Monday, December 8, 2008

Assisi Part 1

After landing at the Rome airport after 19 hours of travel, we headed on a bus north to Umbria and then to Assisi. Umbria is the breadbasket of Italy. We traveled through the Umbrian Plain. Both to the east and west we could see mountains in the distance. Every so often we could make out Medieval towns planted on the side of a mountain. The names all sounded familiar like Cascia, Palestrina, Spello, Spoleto, etc. We actually traveled in a tunnel under the town of Spoleto where there is a papal fortress. I had read a biography of St. Francis before we went, so many of these towns sounded familiar as places that Francis visited. Everywhere were flocks of sheep, olive groves and vineyards. Just a beautiful picture even though it was drizzling. We stopped at a "truck stop" and learned how to order food (sandwiches or pizza) and drinks in Italian style. Italians hate to form lines, so when attempting to get food, one has to catch the eye of the cashier, pay for what they want and then move to the counter with a receipt. After traveling a little while longer, we saw Assisi off to the right. At the foot of the hill was the Basilica of Santa Maria degli Angeli which encloses the Portiuncula - St. Francis' Chapel. It was the afternoon break so we passed by it and headed up the mountain to Assisi itself. We could see the back of the monastery attached to the Basilica of St. Francis. After we were let off at the bus stop, we had to unload our luggage and walk a couple of blocks through narrow cobblestone streets to our hotel, called the Hotel Giotto. We passed by many little gift shops in many little nooks and crannies of the city.

The Hotel Giotto was opened in 1899 - at least that is what the sign in the lobby said. There were little additions all over at odd little angles. The dining room was down the steps in a much more ancient part of the building. In back, the Hotel was built right into the side of the mountain. On the back side of the dining room, I could see solid rock, not bricks. The other side had a nice terrace overlooking the valley below. The dining room had very old stone arches holding up the ceiling. I had a rest soon after we got there, while Mark climbed up to the Rocco Maggiore - a papal fortress at the top of the town, which is not at the top of Mt. Subasio just on the side.

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