On the way to Rome we stopped over in a beautiful town in the province of Perugia called Assisi. It is the birthplace of St. Francis, who founded the Franciscan religious order in the town in 1208, and St. Clare (Chiara d’Offreducci), the founder of the Poor Sisters, which later became the Order of Poor Clares after her death.
We arrived in Assisi in the morning. The city was beautiful and peaceful. The bus left us in a parking lot and from there we had to walk 30 minutes to the Basilica of San Francesco which is located on top of the hill. As we ascend up the hill, the place looked amazing with a green landscape and ancient buildings. It looked really pretty like I was walking in the gallis (narrow streets) of Kathmandu. The place is cleaner and more organised compared to Nepal but the place looked like it was frozen in time.
As we walked towards the top, we saw so many souvenir shops, little pizzerias and some dress shops. There were lots of tourists enjoying gelato and pizza in the little streets which had no foot or motor traffic.
On the top of the mountain was the Basilica of San Francesco and is the mother church of the Roman Catholic Order of Friars Mino. We decided to go inside but as soon as we entered we were stopped. I was wearing a dress with open shoulders and AS was wearing his hat. The guy told us I need to cover my shoulder and AS has to take off his hat. As my scarf and jacket were in the bus in the parking lot, we didn’t see any point going down and coming back again wasting more than an hour so we went to a nearby shop and bought a scarf to put over my shoulders. Then we made our way inside the church again.
In the main area of the church, there were lots of people praying. The architecture of the church was ancient and there was so much history behind the place. The basilica, which was begun in 1228, is built into the side of a hill and comprises two churches known as the Upper Church and the Lower Church, and a crypt where the remains of the saint are interred. The interior of the Upper Church is an important early example of the Gothic style in Italy. The Upper and Lower Churches are decorated with frescoes by numerous late medieval painters from the Roman and Tuscan schools, and include works by Cimabue, Giotto, Simone Martini, Pietro Lorenzetti and possibly Pietro Cavallini. The range and quality of the works gives the basilica a unique importance in demonstrating the development of Italian art of this period.
We saw the tomb of St. Francis and explored the ornate upper and lower churches, admiring the frescos and architecture. Pictures weren’t allowed inside of the church, but it was fine when we were outside in the courtyard.
On the way out, we went to the souvenir shop and bought a small statue of San Francesco as a souvenir from Assisi. From there we descended to go to the parking lot to meet our tour bus. There are many other interesting things to see in Assisi as well like 14th century castle “Rocca Maggiore” which overlooks the town and is very impressive in a grimly medieval fashion. Inside there are some historical displays, including a collection of weapons in the armoury. But we didn’t have time to do more sightseeing so we just rushed to the bus. On the way down, we went to a pizzeria and grabbed a quick-lunch (2 slices of pizzas) on the go as we realised that we were almost late for our bus.