UMBRIA: ONE-DAY TRIP TO ASSISI

Hello!Welcome to the third appointment of our trip in Umbria! Today I’ll show you our one-day itinerary of the town: we were settled in Perugia, so we had only one day to visit Assisi, but finally we were able to visit it nicely also in few time. I think this will be useful for anyone nearby.

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Assisi is a small medieval town perched on a hill in Umbria. Famous as the birthplace of St. Francis, Assisi holds religious, historical, and artistic significance. Periodical exhibits and fairs enrich the visitor’s experience.

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Historical Assisi is very small and easily explored on foot. It is advisable to begin your tour at the top of the town (which is the oldest part), so you can enjoy the city going down the hill, and have a beautiful view of the countryside all around.

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Definitely take the time to walk among Assisi’s medieval houses and shops. Most of the cobblestone streets and alleys will take you to the basilica of St. Francis. Please be quiet as you visit this multi-level structure as it still is a place of prayer for many. The walls and ceilings of the upper church are embellished with frescoes of the Giotto school; the lower sanctuary contains the tomb of St. Francis. This is one of the most spiritually powerful places in Assisi.

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However, the center of the town is Piazza del Comune. There is a small fountain known as the “Lions fountain”. There are two main attractions on the Piazza: the “Palazzo del Capitano del Popolo” – with the clock tower – and the beautiful church of “Santa Maria Sopra Minerva” (St. Mary over Minerva), with its impresive roman columns. Assisi, being an old roman town, had its own temple dedicated to Minerva, the goddess of wisdom. With the arrival of Christianity the temple was transformed into a Catholic Church and the Virgin Mary was promoted above pagan wisdom. The church was completely remodeled in the early 1990’s and stands in stark contrast to the exterior.

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From the “Lions Fountain” find the street called “Corso Mazzini”. Here you will find many interesting shops of all sorts. At the end of the street there is an archway and after that you will see the lovely St. Claire’s Basilica, where the original crucifix, that spoke to Saint Francis, is found. There is a lovely piazza in front of the Church, with wonderful views of the valley.

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From Piazza del Comune you have two options to reach Saint Francis’ Basilica: the street to your right is “Via San Paolo”, and it will eventually lead you to the Basilica. This is a slightly longer way to get there and not so crowded, sometimes there is no one around, even on busy days. If you turn to your left when you see some steps and a fresco on the wall, you’ll get to the small church of St. Stephen (Santo Stefano). This is a real jewel, not known to many and skipped by the majority of “running pilgrims”.

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The second way is the street to your left from Piazza del Comune: it’s called “Via Portica”. This is the usual and shorter way to go to the Basilica of Saint Francis. There are plenty of shops. After a short while you pass an archway and arrive to “Via San Francesco”. A little walk and at the end of the street you will find the Basilica of St. Francis.

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In my opinion, the town is really charming, but there is an aspect that I didn’t like too much: you can clearly feel, while visiting, that faith and religion are also a matter of business nowadays, so this diminish a bit the atmosphere of sacred places. In any case, it worth a visit!

UMBRIA: GUBBIO&CITTA’ DI CASTELLO

Hello!Finally today I’ve some time to go on with our quick tour of Umbria, in the heart of Italy. The area of Gubbio is located in the nord east of Umbria region, adjoining Marche region. The whole area, tipically mountainous, is delimited by Appennini mountain chain in the east, and by the Tevere valley in the ovest. You sure know that the area is rich of historical treasures and cities of art.

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We arrived in Gubbio from Perugia, following the road signs, driving on a beautiful hill road. At first sight, you’ll see the particular position of the city, which lies on the hills, with the Roman Theater located on its feet. City of Gubbio is strictly connected to the history of San Francesco, and especially to his meeting with the Wolf, one of the most well-know miraculous event whereon researchers have extensively discussed.

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While visiting Gubbio is impossible not to be charmed by the narrows street and the ancient stone houses. The main point is Piazza Grande, where stands out the Palazzo dei Consoli, in which is located the town museum. The Palace rises up on a terrace where you’ll have an outstanding view of the underlying town.

