Day trip ideas if you are staying in Assisi
Hello and welcome again to Assisi. Today, we’re venturing beyond Assisi’s medieval city walls because there’s more to this beautiful place that meets the eye.
Whether you have your own car, rely on public transportation (trains and buses), or want to venture off on foot, there are some great places to explore beyond Assisi. I will show you some such great places you should consider.
~ A great way to start out you day is with a hearty breakfast, my favorite meal of the day, and at Hotel Palotta I got just that. Each morning I was greeted by a large capuccino, crossant, fresh juice, fruit and anything else I wanted to indulge in. I love it when hotels don’t skimp out on breakfast!! And even better when you can catch up online during breakfast.
So my travel tip for you is, find a hotel or Bed & Breakfast that offer a hearty breakfast at no extra charge, and free wifi so you don’t have to go look for internet cafes that charge internet fees. So you save on time and money, and that’s always great!
~ Assisi is a hilltop town with quite a bit of uphill and downhill walking. It requires a certain level of fitness to manage walking around Assisi and its surroundings (such as to Rocca Maggiore, San Damiano and The Hermitage of Saint Francis). Before your trip, practice walking uphill (or treadmill on an incline) to get your body and leg muscles used to it.
~ If you are short on time, energy, or are not physically up for the uphill walk, book a private tour where your personal driver will take you directly to the places you wish to visit so you minimize physical effort and maximize your visit time. If you are staying in Rome, check out the Assisi Day Tour offered by Stefano Rome Tours. It includes visits to Assisi, Santa Maria degli Angeli and San Damiano.
Assisi is a medieval hilltop town, and if you’ve been to Italy before, you might’ve noticed many such towns perched on top of the hills. This bit of prime real estate wasn’t chosen just for its gorgeous panoramic views, but for its defensive advantage…a practice going back to the pre-Roman during bronze and iron ages….and not only in Italy, but throughout Europe. Fortified hill top city states were the best way to protect the citizens against invading forces….and there were many in those times!
In Assisi you can obtain any travel information at the main tourist information office in Piazza del Commune, or where ever you see its universal sign. They can also direct you to local travel agencies so you purchase your train and tickets in advance. Bus tickets are always sold at Tabbachi, or tobacco shops. Your hotel can arrange for a taxi pick-up if you wish, or you can find a taxi at designated taxi stops…like one next to the church of St Chiara in the center of Assisi.
There are many such medieval towns near Assisi worth visiting like Todi, Spoleto, and Gubio, but getting there often requires having your own transportation because public transportation is quite limited between these towns.
Train and bus schedules are pretty flexible throughout the day, but make sure you check localy how early and how late the busses run to and from the train station, AND which bus stop you must go to that’s closest to you. There are several in Assisi. You may check train schedules and ticket prices between the cities you want to travel online at www.trenitalia.com and unless you understand Italian, click on the English icon.
From Assisi you can take the train from St Maria degli Angeli to visit the nearby towns like Perugia, another medieval town, actually a medieval rival of Assisi, and the home to the delicious Perugina Chocolates. While in St Maria degli Angeli, you may visit its Basilica by the same name. It was built in the 16th century to house the Porziuncola, the sacred little chapel where the Franciscan movement began with St Francis.
You may also take an hour and a half train ride to visit Cortona in Tuscany. Like Assisi, Cortona is a hilltop town, and you’ll have to take a bus from Camucia where the train drops you off. We’ll be visiting Cortona soon. A 2 1/2 hour train ride will take you to Orvieto. You guessed it: Orvieto is also a hilltop town, and instead of taking a bus to town, you’d go up a funicular, or an incline cable railway. Granted, taking busses and trains are a total schelp, but they do make it possible to take day trips to nearby towns without needing to rent a car.
There are also a few places you can visit by foot if you don’t mind the walk….or you can take a taxi. Uphill to Mount Subasio, about 2 miles from town is the Hermitage of St Francis. This quiet and peaceful wooded area is where St Francis came repeatedly to pray and contemplate in isolation inside one of the caves. Soon, as others devotees followed him, they gathered together in communal prayer. Over time, various buildings were added to the original oratory forming the complex we see today. While here, you’ll see an old tree held up by brackets…it’s under this tree that St Francis is said to have preached to the birds.
Closer to Assisi is Rocca Maggiore, the medieval feudal castle that became a military fortress and later abandoned once its purpose was no longer necessary. You can purchase a ticket for around 5 Euros to enter fortress and walk across to the tower for a panoramic view of Assisi below, and the entire Spoleto valley.
One of my favorite places outside the city walls of Assisi is the way to San Damiano monastery.
With a view of Assisi above, surrounded by hills, valleys, and olive orchards, the walk to San Damiano a memorable experience.
The most significant aspect of San Damiano is that it was here when St Francis is said to have seen the figure of Christ on the crucifix speaking to him and said: “Don’t you see my house is crumbing? Go, then and restore it!”. Immediately, young Francis set out to repair the old run down church and it became the convent for the Franciscan female counterpart, the Poor Claires….named after Saint Claire, the first female to follow Saint Francis.
There is so much to see beyond Assisi. Whether you are staying IN Assisi, or visiting from another city, there is so much to see and do in and near the magical town of Saint Francis.
Check out the next episode as we explore Umbrian flavors at a cooking class with Letizia at her Alla Madonna del Piato Agriturismo.
Thank you for watching and see you soon on A Road Retraveled!
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