Umbria self-guided walk: Walking the Eight Gates of Assisi
The following trip includes seeing the walls of Assisi, with interesting and unusual views. It is advisable to wear confortable clothing and shoes suitable for a country hike and bring a camera: it will definitely be used. It would also be useful to bring a map of of the town, allowing you to cross check the following journey description. The entire journey – at an even pace and without any hurry – takes about 4 hours, however, you can condense it by missing out some of the suggested points.
The eight town gates along the journey, were all built in the second half of the 13th century, the municipalities’ Council “Consiglio del Comune e della Magistratura” decreed to build them in 1260.
ROUTE starting from Piazza Matteotti, locally called Porta Nova: Go uphill along Via Santuario delle Carceri. As soon as you go through the gate Porta Cappuccini turn left onto a dirt track that goes uphill – lined with two rows of cypress trees – this is the external perimeter of the Rocca Minore (14th Cen.), cr Rocchicciola. Once you reach the castle, leave the dirt track and take the path downhill, which has a beautiful panorama of the fortress Rocca Maggiore. The dirt road runs along the wall and leads to the gate Porta Perlici. Soon after going through the arch turn right along Via Porta Perlici.
After walking for about 200m, you will come to a parking area on the right, take the downhill dirt road on the right that initially runs along a metallic green fence. Soon after the path forks, do not take the path that descend to the asphalt road underneath but take the road on the left that rises towards the town walls. At the next fork go straight on, below is the Tescio River with the “Tardioli Mill” and a tower in ruins. On a sunny afternoon, the Rocca Maggiore’s profile cuts accross the slopes of the “Col Caprile”. A ramp with a steep ascent takes you back behind the walls. By looking ahead past a thick strip of broom (and asparagus) you can see the Rocca Maggiore’s polygonal tower. Destroyed in civil battles and wars with Perugia – that gave birth to the Local Town Council of Assisi (1198 -1202) this was rebuilt in the 14th century. The cemetery is below. By taking a few short steps to the left you reach a square area in front of the fortress.
Continue along an obvious path downhill that leads into an olive grove near a private farmhouse. Veering right descend onto the dirt track below, hence to the left of the farm house: it is polite to ask permission to walk through the property. Once you take the dirt road that runs along the walls and after passing a gate (that must be shut after passing through) you descend amidst olive trees in direction of the Basilica of St. Francis.
You skirt the new car park; a short flight of descending steps leads to Porta S. Giacomo, which has a solitary cyprus tree growing on it. If you cannot walk through the private property an alternative routes is possible. From the dirt road near the house veer right and descend towards the cemetery; veer left and walk along a lovely cypress tree lined drive and then you reach Porta S. Giacomo. Without going through under the arch veer right onto an asphalt road that goes downhill towards the Tescio Valley. After a few hundred meters take the grassy path left that within a short distance leads to a bridge on the Tescio. Take care when crossing the road, as there are no side protection rails. After the Point to Ponte S. Vetturino there are two possibilities:
1. The most obvious and least interesting route (recommended for beginning hikers): Cross the bridge and soon after you reach an asphalt road that you walk along veering left until you reach Ponte S. Vetturino where there are views of the basions of the Basilica of S. Francis.
2. An unusual route but the most interesting (for expert hikers). Just before crossing the bridge take the dirt road to the left that descends to the riverbank. At this point keep to the left bank of the Tescioriver, following the river until reaching Ponte S. Vetturino. After walking about 20 meters towards the town, parallel to a crossroad with a shrine, take the asphalt road on the left. At the next crossroad go straight on along an uphill dirt track – locally called Piaggia – that runs along the walls of the external part of the Basilica of Saint Francis. Towards the right there are olive groves, farmhouses and the unmistakable view of Basilica di Santa Maria degli Angeli. After going through the Portella di S. Francesco, veer right downhill along Via Frate Elia, veering left and uphill along Via S. Apollinare, skirting the walls of the Benedictine abbey of San Pietro.
After a few hundred meters take a large flight of steps on the right that skirts the walls of the Monastero of San Giuseppe. After walking through Porta Sementone you come to the SS 147 that you take veering left uphill: keep on the footpath. After having walked about 300m leave the SS 147 to take the left narrow asphalt road uphill. Go through Porta Moiano continuing uphill, and then veer right onto a descending flight of steps. Continue along a dirt track leaving behind the old public baths, which have been in disrepair for a long time. The bell tower of the church of Santa Maria Maggiore, and the Rocca Maggiore and the Civic Tower (Torre de Piazza) dominate from behind. The dirt road Via delle Fonti di Moiano locally called Strada dei Cavallacci – runs along the top of the wall, eventually becoming asphalt.
Once having reached Porta Nova, without going under the Arch cross the road continuing straight uphill along Via della Selva. At the end of the street there are two small columns: and here our route around the town wall ends.
At this point a rest is necessary – rest along the parapet – to admire the great panorama overlooking the Umbrian Valley and Assisi, it is possible to see the front of the abbey and the church of Santa Chiara. Cross the road, enter the town car park, cross the next road and you return to Piazza Matteotti, the start point of our walk.