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Assisi is one of the most famous Italian towns in the world, thanks to its historical and cultural beauty and because it is linked to the figure of one of the most famous saints of Christianity, St. Francis, but also to the figure of St. Clare. The exceptional events in the life of the two famous saints, and the spread of Franciscan ideology, are the main feature of the city, which has been named a center of spirituality and peace.


Basilica di San Francesco ad AssisiThis role of "City of Peace" is concretized every year in a march for peace in the world. The Franciscan idea is present everywhere, you can breathe in these streets, and has also influenced the architecture and buildings (built of stone overlooking the rose, from Mount Subasio), not only the great basilicas of St. Francis and St. Clare. In the medieval village the Franciscan buildings have become over the centuries centers of pilgrimage and aggregation.


Calendimaggio - AssisiIts alleys, squares and avenues surrounded by centuries-old cypress trees are silent. It is not known if it is because of the miracle of the Franciscan air that one breathes, but here sometimes even the hordes of tourists walk calmly, with a contemplative air and speaking with a certain respect, in a low voice. Of course, even in Assisi there are now high fashion boutiques with the usual designer clothes and horrible fake antique shops that offer tourists souvenirs and typical products using the most persuasive bad taste. But. and there is almost always a but, when there is something that is too much out of place in a place that is particularly dear to us, you can even close your eyes momentarily (metaphorically) and then reopen them when what is out of place we left behind. Then we find Assisi, dreamed of and hoped for, the same timeless peace, the same unrepeatable enchantment of a lookout in a twilight veiled in fog, the intoxicating scent of Umbrian food.


Calendimaggio - AssisiAssisi, in addition to the Franciscan wonders and the rest of its past, remains above all this: the simple and suggestive cribs, scattered along the alleys under Christmas, the taste of broad beans and pork rind (ancient Roman dish that served to put in communication the living with the dead), the cabbage cooked in the pan with oil, garlic and bread, the strong smell of truffles, the beautiful devotional sweets with snakes (propitiatory for eel fishing), the rocciata d'Assisi, the pan caciato that you can see in the old shops (for real), the beautiful tablecloths embroidered in blue with "stitch assisi" with a unique effect of full and empty that represents the typicality. And then a beautiful party not to be missed, the Calendimaggio, which takes place in the night between April 30 and May 1.


This festival was born in the past to greet the return of spring and, in all probability, resumes the ancient propitiatory rite of "planting the maio" which in dialect means twig or flowering bush. The aim is to recover the medieval tradition of amateur songs. And that night, still today, musicians and singers stop in the most characteristic places of the city where in the light of torches, torches and lights, offer beautiful sixteenth-century serenades accompanied by lutes, mandolins, guitars and violas. The head of the city is represented by the church of Santa Chiara, the tail by the Basilica of San Francesco.


Monte Subasio e il suo parcoAssisi is a town that today we will say, "on a human scale", with about 27 thousand inhabitants, located south-east of Perugia, which is about 20 km. Located on the western side of Mount Subasio, overlooking the valley enclosed by the rivers Chiascio and Topino, and is washed by a small tributary of Topino, which flows into the left bank of the Tiber. The origins of the city probably date back to the second century BC, although the area on which it stands was already inhabited in prehistoric times. Around the first century BC it became a Roman municipium and was surrounded by walls that contained the town until the municipal period, when there was a sudden and unstoppable expansion, and, as mentioned, the birth of one of the most important characters of Christianity. Most of the monuments are in fact dedicated to the memory of St. Francis and Franciscanism, even in the female form carried out by St. Clare and the Poor Clares.


Dante che cita AssisiDante Alighieri cited Assisi in the Divine Comedy as the birthplace of the Sun because of Francis, Patron Saint of Italy and Clare. The area around Assisi was already inhabited in Neolithic times. From the ninth century BC was the seat of a small village founded by the Umbrians who, according to archaeological findings, traded with the neighbors who lived along the Etruscan western bank of the Tiber.

In 1367 the city became part of the domains of the Papal State until 1861, the year of the Unification of Italy. The current structure of the city is still the medieval one, survived over the centuries despite the terrible earthquakes that cyclically hit the area. The renovation works are still in progress following the earthquake of 1997, which caused so much damage.


