Forest Path
Stage 4: Stia to Camaldoli

Journey Through Nature's Heart:
Stia to Camaldoli

Stepping off the cobbled streets of Stia, with its vibrant wool industry, you're drawn into the verdant embrace of the Casentinesi Forests National Park. Your final destination: the tranquil Camaldoli Monastery nestled deep within the heart of the forest.

Forest Map
Map of Casentinesi Forests National Park. Orange line is the Via di Francesco, arriving at Santuario della Verna. Original image is by Parco Nazionale Foreste Casentinesi

Path to the Camaldoli Monastery

Roughly 7 km into the fourth stage of your pilgrimage, at Casalino, you cross into the park’s lush domain. Here, the buzz of village life gives way to the serene rustle of leaves. 

A fork in the trail presents two paths: one leading to a secluded mountain hermitage, the other guiding you toward the Camaldoli Monastery. 

Regardless of your choice, both paths meander through the verdant forest, culminating at the Santuario della Verna.

Remember, camping is prohibited within the park except at sanctioned spots, like Camping Camaldoli near the monastery. You can also camp or stay overnight in the peaceful Rifugio Asqua, about halfway through the stage. 

Pilgrims walk through thick forest of Casentinesi national park. This section is well-known for forest bathing.
Pilgrims walk through thick forest of Casentinesi national park. This section is well-known for forest bathing.

Seasonal Changes in the Forest

With each season, the forest breathes new life into its surroundings:

  • Spring: Revel in the forest’s reawakening as vibrant greens color the trail. Keep an eye out for swollen streams following heavy rains.
  • Summer: Seek refuge under the forest’s leafy canopy as it provides a cooling respite from the summer heat.
  • Fall: Tune in to the forest’s transformation during ‘Autumn Slow’ and listen closely for the deer’s mating calls.
  • Winter: Marvel at the stark beauty of the forest, blanketed in snow and fostering a quiet that invites introspection.

Wildlife of the Forest

As you traverse the park, you’ll share the path with a fascinating array of creatures:

  • Apennine Wolf:  While spotting one is rare, listen for the echoing howls of the park’s top predator.
  • Wild Boar: Keep a respectful distance from these common, sturdy inhabitants. You’ll likely notice their handiwork when you spot ruts in the trail.
  • Fallow Deer, Red Deer, and Roe Deer: Look for these graceful creatures and listen for the male deer’s belling during the fall. If you’re lucky, you might spot them grazing in the early morning or late evening. 
  • European Badger: These secretive, nocturnal animals are a bit harder to spot, but their tracks can often be seen along the trails.
  • Marten: Keep an eye out for these agile climbers darting between the trees.
  • Red Fox: This adaptable and cunning creature can be found throughout the park, and you might just spot one on your journey.

Remember, you are a guest in their home. Always observe them from a distance, and never attempt to feed or approach them.

The Camaldolese Order: Guardians of the Forest

The 11th-century Camaldolese Order, founded by St. Romuald, has left an indelible mark on the forest. 

With their deep spiritual beliefs and commitment to sustainable forestry, they’ve preserved the forest’s biodiversity and nurtured a harmonious balance within the ecosystem. 

Today, the monks continue their stewardship, viewing themselves not as masters, but as facilitators of the forest’s health.

Sacro Eremo di Camaldoli
Sacro Eremo di Camaldoli in the middle of forests

Stewarding Nature: Preservation Efforts

The Casentinesi Forests National Park continues the Camaldolese monks’ legacy of conservation with several ongoing projects:

  • WETFLYAMPHIBIA LIFE: This project is working to improve the conservation status of amphibians and butterflies within the park. The initiative includes creating new breeding areas and restoring wetlands for species such as the Yellow-bellied Toad and Crestacled Newt. Learn more at
  • LIFE STREAMS: This project aims to protect Mediterranean Trout in the Park. This initiative focuses on maintaining genetically pure native trout populations. It combats illegal repopulation and develops conservation strategies to ensure the trout’s survival.
  • Asqua Pond Preservation: A small but significant ecological niche, Asqua Pond is home to various species including the endangered Marsh Fritillary butterfly. The preservation project aims to protect this unique habitat and its inhabitants.

These projects reflect the park’s commitment to sustainable management of natural resources, showcasing the possibility and necessity of a harmonious relationship with nature.