Friday, July 13, 2012


This past Sunday, I finally got around to taking the twenty-minute train ride to the small, spiritual center of Umbria, the town of Assisi. Here, St. Francis began his teachings in the twelfth-century. I once read somewhere that perhaps no other place in the world is as attached to one of their natives sons as Assisi. I can certainly see why it would be attached, and even how attached it is. Everywhere you go in Assisi, you are reminded of its ties to St. Francis.

I met my English friend Eliot in front of the University for Foreigners so we could take the train to Assisi together, where we met our Mexican friend David. David, who has lived in Milan over the past year studying theology, served as our very informed tour guide during the trip! We are all in the same C1 intensive Italian courses, so it was also a good day to practice Italian while traveling. Our first stop was a church just outside of Assisi, near the train station.

From there, we took a bus into Assisi, where we stopped close to la Basilica di San Francesco d'Assisi, probably the city's main attraction. The basilica was beautiful both outside and inside. Unfortunately, taking pictures wasn't allowed in any of the major churches, so I can't show you all that. In the Basilica of St. Francis, you can find the tomb of St. Francis on the lower level. Ornate and stunningly simple, the room where the tomb is located is surrounded by the tombs of St. Francis's first four followers. People prayed as a group of us walked by to take a closer look at the tomb.

Outside we took a few pictures near the second level of the basilica, which is very well kept. We thought we would have to wait until mass ended at 12:00 to enter the upper level, but that wasn't the case. Regardless, we did have to wait until 12 to get a good look at the entire upper floor. About thirty to forty years ago, a massive earthquake caused the upper level to cave. We were told that the people came together to gradually put it back together piece by piece. If you take a look at it today, you wouldn't believe that event had ever happened.

We took a break to eat some pizza after leaving the Basilica of St. Francis, then we waited patiently for la Basilica di Santa Chiara (the Basilica of St. Claire) to open up. In total, we visited four churches in Assisi, and there were a few others that we didn't get to! After touring the Basilica of St. Claire, we took a few minutes to rest on a bench in a park overlooking the town. It was very peaceful.

From there we descended a hill to check out the fourth church, which, I believe, is the first one set up by St. Francis. This one was much simpler, smaller and open than the others. The countryside surrounding it was also very different from the shops, restaurants and homes that surrounded the others.

Feeling spiritually satisfied, Eliot, David and I left Assisi around 5:00 pm. I'd love to go back in the future. There's definitely something unique about that place.

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