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Tag Archives: Assisi

Assisi is more than San Francesco

6 Oct
06 October 2017.
St. Francis of Assisi naturally springs to mind, and surely we have the Saint to thank for the beauty of this town. Without him, who knows? But there is more to Assisi than a religious pilgrimage.
We visited Assisi on a day trip from Spello in 2011 and intended to make it back while we lived in Roma. Never happened. Finally, we included a return to this, Italy’s “Green Heart” and our timing was excellent: warmish fall weather and sun prevailed.

Classic Assisi shot: the Basilica of San Francesco. Such a humble man and such a grand edifice.

Rebecca Winke was my muse for our first trip to Umbria in December of 2011, although she did not know it. On this trip, I was pleased to finally meet her and we were able to stay in one of her traditional apartments right in the center of Assisi, an ideal location.

Typical Assisi street: steep!

Assisi is a good city for strengthening your thighs and we walked it all. Steep alleys, hidden staircases, and a few broad streets lead from one historic wonder to the next. There is the Basilica, of course, and more churches than I could count, but also the eremo (hermitage) of San Francesco above Assisi where his followers gathered. There is a lovely bosco (woods) now run by F.A.I.  (Fondo Ambiente Italiano) featuring hiking paths.  I was pleased to stumble upon the little-known, little-visited Museo del Memoria dedicated to the Assisi Underground: priests, nuns and lay people who saved many Jews during WWII. I had read the book several years ago but the museum is only about five years old. Moving to see this remembrance.

Now a church, Santa Maria Sopra Minerva, these columns remain from a 1st century BC temple dedicated to Minerva.

Assisi is also a decent base for exploring Umbria. Ric and I only managed one day trip this time, to Spello, but Perugia, Spoleto, and others are possible by public transportation, and many more interesting Umbrian towns are within a short drive if one has a car. There is, of course, wine, as Umbria is home to the great Sagrantino di Montefalco.
Regarding that day trip to Spello. you can read about it over at Project Easy Hiker. We took a great, but not-so-easy hike. We also purchased some fantastic olive oil and shipped it back to Oregon.
We found “our bar” the first morning, a place the locals go, and we patronized it each day becoming temporary regulars. There are excellent restaurants: Osteria Piazzetta dell’Erba, Trattoria Pallotto, and Osteria degli Umbri were so good we would have repeated had we been staying longer. We also enjoyed shopping in the tiny alimentari for food to prepare in our apartment.

Trompe l’oeil cat, Assisi.

We were fortunate to have Taxi Bruno (#23) pick us up one morning when we wanted to go to the eremo, which is above Assisi. Did we want him to wait for us? No, I said (Bruno only speaks Italian by the way), we will come back on foot. Va bene. On the way up, I started to worry. The road was steep, somewhat busy with traffic, and there was no shoulder. So I asked Bruno how we would walk down. The road or the path of San Francesco (Via Francigena) were the only choices, and the latter is rugged, he said. Talking amongst ourselves, we decided perhaps, if he could, we’d have Bruno wait for us. He was delighted to and gave me a very full account of how to visit the eremo and handed us an English-language guidebook to use. So we had a visit to this special little spot in the woods and Taxi Bruno took us back to Assisi. So happy we sprang for his services. Lucky us, on our last morning Bruno also showed up at the crack of dawn when we needed to go to the station on departure. We
Who would have thought going to Mailboxes, Etc., would be a memorable event? We needed to ship home olive oil and a few other things we had purchased and did not want to cart all over Europe for another month. Seems like a mundane activity, right? Not in Italy!

Lavender shop, Assisi.

We arrived about 11:30 to find the store locked and two dogs tied up inside, one of which was barking furiously. Since the store was supposed to open at 11:00 and we had traveled there by bus with these packages, we were a little miffed. But this is Italy and times can be approximate. I stuck my head into the bar next door and a group having coffee assured me the MBE guy would be back. Probably just making a delivery. One of the guys very kindly stopped after he had his coffee and called the owner to see: sure enough, he was on his way.  (I had tried to call but the number on the door was disconnected. If we had not lived in Italy so long I might have found this odd, but it did not seem all that strange to us.)

