It had been a very long time since I spent any time alone. Not just during the day alone, but really alone. Sleep alone. Get up when I wanted to, alone. Not make dinner for anyone, alone. Do something on a whim, alone. After so many months where my life has centered around caring for Michael, I needed a break. So I decided to take a weekend and plan a solo get away. Where could I travel to easily in Italia by train, be safe and get some quiet time? Florence is only 1.5 hrs by train from Roma, but it seemed too busy. Ah ha! Assisi has been on my list of places to visit, so it seemed like the perfect solo getaway.
Through Booking.com I found a very inexpensive hotel (less than 100€ for 2 nights and it was clean and quaint), the Hotel Berti, located just inside the ancient walls of the old city. I bought a train ticket online and early on a Friday morning off I went. The train ride from Rome took about 2 hrs, and with a first class ticket, I was comfortable enough. The walled city of Asisi sits up on a hill, terraced under Mt. Subasio. It was easy to find the city bus that goes from the train station up to the old city, and the hotel was just a 2 minute walk from the main bus stop.
Assisi, is best known as the birthplace of St. Francesco (known at Saint Francis of Assisi, but interestingly born Giovanni di Pietro di Bernardone and nicknamed “Francesco” by his father). He was born into a wealthy family in approximately 1181. As a young adult he experienced a vision that led him to renounce his wealth, begin to preach, and live a life of poverty. He founded three Catholic orders, and while never ordained as a priest, he was pronounced a saint in 1228 by Pope Gregory IX. Francesco lived his life in such a way as to imitate the life of Christ and carry out the work of Christ. He also experienced the stigmata, the wounds of Christ.
The Basilica of St. Francesco, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is an amazing church and an important site for Christian pilgrims. There are actually 2 churches, the Lower Church and the Upper Church and a crypt below which contains the tomb and remains of St. Francesco. There is also a Franciscan Friary that is incorporated as part of the Basilica complex. The Lower Church is amazing for it’s frescos, which highlight the development of medieval art during the period. There is also a very simple room that was originally used as a meeting room for the friars, which today holds artifacts from Francesco’s life. I took a lot of photos which you can see below.
There are many churches in Assisi and I visited another important Basilica in the walled ancient city, the Basilica of Saint Clare, who was a follower of Francesco. Her tomb lies in the crypt below and was quite beautiful and moving. I also visited San Rufino Cathedral, built in 1140, which is famous for housing the christening font where St. Clare and St. Francesco were baptized. The Temple of Minerva, from the first century sits next to the Civic Tower in the Piazza del Comune, and was reconverted in the 16th century into what is today the St. Maria Sopraminerva Church.
I ended up on Saturday taking the train to Perugia, I guess, just because I could! I met a lovely American couple, Jason and Melissa, who were on a short day trip prior to her running in the Rome Marathon the next day. I enjoyed a pleasant, but cold day hanging out and lunching with them before saying goodbye.
Assisi has many more sights to see than I was able to do in a few short days. I ate well, particularly at Risorante La Pallota where I met the neighbors fluffy dog and had visions of my mama while eating a Umbrian/Tuscan chicken liver pate (it was as good as my mama’s chopped liver!). I spent a few evenings with Nila, the owner at Bibenda Wine Bar, which is rated as the number one restaurant in Assisi for a good reason (although interestingly, she serves mainly appetizers to go along with her extensive selection of delicious wines). I stumbled upon a modern art show and wandered the city’s streets.
Many people talk about the spiritual energy of Assisi and I was curious about how I would feel there. Assisi is famous for it’s religious institutions, which naturally attract people interested in living a more spiritual, than secular life. While you do see many tourists walking around, priests, nuns and friars are a very common part of the landscape of the city. When the day tripping tourists leave, there is a calm and quiet that settles over the city. Sitting in one of the Basilica or churches you do feel the energy of the millions of prayers having been spoken within.
While I enjoyed my time alone, and I enjoyed Assisi, at the core, I am a nature kind of gal. Sedona still holds my heart and my spirit soars when I am there. I’ll be back home there for a visit soon. Red rocks…here I come.