After the recent earthquakes in Umbria, many visitors have cancelled their trips and shunned the region altogether. This is a shame because Umbria is still safe and very much welcoming of your visit. In fact, most towns in the region only had minor damages. Assisi, a town in Umbria, is located 90 miles north of Rome. It is rich in art and history, and most famous for Saint Francis, Italy's patron saint.
Saint Francis was born here in 1182 AD, to a wealthy merchant family. After going to war against the Perugians, he decided to completely switch up the path for his life and got rid of all material posessions so he could live in poverty. He then gained a following and tried to spread the Franciscan order around the world before returning to Assisi to prepare for death in 1226 AD.
Clearly, with so much talk of Saint Francis, I wanted to visit the Basilica Papale di San Francesco D’Assisi before anything else. This basilica is separated into two parts - the upper basilica and the lower. Construction on the lower basilica began in 1228, whereas construction on the upper basilica began in 1239 and ended in 1253 AD. The lower basilica holds the remains of Saint Francis.
Just outside the basilica stood a wooden boat which rested against a large Christmas tree. This exact boat, in fact, held refugees at one point. It is now displayed as a symbol of the migrant crisis and how humans must to be more caring and accepting towards those in need.
During WWII, the city provided safety for many Jews by hiding them in convents. Jewish people were provided with false documents and nuns and friars' clothing. In 2000, UNESCO declared Franciscan buildings in Assisi to be a World Heritage Site.
Later in the day, I visited the Tempio di Minerva, an ancient amphitheatre dedicated to the goddess Minerva.
As the day neared the end, we hiked to the Rocca Maggiore, an ancient fortress overlooking the villages below. It dates back to the early middle ages, and even though it was destroyed in 1200 AD, it was rebuilt by Cardinal Albornoz in 1356. Even though it was a little foggy, the views from the top were still incredible.
When the sun set, the weather became unbearable for me (native Floridian here) so we headed to a cozy restaurant in which I ate some pizza and drank some red wine, before crashing back at the B&B. The combination of the lodging, 3 meals, and train ticket totaled less than 50 euros! If Saint Francis isn't enough of a reason to visit Assisi, surely the peaceful vibes, the panoramic views, and the fresh food will convince you.
While staying a full 24 hours here wasn't particulary necessary, I highly reccomend it. In the evening, many tourists have gone home, so it is possible see and enjoy Assisi all to yourself.