Perched on top of a hill overlooking Parco del Monte Subasio sits the historic and holy town of Assisi. Located just 2.5 hrs drive away from Florence and Rome, this small city is often overshadowed by these glamorous neighbours.
If you think the Basilica of San Francesco is the only thing Assisi has to offer, then spend a day here and I guaranteed you will be charmed by this city as much as I do. My group of friends who were sceptical of me insisting on spending a night in Assisi, fell in love with this place the moment they stepped foot on it and didn’t want to leave!
The old town of Asissi has a longish layout and is built from the top of the hill down. Basilica of San Francesco and Basilica of St Clare, the two most significant churches of Assisi marks each end of the town.
Basilica of St Clare (Basilica di Santa Clara)
Born here, Saint Clare was the founder of the Poor Sisters, which later became the Order of Poor Clares after her death. Built in the 13th century, the Basilica of St Clare is where St Clare was buried.
Together on display in the Crypt of the basilica are St Clare’s preserved body, the original crucifix of St Francis, and items used or made by or belong to St Clare during her lifetime.
If you are on a pilgrimage, then consider attending the morning and evening prayers here. They are beautifully sang by the St Clare’s nuns. Otherwise, indulge yourself with the breathtaking views of the valley at the piazza in front of the basilica.
Basilica of San Francesco
On the other end of Assisi town sits the Basilica of San Francesco, the main highlight of the town.
St Francis, one of the most prominent saints and the patron saint of Italy, founded the Franciscan Order in 1208. Assisi was the birthplace as well as the final resting place of St Francis.
The Basilica of San Francesco is made up of 3 churches one on top of the other. The body of St Francis is buried in the Tomb Church. From here, continue to the Lower Church and finally the Upper Church.
This UNESCO heritage church is filled with frescoes depicting religious stories and the life of St Francis. However, due to its deteriorating conditions, photography is not allowed.
Like the piazza in front of the Basilica of St Clare, the square outside the Basilica of San Francesco offers splendid view of the valley and Assisi town.
Despite modernisation, Assisi has retained much of its old world charm and the original city wall faithfully guards this city.
Staying in an old town is an exceptionally beautiful experience that I have came to adore. However, some bed & breakfasts may be situated on higher ground. If you are not ready to carry your luggage up long flight of stairs, then consider staying in hotels or B&Bs that are situated on the fringe of or outside the old city.
Piazza del Comune
The city centre of Assisi known as the Piazza del Comune is unlike most other city centres where there are large concentration of shops and eateries. Due to the unique geographic of Assisi, shops and eateries are well spread throughout the town. Every corners and alleys brings about surprises which makes exploring the town enjoyable. Most importantly, they divert your attention from the tiring climbs!
The two highlights of the Piazza del Comune are the Temple of Minerva (right) and the Clock Tower (left).
Built in the 1st century BC, the Temple of Minerva temple was restored in 1539 and currently houses the church, Santa Maria sopra Minerva. The most impressive of this building are the six roman columns that remained intact after all these decades.
Town of Truffles
Situated in the Umbria region which is famous for truffles, this delicacy is no doubt the famous produce of Assisi. This said, the must eat when in Assisi had to be truffles! We went to the highly recommended Ristorante Taverna del Consoli which specialises in truffles dishes.
When our food was served, the group (including myself) was stupefied. Our al dent spaghetti, chewy gnocchi and melt-in-the-mouth fillet steak were topped with huge pieces of shaved truffles!
Not only was this our first “all things truffles” meal, it was the best we ever had. The steak was so good that we had a second serving. It was the most wonderful ending for our trip to this captivating town.
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