Abbazia di San PietroThe first church that can be seen entering the city from Porta San Pietro is the homonymous Benedictine church of San Pietro. Built at the end of the tenth century but greatly altered in the '200, is particularly interesting for the purity of the Romanesque style in which it was built. The facade has a simple main portal, flanked by two small side doors and surmounted by three rose windows. The austere interior, divided into three naves by mighty pillars, was covered with decorations and stuccoes removed in the twentieth century.




Basilica di San Francesco ad AssisiThe Basilica of San Francesco is divided into an upper basilica and a lower basilica. Construction of the church began on 17 July 1228, when Pope Gregory IX laid the first stone. The lower body was finished in the spring of 1230 and in the same year the body of St. Francis was laid there. The upper body was completed in 1253, the year the church was consecrated. The most important artists of the time, Cimabue, Giotto, Simone Martini and Pietro Lorenzetti, were called upon to decorate the walls. During the terrible earthquake of '97 the vault of the upper basilica collapsed, some frescoes by Giotto and Cimabue crumbled into thousands of fragments, the about 5000sqm of thirteenth-century frescoes that completely cover the walls of the Basilica were covered with a thick layer of dust and the structure of the church itself remained heavily damaged. Currently, the cleaning of the undamaged frescoes and those of structural reinforcement, carried out thanks to an exceptional investment in advanced technologies, have been completed.


Basilica di San Francesco ad Assisi - InternoTaking advantage of the works already underway, the basilica has been completely restored, the choir has been relocated, the entrance compass and the organ have been refurbished. In addition, two of Giotto's seven saints and the sail of San Girolamo have regained their recognizable shape and have been restored, while it is expected that within four years the manual recomposition of the fragments of the eight saints of the voltone will be completed. For the sail of San Matteo by Cimabue, on the other hand, the 120,000 fragments are being recovered using a "virtual reassembly" programme. From the basilica, Via San Francesco leads to Piazza del Comune (Town Square), which houses interesting buildings from different periods.


Piazza del ComuneThe church of Santa Maria sopra Minerva stands out above all others. It was built from a Roman temple from the first century, of which six columns remain on the façade, the staircase and the tympanum. Next to the church are the Torre del Popolo (13th century) and the Palazzo del Capitano del Popolo, built in 1282. On the opposite side of the square is the Palazzo dei Priori, the seat of the municipality, consisting of three buildings from different periods. In the oldest part there is the Municipal Picture Gallery, still unusable because of the damage suffered by the earthquake. The fountain at the center of the square is eighteenth-century.


Cattedrale di San RufinoVia San Rufino leads to the church of the same name, the Cathedral of San Rufino. Perhaps one of the most significant monuments of Romanesque art in Umbria, it was built on pre-existing religious buildings, to house the remains of the martyr Rufino. The facade is beautiful, decorated at the base with lions and griffins, and at the top with three rosettes and the symbols of the four Evangelists. In the interior with three naves are visible the baptismal font, where they were baptized St. Francis and St. Clare, and the Museum, while in the apse is a choir of refined workmanship. To the right of the apse we descend to the oratory, where St. Francis retired to pray before preaching in the cathedral. Under the Renaissance dome is the 19th century altar, where, according to tradition, the remains of San Rufino are preserved. Below the cathedral you can admire the crypt of a previous building, a well 28 meters deep and the remains of a cloister from the Carolingian era.


Basilica di San Francesco ad AssisiThe square-based bell tower dates back to the 11th century and has a Roman cistern as its foundation. On Piazza Santa Chiara, overlooking the valley, stands the thirteenth-century Basilica of Santa Chiara dedicated to the saint, which lies in a small urn in the crypt. It is a rather sober Gothic building with a facade of horizontal stripes of pink and white stone, adorned with an elegant rose window. Even the interior, with a single nave, is rather bare, but fragments of frescoes testify to the original wealth of decoration. Interesting are the Chapel of the Crucifix, with the Cross that according to legend spoke to Francis, and that of the Sacrament, where there are frescoes of the school of Giotto. The Rocca Maggiore was placed to guard the city in the second half of the fourteenth century, taking advantage of the structure of a pre-existing fortress, which were made many changes. Severely damaged by the earthquake, the fortress is the subject of major restoration work. Just outside the city, on the western side of Mount Subasio, is the Eremo delle Carceri (Hermitage of the Prisons). Immersed in a dense forest of oaks, is one of the most beautiful Franciscan places, where Francis and his followers often climbed in meditation. You can see the caves where the monks gathered in prayer, the refectory, the cells, the church of San Bernandino, the chapel.

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