Visit Assisi: A (half) day trip to the city of Saint Francis

Visit Assisi: A (half) day trip to the city of Saint Francis

In Umbria, a region in central Italy, you can explore Assisi, the birthplace of Saint Francis. A small town on a beautiful location: built on the slope of a hill, shining golden at the end of the day. Many pilgrims flock to this city, especially on a Sunday. However, even when you’re not a catholic/religious, I would certainly recommend to visit Assisi.

The views of Assisi from the Valle Umbra at the end of the day are stunning

Things to do on a day trip to Assisi

Assisi is a gorgeous town and you should at least spend half a day here. Moreover, you can easily extend your stay to a full day trip. We parked our car at the car park near the Porta Nuova and entered the city. Immediately, we were greeted by an impressive basilica: the Basilica di Santa Chiara.

Basilica di Santa Chiara

The Basilica di Santa Chiara is dedicated to Saint Clare of Assisi, who was a follower of Saint Francis and also founded the Order of Poor Ladies. You can visit her remains in the crypt. It is a church dating from the 13th century with a gorgeous facade of pink and white stone.

Note: in several churches in Assisi, it is not allowed to take pictures inside.

Chiesa Nuova

The next church we encountered was the Chiesa Nuova. It was built in 1615 on the site of the presumed birthplace of Saint Francis. Next to the church, you can find statues of Saint Francis’ parents. In the corridor next to the church (on the left) you can find a door that belongs to the former house.

Chiesa Nuova, built on the site of the presumed birthplace of St. Francis
Chiesa Nuova, built on the site of the presumed birthplace of St. Francis

Piazza del Commune

The Piazza del Commune is the main square of Assisi. On this place, the Roman forum could be found in Roman times when Assisi was called Assisium. Furthermore, on this square you can still see one stunning Roman temple: the temple of Minerva. Like the Pantheon in Rome, this church has been converted into a church: the Santa Maria sopra Minerva.

Piazza del Commune
Piazza del Commune

You can still visit the Roman Forum, now under the piazza. Access to the forum is through the Romanesque crypt of the former church of San Nicolò.

Rocca Maggiore

Towering above Assisi is the Rocca Maggiore. The first mention of this fortress dates back to 1173. If you climb all the way to the Rocca, you’ll have some amazing views over Assisi and the Valle Umbra.

Cattedrale di San Rufino di Assisi

Since we had decided to visit Assisi on a Sunday, this meant two things. Firstly, there were quite a few monks and nuns, which contributed to the sense that this was an important religious place for some people. Secondly, there were many services going on when we wanted to visit the churches. This was also the case when we tried to visit the Cattedrale di San Rufino. However, we could still admire a large part of the church. The construction of this church started in the twelfth century. Its most notable feature is the facade.

Basilica di San Francesco

Since we started at the Puerta Nuova, we saved the Basilica di San Francesco for the end of our trip. Probably, this basilica is the most impressive of all buildings in Assisi. They started building this church in 1228, 2 years after the death of Saint Francis. Actually, this basilica isn’t one church, but consists of two churches that have been built on top of each other (you can see large doors on two different levels in the picture below).

Basilica di San Francesco in Assisi
Basilica di San Francesco: two churches built on top of each other

Both churches are incredibly beautiful on the inside as well (again, no pictures allowed inside). Famous 13th century painters, such as Giotto, have painted frescoes. The Lower Church was structured as a large crypt which supports the Upper Church. Although the Upper Church has stunning blue colours on the ceiling, I was most impressed by the frescoes of the Lower Church. They were very detailled and painted with incredible skill. In the crypt below the Lower Church, you can visit the remains of Saint Francis.

On September 26 in 1997, two earthquakes hit the Umbria region in Italy. Sadly, many ancient buildings were destroyed or damaged. The Basilica di San Francesco was also damaged. Due to an aftershock, the vault collapsed, causing severe damage. The church was closed for two years for restoration. The cloister (which you can enter through the Lower Church) provides more information about this earthquake.

More reasons why you should definitely visit Assisi

However, churches and a fortress aren’t the only reasons why you should visit Assisi. The town itself is very old and you can explore its lovely narrow medieval streets. Moreover, the people of Assisi have built most buildings with a stone that has a lovely pink colour. From the city, you also have beautiful views over the Valle Umbra.

How to get to Assisi

I visited Assisi on a campervan road trip through Italy. However, you can also visit Assisi when you rely on public transport. Assisi is only 25 kilometers from Perugia, and 175 kilometers from Rome. It takes 45 minutes by public transport from Perugia and 3.5 hours from Rome to get to the city. You can also join an organised tour (visiting only Assisi, or a longer day trip that combines Assisi with Spello or Cortona).

Click here for several organised tours to Assisi

Pin it!

Visit Assisi in Umbria, Italy: the birthplace of Saint Francis

Visit Assisi: Assisi is the birthplace of Saint Francis, and is also one of the most beautiful villages in Umbria, Italy

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.