The variant requires an extra day of travel but offers several opportunities.
It should be considered in winter, with a few hours of light and possible snow, as a simpler route than the challenging direct stage from Balze to La Verna, which has a long, isolated, final mountain stretch. However, it is also recommended in other periods with adverse weather conditions.
It then allows you to touch the Hermitage of Cerbaiolo, another important Franciscan place, reopened in 2019 after years of closure, by a hermit priest who also offers hospitality to pilgrims.
Finally, it can be an option for those who, having already been to La Verna, wish to follow the path south of the Via di Francesco, continuing from the Viamaggio Pass directly to Assisi and Rome, thus shortening the journey by at least one day.
Stage Balze - Pieve Santo Stefano
Just after the village, take the small road on the right with indication Valdazze, first asphalted, then unpaved and follow it uninterruptedly until you reach the village (km 4.5 km - 1.30 '- water).
Hospitality: La Baita dell’Imperatore Tel. 0575.790132 - 0575.795144 - Open in July and August every day, remaining period by reservation, 16 beds. Transfer service by reservation from / to Passo di Viamaggio.
Then continue on path 00, crossing the hill until you reach in less than 1 hour the provincial road which climbs to the right from Pieve Santo Stefano. ATTENTION: in case of rain and fog it is better to avoid the path continuing from Valdazze on the asphalted road (straight up to the intersection with SP Nuova Sestinese, then right until you cross the provincial road coming from Pieve (2.3 km).
50 meters before the pass, turn right at the point where there are clear signs for the hermitage of Cerbaiolo (about 5.5 km - 1.30 ').
We provide below the indications for two alternatives.
The first first runs along the Strada di Cerbaiolo for about 400m until you reach an intersection where you take a wide dirt road to the right that crosses pastures. After about 1 km you will reach Le Camerelle (abandoned buildings) and continue straight on the dirt road for another 1.2 km up to an intersection with a dirt road that you cross by continuing straight up the opposite hill: the path goes along a small ridge in the woods. After about 700 m from the intersection, under a cross erected on the edge of a cliff, you go down to the right and with a few steep bends you reach the Hermitage of Cerbaiolo.
From Cerbaiolo you go down towards the small cemetery and continue towards the valley where you take a dirt road that in a few hundred meters joins the Via di Cerbaiolo that you left further upstream. Follow the dirt road for about 4 km to the valley where you cross the SP 77 which you turn right to the center of Pieve S. Stefano.
In case of bad weather, from the Viamaggio Pass it is possible to continue always remaining on the easy Via Cerbaiolo until reaching after about 4.6 km. a branch on the right marked by an iron cross (altitude 669 m.). Here you leave the road and go up keeping to the right at the next fork, ignoring the path that goes up to the left. You pass near a small chapel with a cemetery and on a narrow dirt road you reach the gate beyond which a steep mule track leads to the Hermitage of Cerbaiolo.
Eremo di Cerbaiolo: Don Claudio +39.338.8589482
Parish of Pieve Santo Stefano: +39.0575.798123 (Spartan hospitality, donative);
Hotel Santo Stefano: Tel. +39.0575.797129; www.hotelsantostefanoarezzo.it
Distance: 24.2 km
Difference in height: +634 m, -1279 m
Time: from Balze to Pieve Santo Stefano 7 h 30 '
DOWNLOAD BALZE - PIEVE SANTO STEFANO GPX
Stage Pieve Santo Stefano - La Verna
From Pieve Santo Stefano (reference Bar Europa) go along Via Tiberina towards the mountain until you cross via della Casina, which you take to the left to the end, passing under the viaduct of the E45 highway. Continue straight on Via San Lorenzo until the entrance to the driveway of the Istituto di Istruzione Superiore Fanfani Camaiti. From here, turn left, bypassing the school complex and continue on the driveway that runs along the ridge on the right bank of the Tiber, indicated as CAI path n.075. After less than a km, turn left onto the CAI path 061, continue straight. As you climb along the ridge, the driveway becomes a trail then path, always well marked and visible; overcome the deviations of the path 076 first on the right and then on the left keeping on the 075 that follows the ridge up to the Passo delle Pratelle (about 10 km - 3.00 'hours from Pieve). At Passo delle Pratelle you cross the intersection and continue on the GEA - CAI 50 path, reaching after a couple of km the meadows of the M.Calvano, maximum altitude of the route, and descending in a few minutes you get to Croce della Calla, at the foot of the Monte della Verna. From here, take the path on the left in less than half an hour to get to the Sanctuary.
Along the way there is no water, except at the "Podere le Querce Dorate - AsvaNara", after about 3 km from Pieve.
Distance: 15.1 km
Difference in height: +1180 m, -488 m
DOWNLOAD PIEVE-LA VERNA GPX