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Published: August 17th 2012
When Toby and Fiona visited Umbria a couple of years ago, Toby decided that Assisi was his favourite place and so he was looking forward to going back again today. We detoured on the way through Santa Maria Degli Angeli which is where St Francis actually died. The spot is inside a church which is a beautiful building in its own right and which has a fantastic feeling of God's presence.We tried to enter the church, but just like yesterday we were stopped because our shoulders were bare- well Fiona's were and made to cover up with a scarf. At least they had scarves here for you to wear. Harriet is incensed and keeps letting everyone know this is a Christian church not muslim. Nevertheless, once we has finished looking we bought scarves from a local stall in case we need them again. We used our Indonesian bargaining skills and got them for a decent price too.
The church is built over another small chapel which is still wholly intact inside the larger building. We wandered around and then lit a candle and said some prayers. We also went and looked at the rose garden, but we are too late
in the season for the blooms. There was a tortoise crawling around in the undergrowth which was very cool to see. He was a lot faster than we thought tortoises are supposed to be.
Assisi is on the hillside and very easy to spot for quite a long way away as the buildings are made from a pinkish stone. We drove up to the town and took an escalator from the car park to the Piazza Santa Chiara. The church was closed for lunch but the view from the piazza was amazing. Walking towards the main square we spotted a fabulous cake shop, but stopped for gelato further on. Near the main square is another church built on an historic place from St Francis's life - this one was built over the prison his father put him in to punish him for giving stuff from his fathers store to the church. It was more of a tiny hole than a prison. You could also see the remains of the door to his fathers shop.
The main square has roman architecture as well as medieval buildings and a fountain which was useful to cool us down, especially as the
next destination was the top of the hill. Harriet was not impressed that we were walking up to the fort. She had had enough of uphill hot walks in Athens and Rhodes, but when we climbed to the top of the tower she seemed to enjoy it.
Back down the hill we bought a coffee machine that makes 2 shots at a time. As if we needed any more machines to make coffee, but it looked good! We also saw a tour that were getting around on segways. Harriet and Toby are impressed with the idea and want to investigate the chance of doing a Segway tour somewhere else.We visited the cathedral and are glad that we bought those scarves. We needed them to get in and the ones for sale in Assisi are much more expensive. We lit more candles, said more prayers and marvelled at the art in every Italian church.
We had sensibly brought lunch with us today but it was still in the car and we were starving so we went back to the cake shop we had previously seen. We may as well have bought lunch because the prices were astronomical. We didn't
sit in as that would have cost more, but munched on them sitting on a step in the square.
We knew that by now the basilica of St Francis would be open so we went down, only to be told that even though we had scarves, Harriet's shorts were too short. She was ropeable! She wrapped another scarf around her and looked far from a stylish Italian but only she cared.The basilica contains St Francis's body in the crypt and you can go down there and say a prayer. We did that but we weren't praying to a dead body - much easier to go direct to God. The artwork once more is amazing. Unfortunately the true appreciation is lost on us, but we were intrigued by one picture as it caused a scandal. Apparently the virgin Mary is pointing with her thumb at St Francis whilst St John is on the other side. We could see the thumb but whether she was pointing or not was debatable. First world problems once more.
The last piece of art was a Byzantine cross in the Chiesa Santa Chiara. It was at this cross that St Francis heard Jesus tell
him to repair his church. The simplicity of the lifestyle that Francis chose is in stark contrast to the ornate and elaborate cross that started it all. God does indeed speak in mysterious ways.We eventually got back to the car, cooled by a granita and drove in to the hills to the cells/ caves where St Francis and his followers lived. It is very peaceful and in forest, so we intended to finally eat our lunch there only to discover a no picnic sign. Further up the hill we found a picnic bench, which was good as we were all hungry, thirsty, hot and grouchy. Not so good for such a spiritual place.
Back in Montone we went straight to the cafe for our aperitivi. After more research we had discovered that campari and vino bianco was the drink to have and Harriet was sent to the bar with those instructions. It was a lovely drink but once more not the same or as long as everyone else in the piazza. More research required!The view of the sunset was amazing over the hills tonight
. Harriet and Fiona tried very hard to capture it with iPhone's and cameras but the
picture perfect moment eluded us.We went to sleep with difficulty as the drummers from the village were practicing tonight
. We hope this doesn't happen every night this week. We are looking forward to the festival though.
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