Three years have passed since my last walk which was on the Camino del Norte in Spain. Like most others, I’ve had an enforced period without long distance travel, but now it’s time to clean up the backpack, buy a new pair of boots, and head back to Europe. Since my last walk, I’ve had a foot injury that took a long time to heal, so this time I’ve decided to tackle something a bit shorter.
The Cammino di San Benedetto or the Way of Saint Benedict is a 300km trail through central Italy. Unlike my previous walks such as the Via Romea Germanica and the Camino del Norte, it doesn’t follow an ancient pilgrimage route. Rather, it connects numerous places redolent with the memory of this pivotal figure of the 6th century.
Saint Benedict was born in the town of Norcia (Nursia in English) in around the year 480 and this is where the walk commences.
The cammino then winds its way south crossing from Umbria into the Region of Lazio, passing through Subiaco and ending at Montecassino.
As a fourteen year old, Benedict went to Rome as a student but was not happy with what he found in what was by then a city in sharp decline, and he returned soon after. Benedict spent time as a hermit living in a cave near Subiaco. After attracting a number of followers, he later established a number of monasteries nearby and in around 530 founded the great Monastery of Montecassino where he died in around 547.
Saint Benedict is best known today for his Rule for monks living communally under the authority of an abbot. The Rule was subsequently followed by thousands of communities in the Middle Ages, heavily influencing the development of European civilisation and culture. It’s still common use in monastic communities today.
Getting to Norcia
The easiest way to get to the staring point of Norcia is to catch a train from Rome with a steep climb through mountainous countryside to Spoleto, and then take one of the buses that leave 5 times a day from the railway station.
There was a spectacular railway line to Norcia that was built during the 1920s but abandoned in 1968. The route now serves as a bike trail complete with 19 tunnels and 24 bridges.
I had 3 hour wait at Spoleto so I had a walk around the town where a music festival was underway with concerts in front of the cathedral
The pretty walled town of Norcia was close to the epicentre of a strong earthquake that hit in October of 2016. Thankfully no one was killed but many historic monuments were badly damaged, including the late 14th century basilica of Saint Benedict.
Miraculously, the facade remained standing and the basilica is now being rebuilt.
Many other churches and buildings are being supported by scaffolding.
Whilst some shops have been able to reopen in the historic town centre, others are operating from a temporary shopping street erected outside the walls.
Tomorrow I start my walk crossing the plain of Santa Scolastica and then a climb up to the town of Cascia. But first some dinner and a good sleep.