Friday, September 23, 2022
I started my day with another lovely breakfast of too much food lovingly prepared and provided by proprietors Lia and Carmine. And I enjoyed another HOT cappuccino, yum!!
Then I was out onto the byways of inner city Assisi courtesy of Rick Steves, via a couple of his generously free website download offerings. I thought I had cast my walking web pretty far uphill from the town center, but No! There was much, much more!! I was invited to see/envision the former Roman amphitheater, still stone walled in a round, yet currently housing a neighborhood. While the amphitheater likely dates to the early first century, around the time of Christ, the buildings filling it today were built in the 13th and 14th century.
I walked on to see the ruined castle, Rocca Maggiore (“Big Fortress”) on the hill (built in 1367, a typical example of medieval military architecture – with a killer view!) and then to Cattedrale di San Rufino. From Assisi’s City tour map, “The impressive Romanesque façade dating from 1140 is adorned with three rose-windows and symbolic sculptures. The interior was altered in the 16th century, but there is still the baptismal font where St. Francis and St. Clare were baptized. The Cappella del Sacramento, the wooden choir, the Roman cistern, the crypt and the museum are points of interest.” From Rick Steve’s’ walking tour, “This church is Assisi’s cathedral – that is, the headquarters of the local bishop. It’s named for St Rufino, the town’s first bishop. In the 3rd century, Ruffino converted the pagan Rome city of Assisi to Christianity. After he was martyred, he was buried here.”
My guided walk had me strolling by our previous trekking group hotel and along the “shopping” avenue. Rick pointed out several “favorite” spots by address and I took note of each as I passed, including a deli I would visit later. I especially like the artwork of local painter, Paolo Grimaldi – medieval fantasy townscapes. He runs a shop here with his brother, and his work is all over town!
I continued on to the Piazza del Comune, where there are always loads of folks in tour groups, dining outside and people watching, or just plain hanging out! Here we find the Roman temple of Minerva with its massive Corinthian columns, built in the 1st century A.D.! Also located here are the 13th century Palazzo del Capitano del Popolo, the Torre del Popolo which was completed in1305, and the Palazzo del Priori (14th century).
My “tour” had me back to the Basilica of St Francis, where we received our official “testimoniums“ on Tuesday.
“The church, begun just two years after Francis’ death, is situated on a rocky projection from Mount Subasio, affording is dramatic views of the Spoleto Valley and assuring it can be seen for many miles around. The oldest part of the basilica is the lower, Romanesque level, which contains the tomb of St Francis, along with those of his four closest friends – Rufino, Leone, Masseo and and Angelo. His patroness, Lady Jacoba (or Brother Jacoba as he lovingly called her) is buried at the entrance stairway to this level, facing the altar. To the right of the main altar and down some stairs is the Chapel of the Relics, which contains the sandals and tunic of Francis, among other historic items. In the upper basilica is a high altar, directly over Francis’ tomb. Frescoes by Giotto, Cimabue, Cavallini and others adorn the walls of the early Gothic-style nave. While these cherished artworks were damaged in the earthquake of 1997, their careful restoration allows them still to tell the story of Francis’ life. The entire basilica is well worth a long and meditative visit.” (Trekking The Way of St Francis From Florence To Rome.)
Even though we had the most illuminating tour with Giuseppe the afternoon we arrived, I chose to take the Rick Steves audio tour more slowly, enjoying the rich detail that only embellished what my tired brain heard previously. Specifically, I enjoyed sitting with at least twenty of the thirty plus frescoes outlining stories of the life of St. Francis by famed and precedent setting artist, Giotto (and some of his students). He introduced depth of field and the pleated appearance of clothing, the introduction of nature and animals as well as emotional expressions on the paintings’ subjects, all quite revolutionary at the time. This was the first church in Italy to have a Gothic-style art perspective reflected, among them some stained glass windows that are the oldest in Italy. It was a fabulous way to spend my morning!
Just as I was about to have a picnic of leftover breakfast items, I heard from Liza that she’d like to meet for lunch! Her husband walked with our group and returned home to Westminster in the UK while she stayed on to attend a conference for young people, entrepreneurs and change-makers which promises a visit from Pope Francis!!!
I loved yesterday’s lunch at Le Terrazze di Properzio so much, that I convinced her to walk there! We enjoyed a fabulous meal on their lower level, not the terrace. Our view was not quite as spectacular yet still fabulous and the great food and company, top notch!!
I meandered around a bit after we parted company, and tried to stop in at a couple of places that my own, personal TripAdvisor extraordinaire, BillFish Denman, had suggested for me. Unfortunately they were closed. Then I circled back to the deli that Rick Steves recommended, La Bottega dei Sapori, and picked up some sausages, cheese and truffles! Fabrizio was quite enthusiastic about being touted by Rick, especially when I told him I was from Washington state! His name means “Friendly”!!
I have been assured it is very safe in Assisi after dark and I know it is the Italian way to eat late and walk into the night – yet once again, this American pilgrim RELISHED the idea of another early bedtime!! I am out of touch with world news even though I’ve had televisions in most of my rooms. I have not turned them on and I hope things are not imploding around me.
Tomorrow I leave Assisi and head to Amsterdam for a brief stay before heading home to my loved ones on Tuesday. Arividurchi!