The Rieti Valley in Italy is a mountainous region just over 60 miles northeast of Rome. In the early 13th century, Francis of Assisi visited the area on several occasions. Seeking a place of isolation where he could meditate and get closer to the Lord. He found exactly what he was looking for in the Rieti Valley. One specific place, amongst several, where Francis spent a fair bit of time when he was in the Rieti Valley was a village called Poggio Bustone. Here a tiny abandoned hermitage served Francis and his brothers as a home where they could pray and fast.
Convento di San Giacomo
Although Francis thrived spiritually in the isolation of the hermiate, he was not one to distance himself completely from society. When he first entered Poggio Bustone in 1209, curious residents peaked from their houses, wondering who had visited them. To all of these people Francis offered a gregarious, “Buon giorno, buona gente (good morning, good people).” Today every October 4th – the feast day of St. Francis of Assisi – a local man will walk through the village, knock on doors, and yell out the same greeting Francis used so many centuries ago.
Around his 1217 visit to Poggio Bustone, Francis founded the Convento di San Giacomo, which today houses several friars and welcomes pilgrims. From the convento one can walk for about a half hour up an inclined path to the hermitage where Francis prayed upon his first visit to Poggio Bustone in 1209. Along this path stand six little chapels dedicated to Francis. The sanctuary, pilgrims discover, is a chapel hewn out in rock. A little farther on is a small cave. In this very special place an angel appeared to Francis and said, “Francis, here your sins are forgiven as you have asked” while handing him a book. A picture in the cave commemorates this event.
The Rieti Valley