Small touches, like this ivy-filled stone niche, can be found around every corner
Where We Be
Assisi, Italy
Just about everyone likes Assisi and for good
reason. Its dramatic hilltop setting is home to a
gorgeous basilica dedicated to St. Francis of
Assisi. 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 had an
affinity for animals and nature and was in touch
with his own humanity. The 28 fresco panels
inside are quite 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 icons against
gold backdrops, you have three-dimensional
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 Basilica of St. Francis from the fortress at the top of Assisi
In front of the Basilica of St. Francis is this statue showing St. Francis on horseback,
head and body bent forward as if desperately tired, allowing God to lead him home
The Basilica offers delightful views over the surrounding countryside
Our favorite fresco panel shows St. Francis preaching to the birds  [Not my photo]
Dominating the city at the top is the fortress known as Rocca Maggiore
This immense fortress has overlooked the city for nearly a thousand years (since 1174)
We traipsed all over the fortress, climbing steep spiral staircases
to the tops of towers and walking along the ramparts for views
The most unusual part was walking through a dimly lit 350 ft (105 m) narrow
passageway – essentially a tunnel inside a wall – that seemed to go on forever
The 1 mile (1.5 km) stroll to the Santuario di San Damiano passes through 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"
We stayed at Hotel La Rocca with this view
of a small hilltop fortress and stone houses
The Basilica of St. Francis isn't the only show in town. Several other
important churches grace the city, like the Basilica of St. Clare.
St. Clare (Santa Chiara) was a contemporary of
St. Francis (1181-1226) and his devoted follower
Three days in Assisi was just about right -- it let us see the city
quite well. Assisi is big enough to keep you interested for some time.
A final view of Assisi from a distance
It's a pleasure to wander Assisi's medieval streets