Assisi is located in the province of Perugia. The town of Assisi is on a hill and can be accessed by car, foot or public transport. Although the town is quite small there is an incredible variety of places to visit and sights to see.
One side of the large courtyard outside the Basilica di Santa Chiara looks out onto the surrounding countryside and offers an incredible view of green valleys stretching out into the distance, dotted with clusters of buildings, then blending into blue, misty mountains. There is a bench built into the wall and sitting here allows you to experience the life in the square as well as the view. There is a fountain around which choirs and groups often gather and their lively singing and conversations add to the charm of the area. There are several gelaterie on the street leading into the centre of the town and eating creamy Italian gelato whilst sitting on the bench makes it even more enjoyable. Hazelnut and pistachio were my personal favourites but the other flavours were also delicious. Ice creams here are a few euro cheaper than those available at the centre of the town.
Tiny alleyways and buildings built upwards make use of every inch of space in the town, but there are also large open areas and town squares such Piazza del Comune. Wandering around allows you to experience this contrast and the characteristic architecture of the town. There are beautiful houses with brick walls and colourful flowerpots, windows flung open, and tiny shops set into the hill offering a variety of goods including cakes, handmade puppets, ornamental keys, signet rings and religious keepsakes. There are many opportunities to sample delicious Italian specialities such as rocciata, a flaky pastry stuffed with pistachio, honey and fruit. During the day, the cobbled streets are bustling and filled with tourists but in the afternoons, it is much quieter as many locals retire for their siestas.
Assisi is atmospheric, serene and incredibly beautiful. During the evening, and often, into the night, the town square (Piazza del Comune) is filled with the sound of laughter, music and snatches of animated Italian conversations. This is a great atmosphere for evening drinks and there are plenty of possible venues as the town square has several bars and cafes. There is a bar in front of a Roman temple dedicated to the goddess Minerva later converted into a Christian church. The front façade is typically Roman with massive white columns. Sitting in front of this is an experience in itself as several centuries of history merge with the present.
Assisi is famous for its many beautiful churches. Since they are close to each other they can be visited within the span of a day. The Basilica of San Francesco is a sprawling complex of buildings and has stunning frescoes painted by a number of different artists including Giotto, Cimabue and Simone Martini. Giotto’s frescoes narrate stories about St Francis while the others depict biblical themes. Crushed lapis lazuli was used for blue pigment and the resulting colour is incredible; an intense, inky blue. It is owned by the Vatican and therefore, the guards bear the Vatican’s coat of arms. San Damiano, is often visited by pilgrims as it is the chapel where St Francis received his calling. This is often followed by a visit to Santa Chiara, named after Lady Clare, a follower of Francis and this chapel now has the cross from which he received his calling.
The Monastery of San Bose in San Masseo has chapel services Monday to Saturday at 12.30 pm and 6.30 pm. These last half an hour and are an opportunity to listen in silence or to participate in the service. The Italian hymns and music are beautiful. However, this may not be suitable for very large groups as the chapel is quite small.