Sunday, May 13, 2007

Assisi - quite amazing!

Heading east again, we left Chuisi and took the road to Assisi. Chuisi is at the eastern edge of the Tuscany region of Italy. Castiglione del Lago, a few miles to the northeast, is just into the Umbria region while Assisi is about at the center of Umbria. Despite all of the hype one hears about the beauties of Tuscany, the parts that we traversed were not really exciting. Around Pisa it is very flat with a general unkempt air. Moving further from the coast toward Florence it improves considerably, but was never more than pleasant rolling hills, partly wooded and partly farmed. Possibly, the southern areas of Tuscany have a little more to write home about. Traveling east out of Tuscany into Umbria, for our taste at least, there is a steady improvement in the splendor of the countryside. The first sight of Assisi, like that of Pisa, was stunning - it looked like a picture from a travel guide. A huge, predominately white colored city seemingly painted on a hillside. And, wonder of wonders, that first impression was not dashed even after hiking all around the city and poking into numerous corners away from the popular attractions.
In the grander places, like Assisi, the Italians are a bit fussy about their churches. First of all, when they are open, there is a charge of $6.00 to $10.00 per person to go inside and, even though this was the "off" season, there was usually a line of enthusiastic punters several hundred yards long. At the people throughput rate achieved, the sightseeing inside the building must have been at a pace approaching a slow jog. Further, notwithstanding temperatures in the high eighties, no shorts, tee shirts, or anything of that ilk are permitted inside the buildings and photography, video, and pets are all similarly proscribed. On this basis, we were clearly persona non-grata and were compelled to take a rain check on most of the major church interiors.
Nonetheless, there were plenty of other photo opportunities and, huge as the city is, just getting to the highlights in the outside world turned out to be a full-time activity. Following are some of the sights seen, organized into groups so that it is easy to skip "narrow streets" for example, if this kind of thing overexcites you. Pretty ironic that the 25,000 inhabitants of Assisi seem to be making a fat living off the memory of St Frances, the Apostle of Poverty.

The Main Attraction - Basilica
de San Francesco

From outside the city wallEntry to the huge courtyardThe courtyard and the collonadesInside the collonadeA smaller courtyard behind the main buildingFacade of basilica
Other notable Assisi features

Rocco Maggiore (Big Fort) from a square
Rocco Maggiore again
Tower of the People in the Piazza del Comune
Temple of Minerva adjacent to the Tower of the People
View to the east near the Piazza del Comune
Cattedrale de San Rufino. Built in the 12th century,
this Cathedral takes a back seat to St Francis Basilica
even though it contains the font in which
St Francis and St Claire were baptized

The Piazza del Comune fountain built by
Giovanni Martinucci in 1762

Looking west from the center of town
Basilica of Santa Chiara
Windows seen around Assisi
Throughout the entire trip, germaniums were the most
common decorative flower by a country mile

Window boxes and hanging baskets were almost always on showProbably second priority after putting out the bedding

Bits and Pieces
A computerized monkUnusual statueOne of Assisi's finest Determined not to be left behindMy personal favorite
For the die-hards -
some more narrow streets...

The gate from the coach and bus marshaling point
The steps in the foreground branch off of the path
on the left and are joined by the path coming
up at the bottom left. After merging with the steps,
the lower path makes an abrupt right turn down
more steps through the arch. It truly appears that

the layout simply evolved as new was built on top of old
Another architectural quirkThe steep streets did not deter scooters buzzing
and smoking their way up and down requiring
pedestrians to keep their wits about them
A final panoramic view of the city

No comments: