Henri Craemer | Stage 20: Along the Valnerina to Arrone
An account of walking what is arguably the easiest stage of the Way of St Francis, passing through the Valnerina or Nera Valley, and the little towns of Macenano, Ferentillo, and Precetto before arriving at Arrone.
Salbutamol, Nera River, Valnerina, walking, Nera valley, Macenano, Precetto, Ferentillo, chant, Arrone
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Arrone (Photo: © Henri Craemer)

Stage 20: Along the Valnerina to Arrone

12 September 2017. It was a difficult night with chest problems for me. After yesterday’s chilling down and energy crash I’m hardly surprised. Fortunately, I still had a relatively good night sleep in the end after using my salbutamol inhaler, AKA my blaster. We have a few things to eat of the breakfast basket and pack a few snacks for the road.

I’m looking forward to easy trekking today. By comparison to yesterday, it should be a doddle. The route statistics for today lists ascents of 221m and 248m descents, spread over a distance of 15.5km. The terrain should be perfect for walking in sandals.

While settling the account, Niels bumps onto the two Belgians They tell him they’ve decided to take transport to Spoleto. We are relieved. It’s still very overcast and the mountain hides its face in mist. However, it’s pleasant walking weather.


Along the Nera River

We cross the Nera River, flowing very strongly after the recent rain. Our trek down the Valnerina – valley of the Nera – begins. On a gentle ascent after the last house I look back. I was not mistaken. It is getting warmer. The mist is beginning to clear, giving Ceselli almost the look of a little mystical town in the clouds.

Ceselli, mist clearing at 08:40 (Photo: © Henri Craemer)

Ceselli, mist clearing at 08:40 (Photo: © Henri Craemer)


Niels picks up the pace. I develop some breathing problems. I decide to fall back a bit to deal with it once he’s out of sight. It is beginning to border on asthma, so I blast my chest with salbutamol before it becomes a more serious problem.

Salbutamol was once deemed by athletic associations to be performance enhancing. However, many research^ articles found that taking it does not result in improved physical performance. It certainly eases my breathing.

This low cloud and mist lifts and lets the sun through. My chest clears completely. I catch up to Niels to where I can easily keep him in line of sight as the path winds through the Valnerina. It’s wonderful to hit this pace and rhythm of walking. It feels as if I’m flowing through the landscape, and the landscape flows through me.

Macenano in the distance, approaching from Ceselli (Photo: © Henri Craemer)

Macenano in the distance, approaching from Ceselli (Photo: © Henri Craemer)



The path snakes along the Nera valley, almost teasing into thinking that we’ll cross the mountains. All the while the sound of the Nera river can be heard in shades of loudness and softness as path closes in and leaves it.

The sky clears to a beautiful blue. The Valnerina reveals beautiful sights of green meadows and rocky mountain cliffs. At around 09:45 we see Macenano in the distance. The Italian morning is beautifully quiet as we go through the village. Some people are going about their business.


Precetto and Ferentillo

Soon we’re through the town, winding our way to Precetto. In some places the cliffs are close to the road. It’s hard to believe that we won’t be crossing the mountains today. I have to remind myself that we won’t. We’ll be seriously lost if we do. An hour later we cross a dip in the mountains. It reveals Precetto to our left and Ferentillo to our right. Both are spread like quilts down the mountainside.

Niels and I stop for refreshments. He’s pleased with the pace we are making. As we sit down with our drinks and snacks, a man at the table next to us is joined by two others. They start playing cards. One keeps score. One of them does not seem too happy about the way his luck is running. On a few occasions he throws the cards back on the table in disappointment after a hand is played. Such is life. You play the hand you’re dealt to the best of your abilities, celebrate your success and accept your defeats.

Precetto, with the remains of its castle on the hill. (Photo: © Henri Craemer)

Precetto, with the remains of its castle on the hill. (Photo: © Henri Craemer)



When we leave I see quite a few people in the street going their various ways. Some Cycle. Some walk. They do not seem to be occupied with any particular work-related activity. I wonder whether they are employed at all. Niels comments that the unemployment rate is high. Most people of working age in towns like Precetto are on the dole.


Praise Chant

It has turned into a stunningly beautiful day. The interflow between the landscape and me returns as we hit our stride. An upbeat song of praise to the Lord starts running through my head: Ancient of Days by Ron Kenoly. I can’t remember all the lyrics, but the melody is clear.


Blessing and Honour
Glory and Power
Be unto the Ancient of Days

Every tongue in heaven and earth
Shall declare your glory
Every knee shall bow at your throne
In worship
You will be exalted oh God
And your kingdom shall not pass away
Oh Ancient of Days

My footfalls are in time with the music: right foot on the beat, left on the backbeat. The distance is chewed up as the music becomes a praise chant in my head.


The path along the Valnerina. (Photo: © Henri Craemer)

The path along the Valnerina. (Photo: © Henri Craemer)




At the foot of Arrone (Photo: © Henri Craemer)

At the foot of Arrone (Photo: © Henri Craemer)

Just before 12:30 we enter the outskirts of Arrone. I’m happy to still feel quite fresh. My chest problems seem to be over. After a short while we find our agriturismo. As we walk into the grounds we meet the friendly owner. We sit and wait briefly in the dining area while our room is prepared.

It’s a quiet afternoon after we’ve completed our routines. We go into the little town. In comparison to most others, there is not much to see. It’s very much like Ceselli.

After a couple of drinks, we make it back to the agriturismo for a restful afternoon and evening. Of the many times I had pasta on this trip, it’s one of the few I have spaghetti for supper. It’s a lovely dish with mushrooms and peppers. Before going to bed I update my Facebook status and get ready for an early night. I’m grateful for having my own room. That way my chest problems, which in all likelihood will reappear, won’t disturb Niels.


*Conversions from Metric to Imperial


15.5km = ~9.6 miles

221m = ~725’

248m = ~814’



Koch S, MacInnis MJ, Sporer BC, et al Inhaled salbutamol does not affect athletic performance in asthmatic and non-asthmatic cyclists IN Br J Sports Med 2015;49:51-55.

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