Friendly cats all over town came out to greet us.

So Mr. MBE shows up, unlocks the door, offers apologies, and introduces us to Arturo, one of the dogs, who is on a leash tied to the counter. Arturo seems docile now that we have been let in and anxious to make our acquaintance. I have never met a dog I did not like, and they like me; except Arturo. But for the leash restraining him, he would have taken my face off! I backed out of reach just in time! And the owner did not seem to find this so odd. Ahhh, Italy. I’ll bet if I met Arturo in a restaurant we’d have been fine.
I kept my distance from Arturo, although Ric did not seem to have a problem. The guys at MBE took good care of us and even made us a nice espresso.

Everyone seemed to have beautiful flowers around their entryways.

My only regret about our stay is that we did not get out into the Umbrian countryside more. Without a car it is difficult to do. It is, I think, a little harder to navigate on public transportation than Toscana. But that makes it all the more charming.
Here are a few shots from our hike in the Bosco di San Francesco.

 

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Tourists again

29 Aug
29 August 2017. One of our favorite things about living in Roma was telling people we lived there. When we traveled we felt just a little Continental. We could take a trip with minimal planning: except for needing cat sitters, we could be quite extemporaneous. Trains were easy and we didn’t obsess over packing perhaps because we were so at home in Europe.
We loved being able to go to Tuscany for the weekend or to stay for an entire week somewhere because we weren’t in a rush. We loved vacationing as Italians do, passing a summer month in the cool beauty of the Dolomites.
Now we will be American Tourists again. We’re going back!
One of our dreams for life-after-Roma has been to return and do long trips with long stays throughout Europe. We will go back to favorite places and visit some new-to-us places. Cat-and-house sitters are lined up for September and October. (Read about our sitters, Dan & Tracy, at their blog, Sitters on Tour.
This time it feels like mounting an expedition. We’ve never done a two-month trip before. We are committed to packing light: the same amount of stuff for 2 months as for a week, 21-inch-roll-aboard plus a day pack. And we will experience temps (based on averages) as warm as 73F/23C and as cool as 43F/6C. A packing challenge, for certain.
Where will we be?
Amsterdam, Munich, Ortisei, Venezia, Assisi, Roma (naturally), Paris, and London. We plan to fan out on day trips in many places.
Amsterdam: We have five full days and figure we will spend three in the city and take a couple of day trips, perhaps Leiden, Delft, Hoorn, and Enkhuizen. We are staying in Haarlem.
Munich: Only two nights to break up the trip to Ortisei. I was there when I was 19 and most of my memories revolve around beer gardens. We plan on a private tour to see some city highlights.
Venezia: We know the city well after eight (or is it nine?) visits and will have five full days this time. What new experiences should we add?   I am thinking of  Bassano del Grappa and maybe Chioggia.
Assisi: We visited Umbria in 2011 and want to revisit some favorites (Spello), do some hiking, and see some new towns (Norcia perhaps). We will be here for five nights, four full days, and have a full day of travel (naturally by train) between Venice and Assisi.
Roma: Planning to reconnect with the city, friends, and favorite restaurants.
With our three stops in Italy, we will overdose on the Italian food (pizza!) we’ve missed so much.
Paris: We’ve been five times for 2-to-7-night visits in the past 2 1/2 years, but the only forays beyond central Paris have been to Versailles and Giverny. I am thinking about Chartres this time. We’ll have 7 nights, 6 full days. (Never enough.)
London: Wrapping up with two weeks in London, we are staying in Westminster. We love just walking around London and will try to hit sights and sites we missed on our last three trips but we also want to do some day trips. Bletchley Park is on the list, and maybe Bath and Stonehenge with Canterbury and Dover in mind as well.
I will try to be a good little blogger and post regularly. General travel insights and experiences at www.GoodDayRome.com, pizza eating at www.OurWeeklyPizza.com, and hiking (Assisi, Ortisei) at www.ProjectEasyHiker.com. If you are not signed up for all three, consider giving me a follow on them.
“See” you from the continent!

 

 

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