The St. Francis Way (Via di Francesco) was developed by Sviluppumbria, on behalf of the Umbria Region, to promote sustainable tourism and better exploit the region’s assets. It has grown to become an internationally-known itinerary, attracting visitors to overlooked villages and rural cultural heritage sites. The flow of hikers on the route creates demand for hospitality services, providing a source of revenue and employment in rural and mountain communities. The management and maintenance of the Way serve as a successful example of grassroots involvement, community-building and increased local pride.
Connecting places from the life and the message of St Francis, the route centres on Assisi but embraces the universal nature of the saint’s messages of respect for others, nature and all creatures.
Developing and promoting the route was conceived as a way to draw visitors off the beaten path and into closer contact with scattered cultural heritage sites and small villages in rural areas, benefitting of all involved.
Taking a walking or cycling holiday allows visitors to recharge mentally and physically, discovering beautiful landscapes and important cultural sites, and engaging in meaningful contact with people they encounter. The villages and communities along the Way have found a new source of income and a focus for local pride and identity. For the Region, the itinerary valorises cultural heritage (tangible and intangible) while encouraging sustainable, inclusive slow tourism. An additional benefit is the development of innovative, participatory governance of cultural heritage assets, with stakeholders from public and private sectors and actors from civil society organisations.