On our way to Assisi we visited the Basilica di Santa Maria degli Angeli in the small modern area of the city in the valley. The gigantic basilica (it’s either the 6th or 7th largest Christian church in the world) was built in the 18th Century around St Francis’ tiny chapel – totally misses the point of his teachings, doesn’t it?
But Assisi – what a stunningly beautiful city! It’s easy to see why this place is a favourite for many, no matter whether it’s religion or art that draws you here. The views of the valley below are truly wonderful and it’s easy to imagine a world inside the walls living the simple life. Assisi was really one of the first tourist towns. Its gorgeous medieval history is around many a corner and the well-worn cobbles that lead to the Basilica di San Francesco have been trod my millions making their pilgrimage to the resting place of the saint.
It’s probably the cleanest town we have visited in all of our travels, and looks just like the set of a movie – we expect to see Douglas Fairbanks Jnr and Errol Flynn leap from a flag-festooned window to engage in a bit of fancy sword-play.
Our meals have been very fine, but not expensive. We have enjoyed tasty grilled Umbrian sausages, grilled scottaditto (“scorch your fingers”) lamb chops, black truffle omlette, pasta with roast boar and some mighty fine Sangrantino (local red wine) and Orvieto Classico (crisp dry white). It is very easy to slip into the custom of an afternoon nap after a busy hill-walking morning and delightful lunch. This habit is assisted by the fact that pretty much everything (except restaurants) shuts at 12:30pm and re-opens at 4:30pm – nothing much else to do really. Italy has been very helpful that way – keeping us in holiday mode.
Had a very early dinner (6:30pm!!) – beer and a toasted foccacia at our local caf/bar. Enjoyed chatting to two intelligent, friendly women from Oz, comparing notes on travels and making and accepting recommendations for the roads ahead. Afterwards we climbed to the top of Rocca Maggiore (literally ‘the big castle’) for a view over Assisi and the valley. Quite superb. Passed a very unusual piece of local ‘art’ – a chewing-gum-covered wire fence…gross but interesting. We then witnessed one of the most beautiful and long-lasting colourful sunsets we’d ever seen from the Piazza San Chiara.