Sunday, August 22, 2010

Assisi and Cortona

This Saturday we went to Assisi. We had wanted to go for a while, so I am glad it worked out before our other trips take over. Our first stop was at the small town at the bottom of the hill (technically Assisi) and visited Basilica di Santa Maria degli Angeli. This large church was built around/on top of an older, much smaller church. The old church is still inside! Pretty cool, but alas, no pics allowed, so surf the web to see it. After visiting and letting Nolan check out the water fountains, we drove up the hill to Assisi.

Assisi is apparently a popular place for Italians to visit (due to the Catholic significance of this town), and it was August, the travel month, so finding parking was hard. All the lots were marked Completo but there was a short line to wait for one particular lot, so we just waited 10 minutes or so to get in, not too bad. We took the escalators up and were at one of the main gates to the city. We walked in to the city center and quickly arrived at Basilica di Santa Chiara. There was also a great lookout point on the courtyard but we decided to eat lunch before viewing the church. We found Trattoria degli Umbri near the fountain and it looked good with good prices. While Kacey was not crazy about her tartufo pasta, my local pasta with local sausage was good; cheap house wine was also good.

We walked back to the St. Clare church and went in. While the church was not ornate (as she would want it), it was beautiful in it's meaning. The crypt contained her body and many people visit to pray. From here we decided to visit the Cattedrale di San Rufino. This church is also very significant as both St. Francis and St. Clare were baptized here. Parts of the floor are glass to see the remains of what most believe was the Roman Forum.

From here we ventured to Basilica di San Francesco d'Assisi. This is the big draw of the town and while this is not the biggest church around, for this size town it is big. It also has three levels; the top level is the main nave, the middle level is another large basilica, and the lower level is the crypt with the remains of St. Francis. Many people were here praying, clinging to the iron gate that surrounds the wall of his crypt. After spending some time here we decided to walk back through town, go ahead and leave, and eat dinner in Cortona on the way home. On our way out of town we quickly stepped in the Convento Chiesa Nuova, a church built where St. Francis was believed to have been born and raised. When leaving we decided to see if we could drive up to the castle, Rocca Maggiore, on top of the hill, but we could not find an easy way up. Oh well, we headed toward Cortona.

Pictures from Assisi

When we reached Cortona, it was nearing 6:30 and we knew churches may be closing around 7. We found parking pretty quick but it is quite a hike up to the square of this town! Unfortunately we didn't get to see any churches but the town looked pretty cozy. There were a lot of people in the square sipping wine as tables from restaurants stretched out pretty far; I have not seen much of this anywhere except Il Campo in Siena. We walked around, Kacey did a little shopping, and we read many menus. We also found a pretty nice lookout of the valley. We decided to eat some pizza at Pizzeria Trattoria Croce Del Travaglio. The pizzas were cheap but ok. The crust was lite but almost too lite as it was flaking apart. The house wine here is the cheapest I have seen before. We also bought some little mini-lobster tail desserts next door (which should probably be eaten the same day) and found some mirtillo gelato on the way out of town. For those unfamiliar with mirtillo, it is blueberry and I consider it a delicacy in Italy. On a hot evening a little bowl of limone and mirtillo is about the most refreshing combination ever!

Pictures from Cortona

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