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  • Day346

    Day 347: Assisi

    January 27, 2018 in Italy ⋅ ☀️ 12 °C

    Time to head in and explore Assisi. Although the place we'd booked suggested it was walking distance to town, the "20 minutes to the walls" looked a bit optimistic on Google Maps, and besides - the basilica we wanted to see was at the far end so even further away. In the end we just drove.

    Parked underground in an enormous parking lot (Assisi is heavily visited by pilgrims and is well set up to cater for them), then walked up to where the basilica is. Assisi is famous as the home of St Francis, founder of the Franciscan order of monks, patron saint of Italy and one of the most important saints in Christianity.

    The basilica here is actually two basilicas, one directly on top of the other which is quite unusual! We bought our tickets and headed first into the lower basilica, which had a fairly low roof and was very quiet and sombre. Descended into the crypt to see where St Francis's remains are buried - interestingly, he died in 1226 and was buried here shortly afterwards, but when the city was threatened by a Saracen army his tomb was hidden and only rediscovered in the 19th century.

    Lots of impressive artwork in the lower basilica, a nice courtyard outside and then a climb into the upper basilica. This was much taller and lighter with more windows, and brighter paintings too. Also quite interesting, and a bit more enjoyable since it wasn't as full of groups as downstairs. Unfortunately you can't take photos inside either basilica, so it's going to be a fairly ordinary video.

    Done with the basilicas, we wandered through the old town which was actually quite nice - very well maintained and looked after, unlike many places in Italy. They obviously get a lot of pilgrims here, so it's probably one of the wealthiest spots in the country.

    Headed down the hill onto the plains below, to check out an unusual spot - a church within a church. A large basilica in a square from the 17th century contains the original little hut where St Francis began his preaching amongst other things. Not quite sure how they built around it, or whether it was moved etc, but still quite interesting to see. It also has the chapel of the Transit, where Francis eventually died.

    Again, no photos, so difficult to really give an idea of the place! But it's interesting - it actually feels much more like a spiritual place than a tourist destination. And it feels quite connected to St Francis as well, since although he died 800 years ago, it feels comparatively recent in a weird way.

    We also checked out a monastery on the outskirts of town that had a connection to St Francis as well. Maybe one of the monasteries he set up for Franciscans? I can't quite remember. Anyway it was clearly off the tourist route and very quiet - only us and a couple of others there.

    Done for the day, we headed home and chilled out for the rest of the afternoon/evening.
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