Let’s visit Assisi, the hometown of Saint Francis
“The city of Saint Francis”. Among the enchanting hills of Umbria, on the slopes of Mount Subasio, it appears the wonderful city of Assisi. Even though it is an unparalleled medieval city, in fact the place attracts millions of visitors every year because it is here that the most beloved saint in the world was born and raised, we are talking about San Francisco. Let’s visit Assisi, the hometown of Saint Francis, get to know his stories and the attractions of his city? Here at Your Travel to Italy with Ana Patricia you make the trip of your dreams!!! ALSO: see our “Accommodation in Italy – Tips for your holidays!”
Francis was a simple and prayerful man, just like his life. From the streets of Assisi there is silence and a great sense of inner peace, and it provokes strong emotions from afar! The city planes the Umbra valley demonstrating all its beauty, it is impossible not to be dazzled by the perfection of the medieval landscape between the hills, rocks and the unmistakable St Francis’ Basilica. Also read What to do in a day in Assisi? and How to get to Assisi from Rome?
Saint Francis is born
From the year 1000, when Assisi was going through a great period of development, mainly thanks to the Benedictine monks, that the history of Assisi merges with the history of humanity. In the year 1181 Giovanni di Pietro Bernardone was born, better known as Saint Francis. Francis loved nature, as he held the idea that every creature was a gift of absolute love from God, so much so that he wrote a poem called “The Song of Creatures” – the first Italian literary poem. After suffering so many illnesses, Saint Francis died at the age of 45, and was buried in the Basilica dedicated to him.
1) Let’s visit Assisi, the hometown of Saint Francis? BASILICA
We will start from the Basilica itself, this architectural treasure, which is formed by two overlapping churches – the lower one in Romanesque style and the upper one in Gothic style. The Basilica was built on Collis Inferni, “hill of hell”. That was how St. Francis called the place where he wanted to be buried, where those condemned by justice (now called Collis Paradisi) were buried.
Although Francis recommended in his will to build simple and humble churches, the basilica is an exception. This is because the church should be able to receive the numerous pilgrims who would visit the remains of the saint, as well as the various frescoes inside the Basilica, painted by great artists such as Giotto and Cimabue. When biblical passages were represented in paintings, they could then be understood by all humble people who could not read.
The simplicity of the Saint Francis’ crypt
As you descend through the church, the basilica becomes even more humble, until you reach the summit of simplicity in the crypt where the tomb of Saint Francis is located, a place of intense spirituality. Going down to the crypt is like walking through Francis’ life again. It is exactly in these places full of meanings that we understand the importance of how much a simple and humble life is richer than a life made of appearances and material goods.
2) Let’s visit Assisi, the hometown of Saint Francis ?HIS HISTORY
The history of Saint Francis of Assisi. Francis embodies the spirit of national identity, his behavior changed not only Italy, but also the world, through the weapons of love and humility – completely consistent with the Gospel of Christ. “The most Italian of saints, the most holy of Italians” – thus Pius XII defined the Poor Little Man from Assisi when, on June 18, 1939, he proclaimed him Patron of Italy together with Saint Catharine of Siena.
Francis was born in Assisi in 1182, at a time of turmoil in his community. Son of a wealthy merchant, since he was a young man he aspired to join the nobility of the small town. Hence the participation in the war against Perugia and the attempt to reach Puglia to participate in the crusade. However, all of this was interrupted by the divine voice that invited him to rebuild the Church. Francis obeyed the call and, abandoning his family and friends, led a life of penance and solitude, of total poverty, for some years.
In 1209, after a new inspiration, he began to preach the Gospel in the cities where his first disciples met and went to Rome to obtain the Pope’s approval for his choice of life. From 1210 to 1224, he wandered through the streets and squares of Italy, and everywhere he welcomed multitudes of disciples, calling them brothers. Francis is one of the great figures of humanity, who speaks to each generation. His charm comes from the great love for Jesus, from whom he first received the stigmata, a sign of Christ’s love for all men and for the entire creation of God.
Poverty, Obedience and Chastity
“Poverty”, “obedience” and “chastity” are the fundamental aspects of the life of Francis and his disciples. After a first period in solitude, Francis began to live his own vocation with his companions who wanted to imitate his example. Thus, the Order of Franciscans was born. With prayer and meditation, the Franciscan rule reinforces the “missionary spirit”, according to the evangelical precepts, assuming a completely different conduct from the norm followed until then. It is clear that Francis was mainly interested in the weaker social classes and, with brotherly love, he paid special attention to the “neighbor” despised and rejected by society (that is, the poor, the sick, the loser, the last).
