Here are places you can visit in Italy from the life of Saint Francis. Saint Francis, Italy's patron saint, was born in Assisi in 1182. The son of a wealthy merchant, he gave all he owned to the poor and founded a humble community based on poverty and simplicity.
For an in-depth look at Saint Francis in and around Assisi, take Select Italy's From Riches to Rags: The Story of St. Francis of Assisi guided tour.
Even if you're not interested in Saint Francis, he really knew how to find beautiful spots and these places are well worth a visit:
Saint Francis was born in Assisi and his tomb is in a crypt below Saint Francis Basilica, a popular pilgrimage and tourist site in Assisi. Construction on the large church started in 1228 when Saint Francis was canonized. Also in Assisi is the Church of Santa Chiara, or Saint Clare, that holds her remains. Clare was an important follower of Saint Francis. Near Assisi are several other sites associates with Saint Francis.
Below Assisi, inside the large Basilica of Santa Maria degli Angeli, you can see the tiny Porziuncola chapel, said to have been restored by Francis, and the cell where he died in 1226. Above Assisi is the Eremo delle Carceri, a Franciscan monastery about 4 kilometers from town. Inside the complex is a cave that Francis used as a retreat.
La Verna, in eastern Tuscany, is the where Francis is said to have received the stigmata. Saint Francis used to retreat to this beautiful spot perched on a rocky promontory in the mountains. He founded a small church on this spot in 1216 and eight years later he received the stigmata. Today there's a large church and monastic complex but you can still see the small church, the cave that was his cell, and the chapel built on the spot where he received the stigmata.
The sanctuary, perched a rocky promontory, is visible from afar and is in a remote and beautiful forest area with fantastic views of the countryside.
In the woods outside Cortona is a peaceful Franciscan convent called the Convento delle Celle or Convent of the cells. Saint Francis founded the monastery in the early 13th century, preaching here in 1211. Inside the convent is the spartan cell with a stone bed and wooden pillow used by Francis. From the convent there are good views of the valley below.
Greccio - the First Christmas Crib
The Nativity scene or Christmas crib is said to have originated with Saint Francis in 1223 when he constructed a nativity scene out of straw in a cave in the town of Greccio and held Christmas Eve mass there. Greccio reenacts this event each year and there's a collection of nativity scenes and a memorial to Saint Francis. Greccio is in the Rieti Province of Lazio (see Lazio map).
La Foresta and the Sacred Valley
Also in Rieti Province (see Lazio map), 4 kilometers from the town of Rieti, is La Foresta Franciscan Sanctuary. Francis stayed here in 1225 and it's believed that this is where he composed the Song of Brother Sun. There's a 13th century church and a cave used by Francis. In addition to Greccio and La Foresta, Francis visited other parts of the Rieti Valley and it's sometimes called the Sacred Valley. The Saint Francis Walk, an 80 kilometer walk, is a pilgrimage walk along paths used by Francis that includes eight stops important to Francis.
Isola Maggiore - Lake TrasimenoIsola Maggiore is a pretty island in Lake Trasimeno, Italy's largest lake, in the Umbria region (see Umbria map). Today it's known for lace-making but in the 13th century it was deserted and in 1211 Francis spent a month on the island fasting for Lent.
If you're intereseted in Saint Francis sites or other pilgrimage sites in Italy, The Pilgrim's Italy is an excellent resource. Authors James and Colleen Heater cover important religous sites in eight of Italy's regions from Puglia in the south through the Veneto in the north. Each chapter includes background information, shrine information, lodging suggestions, maps, and other things to see in the area. Use this book to create your own pilgrimage adventure.