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Basilica di San Francesco

Over the rooftops, Assisi

Flowers in Assisi


For more on Italian churches visit Bill Thayer's website
The Churches of Italy
Churches of Assisi
Welcome to Assisi
From Jesse's Journeys in Italy

Official website: Assisi
Wikipedia: Assisi
Map:  Assisi  MapQuest
TripAdvisor: Assisi

Chances are, if you are reading this, you have at least a vague knowledge that Assisi is the birthplace of St. Francis of Assisi (b. 1181).  Francis was a very pious man, and is much revered, even yet, by Roman Catholics, and probably by people of many other religious persuasions.

Read more about St. Francis

The City of Assisi, which sits on the western slopes of Mount Subasio, is city of about 5,500 full time citizens (with another 25,000 or so in the immediate vicinity).

It's a strange place in a way because on the one hand there is a real and palpable piety in the ancient stones of the city.  There are numerous churches, monasteries, nunneries, religious schools and institutes in which people busily go about their serious and sublime callings.

On the other hand, Assisi is a "tourist" city almost on par with the Big 5 (Rome, Venice, Florence, Pisa and Siena).  Millions of people visit every year, following largely the same paths.  A relative few veer off the standard routes into the smaller alleyways and streets which are intriguing, charming, and occasionally beautiful.

The crowds arrive mostly in July and August, when the Umbrian sun is at its hottest.  We recommend a late spring, or early fall sojourn when things are cooler and you can conserve your energy, which you will need as you explore this hillside city

Start your visit in the valley below with a visit to the Basilica Santa Maria degli Angeli, an imposing structure in a setting that affords one to step back and glimpse the entire front of the edifice.  Inside, there are remarkable frescoes, paintings, and sculptures.  Inside, you will also find a small church, called the Porziuncola, where St. Francis and his followers are said to have founded the Frati Minori (Minor Friars) way back in 1209.

Then make your way to Assisi, by foot (about 2km), car or bus.  You might want to orient yourself by starting (or ending) your visit at the Basilica San Francesco, wherein you will find the tomb of Saint Francis (and various other notables), and numerous objects of art, some of which are quite stunning.  Cimabue and Giotto, among others, painted here.

Afterwards, make your way uphill into the city itself along the medieval Via San Francesco (of course).  You will encounter numerous restaurants, cafes, gelaterias and shops, some of them with very artistic - and inviting - window displays.  Eventually, you will come to a small piazza with a water fountain, where you will be confronted with the choice of following one of several streets.  Better have one of the impeccably wonderful gelatos while pondering your choices.

Generally speaking, we advise you to head uphill...probably along Via Brizi until you come to the Piazza del Commune, where you can catch your breath while marveling at the "works of man" made manifest in every cobblestone and building.

From there, keep moving uphill (yes, more uphill) along the Via San Rufino until you come to the Duomo.  It is very cool inside - in all meanings of the word.

The next part of your journey will take you to Piazza Matteoti and then on to the ruins of a Roman Amphitheatre.  You can sit down and rest your weary bones for awhile and then head east or west to take a look at a couple of ancient forts.  The most impressive is the Rocca Maggiore to the west, although the Rocca Minore is worth seeing too.

Once you have achieved the summit of Assisi, and have quite exhausted yourself physically and emotionally, it will be time to head back to the Basilica of San Francesco.  Do yourself a favor - do not reverse your steps.  You really can't get lost, so just head down in the general direction, taking the unheralded streets and alleys of the city.  It is the best way to transform yourself from tourist into traveler.


By Vian Andrews, July 15th, 2005

Region of Umbria



From Rome it is a 3 hour bus or train ride from the main terminals.  If you travel by car take the A1 toward Florence then head west to Assisi along the SS20, about 20 km past Perugia.  If you are coming by car from Florence, travel south on the A1 and then go east on the SS75B1S.




Assisi Street

Stairway to heaven?

Portico at
Santa Maria degli Angeli
Ostelli della Place