I haven't taken a plane for almost a year because of COVID-19. I really miss taking a flight, for me "flying" is already an idea of travel. But this situation, wanting to see the positive side, gave me the wonderful opportunity to discover a little more beautiful Italy. During our trip to Tuscany and Umbria I returned, after many years, to Assisi.
That's why you should go there and above all here what to see in Assisi that you really can't miss it if it's the first time you go there.
If you intend to visit the hometown of San Francesco, but you have little time available, then just follow the itinerary that I propose to be able to visit Assisi in one day enjoying all its symbolic places.
Assisi is one of the most beautiful villages in Italy and certainly the most sacred. Here, in fact, Saint Francis was born, founder of the Franciscan order and patron saint of Italy, and it was from here that he began his journey towards the attempt to re-establish a poor and charitable church.
The first times I visited Assisi I was with my grandmother and the school (I went to school with the nuns who took us on pilgrimage!).
Today Assisi is different but the same as it was then: one of the most visited Umbrian towns by foreigners who come here on pilgrimage or simply curious to admire the surprising works found in the city, such as those of Giotto present inside the Basilica of San Francesco.
VIDEO GUIDE OF ASSISI
If you are going to Assisi for the first time, but don't want to spend as much on a private tour, why not purchase a video guide to download to your smartphone? You will be able to discover the highlights of the city through videos recorded by a local guide and visit the city at your own pace
-> find out more here on the video guide
You can easily visit Assisi in one day on foot: the historic center is very small and cozy, but I recommend that you have your own car to be able to visit the surroundings that offer special gems (including the Eremo delle Carceri, simply not to be missed! ).
Below I recommend the steps to follow for a complete itinerary.
- How to get to Assisi
- What to see in Assisi if it's your "First Time"
- 1 - Hermitage of the Prisons
- 2 - Basilica of Santa Chiara
- 3 - Cathedral of San Rufino
- 4 - Roman Amphitheater
- 5 - Town Hall Square
- 6 - Church of Santa Maria sopra Minerva
- 7 - Vallemani Palace
- 8 - Basilica of San Francesco
- 9 - Rocca Maggiore
- 10 - Basilica of Santa Maria degli Angeli in Porziuncola
- What to see in Assisi in two days
- Where to eat
How to get to Assisi
Before starting with the actual itinerary, I leave you some advice on how to reach the center of Assisi.
If you are coming from the North via the A14 you will have to exit at Cesena and continue towards Perugia on the E45 until the exit for Assisi. If, on the other hand, you drive on the A1 you will have to exit at Valdichiana, head towards Perugia and then continue towards Cesena on the E45 until the exit for Assisi.
If you come from the South via the A14 you will have to exit at Civitanova Marche and continue towards Foligno - Perugia until the exit for Assisi, while if you drive on the A1 you will have to exit at Orte and continue on the E45 towards Perugia - Cesena until the exit for Assisi. .
Once you arrive you will have to look for a parking space because the historic center within the walls is entirely ZTL. The possibilities are different, but keep in mind that most of them are paid.
The most convenient car parks are those of Porta Mojano, Porta Nuova, Piazza Giovanni Paolo II, Porta San Giacomo and Piazza Matteotti.
I suggest you arrive early in the morning as the parking lots near the center fill up easily, especially on weekends.
To reach Assisi by train, the reference railway line is the Florence - Terontola - Perugia - Foligno and the arrival station in Assisi is Santa Maria degli Angeli.
Outside the station you will find buses that will take you to the historic center.
What to see in Assisi if it's your "First Time"
As I said you will not have problems visiting Assisi on foot, but wear comfortable shoes because you will have to walk all day.
Here is the itinerary to visit the city of San Francesco that you absolutely cannot miss, whether you stay there for only one day, or whether you decide to spend a few more days there.
If you don't want to spend too much on a guided tour of the city, consider buy the video guide to watch on your smartphone: you can explore Assisi on your own with the video guide on your smartphone and discover the highlights of the city through videos recorded by a local guide.
1 - Hermitage of the Prisons
This is one of the destinations that generally does not go into a itinerary of Assisi in a day, probably because you don't get there if you don't have a car or maybe because it is less known.
As far as I'm concerned it is an exceptional place, an unmissable stop, a gem that should never be skipped.
THEHermitage of the Prisons it is one of the places of San Francesco, where he with his "disciples" went to pray and meditate in solitude. Here you can get an idea of how St. Francis lived, you can see his bed and the places where he prayed. This is where the Saint spoke to the birds.
The Hermitage is located on Mount Subasio in the middle of a dense forest.
