Assisi is a town unlike any other in the world. It's not the gorgeous Umbrian countryside. It's not the fresh air scented by hundreds of species of wildflowers and olive trees. It's not the lovely weather. It's not the historic buildings and walls. It's not even the food and the atmosphere. It's Francis and Clare and the Blessed Mother and the Holy Spirit which are just so present and tangible and consoling here. This place exudes holiness and, in particular, peace. That peace is potent whether you're eating pasta or buying trinkets or strolling down an alley...
Around 1000 BC, a wave of immigrants settled in the upper Tiber valley - these were the "Umbrians." They lived in small fortified settlements on high ground. From 450 BC these settlements were gradually taken over first by the Etruscans and then by the Romans who named the place Asisium and the hill Monte Subasio.
The city was nothing special until the arrival of its most famous citizen, Giovanni di Pietro di Bernardone AKA Francis in the early 1180s. In his early 20s, Francis experienced a profound conversion and devoted himself to the poor. For the rest of his life, Francis was a fixture in the old town on the hill and in the city at the foot of Monte Subasio. He founded the Franciscans and the Poor Clares here. As I said, Assisi is unlike any other city on Earth.
The three great basilicas are must-see Churches.
The Basilica of St. Francis The frescos are amazing, the carved choir is truly art and, of course, the Tomb of St. Francis is here.
The Basilica of St. Clare The tomb of St. Clare is, for me, more moving and more peaceful than the Tomb of Francis. The opposite is true of the piazza in front of the Church. It's chaos and has an honest-to-God Carousel. I have no idea why. Still, the Church is wonderful and quiet and peaceful.
The Basilica of St. Mary of the Angels Inside the Basilica down the hill by the Train Station, the little chapel that Francis repaired is called the Portiuncula. It's such a lovely Church and the museum is worth it! I go every time I'm in Assisi. There's also some decent gelato to had down the hill and some nice, low cost laundromats if you're into that sort of thing. After a month of hiking and stinking, I'm into that sort of thing.
San Damiano The monastery where Francis hear Jesus speak to him from the Cross became the foundation of the order that we call the Poor Clares. Clare died in that monastery. Nowadays, it's a place for tours and prayers. You need to take a cab to get there, but it's totally worth it.
The Hotel Roma
This trip is expensive! And this post-camino phase is the most expensive part. That means frugal hotels. Assisi is a perfect place to start because you can stay here in comfort for very little cost. The Hotel Roma - which is wonderful - is situated on top of the hill next to the Chiesa Santa Chiara (Basilica of St. Clare) and We're staying a full week for $400 ($200 each). The views are breathtaking...