Past city limits
“Wait!” Bethany interrupted deep conversation as Caitlin, Kate and I discussed our futures on the train to Assisi, Italy. “I think we missed our transfer…”
We were all a bit flustered. We barely caught our 8 a.m. train after a long Friday of fingerprinting at the immigration office and late dining at Il Gatto e La Volpe. Plus, the talk of our experiences abroad was causing us to simultaneously question our plans for the future.
“Do you think we’ll still get there?” A classmate called from the seat behind me.
“We’ll see…” Bethany said.
“No wait,” she and I said, grinning at each other. “We’ll ‘Assisi!'”
Har har. Okay, enough with the wordplay.
We ignored the transfer, stayed on the train for another hour and made it to beautiful Assisi. At the station, the classmate who sat behind me introduced himself, Tyler, and his friend, Ryan — both Kent State architecture students. We were lucky to meet them because they helped us find the town’s famous landmarks (and provided good company!).
The town itself is stunning. Medieval churches and homes climb the side of a mountain, topped by the Rocca Maggiore fortress. In the summer, the fields are filled with my favorite flowers: sunflowers.
Outside the Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi
Our first stop was the Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi. St. Francis, who founded the Franciscan religion, was born and raised in Assisi and buried in the basilica. Unfortunately, photos weren’t allowed inside.
St. Francis’ tomb was in a small, stone room beneath the church. The room was candlelit and lined with pews, although many people huddled around the tomb itself, reaching to touch the rock as they prayed. It was very intense. I don’t know if it was the aura of the setup, but I felt some sort of presence. I actually felt compelled to pray for the first time in years.
As hinted above, I’m typically not one for prayers — particularly guided prayers — but I did enjoy this:
A Simple Prayer by St. Francis
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
Where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
To be understood as to understand;
To be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi
I lightened the mood with delicious, adorable ravioli hearts for lunch.
After lunch (and gelato, of course), we happened across a pink, brick staircase that led up the mountain. Once we tackled the stairs, we explored, enjoyed the view, hiked some more and found the Rocca Maggiore fortress.
“I took the one less traveled by”
Rocca Maggiore was a classic “don’t judge a book by its cover” example, and well-worth the €3 to climb and explore the inside. The medieval castle/fortress was WAY bigger than I expected. Tunnels, hidden doors and winding stairs led to multiple stories and dozens of rooms: perfect hide-and-go seek grounds! I think Ryan, Tyler, Caitlin and I were having more fun than some of the kiddos there with their parents…
Naturally, we had a dance-off when we reached the top…
Bethany and Kate were growing impatient at the bottom, so we hurried down the spiraling stairs as fast as we could. We poked around a few more churches — including the Temple of Minerva — bought more gelato, shopped for souvenirs and enjoyed the scenery until our train ride back to Florence.