Sunday, January 2, 2011

Assisi - Let's play where's Wally

Assisi is a walled medieval town in the Provence of Perugia, in the Umbria region. It was the birth place of Saint Francis (first known Christian to receive the stigmata), and Saint Clare (founded the 'Poor Clares'), and the town is littered with Basilicas and Cathedrals.

With its Roman ruins, winding medieval streets and sacred shrines, this is a major Catholic pilgrimage destination and is today one of the most popular tourist destinations in Italy. Although Assisi has only a population of about 3,000 inhabitants 4 to 5 million visitors mob the small town each year, and there isn't even an amusement park. Captured by the beautiful streets and a lovely atmosphere, the children were extremely well behaved and tolerant of our sight seeing. They were as quite as could be expected while wandering the churches, and even showed some restraint when they realised that their voices echoed in the shrines, ("hellooooo, hellooooo, hellooooo").

Balancing on the edge of a hill, Assisi is not only charming, but rich in religious history and extremely proud of its medieval ancient times; monks and nuns can be seen every corner you turn. The spirit of Saint Francis and Saint Clare can be felt everywhere. Nativity scenes are scattered throughout the churches and streets, and they range from life size to Lego man size. They were so common, that our exploration turned into a game of "Who can spot baby Jesus first", (kind of like "Where's Wally"). My daughter kept sounding as though she was having a religious epiphany with her constant screams of "I've found Jesus!"

We finished our visit with a trip to Rocca Maggiore, a fort dating back over a thousand years. We called it a castle with towers so our daughter could search for Shrek, Princess Fiona and Dragon. May have been a little white lie, but I would prefer to refer to it as diversion, (this killed time running up and down small rabbit warren corridors and leading daddy up and down small metal spiral staircases made for midgets).

You do not need to be religious to appreciate this destination and to realise that it is truly something special.

IF Important Fact
Assisi had their own busker. A monk standing frozen on a box. Yes, he was real. No, I did not give him money. I am not sure if you are supposed to throw money at a monk's feet?

I will remember Assisi as the first place my husband and I spent real money on artwork, for the beautiful view out our bedroom window and for the steep winding paths navigated with children in the pram.

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