Follow my 6-day pilgrimage to the sacred Monte Sant’Angelo grotto. La Via Mi-Ka-El, which overlays Via Francigena del Sud in Italy, will take us there. You’ll get a pilgrim credential, stamps along the way, and at the end, you’ll be blessed with a printed “Testimonium.” As well as lots of memories of the journey. Would you please come along?
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What is the Via Mi-Ka-El and Monte Sant'Angelo?
The Via per Mi-Ka-El is a path of about 81 miles / 130 km that starts from the Dauni Mountains, traverses Gargano National Park and climbs to the Grotta di San Michele in Monte Sant’Angelo. The path follows ancient trails and byways.
Monte Sant’Angelo is a town on the spur of Italy’s boot from which you can see the Adriatic Sea. Pilgrims have come to the sacred site located here since the early Middle Ages, many stopping on their way to Jerusalem. The sanctuary of Monte Sant’Angelo is a grotto where Saint Michael the Archangel is said to have appeared around the year 490. The cavern high on Mount Gargano is the oldest shrine in Western Europe dedicated to Michael the Archangel.
Monte Sant'Angelo on Line of Sacred Sites
I learned during my pilgrimage that Monte Sant’Angelo is on a ley line of sanctuaries built to honor the appearances of St. Michael. Have you been to any of the sanctuaries from Ireland to Israel depicted on the map above?
The 6-Day Journey to the Monte Sant'Angelo Grotto
The Via Mi-Ka-El overlays a variant of Vie Francigene del Sud. ‘Vie’ is the plural of ‘Via’ for there are many ways or variants on Vie Francigena del Sud / Pilgrim Ways of the South. I was blessed to walk one of these variants, Via Mi-Ka-El, during my pilgrimage from Rome to Bari.
There are six stages or tappes for this route to Monte Sant’Angelo:
- Monte San Vito – Troia 14 mi / 23 km
- Troia – Lucera 11.8 mi / 19 km
- Lucera – San Severo 12 mi / 20 km
- San Severo – Stignano 13 mi / 21 km
- Sanctuary of Stignano – San Giovanni Rotondo 12 mi / 20 km
- San Giovanni Rotondo – Monte Sant’Angelo 15 mi / 24 km
1. Monte San Vito – Troia | 14.3 mi / 1919 km
The December snow at these heights and rising waters at river crossings obstructed my route. My day started at Casa del Pellegrino at Buonalbergo. From there, hospiteleros Fernanda and Antonio gave me a ride to Castelfranco.
From Castelfranco, I walked 6 miles / 10 km to Faeto. The fresh snow underfoot and the crisp mountain air above gladdened my soul. The solitary route climbed through farmlands and woodlands to wind generators. At such heights, I felt very close to the Holy Spirit. It was one of my favorite days of my whole Vie Francigene del Sud pilgrimage.
In Faeto, Michele del Giudice picked me up in the ice and snow. We drove to Mutatio Aquilonis, a Roman outpost and a critical medieval hospital where pilgrims and soldiers changed horses. According to scholars, Mutatio Aquilonis means the post station near Aquilonis, the north wind.
It was so breezy at this high locale that the wind blew the whistle that is fashioned into the chest strap of my The North Face backpack. The modern wind generators attest to the ancient Roman description of this place.
Although the Hospital del Cammino Troia was closed because the heating system was not turned on, we stopped there to get my Mi-Ka-El credential and stamp. The donativo has been welcoming pilgrims along the Via Francigena of the South for ten years.
Hospital del Cammino Troia is located in the former San Domenico Convent with 28 beds, five showers, WC and free Wifi.
You can contact Michele for reservations for your pilgrimage.
2. Troia – Lucera | 11.8 mi / 19 km
I wandered between rainbows and light rain showers on this easy, 11.8 mi / 19 km stretch. The harvesting of olives was exciting for me to see. I greeted the African workers and they asked, “Where are you from?” I would shout out, “Arizona!” They seemed to enjoy watching a lonely pilgrim walk by their work areas.
Oliveculture is an integral part of the economy in Puglia, which produces 40% of Italy’s olive oil. Along Via Mi-Ka-El in December, I witnessed the harvest of olives, artichokes, fennel, broccoli and rabe. The approach to Lucera is impressive as you can see the castle walls on the high plain above you.