Remember to go there early in the morning, plan it first: first because you won't find the hordes of tourists. it is not to be snobbish, but because in this way you will be able, in almost solitude, to fully enjoy the peace and tranquility that this place is able to convey.
Second, it is because the sunlight illuminates the hermitage giving it a mystical, almost magical air.
2 - Basilica of Santa Chiara
If you leave your car at the Porta Mojano car park, the first church you will encounter will be there Basilica of Santa Chiara.
The cult building was built in the XNUMXth century after the death of the Saint to keep her remains. The crypt where the mortal remains of Santa Chiara are kept today, however, dates back to the mid-nineteenth century.
Santa Chiara is the founder of the order of the Poor Clares. The young woman, fascinated by the preaching of St. Francis, fled home at the age of 18 to embrace religion.
Inside the Basilica of Santa Chiara there is also the crucifix that spoke to San Francesco at the Hermitage of San Damiano and that convinced the young man in his subsequent life choices.
3 - Cathedral of San Rufino
Perhaps you will be amazed to know that the main place of worship in Assisi is not the Basilica of San Francesco, but the Cathedral of San Rufino.
This ancient church (the oldest in the city) is dedicated to the patron saint of Assisi and inside there is the baptismal font where it is believed that San Francesco and Santa Chiara were baptized.
This is also the place where the Saint gave his first sermon.
Although it is less famous than the other churches in Assisi, I suggest you come and visit it.
4 - Roman Amphitheater
Not far from the Cathedral is theAnfiteatro Romano, trace of the ancient past of the city.
Of the original structure only a travertine arch remains: the rest, in fact, has disappeared, hidden by the houses that were built along the elliptical axis of the amphitheater.
In the middle, where the arena once stood, today there is a garden.
5 - Town Hall Square
At this point you can head to the Town Hall Square, built on what was once the Roman forum of the city (today it can be visited along an interesting museum itinerary).
The square is not huge, but it is very suggestive: here, in fact, some of the monuments and symbolic buildings of Assisi are located and overlooked.
Among the buildings, the Palazzo del Capitano del Popolo with the neighbor Tower of the People, Palazzo dei Priori, today the seat of the Town Hall and the Palazzo delle Poste.
Right in front of the Palazzo dei Priori is the Fountain of the Three Lions.
The building that, however, I am convinced will catch your attention is the Temple of Minerva, today transformed into a church.
6 - Church of Santa Maria sopra Minerva
The ancient temple of Roman origin is certainly one of the most fascinating buildings in Assisi: it seems that even the poet Goethe, who arrived in the city, was kidnapped.
Its peculiarity lies not only in its imposing structure, but in its perfect state of conservation: it does not seem that centuries have passed since its construction.
The temple, probably dedicated to Hercules (the name Minerva derives only from the discovery of a statue), was used as housing and premises for shops, as the seat of the municipality and as a prison. Only in the sixteenth century was the project to transform it into a church born.
The outside is certainly more fascinating than the inside, but I recommend that you visit it anyway.
7 - Vallemani Palace
Not far from the Piazza del Comune is located Vallemani Palace, historic residence that today houses the Municipal Art Gallery.
If you are an art lover, this could be an unmissable stop: inside there are numerous medieval and Renaissance frescoes collected after the unification of Italy to avoid their dispersion.
Among the most important works there are some frescoes by Perugino and a Majesty attributed to Giotto.
8 - Basilica of San Francesco
Finally, the last stop (certainly not least) of this one-day itinerary in Assisi is the Basilica of San Francesco.
Its imposing and unmistakable shape can be recognized from afar. When you see it it is very likely that you may find yourself thinking that this is the largest church ever.
The Basilica of San Francesco is certainly one of the most important architectural works of Christianity and, despite the Franciscan rule calls for rigor and humility, this is certainly an exception.
It is a majestic work designed to amaze and excite the visitor. Today it is considered a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
The Basilica is divided into two parts: the Lower Church and Upper Church.
The first has a single nave, low, grave and gloomy inviting silence and prayer. Inside it houses, under the altar in a simple crypt, the remains of the Saint.
The Upper Church, unlike the previous one, is devoted to brightness and height. The style is the Gothic one characterized by wonderful stained glass windows and cross vaults.
This is where you can admire the magnificent frescoes by Cimabue which tell the Crucifixion, the Scenes of the Apocalypse and the Stories of St. Peter.
Also here, in the middle of the nave, the fresco cycle, executed and supervised by Giotto, which tells some scenes from the life of St. Francis.
9 - Rocca Maggiore
At this point, if you still have time available, you can decide to walk towards the Rocca Maggiore, the fortress that dominates Assisi and the surrounding valley.
The first information on the building dates back to the XNUMXth century, during the reign of Frederick I Barbarossa.
