This is possibly one of the best-known Basilicas in Italy and a must-visit for any tourist with a passion for religion or art. The Basilica of St Francis is very large, so there is a route that is generally suggested: going from the lower square along the lower church, then to St Francis’ tomb, then the cloister of Sixth IV and the upper church, and finally through to the upper square from which tourists can contemplate the wonderful skyline of Assisi. The churches brim with wonderful art in different fashions, including Giotto’s frescoes – a veritable must!
piazza San Francesco 2, Assisi, Perugia, Italy, +39 075 819001
Located on one of the most stunning piazzas in Italy as well as the focal point of Assisi’s politics and nightlife, Piazza del Comune, Tempio di Minerva is a temple dating back to ancient Rome which was subsequently converted to serve the Christian faith; now being the church of St Mary above Minerva. The whole façade, inclusive of the six Corinthian columns are original, which means they have survived more than 2,000 years! This temple bears testimony to the Roman civilisation which acquired Assisi in 295 BC and later made it a Roman municipality.
Piazza del Comune, Assisi, Perugia,Italy, +39 075 812361
Buttressed by flying arches on two sides, the Basilica of St Clare is decorated with pink and white stripes made out of stone from the nearby Mount Subasio. With a sole nave and two small chapels, the structure of the church is basic, with a bell tower rising behind it. It carries the name of St Clare, the other saint who lived in Assisi and who helped to make this city renowned throughout Italy and abroad.
Piazza Santa Chiara 1, Assisi, Perugia, Italy, +39 075 812282
With stories about Rocca Maggiore dating back to 1174, this place is one of the best spots outside of central Assisi where tourists can enjoy a breath-taking view of the area whilst visiting another historical building. Located on top of a hill towering over Assisi, Rocca Maggiore enables all its visitors to take in a panoramic view of the city and of the Umbrian Valleys below, running all the way from Perugia to Spoleto. Inside the medieval building are permanent exhibitions that illustrate what life was like in the Dark Ages.
Dating back to the second half of the 13th century, this palace used to be the seat of local politics as well as the abode of the so-called Captain of the People. It was renovated in very 20th-century fashion in 1926 and the ground floor was decorated with paintings illustrating medieval professions by Adalberto Migliorati. It also has a 47-meter-high tower which used to house the Captain’s family and which now stands as another reminder of the medieval quality of Assisi.
Piazza del Comune, Assisi, Perugia,Italy, +39 075 81281
The Cathedral of St Rufinus is dedicated to the patron saint of the city and is therefore Assisi’s duomo. Located to the north of the Umbrian city, it rises on top of the site which used to be that of the Roman town hall of Asisium, the ancient Roman counterpart of what is today called Assisi. The façade is a masterpiece as well as the epitome of Umbrian Romanic architecture and its tripartite structure anticipates the three naves into which the inner space divides – a truly gorgeous creation to behold!
Piazza San Rufino 3, Assisi, Perugia,Italy, +39 075 812283
Located at 800 metres above sea level, on the slopes of Mount Subasio, Eremo delle Carceri represents another important stage in St Francis’ life. In fact, this is where the saint used to retire in order to dedicate himself to contemplation. Situated just five kilometers away from Assisi proper, it is surrounded by thick vegetation which enhances the spiritual quality of the place. The name contains the Italian for “prison” because its dungeons hosted first the hermits and then St Francis and his companions who led an austere life in seclusion.
Eremo delle Carceri, Assisi, Perugia, Italy, +39 075 812301
This is the place where St Francis spent some time during his life in order to listen to the word of God and founded the Order of Friars Minor in 1209. St Francis renovated the decrepit church that used to be located here and got it gifted to him by the Benedictines in order to make it the centre of his newly established fraternity. It stands today as one of the most important basilicas in Italy, and a veritable must while touring central Assisi!
via Porziuncola 1, Santa Maria degli Angeli, Perugia, Italy, +39 075 8051430
This ancient Roman forum is presented as a subterranean counterpart to the current medieval piazza in Assisi. In ancient times, the forum used to be the fulcrum of any activity, be it commercial, political, or religious. Today, the Foro Romano can be visited as part of a visit of the Archaeological Museum, with guided tours every 15 minutes and tickets at €4.
via Portica 2, Assisi, Perugia, Italy, +39 075 8155077
Any tourist happening to be in Assisi cannot neglect the street that takes its name from St Francis, the city’s most famed saint. Starting off from the Basilica of St Francis, Via San Francesco will take walkers through the meanders of its fascinating past. There is, for instance, Palazzo Giacobetti, a noble palace dating back to the 17th century and containing some interesting manuscripts, such as the Bible of St Louis of Toulouse, with wonderfully crafted miniatures as well as St Francis’ own Laudes Creaturarum, the earliest example of Italian literature. Alternatively, why not check out some more Italian art and medieval architecture in Oratorio dei Pellegrini, established in 1432, which brims with awe-inspiring frescoes?
By Luca Pinelli