3) Let’s visit Assisi, the hometown of Saint Francis? MIRACLES AND LEGENDS
There are many legends that involve Saint Francis, in particular those related to his love for animals, others also for his preaching about God’s love for birds. The most famous legend is that of the wolf of Gubbio. The wolf hunted in the fields and terrified the population. For this reason, the saint talked to the wolf, promising it that, if it did not stop attacking the local inhabitants, the people would be in charge of killing it. Since then, the wolf has not threatened the city anymore, on the contrary, it has become friends with people. Saint Francis taming the wolf is one of his most represented miracles in art, by several famous artists.
Another legend is: The legend of the forest, in other words, a part of the forest that was close to the basilica and its house (known at the time as “the hill of hell” – Collis Inferni), perhaps because of its wildness of its position – it was the lowest place in town. Here were the gallows to sentence those sentenced to death, and probably where lepers also took refuge in times of plague.
Legend has it that St. Francis chose the “hill of hell” as a place for his own grave to be treated in the same way as criminals – imitating Christ, who died crucified between two thieves and was buried outside Jerusalem. According to others, however, the choice was declared by the saint’s love for the place, where he often withdrew in prayer and solitude.
The Death of San Francisco
After the death of Saint Francis, Pope Gregory IX, wanting to build a church in Assisi specially to house the remains of the saint (the Basilica), renamed the forest “the hill of Paradise”. Francisco passed away on October 3rd, 1226, and his feast is celebrated every year, on October 4th. In addition to being the patron saint of Italy, Saint Francis of Assisi is also the patron saint of animals.
How to get to Assisi?
1) How to get to Assisi? BY TRAIN
The train in question is on the Firenze – Terontola – Perugia – Foligno railway line, Assisi bound via Santa Maria degli Angeli station. From Santa Maria degli Angeli station to Assisi, you can take the bus line (or also use the taxi service). Did you know that Trenitalia is the main Italian company dedicated to the management of rail transport. Find out here “What is the difference between trains in Italy?“. Buy your ticket online in advance and save a lot, read the Post “How to buy a train ticket in Italy?”.
2) How to get to Assisi? BY AIRPLANE
The airport is Umbro San Francesco d’Assisi International Airport, 12 km from Assisi, which connects the city with several taxis. Also, Leonardo da Vinci Airport, in Fiumicino (Rome), which connects Assisi with SULGA buses daily. Find out here How to get from Rome Airport to the Center.
Also read our Special Posts on Airports in Italy:
- HOW TO GO FROM THE MALPENSA AIRPORT TO THE CENTER OF MILANO?
- HOW TO GO FROM THE VENICE AIRPORT TO CENTER OF VENICE?
3) How to get to Assisi? BY CAR
I will leave the options for Northern and Southern Italy for you.
From the North:
- To access Assisi by car through northern Italy, there are two routes: the A14 Adriatica road (Bologna / Taranto), taking the Cesena exit and going through Perugia with the E45 until the Assisi exit. Or, take a piece of the A1 and exit at Valdichiana, then follow towards Perugia and return to E45 towards Cesena to Assisi.
From the South:
- Also for those coming from the south, there are two routes: take Autostrada A14 Adriatica until the end, leaving at Civitanova Marche and then follow towards Foligno – Perugia until the exit of Assisi. For those who prefer to take the A1, you can exit at Orte and take the E45 towards Perugia – Cesena until the Assisi exit.
Traveling by car in Italy
How about if I give you a rental car option? Are you ready for it? If you are renting a car be sure to read our posts in the section Driving in Italy on the blog Your Travel to Italy. In addition to car itinerary tips, we have everything about signage, tolls, roads and many more tips.
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Let’s visit Assisi, the hometown of Saint Francis? As you must have understood, walking through the streets of Assisi means entering history, reliving the steps of Francis and of those who, like him, chose to live in poverty and in service to others. It is a place that makes us reflect, that at least for a day gives us the possibility to be better, impelling us to do something more for ourselves and for others. Recalling what Mother Teresa of Calcutta said: “What we are doing is nothing more than a drop in the ocean. But if the drop were not there, the ocean would be missing something.”
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