Assisi - Umbria
A medieval city unchanged for centuries, Assisi rests peacefully protected by massive city walls and a pervasive serenity of spirit. Beautiful medieval architecture is preserved in the rosy-colored stone houses, which line the city's roadways and intertwining streets. Assisi has given the world many great figures, most notably Saint Francis, a monk who founded of the Franciscan order and sparked a revolution in the Catholic Church during the 12th century. Other of Assisi's renowned denizens include Saint Clare, Latin poet Sextus Propertius, writer-historians Antonio Cristofani, Francesco pennacchi and Arnaldo Fortini, and painters Tiberio d'Assissi and Dono Doni. Today, Assisi remains an important pilgrimage site, and a point of convergence for religious conferences and festivals especially among the Italian youth. However, the city is admired and adored by a variety of reverent visitors, regardless of their religion or religiosity.
Originally inhabited by the Umbri tribe, an early population that settled in middle Italy, Assisi subsequently came under the influence of both the Etruscans and the Romans. Under Roman imperial rule, the city was known as the municipium Assisium. When the Roman Empire fell, the city was settled by the Goths around 545 A.D., and then later by the Lombards. At the beginning of the 11th century, Assisi became an independent commune, and the extensive spread of the monastic movement began. Around the year 1180 A.D., Saint Francis was born, and was raised as a young noble in a rich merchant family. After publicly renouncing his father's wealth, Francis dedicated his life to prayer and the poor, establishing a new religious order and gaining many disciples over his remaining years. Francis died on October 3rd, 1226, and was canonized in 1228 by Pope Gregory IX. At that time, the city had fallen under papal rule. However, until the middle of the 16th century, a succession of local lords took turns holding power over the city. Ultimately, papal rule was restored to Assisi, and was to remain undisputed until the 19th century, when the city joined the newly created Italian state along with other Umbrian cities.
One of Assisi's most important sights is the Basilica di San Francesco, which contains an elaborate church, a crypt containing St. Francis' Tomb, and walls full of religious frescos by celebrated artists. Perhaps the most famous of these is Giotto's work depicting the Life of St. Francis. Uphill from the city's Duomo (also known as the Chiesa di San Rufino), the Rocca Maggiore offers a panoramic look down over the town and of the Gothic-style Basilica di Santa Chiara (which houses St. Clare's tomb and hair, as well as the tunics and shoes worn by St. Francis). For other places of interest, check out the Piazza del Comune, which sits on top of the city's old Foro Romano (Roman Forum) and is the site of the ancient Tempio di Minerva (Temple to Minerva).
Visitors to Assisi sing praises of a heavenly array of nut breads and sweets, which include torrone (chewy or crunchy nougat made from almonds and egg whites) and brustengolo (a dessert packed with raisins, apples, and walnuts).
Trains leave for Ancona, Florence, Perugia, and Rome from the city's train station. Buses, which depart from Piazza Unitá D'Italia, go to Florence, Rome, Foligno, Perugia, and Siena.