Saint Francis and Franciscan Sites in Italy

Where to See Sites and Churches from the Life of Saint Francis

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:

  • 01 of 10
    The exterior of the Basilica of Saint Francis in Assisi
    Rebecca Winke

    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 associated with Saint Francis.

  • 02 of 10

    Saint Francis Woodlands Park

    A view of the nearby hills from the Saint Francis woods
    Enrico Nannetti / Via di Francesco

    Saint Francis Woodlands Park is on Mount Subasio behind the town of Assisi in the woods that Saint Francis often visited. Visitors can walk on three different color-coded walking paths with audio guides—the landscape route, the historical route, and the spiritual route. Hours and Visitor Information.​

  • 03 of 10
    The towering pipe organ at Santa Maria degli Angeli e dei Martiri
     Alexander Yampolsky / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

    Below Assisi, inside the large Basilica of Santa Maria degli Angeli, you can see the tiny Porziuncola chapel—which is 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.

  • 04 of 10
    Exterior view of the La Verna Sanctuary in winter
    Wikimedia Commons

    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 on a rocky promontory, is visible from afar and is in a remote and beautiful forest area with fantastic views of the countryside.

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  • 05 of 10

    Le Celle di Cortona Franciscan Convent

    The gardens and buildings of Le Celle
     g.sighele / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

    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.

  • 06 of 10

    Greccio: The First Christmas Crib

    A carving of the nativity scene at Greccio
     Christopher John SSF / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

    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.

  • 07 of 10

    La Foresta and the Sacred Valley

    A view of La Foresta and the surrounding hills
     Christopher John SSF / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

    Also in Rieti Province, 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.

  • 08 of 10
    Pope Benedict XVI sits between two Solomonic Columns at Basilica of Saint John Lateran, Rome
    Franco Origlia / Getty Images

    The Basilica of Saint John Lateran is Rome's cathedral and during the 13th century, the adjoining Lateran palace was the home to the Popes. It is here that St. Francis persuaded Pope Innocent III to give permission to begin the Franciscan Order. Also in Rome is the 13th century San Francesco d'Assisi a Ripa Church, the site of a hospice for travelers where Francis stayed during while he was in Rome.

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  • 09 of 10
    The Monastery of Santa Chiara
    Nuceria / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0

    Gubbio is a well-preserved medieval hill town in Umbria where Francis lived for ​a while. It's here that Saint Francis made peace with a wolf that was bothering the people of Gubbio. According to the story, after Francis tamed the wolf, the wolf lived peacefully with the people of Gubbio for two years until he died of old age.

  • 10 of 10

    Isola Maggiore, Lake Trasimeno

    A view of Isola Maggiore from the waters of Lake Trasimento
     n i c o l a / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

    Isola Maggiore is a pretty island in Lake Trasimeno, Italy's largest lake, in the Umbria region. 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.