Frederick II of Swabia also lived inside, but he was expelled at the age of 4 when the city passed into the hands of the Guelphs of Pope Innocent III.
The Rocca Maggiore underwent numerous changes over the centuries and after careful restoration it can now be visited.
If you want to take some unforgettable photos of Assisi or just enjoy a beautiful view, this is the best place to do it. Keep in mind, however, that the road to get to the top is uphill.
10 - Basilica of Santa Maria degli Angeli in Porziuncola
Before leaving Assisi for good, I want to recommend one last stop, the Basilica of Santa Maria degli Angeli in Porziuncola.
The Church is located outside the center of Assisi, about 4 km away, in the locality of Santa Maria degli Angeli.
The Basilica was built between 1569 and 1679 to incorporate the ancient structures of the Franciscan Convent with the small Chapel of the Porziuncola where St. Francis used to retire in prayer.
Here the Saint understood his vocation and welcomed Saint Clare and the first friars, giving life to the Franciscan Order.
Not far from the Porziuncola, where the Cappella del Transito is today, St. Francis died on the evening of 3 October 1226.
What to see in Assisi in 2 days
If you decide to stay in Assisi more than just one day (I recommend it and I will also recommend at the end of this post a fantastic place to go for dinner and an equally fantastic place to stop and sleep!
1 - Spello
Just 12 km from Assisi there is one of the most beautiful villages in Italy: Spello.
Surely you have heard of it for its flowery alleys and for the magnificent frescoes of Pinturicchio.
Spello is very small, half a day is enough to enjoy it calmly. It is located on a hill so you will have to park low and go uphill - take this into account.
Nice tour recommended on all guides and on the tourist map that you will find on panels scattered around the city.
2 - When the roses bloom, nursery of Assisi
If like me you love plants and flowers you can't really miss a trip to nursery "When the roses bloom": they specialize in English roses and have an exceptional garden full of colors and scents where you will not be able to avoid spending some time enjoying some of the most beautiful rose plants I have ever seen in my life.
The nursery specializes in David Austin English roses, some rare ones that are difficult to find elsewhere, except ordering them from abroad. I know it seems strange that on a travel blog we talk about floral nurseries but I swear to you that, if you are passionate about the genre, it is really worth it and then from there you will have a beautiful view of Assisi.
And like me, you can't help but buy a plant. I took two that I took around in my car for the whole 10 day trip… they arrived a bit stressed, but now they are fine in my garden… and what a scent!
Where to sleep in Assisi
In Assisi there are one amount of hotels and farmhouses to make your head spin: from the most luxurious ones, to the religious ones, to the classic hotels, in short, you will be spoiled for choice.
Here you will find a complete list of hotels with prices and availability.
Personally I would recommend you to stay outside the walls: it costs less and you can stay in farmhouses with swimming pool and home cooking, relaxing in the middle of the olive groves!
Here are 3 places to check out that you might like.
Country House Carfagna: where I decided to stay because it has a truly exceptional quality / price ratio. Unfortunately, due to COVID, we could not have dinner in the rustic room with the window overlooking the garden, the wood-burning oven and the rustic furniture in true Umbrian style (but we ate breakfast there). Family-run, clean, with an exceptional view of the city walls, surrounded by olive groves and cultivated fields, it is truly one of the top choices you could make!
Tenuta San Masseo - boutique farm resort & SPA: this is the place I would have chosen if I had had a little more budget available. Also immersed in the Umbrian countryside, this resort is truly exceptional. who knows, maybe in the future, when I can go back, I'll be lucky enough to stay here.
Case Brizi Assisi: if you want to stay a short distance from the Basilica of Assisi without spending a shot, this little place in the medieval heart of the city of Assisi is truly delightful, completely restored, with stone walls and precious tapestries.
Where to eat in Assisi
Well exactly like the accommodation also for the restaurants, Assisi has a practically infinite choice of places to eat. whether you choose a luxury restaurant, an old medieval tavern, a farmhouse in the middle of the countryside, you will certainly not be disappointed.
But if you are looking for a warm atmosphere, low prices and a typical tavern style then you must go to the restaurant "La stalla": carved out of stone and with wooden tables, created in a truly rocky environment in front of a huge brazier where the meat sizzles, this place is not for those who love luxury, but for those looking for a cheerful dinner, perhaps sitting at the same table with other people and with the checkered tablecloth, a mug of cold beer and lots of laughs.
Here is where I took this photo:
One of those evenings that I will never forget. I remember turning to my husband and saying:
"I wish this moment would never end, how beautiful life is!"
In this article I have tried to write you the things to see in Assisi that you cannot miss if it is the first time you go there. If you follow this "list" then let me know what you think.