From the Porziuncola to the basilica of St. Francis: Assisi in one day
Assisi is certainly one of the tourist destinations not to be missed if you visit Umbria, first of all for its importance and, secondly, for its proximity to the regional capital, Perugia, which is only twenty kilometers away. St. Francis, the founder of the Franciscan order, was born and lived in Assisi. The Franciscans were characterized to lead a life of austerity, sacrifice and charity, values that, today, are still present in the spirit of the Umbrians. There is much to see in Assisi and among the things not to be missed there are the basilica of Saint Mary of the Angels, where the Porziuncola is kept inside, and the basilica of St. Francis, in the historic center. Let's start from the first one.
The basilica of Saint Mary of the Angels and the Porziuncola
Assisi is divided in two areas: the ancient part of the city, located in the middle of a mountain named Subasio, where you can do beautiful hikes all year round, and the most modern part, on the plain, at the foot of the mountain: Santa Maria degli Angeli. This is, among other things, the place that gave the name to a small colony of settlers during the conquest of America and which today is one of the biggest cities in the world: el Pueblo de Nuestra Señora la Reina de los Ángeles del Rio de la Porciúncula de Asís, that is Los Angeles, in the United States. The Porziuncola, in Santa Maria degli Angeli, is the place where St. Francis felt the call of God and where he claimed the “Pardon of Assisi” (visiting the Porziuncola during 1 and 2 August, the pilgrims can receive the gift of the plenary indulgence, the forgiveness of all their sins, known as “Feast of the Pardon”). It is a place worth seeing, since the old church, the size of a hut, is preserved in excellent condition because, and here comes the beauty, the majestic basilica of Saint Mary of the Angels was built right around the Porziuncola. The feeling of visiting a huge church, in mannerist style, and then finding inside this small stone building, essential and simple, turns into a real visual and emotional show.
The historic center and the basilica of St. Francis
From the central station you can take a bus that runs every twenty minutes and leads directly to the center. To go back just take the same bus. The entire historic center is a real wonder: every single house, alley or window seems to be made to capture the visitor's attention. It is better to walk quietly, since the path is constantly rising. Among the dozens of things that you can admire, there is the house where St. Francis was born, with great spiritual value; the church of Saint Clare, where you can also visit her tomb in the underground crypt; the fortress, located at the highest point of the city and, of course, the basilica of St. Francis. The basilica, erected in honor of the Patron saint of the poor, will probably be among the biggest churches you have ever seen, whose magnificence is an obvious exception to the typically franciscan way of thinking. Divided on several levels, one lower and one higher, with a large internal cloister, it is a majestic architectural work and one of the most important Christian destinations. The construction was started in 1228 by Pope Gregory IX and was consecrated on 25 May 1253 by Pope Innocent IV. The basilica of St. Francis was partially destroyed during the 1997 earthquake but it was skilfully rebuilt and the frescoes restored, including the most famous ones of Cimabue and Giotto.