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We followed by walking the road to Monte Ingino – Basilica di Sant’Ubaldo: we arrived to the cable railway of Colle Eletto which in only 6 minutes will take you on the top of the hill to the S.Ubaldo Church. I must say that it’s not really suitable for who suffers dizziness: the climb is on a “metallic cage”, where only two people can standing. Arrived at destination, at 900 meters, the view all around the valley is just outstanding.
Inside the Basilica di Sant’Ubaldo, patron of the town, you can admire three majestic wooden structures. The patron saint’s festival is celebrated on 15th may and it’s called “La Festa Dei Ceri” (Race of the Candles).The statues of St. Ubaldo (patron of bricklayers), St. George (patron saint of haberdashers) and St. Anthony the Abbot (patron saint of donkey breeders and peasants) are placed on these three tall, heavy wooden “ceri” or pedestals (meant to represent candles).

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The Ceraioli (pedestal bearers) carry the “ceri” on their shoulders and run down the city streets and then up to the basilica of S. Ubaldo on top of Mount Ingino. A charming ritual precedes the race. The spectacular raising of the “ceri” (l’alzata dei ceri) takes place in Piazza Grande at noon and then “ceri” are toured around the piazza 3 times. It’s a fearless run, because the candles are carried up and they swing dangerously while the men are running, brushing against balconies and windows, followed by an enthusiastic crowd. After the race, the ceri are stored in the basilica of Sant’Ubaldo, while the statues of the 3 saints are brought back into the city  singing with a torchlight procession.

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In the same day, we made a short walk in Città di Castello, a typical village near Gubbio. After being pillaged and destroyed by Totila during barbaric invasions, the town was rebuilted and took several names during ages. (Castrum Felicitatis, Castrum Castelli). During late Middle Age, it was under the influence of Perugia, then of the Church and also of Florence. During XVI century, with Cesare Borgia, it passed finally under the Pope. It’s just a short promenade, but quite characteristic.

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to be continued..

BELLEZZE D’ITALIA: UMBRIA

Hello!How are you? We’re just back from a small tour in Umbria, we spent four days driving and walking in lovely towns and small villages. We were settled in Perugia, the capital city of the region of Umbria -in central Italy-, crossed by the river Tiber. The city is also the capital of the province of Perugia.

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It covers a high hilltop and part of the valleys around the area.The history of Perugia goes back to the Etruscan period. The city is also known as one of the earliest university town. There are annual festivals and events: the Eurochocolate Festival (October), the Umbria Jazz Festival (July). Perugia is a well-known cultural and artistic centre of Italy. The famous painter Pietro Vannucci, nicknamed Perugino, was a native of Città della Pieve, near Perugia.He was the teacher of Raphael.The city symbol is the griffin, which can be seen in the form of plaques and statues on buildings around the city.

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Perugia (and Umbria in generally) has a kind and peacefull atmosphere all over: it still maintains the appearence of a medieval fortified small town. The heart of the city is Corso Vannucci, the main shopping street that ends with IV November Square, where you could admire the Cathedral of San Lorenzo and The Mayor Fountain. Just in front of the church, you can see the National Gallery of Umbria, where are displayed many artworks of the most famous italian artist, like Piero della Francesca, Pinturicchio and Perugino.

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I love getting lost in the narrow silent alleys: in Perugia there’s plenty of tiny streets where you’re just carried back in time, and you can appreciate the bliss of everlasting things. In any case, you’ll be quickly brought back to present, by finding any sort of cute shops and cafès: if you’re glutton like me, your attention sure will be drawn to the many chocolate shops in the citycenter. (also food is art, right? ahah)

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Finally, Perugia in the night is a quite lively place: it’s an academic town, so the foreign students meet up first in the cafès of the citycenter: in the week-end, from 5.00 p.m., winebars and pubs fill up with young people till late, before move to disco.

to be continued..