The Hermit's Way

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© Regione Calabria


Apr 3, 2022 2:53 PM

Travel information




Amici/Solo coppia

The Way of St Francis of Paola is a slow-moving route, 111.7 km long and divided into six stages, which follows the steps of the Calabrian saint, passing through the places that framed his life: the monasteries he built, nature and the surrounding villages. 
The central position of the Sanctuary of Paola along the Way allows the itinerary to be covered even only half way, starting from one of the two extremes (San Marco Argentano or Paterno Calabro) and arriving at the Sanctuary of Paola. 

On his return from a journey to Assisi, Francis decided to become a hermit and to have a cave as his only home. His life plan was to follow a path of spiritual asceticism, consisting of prayer, fasting and penance. As time went by, the area where the Sanctuary of Paola now stands began to be visited by numerous pilgrims who wanted to obtain physical and spiritual healing through his intercession. Francis' ascetic rigour also attracted some young people who wanted to live like him and so the Order of Minims began to take life. 
The fame of holiness of Francis and his hermits was spreading like wildfire, so much so that many urban centres asked for a convent run by the Minim friars in their city.

The Via dell'Eremita was created with the intention of following in the footsteps of Francis, who, while maintaining his intention of a hermitic life, went from Paola to Paterno as Founder. He was about 56 years old when Francis arrived in the small community of Serre Cosentine. He was at the height of his spiritual maturity and with great determination he personally dedicated himself to building the Church.

The Way was deliberately conceived in a bidirectional manner because Francis walked it several times, shuttling between the two convents.

Stop 1 - Paterno Calabro

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Difficulty level: Hiking (medium difficulty) 
Height difference: 770 m uphill, 845 m downhill 
Length: 22,000 km 
Walking time: 8.00 h

The route begins at the Sanctuary of San Francesco da Paola in Paterno Calabro, one of the few erected by St Francis himself (1472), the only case together with that of Paola before the Order of Minims was recognised. 
The route is characterised by unpaved roads and the picturesque villages of the Serre Cosentine: Dipignano, Carolei, Mendicino and Cerisano (589 m), the stage's arrival point.

Dipignano, which is located on a slope to the right of the Iassa torrent, in the upper Crati Valley, on the hill ridge of the Paolana Apennine chain, owes much of its fame to the craftsmanship and the presence of copper masters who reached levels of excellence. 
The entire territory is characterised by a varied and irregular morphology, with an uninterrupted alternation of rugged cliffs and depressions, rocky overhangs and deep gullies, gentle slopes and panoramic terraces that make the landscape discontinuous and interesting. During the course of the seasons, these features offer the visitor a spectacle of rare beauty and fascination.

Mendicino is located at the foot of the beautiful and evocative Monte Cocuzzo, mentioned by Homer in the adventurous journey of Ulysses, which is the highest peak of the Paolano Apennines, offering a breathtaking view of one of the most characteristic landscapes in Calabria. 
An evocative village, with stepped alleys, small squares, ancient buildings, with its ancient stories and traditions that are now revived thanks to the efforts of the local government, first and foremost silkworm breeding, which makes Mendicino the village of Silk.

Cerisano lies at the foot of Mount Cocuzzo and it is a characteristic village of the Serre Cosentine with a charming historical centre. A naturalistic site with an uncontaminated and rich environmental heritage, it allows for mountain excursions among plateaus rich in large beech and chestnut forests.

Stop 2 - Cerisano

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Difficulty level: Hiking (medium difficulty) 
Height difference: 900 m ascent, 935 m descent 
Length: 18.900 km 
Walking time: 7.00 h

From the narrow streets of the village of Cerisano, one immediately ascends a small mountain road that offers splendid panoramic views of the mountains of the Coastal Chain, Cosenza and the Crati Valley. We arrive in the area of the small Acquabianca Plateau and Masseria Silo, with extensive grasslands marked by limestone rocks, scattered farms and cultivated land. 
The next long descent through beech, fir and chestnut forests leads to the Fiumicelle bridge, built in Roman times over the Emoli stream.

We arrive in the village of San Fili (566 m), where a statue of St Francis welcomes pilgrims with open arms.

Stop 3 - San Fili

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Difficulty level: Hiking (medium difficulty) 
Height difference: 1015 m ascent, 1395 m descent 
Length: 21.800 km 
Walking time: 8.00 h

From San Fili we climb steeply up to the extensive beech forests of Bosco Luta. Here you cross the Catena Costiera and you begin to descend on its western slope. 
Enchanting open views of the Tyrrhenian coast accompany you to the Sanctuary of Paola (170 m), the end of the stage and of the route.

Stop 4 - Paola

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The Testimonium is the document that certifies a pilgrimage to the Sanctuary of St Francis of Paola. It is the equivalent of the Compostela, which is obtained on completing the Pilgrim's Way to Santiago. In the historical tradition, this parchment was very important because the pilgrim, on returning home, could prove that the pilgrimage was completed and the vow dissolved. 
Once you arrive at the Sanctuary of Paola (after having completed the "Via del Giovane" or the "Via dell'Eremita") or at the Sanctuary of Paterno (after having completed the Entire Route), on presenting your credential with the stamps of the various stage points, you will be given the Testimonium stamped by the Order of Minims of St Francis.