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Assisi is known as the ‘city of peace’ due to its famed citizen St. Francis, a medieval religious figure who has inspired a love for animals and benevolence for centuries. The city is a majestic presentation of a Medieval Italian hillside city and it offers much to see and do for the daytrip tourist as well as the long-term visitor.
Set just a few hours from Rome it can be accessed most easily via train and by several bus routes. It lies in the central region of Umbria, a place of legends and all things related to fields and forests in Italian lore.
Basilica of St. Francis
The religious heritage of Assisi is one of the most powerful in all of Italy. The town is the birthplace of Francis, a respected medieval personality whose love for God, creation and his fellow man have been an inspiration around the world for the ideals of simplicity and peace. The community he started the Franciscans are headquartered here and the Basilica of St. Francis is the crown jewel of the city. It contains precious art and architecture and it serves as a place for dialogue, meetings and pilgrimage for people from across the globe. It is open almost every day of the year, closing just at lunch time hours.
The city of Assisi is an excellent place to come to learn Italian. Hotel lodging or homestays are much more affordable than big Italian cities, the city squares and café’s are full of locals and visiting Italians so that one can converse day into night when school is out of session. The main school is the Accademia Lingua Italiana which has a variety of packages, diplomas and class sizes. It is fully credited and recognized by the state.
In a town of such religious import there are more attractions than the Basilica of Francis. There is St. Clare’s Church which is the home of the nuns founded by Clare, a contemporary of Francis. Santa Maria degli Angeli sits at the bottom of the city’s hill and houses another more ancient church inside of it. Two churches with ancient roots are both dedicated to Mary and the one is a perfectly refurbished site built over a Roman temple to Minerva. The Cathedral Church of the city is also quite spectacular, known as San Rufino, it has a museum and hosts concerts and plays.
Rocca Maggiore is an ancient structure that sits even higher on the mountainside than the city itself. It is best reached by a short walk from the city center up a steep path, otherwise there is a backroad to drive. Entrance to the castle is just a small fee and the confines are interesting. Most astonishing are the views one can get of Assisi and the entire surrounding countryside.
There are often sporadic events and gatherings going on in Piazza delle Commune, especially related with peace and justice. The Candelimaggio is a great annual event to experience in early May. It has roots in pagan Tuscan traditions about the preparation of soil for planting and features many ancient spectacles. Summer is the most active time of year with many concerts especially during the mid August national holidays and October being the feast of St. Francis features all kinds of plays, food festivals and decorations before the onset of the chilly winter months.