Assisi, St. Frances of Assisi and His City in Umbria
After being in Umbria for about 5 days, Carol and I had a planning session and decided to try the following schedule: On a rotating basis, every three days, we will (1) go to a tourist site of some sort, or (2) go out to lunch somewhere, or (3) sit around and do whatever we feel like. Adjustments to be made in case of rain.
Carol has been painting, reading, and taking walks during her “time off”, and I have been writing this blog, fooling around on the computer or reading. It is amazing how much time I can spend just poking around and finding out things I did not know, on the Internet.
Anyway, we have planned out the next couple weeks, and last Monday, the target was to tour Assisi and to visit a possible dog boarding place near there. (Here is where we went: Dog’s Club . Good luck with the website, in Italian.) After visiting there, we drove the 25 km or so to Assisi.
Assisi was the birthplace of St. Francis of Assisi. We have taken to using the name San Francesco. After being in Italy for a while, it become completely natural to use the Italian name for something, rather than English. His real name was Francesco Giovanni di Pietro Bernardone. You will see later that there is a statue of his father, Pietro Bernardone, near La Chiesa Nuova (new church).
I could not remember if I had ever been to Assisi before (many years ago), but approaching the city, it was obvious to me that I had not, because I would have remembered. The view while driving up is awesome — a fantastic walled city on top of a hill. Carol had never been there either.
Assisi has really gone to some fantastic effort to make the city a worthwhile place to visit. There are at least 5 large parking areas, s
ome underground. We parked in the Parcheggio Mojano, at about 2 € per hour (we stayed almost 3 hours). From the parking lot, there is a series of 4 long escalators ascending to the street just below Piazza Santa Chiara.
Though Assisi, like most places in Italy, is very dog friendly, I don’t think the dogs had ever been on escalators, and Rosie was having none of it. She refused to step onto the bottom moving step. I carried her up the first one, and then Carol took both dogs up the stairs and I used the escalators because I was still using my crutches.
The city is spotless, has plenty of nice restaurants of all (Italian) types. Not cheap, though. For the size of the city, it is a dense as Florence in terms of churches and squares to visit.
The first stop was La Basilica di Santa Chiara di Assisi, or the Basilica of Saint Clare. It is also called La Chiesa di Santa Chiara, or Church of Saint Clare. Here you can see the front view, the fountain in the square with JB, Rosie and Louie, and the view off the square.
The difference between a church and a basilica is that a church is a place where Christians worship, and a basilica is a church whose purpose was to hold the remains of some person. A cathedral is a church where a bishop is present or preaches. So all cathedrals and basilicas are churches, but not the other way around.
Saint Clare of Assisi is a saint born Chiara Offreduccio in 1194, and later became a follower of St. Francesco. She was made a saint in 1255, and the basilica was started 5 year later. She originated Clare’s Order of Poor Ladies, a female monastery order that spread worldwide. In 1958, she was named as designated her as the of television, which is something I really have to work on getting my head around. A very complete description of life of St. Clare can be found at Wikipedia (click here).
We started walking the length of the city, which is perhaps 1.5 km and did a slow first half kilometer, slow because the dogs have to check everything that smells like anything! We had had a small lunch after visiting the Dog’s Club, but by this time we need some sustinance.
This, of course, means wine and gelato. After this, we repeated our pledge to be careful in Italian tourist areas, because this quick but necessary stop cost just over 16 €, or $20!
So, on to the Piazza del Commune, or the Communal Square, down some beautiful streets with buildings arching above, and frescoes on the walls. We also had to hold ourselves back from buying a Pope Francesco tee shirt. The new Pope of course has used Saint Francesco (Saint Francis) as the source for his Papal name.
The Communal Square has a beautiful building called Il Palazzo del Capitano del Popolo (Palace of the Captain of the People) from the mid 13th century.
From there it was a hop, skip and a jump and a few dog sniffs to the Basilica Papale di San Francesco (no more translating on the simple stuff), the main church in town, started in 1228. There is the main church you see JB approaching here, with a fantastic lawn with a hedge spelling Pax (Peace).
No cameras are allowed inside, which we found out after clicking this picture of the fantastic frescoes on the walls. For more detailed pictures of the inside of the basilica, see Google’s image library (click here) .
The basilica is rather amazing inside, with frescoes covering almost every surface, and in excellent condition. The high, vaulted ceilings are exquisite. I have linked one picture from another site (staticflickr.com) to give you a sample.
To get back to parking, we had to walk all the way back, and we decided to go down to the Piazza San Pietro, with the Abbey (or Church) of Saint Peter. On the walk we took a picture looking back up at Assisi, a wonderful last view of the city before leaving for “home”.
See you soon, JB and Carol
Assisi, the City of St. Francesco, in Umbria