Day 55 Off to Assisi to See A Saint

I was excited to go to Assisi and see the Basilica de San Francesco up close and personal! We came armed with our Rick Steve’s Italy book and were ready to hit the town with his walking tour!  Now if you have not had Rick take you on a tour, you have missed out!  He literally tells you exactly where to start and guides you through points along the way…and honestly I get lost going to the bathroom, and he respects dorks like me and works with us, if you follow his tour you will hit the highlights of a town and you won’t get lost!

One of the things that I did not expect to see were Roman ruins, I know I am in Italy and the Romans were here…but I guess I just don’t think of Roman ruins when I think of hill towns.  There are some really cool ruins of an amphitheater that you can walk around…it is surrounded by some newer buildings…oh and when I say “newer” I mean from the 13th and 14th century that people still live in today! After you see the ruins, you head for the town.  What is wonderful about these tours is that Rick takes you through the town, into the side streets and the out of the way places.  What was super cool in Assisi was there was pink limestone used to build parts of the medieval town and it just has this beautiful warm glow it it! As you wind through the town filled with old gates, churches, and fountains, you wind into one of the main squares.  You are surrounded by medieval looking buildings and then bam… it looks like a Roman temple.  The Temple of Minerva is From the 1st century BC.  I was excited to see this and couldn’t wait to take a look inside….but when we got inside what a shocker.  Inside the temple, now church, it is hardcore Baroque style from the 17th century. It was ornate and I swear I expected a French king to pop out at any moment!  Talk about the drapes not  matching the rug!

After making our way through a few shops and winding down some interesting streets, we were off to the main attraction! I kind of felt like I was a pilgrim on my pilgrimage as I made my way to the church.  I think I would have felt even more like a pilgrim if I wasn’t surrounded by a tour bus full of people dutifully following their flag flying tour guide.  This whole building and the buildings surrounding it were really amazing….just the sheer size alone to me seemed massive.  This was another one of those moments when you walk in the church and are overwhelmed by the beauty of the art and the structure that surrounds you!  I think the moment would have been even more magical had they not been working with what can only be described as a small jack hammer on one of the walls near the front of the basilica.  It honestly made me laugh a bit to see the silence signs everywhere…almost shaking from the jack hammer themselves! Okay, next it was down to the saint’s tomb below the basilica.  Please paint a pretty somber and serious scene…candles lit, the tomb containing the saint in front of you…it is dark a very sacred place….and what to my wondering eyes should appear???  My tour bus buddies are now down here with me.  There was a lady with her two daughters siting down near the saint’s tomb having a full on conversation…what to see next…they whip out the map…they are laughing…chatting…like they are at a park or the mall.  Hello???  Okay, I am not super religious, but really???  The lack of respect was unbelievable!  Here I was trying to talk to my 10 year old son about why it is important to be silent and show respect…and here are these yahoos chatting it up like they are at a family reunion.  And yes, they were American, and yes sometimes I see why people don’t have such a great opinion of American tourists!  I almost felt like I had steam actually coming out of my ears…time to count to 10, cool down, and move on…

Next stop was the upper basilica.  This place was beautiful.  It was like a giant work of art!  The frescoes on the wall by Giotto were really breathtaking and the stained glass is really amazing.  It is hard to believe that this work was done in the late 1200’s… all I can say is wow.  Just to imagine what it would have been like to really be a pilgrim hundreds of years ago, to walk up and see this would have been a miracle in itself.

We wandered around and did a little shopping…and when I say a little I mean it.  Our budget is tight for this trip…so we are not really buying a lot of things…memories are what we are taking home with us for the most part.  But it is still fun to wander around and look at all the fun things in all the different shops!  Then we were headed home! It was a long day filled with awe inspiring sights…one I will not soon forget!