WALKS AND SPIRITUALITY: ENIT PROMOTES THE ITALIAN HINTERLAND WITH THE CAPUCHIN WALK
AGE-OLD STORIES IN LESSER-KNOWN ITALIAN LOCATIONS, IN VIEW OF THE 500TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE FOUNDATION OF THE CAPUCHIN ORDER
Walks as a revitalising experience in inland Italy. ENIT, the Italian National Tourist Board is focusing on the appeal of Franciscan spirituality, to be explored through the history of the foundation of the Capuchin Order and the numerous places, saints and blesseds in the Marche region, with a view to promoting the Italy hinterland. Tourism linked to such walks and to spirituality requires careful planning and specific management to guarantee an authentic, significant experience for travellers seeking a spiritual connection from their trip. The presentation and promotion of the route comes ahead of the celebrations for the 500th anniversary of the Capuchin presence in the inland area of the Marche region, an area that faced severe challenges in the wake of the earthquakes, but whose full potential and value is now beginning to re-emerge. The Capuchin Walk brings renewed lustre to the hospitality and catering facilities in the area, as well as fresh vigour to its impressive artistic heritage, much of which remains undiscovered. Visitors will be entitled to a series of special deals with the useful Pilgrim’s Card, allowing them to access the various services along the route at reduced prices. The distinctive appeal of the Capuchin Walk lies in its ability to combine the walking experience with the spiritual dimension, offering the opportunity to meet the friars and to enjoy their hospitality in the convents (Fossombrone, San Severino Marche, Camerino, Santuario della Madonna dell’Ambro, Offida, Ascoli Piceno) and giving them the chance to step right into the history of the area, its Franciscan spirituality and atmosphere, as well as the historical and cultural dimension by enjoying the events and the cultural and artistic assets of the places along the route.
Visitors may also be interested to know that by prior arrangement, the friars – many of whom are keen walkers themselves – may be willing to accompany the pilgrims along some stages of the route, sharing in the splendid experience of walking together and forming friendships. The Marche is the place of origin of the Capuchin friars, so it comes as no surprise that the Order remains the largest in the region, with over 100 friars and 16 convents. Hence the idea of a walking route of about 380 km long, running from north to south and touching on all the most important points from which this spiritual experience originated. Map of the Walk: The Walk is composed of 17 stages. It runs from Fossombrone to Ascoli, and the heart of the route is in Camerino, where the Order was founded.
The idea of the Capuchin Walk is to combine the current trend towards rediscovering these walking routes with the unique appeal of the Marche, which has an unrivalled heritage as yet largely unexplored. It was here, way back in 1528, that the Religionis Zelus, the papal bull issued by Clement VII, instituted the Order of Friars Minor Capuchin. Everything leading up to the foundation of the Order is concentrated in the Marche, a region that more than any other has been shaped by the Franciscan presence, from Montefalcone, where Matteo da Bascio fled from the convent of the friars minor, to Fossombrone, where Ludovico and Raffaele Tenaglia initiated the Franciscan reform, as well as Cingoli, Cupra Montana and Albacina, places that witnessed the most important events of the early days of the new Order; San Severino Marche, home to the Convent of San Salvatore in Colpersito, visited twice by Saint Francis, and Camerino, the heart of the route and home to the world’s first Capuchin convent. Lastly, the region is home to many Capuchin saints and their sanctuaries: the Sanctuary of the Blessed Benedetto da Urbino in Fossombrone, where the remains of the Blessed are held; the Sanctuary of the Madonna dell’Ambro, the second most important in the Marche after Loreto; the Sanctuary of the Blessed Bernardo in Offida, and the Sanctuary of San Serafino da Montegranaro in Ascoli, in which the mortal remains of the two holy men are also held, as well as Capradosso, home of the Venerable Fra Marcellino. Walkers who do not have enough time to complete the whole route may decide to cover the first part, from Fossombrone to Camerino (10 days’ walk) and subsequently complete it with the second part, from Camerino to Ascoli (7 days’ walk). Below is the map, with an indication of the interesting little towns along the way. Coming up, although not in the immediate future, is the important event marking the 500th anniversary of the foundation of the Capuchin Order (1528-2028), in celebration of which a year-long pilgrimage will be proposed to all Capuchins worldwide – currently numbering around 10,000 scattered over 110 countries in five continents – and to groups wishing to accompany them, who will be granted a plenary indulgence.
“Spiritual tourism practised along these walks is a continually evolving sector that combines cultural heritage, walking as a physical and symbolic experience, and the spiritual experience of the traveller. This form of tourism is based on a series of key elements such as the creation of specific routes made accessible to travellers. It is essential to provide adequate hospitality facilities able to reflect the spiritual atmosphere of the place and to offer adequate comfort for the pilgrims. Local experts and spiritual guides must be trained to offer visitors an authentic, informative experience, and sustainable tourism management is crucial to preserve the natural and cultural environment of the spiritual places. This may involve limiting visitor numbers, recycling waste and encouraging respect for nature. The organisation of special events, ceremonies or rituals along the way may enrich visitors’ experience and allow them to play an active part in the spirituality of the place. Continuing to research and document spiritual walking routes is essential to maintain and spread knowledge of these places, and may involve archaeologists, historians, anthropologists and theologians”, commented ENIT director Sandro Pappalardo.
“The Capuchin Walk experience is a perfect combination of physical and spiritual well-being, and the places it touches upon are replete with history, tradition and culture. And then there are the Capuchin friars, whose wisdom is inspiring and whose company is extremely pleasant. This is a superb opportunity both for the Marche region to promote its genuine, historical locations, and for the economy of the inland areas”, said Antonio Bandelli, MP for the Fratelli d'Italia party and promoter of the event.