I spent the night at Maison Rosa Stella which overlooks Palazzo Pellegrini. I felt like I could almost touch Basilica Cattedrale di Santa Maria Assunta from my balcony. Innkeeper Rosa has a heart for hospitality and I highly recommend
Via Carlo d’Angiò 15, 71036 Lucera
3. Lucera – San Severo | 12 mi / 20 km
Michele was kind to pick me up before dawn to drop me at the path outside of town. The 12 mi / 20 km stage was easy and again I witnessed harvesting, this time of fennel and broccoli. As I got closer to San Severo, which proclaims itself “Citta dell’Olio e del Vino / City of Olive Oil and Wine,” I walked through vineyards.
I stayed at Enopolio Daunio, a pilgrim albergue and cultural wine shop in the heart of San Severo. The highpoint of my stay was the pilgrim dinner which featured local foods including fennel that I’d seen being harvested earlier that day, and San Severo wine, of course.
Contact Giorgio Ventricelli for reservations.
- EMAIL: email@example.com
- TELEPHONE: +39 3492605176
- ADDRESS: Via Soccorso, 86 71016 San Severo (FG), Puglia
“Nero di Troia” is one of the four DOC wines of Puglia. During the pilgrim meal, my hosts Giogio and Frank served the wine above, known for its dark red color. Other local delicacies included chopped fennel, chickpeas and rabe, and omelet with thick tomato sauce.
4. San Severo – Stignano | 13 mi / 21 km
After breakfast, Frank drove me to the trailhead outside of San Severo. Most of the day’s 13 mi / 21 km path follows a decommissioned railway bed. So the stage is straightforward until near the end when it starts climbing to the Port de Gargano, or door of the Gargano mountains.
The rain had postponed olive harvesting, so workers were out in force now that it was sunny. Electricity generated from their tractor ran their long-handled rakes. I enjoyed the sun, too.
On this stage that I saw my first pilgrim on the Via Mi-Ka-El. Way in the distance I could see the pilgrim in a red jacket. I tried to figure out if they were headed towards me, or if I needed to step up my pace to catch up with him or her.
Sure enough, as the pilgrim got closer, I was sure they were walking towards me. I could discern a small backpack against the red jacket. The pilgrimage had been very lonely up to this point. Although I prefer walking solo, I always enjoy encounters with other pilgrims.
Unfortunately, as we got closer to each other, I realized that the “pilgrim” was a simple hydrant. I was sooo hopeful for another human being! Feeling like Tom Hanks in Castaway, I made the water feature into my own ‘Wilson.’
5. Sanctuary of Stignano – San Giovanni Rotondo | 12 mi / 20 kmThis trek through the Gargano National Park turned out to be one of my most challenging days. Read more about pausing in the storm while hiking Gargona National Park. The route was difficult to follow because of all the goat and cow trails leading you off track. Make sure to download the GPX maps to your phone before leaving home. Get them here. Although the walk was tough and I didn’t make it in until way after dark, I enjoyed dinner with Michele at the Corona Hotel. The hotel owners were genuine, hospitable and love pilgrims. I recommend that when you visit San Giovanni Rotondo, stay, eat and drink wine at
- EMAIL: firstname.lastname@example.org
- TELEPHONE: +39 0882 457873
- ADDRESS: Via Anna Freud, 5, 71013 San Giovanni Rotondo FG, Italy
6. San Giovanni Rotondo – Monte Sant’Angelo | 15 mi / 24 km
The final stage was up and down through a magical forest that reminded me of those in my childhood fairy tales. Once out of the woods, I followed epic ridgelines through cattle country. If not for the fog, I think I would have epic views, too.
When I saw the Adriatic coastline from the mountain top, I knew I was near to my destination: Monte Sant’Angelo. Rain ushered me to it’s castle, iconic belltower and the pilgrim albergue where I planned to spend two nights.
The wind whipped the rain around me like a cruel master. Nevertheless, I was elated to find the pilgrim refugio on the top of this high outcrop. As I checked into Albergo Casa Del Pellegrino, a feeling of calm and relief swept over me. Four priests with blankets wrapped around sat in the chilly hotel lobby speaking animatedly on their phones or to each other. One in fine regalia smoked a cigarette outside the door as the wind tossed the skirts of his golden cassock. It all seemed like a dream to me. It wouldn’t be until the next day that I would put the whole thing together.
To be continued in the next blog post…
ADDRESS: Via Carlo D’Angiò s.c., Monte SantʼAngelo, 71037
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