Francis and Romuald’s Foreste Casentinesi
The forests of the Apennine between Tuscany and Romagna spread to the provinces of Arezzo, Forlì-Cesena and Florence, making up the National Park of the Foreste Casentinesi, Monte Falterona and Campigna.
They are an ocean of beeches, firs, chestnut trees, oaks and maples – the “mystical and warrior sentinels” described by poet Dino Campana – in which the river Arno comes to life (
A streamlet that is born in Falterona, / And not a hundred miles of course suffice it, quoting Dante’s “Purgatory”, XIV canto).
The woods enclose a territory of 350 square kilometers with waterfalls, caves, springs and rivers; they were the source of wood used to build Brunelleschi’s Dome for the Duomo in Florence and the masts for ships sailing from Pisa and Livorno.
This is where Saint Francis, in 1224, received the stigmata. A Tuscan count once wrote to the Catholic friar, “In Tuscany I have a devote hill, know as Vernia […]. If you’d like it, I would happily give it to you and your brothers, for the safety of my soul”; the land he was donating would become the location of the famous Franciscan Sanctuary built to commemorate the miracle.
The forest is also where Saint Romualdo founded his monastery in Camaldoli, in the municipality of Poppi: the Ravenna-born monk spent the last few years of his life here, building the five cells that made up the original core of the first camaldolese hermitage.
Great forests, for great men and their holy endeavors.