Florence 2020 Florence, Italy

The Hills and Heights of Assisi

#WednesdayswithaView is back with another adventure! Once again, we’re headed outside of Florence for this week’s special views. This past weekend, my roommate Kim and I decided to take our first overnight trip out of Florence and head to Assisi for three days. Located in the region of Umbria, Assisi is not only one of the most well-preserved medieval villages in Europe, but also boasts of being the birthplace of famous Saints Francis and Clare (known in Italy as San Francesco and Santa Chiara). Though the town is usually filled with pilgrims, we came during the off-season for tourist travel and as such enjoyed a stay that was refreshingly local and calm.

After successfully navigating our way through two buses and a train, we arrived at the foot of the beautiful mountain village. Walking up through the town itself—calves burning from the steep streets—we were able to catch glimpses of the surrounding hills through the houses, marveling at how the view kept getting better as we climbed. Once we reached our lovely apartment on the Piazza Santa Chiara, the buildings opened up to reward us with the full sight of Umbria.

The view from the Piazza (a mere few feet from the burial place of St. Clare) allowed us to see down the slope to the lower city in the valley and all the way across to the hills afar. We came back to this same spot later that first night to watch the sunset, bringing along some snacks and drinking in the golden rays.

The next afternoon, we climbed even higher up the mountain to the ancient fortress that sits atop the whole city. Though it may be hard to believe that the view can get better, I assure you that climbing up to the castle will reveal even more splendor. Once up top, by exploring all sides of the fortress walls, one can see in all four directions the mountains that surround Assisi.

From the east, the hills drop away into a valley (Sound of Music, anyone?) that can be viewed perfectly from the slope at the foot of the castle. From the west, the view spreads even further, encompassing more of Assisi in the scope and giving the illusion that one is twice as high in the sky. The northern side, which stretches out the furthest, is almost dizzying in height, providing a fantastic view of the Basilica di San Francesco against the backdrop of Umbria’s mountains.

We were blessed with fantastic weather, with the sun shining bright and warm—so warm, in fact, that we took the time for a nap on the grassy slopes before heading down. That night we returned to the castle, bringing a picnic dinner complete with wine and gelato to watch the sunset once again.

Assisi has one of the best “sky views” I have ever seen—like a tiny bit of heaven. Fitting for a village that bears the footsteps of such great saints!

Deep in the streets of Assisi, there are just as many intriguing sights. As I mentioned, we were there with virtually no other tourists, so the streets were fairly quiet and populated mostly by locals or religious brothers and sisters. Regardless, I was amazed at how beautiful the streets were—sweeping up and down the mountain and decorated with flowers. All of the buildings were ancient and looked exactly as I imagine they had back in the 12th century.

No visit to Assisi would be complete, however, without the churches. Walk down any street and you are sure to run into one nearly every turn. From the Basilica di Santa Chiara to the Cattedrale to the Basilica di San Francesco to the tiny San Damiano, there are as many churches in Assisi as there are hours to visit them, each with a different claim to importance and each worth a visit. The Basilica di San Francesco in particular was astounding due to the wonderfully preserved frescos. With the upper church and lower church richly decorated and the crypt even further below housing Saint Francis’s burial place, this entire complex at the edge of the village is rightfully the most visited place in town. Though photos were not allowed in most of the churches, you can take my word for it on their beauty.

Regardless of one’s personal faith, Assisi is certainly worth visiting and, if one is able to spare the time, worth more than just one day’s stay. The general atmosphere was so peaceful that it would put anyone in high spirits. It is easy to imagine the blessings of saints over the town; rarely have I been in a place that felt so genuine and calm. We left Assisi feeling rested and determined to return.

A view of a city at sunset

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With that, the third week of this little blog is closing out. I hope you enjoyed this snapshot of the hills and heights of Assisi! Wishing you happy #WednesdayswithaView and I hope you come again next time!

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