July 27, 2012
From Ravenna we drove through Umbria to the hilltop town of Assisi, well known for Saint Francis of Assisi, St. Clare’s Church and St. Francis’ Basilica. The bus left us as the base of the walled city and we made our way up the steep streets, past the basilica, to our hotel, a nunnery turned inn with rooms designed for a life of poverty and piety. The hotel was perfectly situated in the center of the city with a rooftop terrace where one can behold stunning views of the surrounding countryside.
After a few minutes to freshen, we met up with a local guide who took us to the Basilica of San Francesco d’Assisi. The basilica is actually two churches, a lower and an upper with a crypt in the very bowels of the basilica. The lower church is darker, with a lower ribbed ceiling covered in frescoes while the upper church has a high ceiling, more frescoes and an exorbitant amount of natural light.
We followed our guide through the streets of the historic city to St. Clare’s Church. Along the way shops selling St. Francis wares, blessed items, Pinocchio dolls, and jewelry caught my eye. Many of these trinkets are designs to draw in tourists or religious patrons. The streets were crowded with tourists, nuns and monks, and pilgrims.
Arriving at the Church of St. Clare, the church was quite lovely, but the miracle of this building is the crypt which is home to the body of Saint Clare. She was apparently found untouched by decay. They encased her in wood and wax and placed her on display. Until I see her body and touch her flesh, the miracle is complete bogus in my eyes, but interesting nonetheless. This draws many pilgrims to the area to pay patronage to Saint Clare.
We headed back to the hotel for a delicious meal with our tour group. More fantastic homemade pasta dishes! After dinner my family and a few other people from our tour made our way up to the rooftop terrace of our hotel for some spectacular views and delicious wine. We remained until the sky grew dark and sleep drew us to our beds.