Where We Be
Assisi, Italy
Just about everyone seems to like Assisi, and
for good reason. Its dramatic hilltop setting is
home to a gorgeous basilica dedicated to St.
Francis. There's an imposing fortress at the
top, several great nature walks, and a quiet air
of spirituality that seems to permeate the place.

The one absolute must-do is the Basilica, which
anchors one end of town. Pilgrims and tourists
alike pay their respects to a saint who seemed
to be in touch with his own humanity and had
an affinity for animals and nature. The 28 fresco
panels inside are justly famous; they depict the
life of St. Francis and in many ways represent
the beginnings of the Renaissance. Attributed
to Giotto, they show saints and ordinary people
in natural settings. Instead of flat, iconic images
against gold backgrounds, you have 3D people
in recognizable settings. Our favorite panel
shows St. Francis preaching to the birds.
This was our first good look at Assisi as we approached by car -- what a gorgeous Umbrian hilltop city!
Looking down on the lovely Basilica of St. Francis from the fortress at the top of Assisi
The statue shows St. Francis on horseback, head and body bent forward as if he is desperately weary and allowing God to lead him. The plaque says he
was told by God to go back home to his city and that, "At the break of day, Francis, with his reformed inner self, desired only to conform to the will of God.’”
The Basilica offers lovely views over the surrounding countryside
Our favorite fresco panel shows St. Francis preaching to the birds (Note: Not my photo)
Dominating the city is the Rocca Maggiore
This immense fortress at the top of Assisi has overlooked the city for nearly a thousand years (since 1174)
We traipsed all over the fortress, walking up steep spiraling staircases to the tops of towers and along the ramparts for great views
The best part was walking through a dimly lit, 105-meter narrow passageway – essentially a tunnel inside a wall – that seemed to go on forever
The 1.5 km stroll to the Santuario di San Damiano passes olive groves and offers serene views similar to what St. Francis himself may have experienced
Evocative statue of St. Francis at the Santuario di San Damiano, where he first heard the word of God and where he wrote his "Canticle of the Creatures"
This small hilltop fortress and the stone houses below it are located near the Hotel La Rocca where we stayed
The Basilica of St. Francis isn't the only show in town! Several other important churches grace the city.
The Church of Santa Chiara is where St. Clare is entombed -- she was a contemporary of St. Francis (1181-1226) and his devoted follower
We felt like three days in Assisi was just about right -- it let us see most of the city, which is big enough to keep you interested for quite some time
A final view of Assisi from a distance
It's a pleasure to wander Assisi's medieval streets
Small touches of beauty, like this ivy-filled stone niche, are around every corner