Friday, 19 September 2014

Terra dei santi

Assisi is one of those picture-perfect medieval hilltop towns in the Perugia region, like so many others but with a unique claim to fame. 


St Francis/Francesco was born here, to well-off parents (his father a silk merchant) but turned his back on the good life to take a vow of poverty, roaming Umbria in a tunic of sack-cloth and preaching even to the birds according to legend. 

He was perhaps the original hippy/eco-warrior (though unwanted memories of Zeffirelli's pretty awful musical biopic Brother Sun, Sister Moon did come flooding back to me).


Assisi attracts hordes of visitors and religious tourists through the summer, but is crowd-free now in September. And thanks to being a UNESCO world heritage site, the town is beautifully preserved and free of tacky tourist and souvenir trappings. 


Together with Clare of Assisi, Francis established the Franciscan monastic order and the Poor Clares. Friars and nuns are everywhere in the town today. 

I liked how these two, carrying their bottles of mineral water, still seemed to be so impressed by the views of Umbrian countryside.


Even monks and nuns enjoy a spot of window-shopping it seems, and this elderly nun was on point with a baseball cap and trainers.


The town is laid out so that one must walk the entire length of the pretty town, as all good pilgrims ought,  to reach the Basilica di San Francesco at the far end. 

Its foundation was laid in 1228, the day after Pope Gregory IX declared him a saint, and Francis was laid to rest here in a tomb well hidden beneath the lower Basilica, to protect it from invaders, surrounded by Giotto frescoes.


Assisi, September 2014

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