Assisi was truly wonderful. I had visited there in 1982 with my parents on a one-day bus trip to/from Rome. I have no real memories of that visit. I know we visited the Basilicas of St Francis and St Clare, we stopped at Portiunzula, and we had lunch (I vaguely recall one of our fellow travelers suggesting that my mirth at my father’s struggle with wrapping spaghetti around a fork, a diet and technique which he was not at all familiar, did not show the filial devotion expected from a priest-son!). At that time, I did not walk the streets of Assisi at all. Presumably, we were bussed from one point to the next. This time I stayed overnight and had time to walk the streets. Perhaps it was good that my parents did not have to do that walking. At that time, they were over ten years older than I am now. But even the steps up and down the levels of the basilicas must have been an effort for them, as it still is for me! However, on to the present.
My visit to Assisi was lovely. The sun was shining. The sky was blue. It was not too hot. Perfect weather. Assisi is an attractive town. Perched on the hill overlooking the Umbrian plain. It is mostly white stone buildings. The streets are clean and narrow. The main streets traverse the hillside, while other narrower, steeper streets join the different levels, forming a labyrinth of alleyways, with mostly three to four storey buildings on each side. There are interesting little churches and shops and restaurants dotted along the different routes. The city seems almost in a time-warp. One could have stepped into a medieval world. I almost expected Mrs Bertone to lean out of one of the upper balconies and call her son Francesco in for his evening meal!I visited the Basilica of Santa Chiara (St Claire) and prayed at her tomb for all the Claires I know. I visited the Basilica of San Francesco (St Francis), upper level, lower level, and his tomb in the crypt, and prayed for all the Francis’ I know.
I wandered the streets. I sat on a bench overlooking the plain and watched the evening spread its mantle over the district, the lights twinkling on. It was a truly peaceful scene. Serene. Tranquil. I savored the moment. I could feel why one of the logos of St Francis is Pax et Bonum (Peace and Good).The next morning I caught the bus down to the town and visited the Church of St Maria Degli Angeli, which houses the Porziuncola Church (one of several churches which Francis restored) and is the place of his transitus (death). Then I caught the bus back up to Assisi for a further visit to the Basilica of St Francis, before catching the afternoon bus back to Roma. This time, it truly was a memorable and very pleasant visit. Assisi truly is lovely.