On the other, eastern side of the Apennines in the region called Le Marche, the soils and plant communities are different from what we've become used to in Umbria. We visit the hermitage of Santa Maria di Valdisasso, which is surrounded by maples and other deciduous trees and is specially protected by the regional government because of its rare plants.
When Francis first came here in 1210, he had trouble finding this little Benedictine hermitage. He asked for help from a farmer, who left his plow to guide him up the mountain. They say that when the farmer returned to his field, it was perfectly plowed and yet his oxen were rested. At the bottom of the mountain we see a likely field, and our hunch is confirmed by a stone plaque commemorating the “miracle.”
Francis liked Valdisasso so much that he often visited there and it was an important retreat for Franciscans for centuries before reverting to the Benedictines. In the little garden, we meet a sweet young Benedictine nun who is reading a book about Saint Clare.