When you think of the city of Assisi, you might be picturing a medieval town that Franciscan pilgrims flock to all year round OR maybe, you’ve simply never heard of it at all! I can definitely relate to the latter. When my mom told me we would be spending five days in Assisi, I immediately took to Google and Pinterest. I wanted to see what I could find out about this mysterious land I had never heard of. Although my search yielded some pretty impressive images, nothing compares to what I saw with my own eyes. Assisi impressed me beyond belief! It reminded me of San Gimignano and Toledo, two cities I had visited on previous trips to Europe.
There was just something about this hilltop town and its commanding views of the Umbrian countryside that made me feel so calm and peaceful. Don’t be fooled by what you hear. Assisi is more than just a simple town for prayer (although this still remains a very important part of its history and to the pilgrims of today). I would highly recommend putting Assisi on your list of hilltop cities to visit in Umbria!
GETTING THERE AND AROUND
Although the town can be accessed by train as well as by bus, the best possible way to get there is with a car! Not only does it make accessing the city of Assisi simpler, it also allows you to do some extra exploring around Umbria. For example, we drove into Spello, Orvieto, and Perugia. However, I don’t know how easy it would be to make these trips if you did not have access to a vehicle!
WHAT TO DO/ SEE
- Basilica di Santa Chiara This is one of the first churches (photos 5 & 12) you will come across as you walk through the arches of the city (photo 18). It overlooks a beautiful piazza that offers a stunning view of the countryside below (photo 6).
- Basilica of St. Francis If you are pressed for time and are only able to do very little sightseeing, I would recommend heading straight to the Basilica of St.Francis (photos 9 & 10). It’s just as beautiful on the inside as it is on the outside and is a very important religious symbol to the European people. Many pilgrims from around the world come to Assisi to pay homage to St. Francis even to this day!
- Rocca Maggiore Not only is Rocca Maggiore (photo 4) impressive in itself, but it offers an absolutely breathtaking view of the Umbrian countryside and the town of Assisi down below (photos 15,16,17). I would recommend taking a romantic evening stroll on the illuminated path up to the top and would also suggest heading back during the day to get a glimpse of the stunning view.
WHERE TO EAT
All three of the following restaurants are absolutely delicious, reasonably priced and offer a wide variety of Umbrian dishes. I can promise you that you won’t be disappointed by any of them!
Trattoria da Erminio One of the region’s main specialties is anything “tartufo” aka truffle. That being said, as an appetizer, I would recommend the tomato and truffle paste bruschetta. It’s to die for! As a main course, try the fresh tagliatelle pasta and for dessert, the panna cotta! Trattoria da Erminio also has a great selection of Italian wines if you’re interested.
Locanda del Podesta This adorable restaurant’s specialties are its grilled Umbrian sausages and “gnocchi al tartuffo”. I wanted to try as many of the region’s specialties as possible, so I went for these wonderful grilled sausages with toasted Umbrian bread and a side of fennel and beans drizzled with truffle oil.
La Pallotta Anytime I go to an Italian restaurant in Montreal, and I’m not eating pasta or pizza, I will typically order the veal scaloppini. Therefore, I simply had to try out the authentic version of this dish in the motherland! The veal scaloppini marsala with a side of grilled potatoes is an excellent option. For dessert, try the dessert wine and classic Italian biscotti platter. It’s perfect for sharing!
La Bottega dei Sapori (photo 13) is a great little shop in the heart of Assisi’s main square, Piazza del Commune (photo 14), where you can pick up a variety of delicious cold cuts, cheeses, and sausages. It also stocks some lovely truffle pastes, oils, and pestos as well as a nice selection of Umbrian wines!
I hope this has spiked your curiosity about Assisi and Umbria’s hilltop towns! As I mentioned earlier, we made a couple of day trips to a few other hilltop cities that I will go into further detail about in future posts so, stay tuned!