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Northern Italy Road Trip Part IIIAuthor: Jim and Donna C. (More Trip Reviews by Jim and Donna C.)
Date of Trip: October 2010
Last night was so cold, we found a quilt to add to our bed (sheet, comforter, bed spread, quilt). I slept with my head buried under all the covers to stay warm. We woke up to a cold morning. Looking out the window we could see the fog settling into the valley. We watched it roll up the hills until it reached us. It didn't stay with us too long before it started rolling back down the hills...kind of like a tide.
Breakfast wasn't until 2000, so we had a leisurely time getting ready for the day. We were greeted this morning by the Gatolina. We were the only ones down stairs (I think there's only one other couple here). We were seated and given coffee, juice, fruit stuffed croissants, bread with meats, cheeses and jams and ended with yogurt. Good breakfast.
We already had our stuff ready to go for the day, so we off we went. We set Lola for Assisi and had no problems finding it. We found a parking lot at the top of the town with plenty of parking spots. The fog was still in the valley, but we seem to be above the fog line.
Ahead, there is a castle on the hill side. Donna got some pictures of the castle and then we headed into town. Our first stop, barely into town, was at the Cathedral of San Rufino, the patron saint for the Assisi.
The cathedral was beautiful on the interior. Just outside the door is a lion eating the head off a Christian martyr, reminding worshippers of the courage of early Christians. Inside was a baptismal font where Saint Francis and Saint Clair were both baptized. There are glass panels on the floor where you can see the foundations from the 9th century church that once stood there.
Many buildings are made with pink limestone...very light and pretty. It is easy to visualize medieval times in Assisi. Much of the architecture is still here with narrow streets. We watched a delivery truck come through the streets, stop, folded in his mirrors and continued through one of the city's gates.
Our next stop was the Basilica of St. Clare (Basilica di Santa Chiara). The church, outside, is simple with large buttresses on one side. The buttresses and an expansion was added just after Clair's death. Her tomb is below the Basilica.
We made a short stop at a pastry shop to have a pastry. When I was done, I looked down to find that I had powdered sugar all over! I had it all down the front of me (in a black shirt) and all over my camera. Jim had a good laughed as I tried to get as much off as I could.
We have been checking out many shops along our route. We bought a “pin cushion” and Christmas ball that were crocheted and needle work. Lots of needle work around.
Assisi, I'm sure, has a breathtaking view of Umbria, but it is still covered in light fog. Seems that the fog is reluctant to leave the valleys. Walking around town we could see parts of the original walls and gates of the city, dating back to the 1200's.
We came upon a little church in the “middle” of town that was rather different with tall columns across the front of it. Apparently it was once the Temple of Minerva, built by the Romans. Now the church of Santa Maria Sopra is built on top of the ruins. Going inside, one of the original walls can still be seen along with drains in the floor where the blood of sacrificed animals once drained.
Since we started at the top of the town, everything has been going downhill. Should be fun on the way back up. On the way to the Basilica of St Francis, Jim stopped for a rest at a fountain that was built around 1237 and used to be the center of town. There are frescos throughout the city on the sides and fronts of various buildings...way cool. We walked a bit further and then decided to stop for lunch since it was 1300.
After lunch we found a little shop that claims to have the best olive oil in Italy. We went in to check it out and ended up buying a couple bottles of olive oil and a balsamic vinegar. We had him ship it home. It cost us as much to ship it as it did to buy it, but we don't have to deal with getting it home or dragging it around on the ship. BTW it arrived safely at home as promised.
We finally made our way to the Basilica of St. Francis. It was rather simple outside, at least compared to some basilicas we've seen. Apparently, however, it is considered one of the artistic and religious highlights of Europe.
Inside it was filled everywhere with beautiful frescos. Every nook and cranny was filled with frescos. We sat and admired many of them. We checked out the three levels -- the upper basilica, the lower basilica and the saint's tomb. We couldn't take pictures, so we bought a few post cards from the book store.
We saw four of the many churches in Assisi, that was enough. We contemplated walking back up to the car, but it was a long haul up steep roads. We decided to catch the bus up the hill instead. It took us some time to find the bus. We waited about 20 minutes and, for two Euros each, hit the top of town in no time.
We were let off right at the parking lot. We tried to find the road that led up to the castle, but didn't have any luck. We've seen all we really want to see, so we headed back to our Agritourismo. When we got there, we cleaned out the car and tried to pack as much of our stuff up as we can. The car looks well lived in. Think we got it all. Tomorrow we turn the car back in at Rome...our final destination before starting our cruise.
We have been having difficulty figuring out how to get heat in the room. We've been fiddling with the radiators with no success. We went out for dinner. Drove around for some time, making our way through what must have been a college area. We finally found a pizzeria and had a couple calzones. When we got back to the room, we had heat. Must be on a timer or something?
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