2° leg: Rieti – Poggio Bustone (South itinerary)
Arrival: Poggio Bustone
Distance: 18.4 km
Ascent from Departure: + 210 m
Descent from Departure: – 625 m
Terrain: gravel & asphalt road; earthen trail
Length: 5 hours
Potable Water: yes (Rieti, La Foresta, Cantalice Superiore, San Liberato, Poggio Bustone)
Rest Stops: yes
Signage: yes (Cammino di Francesco; yellow & blue Via di Francesco)
Leave from the historic center of Rieti. From the Cattedrale di Santa Maria Assunta (1) on Via Cintia, turn right on a gradual descent in front of the statue of Saint Francis, passing under an arch after a few meters (on the corner of Via Episcopio). Continue on Via Cintia. After about 300 meters, exit the city walls and go straight through the traffic circle on to Viale Maraini (you’ll see the Guglielmo Marconi elementary school on the right). Continue straight on the sidewalk for 1 kilometer. At the large traffic circle (km 1.42), turn right on Via Giulio de Iuliis (2), following the wooden signage for “La Foresta”. At the end of Via de Iuliis ( km 2.26), turn left on Via Angelo M. Ricci and follow the signage for “Santuario La Foresta” – “Terni”. Keep right, reaching a traffic circle (in the center of which there is a sculpture dedicated to the 2000 Jubilee); continue to the right following the signage for “Santuario La Foresta”. At km 3, having left Rieti, begin to climb along the asphalt road. After 2.4 kilometers, you will reach a convent known as the Santuario di Santa Maria della Foresta or, more simply, La Foresta (km 5.40) (3). You will be welcomed by the numerous resident cats.
After stopping to visit the sanctuary, leave by taking the trail downhill to the left (following the “Cammino di Francesco” signage). Follow the trail down, which becomes an unpaved road after about 800 meters. At the fork marked by signage for “Cammino di Francesco” (km 6.56), take the track which climbs to the right. Continue until reaching a house encircled by a metal fence (km 6.7); from here follow the “Cammino di Francesco” signage along the climbing dirt road. Shortly after, the terrain becomes rocky (go slowly, taking short strides to pace yourself). Between climbs and level stretches, the route leads you to the Santuario di San Felice all’Acqua (km 8.10) (4), where you will turn right following the road signs for “Civitella” and the signage for “Cammino di Francesco”. Continue along the rolling route for around 2 kilometers until you reach the town of Cantalice Superiore (where there are cafès and grocery shops) (5). Here there is a beautiful panorama to the east over the Terminillo mountains and to the west over the Reatina plain, featuring the Lungo and Ripasottile lakes. From the overlook in front of the church of San Felice (km 10.20) in Cantalice Superiore, take the stairs down (around 300 steps) through the Medieval quarter. In the lower town, turn right onto the asphalt road toward a small square and, shortly after, right again at the signage for “Maria Ss. Delle Grazie” on to Via Giosuè Carducci (6), a narrow alley running between houses. Climb to the crossroads marked by the signage for “Cammino di Francesco – Santuario di Poggio Bustone” and turn left. Begin climbing from this crossroads (around 1.5 kilometers) along a mule track. Pass a fountain on the right, and continue on the trail through the shady woods (pacing yourself for the climb). At km 13.91, after having passed a group of houses, you will come out onto a curve in the asphalt road; turn right uphill (7) (following the signage for “Santuario di Poggio Bustone – Cammino di Francesco”). At the top of the climb you will come out near the town of San Liberato; pass through, filling up your canteen with water from the public fountain. Continue on the main asphalt road, and, roughly 400 meters after the fountain, turn left onto the unpaved road where the main road curves right (8). After 100 meters, turn right at the fork (following the signage for “Santuario di Poggio Bustone – Cammino di Francesco”), first climbing up and then down. Continue along the trail which climbs through the woods for around 2.5 kilometers, where the final tough climb to Poggio Bustone begins. This is where, according to legend, Francis, arriving for the first time in the village perched on the Apennine mountains, greeted the townspeople with the famous exclamation, “Good day, good people!” From the town, follow the marked route to the sanctuary.