Exploring Assisi | SU Florence All-School Trip

I don’t think I’ve ever seen a place more beautiful or spiritual than Assisi. The small Umbrian town (population: just over 28,000 at the beginning of 2016), nestled on a hilltop with some gorgeous views, is home to one of the most important pilgrimage sites in the Catholic faith: the Basilica Papale di San Francesco d’Assisi.

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The Basillica of Saint Francis of Assisi.

On Saturday morning, I boarded a bus with around 40 other SUF students bound for Assisi.  We drove through the Umbrian countryside, through the beautiful city of Perugia (known for its massive chocolate festival – stay tuned for that post later this semester!) and finally, we could see the Romanesqu arches of the church perched on a hill in the distance.

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There it is!

We were given a few minutes to check out a little cafe for breakfast and coffee (the bus leaves early in the morning, so most students sleep on the way there).

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I’m still not quite sure what was in the pastry, but it was really good! Great start to the day.

Then, it was time to head into the basilica. It was gorgeous. The paintings on the walls depict scenes from the life of Saint Francis (1181-1226), the co-patron saint of Italy, including his renunciation of a material way of life, founding/seeking papal approval of the Friars Minor, and receiving his stigmata. Saint Francis was canonized in 1228  just two years after his death, and the church that bears his name was consecrated in 1253. Photo-taking was not allowed inside the church, so I cannot show you the cavernous and beautifully decorated interior, but trust me – it was worth the visit.

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In we go!
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Another tour inside the church’s outdoor area.
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A statue of Saint Francis during his time as a soldier is perched on the front lawn of the basilica.

We left the main church and headed for the lower level, where lofty Gothic architecture gave way to a more sturdy Roman style. The ceilings were painted with more frescoes depicting scenes of both saints and Biblical stories, and the more we explored, the more chapels and all-but-hidden rooms we found. Our tour guide explained the meanings behind the most famous or important depictions (including a very large crucifixion scene) before giving us instructions for the rest of the day. We had the options to visit the tomb of Saint Francis himself, explore the city, and try some authentic Umbrian food.

Visiting the tomb was an incredible experience. The room was perfectly silent despite the rather large number of people in it. Visitors who had come on pilgrimages prayed by the tomb itself or in rows of pews facing it. It was rather dark, lit by a dim yellow-ish light and the candle offerings of visitors. My friends and I sat in the pews for a few minutes to take it all in – it was unlike anything we’d ever seen before.

We then wandered up toward the city’s central piazza and enjoyed warm paninis for lunch. Nearby was an incredible Italian pastry shop,  so of course, we just had to stop in for dessert. There were so many pastry options, it was impossible to pick just one! I had a tiramisu cannoli there and took a pistachio cream one home for later. We took the rest of the afternoon to walk Assisi’s cobble stoned streets, explore another church, and visit the childhood home of Saint Francis.

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~emoji with the heart eyes~
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An excellent choice, if I do say so myself.
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Fountain in Assisi’s central piazza.
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I still can’t believe how beautiful this country is.
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Piazza del Commune – Assisi’s main piazza.
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These buildings are all probably several times as old as my country.
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The church built around the childhood home of Saint Francis.
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Exploring!
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Assisi’s Tempio di Minerva, another beautiful church.

All in all – it was a wonderful day in Assisi. I’m incredibly thankful to have been able to go, and I recommend that anyone traveling Italy stop by, too. Great sights, great food, and a great experience.

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Truly a wonderful place.
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The Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi.
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One last shot of the Umbrian valley below before it was time to head back.

 

 

Gelato Count: 17

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