After leaving Rome, we traveled roughly three hours by bus to Assisi, Italy. Let me start off by saying that Assisi was one of my favorite cities to explore on this trip! Assisi is a hilltop town in central Italy’s Umbria region and is known as the birthplace of St. Francis, one of Italy’s patron saints. Assisi is a town with religion very close to its heart. My only wish is that we had more time to roam the cobbled streets because the ornate buildings and lush green scenery were simply breathtaking!
The Franciscans are a world-wide religious family founded by St. Francis and St. Clare of Assisi in thirteenth-century Italy. St. Francis’ story is about preserving the goods of the earth. In other words, what humility and service are all about—sharing what you have with those around you. Many people all over the world embrace this vision today, Christians and non-Christians included. The essence of Franciscan and Catholic tradition is a way of relating to others because it is grounded in faith and values. Similarly, the college I attend, Siena College, is a Catholic and Franciscan school. At the time of my trip, I had no inclination that I would attend a Franciscan college three years later. Life truly works in mysterious ways!
Sights to See
1. Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi – During my brief exploration of Assisi, I discovered that thousands of religious pilgrims have traveled to the town for centuries intending to visit the Basilica di San Francesco d’Assisi (where St. Francis is buried) and the Basilica di Santa Chiara (to see the tomb of St. Clare). The Basilica of St. Francis was erected in 1253 and is a massive, two-story church built into the side of a hill. The structure is divided into two sections: the Upper Basilica and the Lower Basilica, and the crypt where the remains of St. Francis are kept.
The interior of the Upper Basilica is a prime example of the Gothic style exhibited across much of Italy. The layout of the architecture appears to be an exact reflection of the original design of the Lower region. However, the light, Gothic architecture of the Upper Basilica, is in direct contrast with the heavy, cryptic appearance of its counterpart. Despite this, both the Upper and Lower levels are decorated with frescoes created by respected late medieval painters from the Roman and Tuscan schools. Many of the 13th-century paintings depicting the life of St. Francis have been attributed to Giotto and Cimabue, Pietro Lorenzetti, among several other famous painters.
Although it is important to appreciate the remarkable works of art that reside within the town of Assisi, do not make the mistake of overlooking the many other forms of vibrant attractions. The allure of the town pulled me in from the moment I arrived, and my love for the small village grew with every corner I turned. The beauty is evident everywhere you look, but this means nothing if it goes unnoticed and unappreciated. Before you travel to your next European destination, take time to walk the quaint, medieval streets and revel in the picturesque views from atop this Umbrian hill town. Trust me, you will not regret it!
When you overlook your surroundings for miles and miles, your mind suddenly shifts towards a more realistic perspective: the vastness of the world and mankind’s minuscule part in it all. The moment you experience the impact of such a breathtaking view, you will wonder how you survived for so long in a world full of so many wondrous sights without witnessing every one with your own eyes. The very idea of this will be more than enough to inspire you to value the world in a more profound way.