Interrupting your Winter mood – and mine, for that matter – with a full blast from the warmer past, as I’m finally getting to tell you a bit about the trip we took to Assisi somewhere in August last year. Yeah, people, I know, I know… it took me about 6 months to write this text, it’s inexcusable. But this year I set my mind to be more active here, so hopefully this will not be the case anymore. I’m just hoping that someone will actually be reading all of this, but one step at a time…
Right, let’s talk about Assisi. First of all, did you know this place existed? I kind of did and didn’t. First thing that came to mind was St. Francis of Assisi and of course I assumed that “of” pointed to a place, but it remained a bit abstract. Luckily, the abstract little place proved to be quite real and a really, really pleasant experience.
Having bought (again) tickets to Rome, the plan was to rent a car and stop for a few nights in several places across Italy. We decided on Rome and I wanted Florence (for the fourth time), but what else? And Assisi popped up from the world wide web. The exact article that flared my imagination and rightfully made me anticipate that it was a little gem is this. So, if you are doing the same think and browse the web to decide whether you should visit Assisi and you ended up here, the answer for you is YES.
Now, let me give you a few reasons why.
First of all, it is beautiful. Like straight out of a postcard, especially around sunset. It is located in Umbria, around a 2 hours drive from Florence, so you might be expecting a different feeling compared to Tuscany. And it is so, but it is still one of warmth and well being. The city is built on a hill and you get a lot of cobblestone little streets, going up and down, and beautiful buildings that have so much charm that will make fall in love with them.
Since I’ve mentioned the hills, a word of caution: wear heels (see what I did there?:) at your own risk. Actually, if you do manage to do that, do send me a picture, because you might be a superwoman and I need to see that.
Also related to the hills and narrow streets, you need to know that you cannot park your car in the old city and you have to leave it in the paid parking lots available downhill. And then you’ll have to take quite a trek back up. So, the best course of action would be to drive to the hotel (if you’re staying in the city centre), leave your baggage and then go park the car. That is if you don’t want to drag your suitcase up while cursing the life out of you. I mean you wouldn’t want to curse here, after all this place is most famous for its religious background.
And this brings me to the second reason I think you will love this town. It makes religion approachable. For the entire time we were there, we didn’t feel we were in a place that is all about religion. You didn’t have to keep your head down and keep quiet or anything else like that. It actually showed you that you could enjoy life and have a good laugh, so don’t be put down by the fact that this is one of the most famous pilgrimage places in the world. You will enjoy it even if you aren’t religious at all.
Still, if that’s your case, do visit the religious landmarks here, because they are very beautiful architecturally and, no wonder, absolutely peaceful. So do put place like Basilica San Francesco and the Assisi monastery and the San Rufino cathedral on your list, I promise you’ll enjoy the visit.
Moving on to reason #3: this place will make you earn your pizza. The hills and the narrow streets, the fact that cars are not allowed in the city centre, all make for the perfect reason to just walk and walk and walk. And if you’re up for a real stroll, then you should climb to the Rocca Maggiore from where you can enjoy a panoramic view over the city. Added bonus: toned legs and lot of calories burnt. Which, of course, you can replenish in full with a good meal at one of the restaurants in town. We were a little bit boring and kept eating at a place called “La Lanterna”, it was absolutely beautiful, but there are several good restaurant within walking distance (of course😊), so you’ll get the chance to pick your favourite.
Let’s spend a bit of time with the practicalities now.
How to get here: when we’re Italy, we usually rent a car. The weapon of choice is a Fiat 500, but this time the rental company ran out of those and we got a Fiat Panda instead. My recommendation, regardless of the brand you prefer, is to go for something similar in size. At one point, we found ourselves on front of something that looked like the entrance in someone’s courtyard, but no, that was the actual street. So you can draw your own conclusion on what type of car is needed here.
Where to stay: we booked a room at Hotel Il Palazzo and it was a great choice. It’s right on the main street and if you’re lucky to get a room on the last floor, you’re in for an amazing view. The rooms are really nice and comfortable and the breakfast room is amazing, with exposed brick walls. The breakfast itself could be tastier or the staff there could have done a better job in restocking the different items, but it didn’t matter that much, I’m a fussy eater anyway…
Where to eat: I’ve already mentioned La Lanterna, but there were also other restaurants recommended by the hotel. I don’t actually remember their names, but you may find some recommendations in the blog post I linked to at the beginning of the article.