Perched upon a hilltop in Central Italy, Assisi is visually stunning and culturally rich. A trip to Italy is not complete without a pilgrimage to this gem in Umbria. It was this stunning Umbrian town that caused me to fall madly and deeply in love with Italy.
Assisi is best known as the hometown of one of the most popular saints in religious history. St Francis didn’t just talk about his beliefs. He lived by example. Renouncing all worldly goods and loving all God’s creatures, Francis extolled humility in all he did.
Today, Assisi is a popular pilgrimage site for Franciscan Friars and tourists.
Assisi deserves at least a half-day visit. Park in one of the garage parking lots just outside of town and climb the steps or hills to town.
The Basilica of Saint Francis is located at the far end of town overlooking the beautiful Umbrian landscape. The basilica is divided into the upper and lower basilicas so don’t make the mistake of visiting only just one.
The upper basilica shows 28 frescoes by the artist Giotto depicting the life of St. Francis. Take some time and admire the beautiful scenes of St. Francis’ life. The lower basilica holds the tomb of St. Francis. Simpler than the upper basilica, the lower basilica better symbolizes Francis’ teachings.
On every visit to the basilica, I always make it a point to stop at the gift shop/library. This is my favorite place to purchase rosaries for friends and family. All the money made from the shop stay in the basilica for the conservation of this world heritage site. It’s money well spent.
Assisi also has other notable sites. A stop at Basilica di Santa Chiara is worthwhile. St. Clare was a contemporary of Francis. She is best known as the founder of the Sisters of Clare. The outside façade is beautifully simple with pink and white stone stripes. Inside the basilica, the tomb of St Clare resides along with a wooden crucifix believed to have spoken to St. Francis.
Along the main drag, beautifully restored stone buildings lure travelers to linger a while longer. Getting off the main road is definitely worthwhile. Each time I visit, I do my best to get lost for a while. Assisi is picture perfect. If Assisi is not on your bucket list, quickly add it. You won’t regret it.