An interesting drive southward, cutting across the Po Delta, and through the gentle Umbrian hills to Assisi, where St. Francis was born in 1182. We visited the world-famous BASILICA with its beautiful frescoes by Giotto, then head for Rome.
The first sight of Assisi, perched halfway up the slopes of Mount Subasio is extraordinary. Virtually untouched by modern architecture, with the soft pink of its medieval buildings shimmering against the greenery of the mountain, Assisi is an experience for the eye and the soul.
The ruined castle looming over the city is the Rocca Maggiore, an imposing fortress rebuilt in the 14th century over an earlier fortification dating back to the time of Charlemagne.
The Basilica of Saint Francis is unique. Nowhere in Italy there is so rich and complete representation of the art of the late 13th and early 14th centuries. One of the supremely important events in the history, not only of Italian, but of European art.
A day visit to the town should also include the Basilica di Santa Chiara (Basilica of Saint Clare) devoted to Francis’ first “sister”, the Romanesque San Pietro (Saint Peter), Santo Stefano (Saint Stephen), and Assisi’s town cathedral, San Rufino.
We took a walk up Corso Mazzini to Piazza del Comune and enjoyed the medieval palazzi and the beautifully preserved Temple of Minerva. It is an ideal spot to sit on the stone steps and do some people watching while eating a gelato. Roman foundations are a common feature of many buildings here. Below the piazza is the excavated Roman Forum, which can be visited from Via Portica. It is not much of a site if one comes from the splendors of Rome or Pompei, but it makes a good stop in a rainy or hot day and it has the added charm to be completely underground. The Middle Ages are above your head but your feet are on the pavement of a once bustling Roman square. Continue towards the Saint Francis Basilica by Via San Paolo, to the right of the Tourist Office. Make a detour to the signposted Romanesque church of San Stefano. This small church is wonderfully quiet and simple, in sharp contrast with the extravagance of colors, flamboyant architecture and ample spaces, often filled with people, that awaits you at the Basilica down the hill.
We then finally arrivied at the “Basilica di San Francesco”. From the height of Via Cardinal Merry del Val, the sight of the Piazza Superiore is sudden and surprising. Most Italian monuments stand within the architecture of the city. Saint Francis stands alone and serene at the end of a green meadow.