enter the picturesque Aniene Valley by passing through Mandela and Vicovaro; the latter contains caves, recently restored, where Benedict spent a short period of his life.
After traversing a green gully we arrive in Trevi nel Lazio, with its enchanting location in the foothills of the Simbruini Mountains, to then proceed towards the Ernici Mountains, covered with splendid woodland, which makes a delightful setting for the quaint medieval villages of Vico nel Lazio, Collepardo, and the stunning Carthusian Monastery of Trisulti. From there we head towards the River Liri, not without visiting, however, the Cistercian Abbey of Casamari, a rare and exquisite example of the Gothic in Italy. Then Arpino, with its classical associations (Cicero was born there) – there is a charming historical centre with a magnificent acropolis.
After Arpino pilgrims enter the stunning gorge of the River Melfa, a beautiful, solitary place, home to hermits in ancient times – today its is populated by numerous birds of prey, including eagles.
The final destination is Roccasecca, the birthplace of St. Thomas Aquinas. We reach the Abbey of Montecassino, by walking along part of the path used by Polish soldiers in the devastating month of May 1944, which saw the liberation of central Italy from the German occupation, with countless casualties.
The symbol of the Cammino is a yellow b, with a crossbar, which seems to suggest a cross: this marks the way along the whole path. Although well signposted, it might be advisable to use the guide “The Way of St. Benedict” (published by Terre di mezzo), which suggests splitting the journey into 16 stages, for walkers, or 7, for cyclists – but of course everyone is welcome to tackle the trail at their own pace.
For further details, to download GPS information and request the “Credenziale” (a sort of pilgrim’s passport), visit the site www.camminodibenedetto.it