Thursday, October 7, 2010

When in Assisi...

I spent part of last weekend wandering the hilly and curvy streets of the Umbrian town of Assisi. The town, which sits atop a hill over looking the Umbrian countryside, is a breathtaking mix of gorgeous architecture and breathtaking vistas. It's a peaceful and peace-filled town that I recommend to anyone planning a trip to Italy.

Assisi is located in the region of Umbria and is about 1.5 hours from Rome by fast train. I sped up there on the fast train on Saturday after a meeting for work. Lynda and several students travelled up to Assisi earlier that day and Lynda and I planned to spend the night away from Rome while the students were going to head back in the evening. 

I met up with Lynda at our fabulous hotel, Hotel Ideale. Sadly, it was dark by the time I arrived so I wasn't able to fully appreciate the view from our room. Lynda assured me that it was spectacular. Shortly after my arrival, we went to dinner. We found one of the restaurants recommended by Rick Steves and enjoyed a fabulous dinner of bruschetta, pasta, vegetables, dessert, and Umbrian wine. Yuuuummmm. It was the best dinner I've had in a while. We meandered back to our hotel where we promptly crashed and fell asleep.

I awoke on Sunday morning to a view that had my eyes popping out of my head like something only seen in a cartoon. WOW. That's all I can say. The day started a bit overcast and foggy, but still I could see for miles from my window. The valley below was a colorful vision of green velvet-like hills rolling into one another and running into mountains that raised from the earth like sentries. Spectacular. 

After a yummy breakfast of delicious cappuccini and cornetti, where I was told by the proprietor that I had occhi belle (beautiful eyes), we walked down to Piazza San Rufino and watched the locals scurry to Mass. We sat there for a good half and hour until Lynda had to leave to catch the bus that would drop her at the train station. I ended up staying behind and spent the day in Assisi alone. 

One of the things I like about Assisi is just how peaceful it is. It's quiet. I miss quiet. As I sit and type this, an ambulance is roaring past the convent and it's shrill siren is piercing my ear drums. Quiet is often times taken for granted. Not in Assisi. I cherished it. 

I made my way down into the main Piazza and wandered from shop to shop as I strolled down towards Basilica San Francesco. Assisi was the home of Saint Francis. His image and his love for birds are seen all over Assisi and his basilica is incredible! It may be one of my very favorite basilicas in all of Italy. It is a sight to behold. (See the picture above)

I spent time just gazing upon the exterior of the basilica while watching the tourists traipse in and out. I love people watching. It's certainly one of my favorite activities. From there, I wandered up the hill to a cafe that Lynda had told me about. I ordered a cappuccino and sat outside on the terrace for an hour or so, entranced by the view before me. The terrace overlooked the valley behind Assisi. Small farms and agroturismi dotted the hills and vineyards and olive groves rolled up the sides of the hills. In the distance I could hear dogs barking and shots ringing out as, I assume, men were hunting for dinners. Again, peaceful. I finished up my coffee and headed across the street to Francesco's shop. Here I discovered a balsamic vinegar so delicious that I could quite literally pour myself a glass and drink up. SO GOOD! I purchased some for myself and my dad as well as some smooth and rich olive oil. If you've never had quality balsamic or olive oil, sad day. There is such a difference between the good stuff and that which we're used to getting in the stores. 

For the rest of the day I spent my time meandering through the town streets, sitting in piazzas and watching people stroll by, eating gelato, and enjoying some quality time alone. 

All in all, it was a great day and a much needed respite. 


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