The birthplace of St. Francis, founder of the Franciscan order and patron saint of animals, is bound to be a mecca for religious tourists… but although the St. Francis Basilica is most definitely a stunning site, there are many, many other “must sees” in Assisi. Of particular note is the Rocca Maggiore, which provides beautiful views of the vineyard and olive grove covered valley to the East and dark green mountains in the West. (An early morning walk has an extra perk: the mountains and valley are covered in a mist reminiscent of movies set in medieval times.)
Walking along the stone streets lined with stone buildings, you feel transported back to medieval times. Let your imagination run as you walk along the streets. Feeling a little too old to be imaginative? For one weekend each year, the town transforms into a medieval replica of itself. Calendimaggio, held the first weekend of May, is a three day long festival where citizens dress in medieval clothes, (even the babies join in!) and throw elaborate parades and shows, complete with impressive marching bands and flag throwers. The festival ends with a reenactment that is so accurate, it might make you question if you are still in the 21st century. The citizens are quite serious about the authenticity of this event: we were told to turn our lights out in our apartment, which was in the heart of the reenactment. We sneaked out onto the street, which was completely dark save a few oil lamps, as citizens dawning medieval clothes walked past us. Acts included an authentic-looking trattoria and tavern amidst candle-lit streets. Simply beautiful!
During the spring, there are poppy fields surrounding the city. A hike out of the city walls will lead you through these poppy fields and a few olive groves before finally ending up at Santa Maria degli Angeli, the city at the base of the mountain that Assisi sits atop. A quick bus ride will bring you back into the town and its tourist madness: we suggest staying at least a night in the town to see its charm after the tour buses have left. Make sure to sample their local olive oils and the Sagrantino wine that is only produced around this region.
Enjoy some photos of our two weeks in Assisi!