Saturday, January 19, 2013

Journey to Antiquity: The Village of Assisi, Italy


If it weren't for the Black Plague, the lack of hygiene, the gigantic discrepancies between rich and poor, and the non-existence of most modern-day technologies, I think I would have fared very well during the medieval ages.  The poetry was pretty good.  Dresses were nice, if you were part of the nobility.  I wouldn't have minded a knight in shining armor or two, as well.

A medieval village street in Assisi, Italy.

Hmm, that's actually all I can think of that was nice about the medieval ages.  Maybe I wouldn't have survived those times.  But I do know that I love the layout of a medieval village, thanks to my visit to the always beautiful town of Assisi in the region of Umbria in Italy.  The narrow lanes, the cobblestoned streets, the steep staircases, and trellised balconies... they all mesh together in a beautiful and ancient harmony that just appeals to something deep within me.  And now in the 21st century - plague free! Bonus!

medieval building Assisi Italy, Umbria Italy, things to see in Assisi
The Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi in Umbria, Italy

I had the privilege to visit Assisi during my student field trip to Europe in 2010 - yes, this post is a little late. I was prompted to write about Assisi by my grandmother, who lives in Texas.  My grandfather recently passed away on Christmas Day, and I was down in Texas for his funeral.  My grandmother and I were reminiscing about him, and the topic of their trip to Italy was brought up.  My grandfather had particularly loved Assisi, for many of the same reasons I did.  This post is as much in his honor as it is in honor of the beauty of Assisi itself.

Upper Chapel St. Francis Basilica, medieval building Assisi Italy, Umbria Italy, things to see in Assisi
The Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi, Upper Church entrance

Assisi is located in the province of Perugia, which is in central Italy.  My students and I arrived by bus after passing through the Alps via Eurorail from France.  We'd left Paris after a whirlwind tour through the city, and were in need of some quiet R'n'R.  We had no idea how wonderful our stopover in Assisi would be!

medieval building Assisi Italy, Umbria Italy, things to see in Assisi
The beauty of the province of Perugia in Italy

We drove through the main town of Assisi without stopping to visit; instead, we climbed the hill to the Basilica of San Francesco d'Assisi and to the small village surrounding it.  Our bus let us off at the main entrance to the village, and we slipped inside through the main gate.

medieval building Assisi Italy, Umbria Italy, things to see in Assisi
The entrance of the medieval village of Assisi

Instantly, the cameras were out - we were all enchanted by the quaint and ancient feel of the place.  Nuns and priests strolled the sidewalks, herb gardens growing in scattered pots dotted small yards, and stores made of stone and brick sold unique and fascinating wares.

medieval garden Assisi Italy, Umbria Italy, things to see in Assisi
The cute potted garden in the village of Assisi


medieval village of Assisi Italy, Umbria Italy, things to see in Assisi
A narrow staircase leads us to some shops in Assisi

It was a lesson in architecture for my students, as well.  One of the buildings boasted some gorgeous flying buttresses, and the students enjoyed posing underneath them.

Of course, we had come to see the Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi. Our tour guide from Explorica gave us some time to enjoy the surrounding area of the Basilica, with its stunning view of the Umbrian hills and valleys.  The day was calm and sunny, and everything was peaceful.

medieval building Assisi Italy, Umbria Italy, things to see in Assisi
Enjoying the view of Umbria

Inside the Basilica, we explored the Upper and Lower Church sections, with their frescoes of Saint Francis' life, and some beautiful stained glass windows. The Crypt was extremely interesting, with the tomb of Saint Francis set right into the middle of the room.  People had tucked prayers, written on little slips of paper, into the grill work surrounding the tomb - apparently a tradition with the Basilica.

medieval building Assisi Italy, Umbria Italy, things to see in Assisi
Outside the Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi

No photography was allowed inside any section of the Basilica.  Some students and I found ourselves outside, overlooking a courtyard of some sort, and got to see some Franciscan monks wandering about.

medieval building Assisi Italy, Umbria Italy, things to see in Assisi
The courtyard outside the Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi

We all agreed the Basilica was very beautiful, and were happy it was open. We had been told by our tour guide that in 1997 there was a big earthquake that had shook the Basilica, destroying large portions of the building, and killing four people who had been trapped inside. The structure had been shut down for two years for repairs - thank goodness, because it is something that is not to be missed!

3 comments:

  1. Great Pictures!!! Tom D. a friend of Native Foreigner

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    1. Thanks Tom! Any friend of Native Foreigner is a friend of mine! Glad you found my site!

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  2. Hmm, good job! This is really something!

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