Laying down at the spurs of Mount Subasio, of the Apennine mountains, the town of Assisi is one of the most beautiful and important villages of the Umbria region of Italy. Mostly renowned for being the birthplace of both Saint Francis and Saint Clare, the Seraphic Town enshrines a real wealth of archeological treasures which dates back to the Villanovan culture.
Like window to the past, Assisi offers to its visitors several glimpses throughout different ages such as Roman, Medieval, Renaissance and Baroque; glimpses that follow one another and blend together to form a composition so peaceful and so surprising that makes every visit to town an almost magic experience.
Like many other towns in Umbria, Assisi is not very large and, although it would be more than possible to visit its most interesting landmarks; be them religious, artistic or archaeological; during just one day, the most ideal way to enjoy its beauty is to consecrate to the Seraphic Town a whole weekend.
In fact, by spending two days of our time exploring the town, not only we would be able to dive into its timeless atmosphere at our own pace, but we would also have the chance to taste some dishes from the simple, yet tasty, traditional Umbrian cuisine.
Moreover, Assisi provides a wide range of accommodations to suit all tastes and every budgets; thus finding the right solution to our needs won’t be hard at all.
To begin our visit to Assisi in style there is no better place than the Basilica of Saint Francis. Structured in one Upper Basilica, with its Romanic-Umbrian architecture with heavy influences from the Lombard style; and a Lower Basilica from where it is possible to access Saint Francis’ Tomb, this massive church is Assisi’s spiritual heart. The frescoes and the decorations within the Basilica are the work of renowned artists such as Simone Martini; Cimabue and Giotto. This latter decorated the walls inside the Upper Basilica with the interesting Cycle of Saint Francis’ Life.
Walking uphill along Via San Francesco, it is possible to reach Palazzo Monte Frumentario with its evocating arcaded loggia and, later on the road, the small church of Saint Stephen. From there, we can proceed along Via Portica until we enter Piazza del Comune, where the multiple historical roots of the Seraphic Town reveal themselves in all their beauty.
Within a relatively narrow area, in fact, we will find ourselves admiring the Temple of Minerva, by Roman design which surprisingly enshrines a baroque church; Palazzo dei Priori with its Torre del Popolo by medieval design and, on the opposite side of the square, Palazzo Comunale. Finally, from Piazza del Comune, it is possible to reach the ancient Roman Fora (admission with fee) and the Chiesa Nuova, built alongside the House of Saint Francis’ Father.
Going forward along Via Santa Chiara, we arrive in the square by the same name with its view over the valley and the Basilica of Saint Clare, identifiable by its three massive flying buttresses supporting the left side of the building.
From Piazza Santa Chiara we can climb uphill along Via Sermei and then Via Dono Doni in order for us to reach Piazza San Rufino and the cathedral consecrated to the Patron Saint of the town: Rufino of Assisi. In its simplicity, the Cathedral of Saint Rufino is one of the most prominent examples of the Romanic-Umbrian architecture.
From Piazza San Rufino, we can finally head toward the highest part of the Seraphic Town, where the fortress named Rocca Maggiore towers above the citadel; from here it is possible to enjoy the amazing view over the underlying valley.
Accessible against a small admittance fee, Rocca Maggiore hosts a permanent exhibition dedicated to the Calendimaggio di Assisi; one of the most prominent medieval festivals of Central Italy. Held every year during the first weekend of May, this festival brings the Seraphic City back in time at the beginning of the XIV Century.
Once we have visited all the classic beauties of the Seraphic Town, we can indulge ourselves into the free exploration of Assisi through the narrow and arduous alleys of its Old City Core; indeed the only way to seize the opportunity to discover Assisi in its most secluded and charming facets.
The Roman Amphitheatre, for instance, identifiable for its elliptical structure and for the garden enclosed within a walled area; a further example of the convergence of the various historical periods Assisi went through.
Finally, the Eremo delle Carceri; located a little further than 4 kilometers from Assisi at the spurs of Mount Subasio, this is the most fitting place to end our visit of the town. A prominent Franciscan place of worship where Francis and his followers were used to gather to pray together; the Eremo boasts a spectacular panoramic position between the mountains, thanks to its elevation of 790 meters above sea level. Perfect to our visit to Assisi in a bang.