Earlier in the week I wrote about Assisi, and I wanted to come back to it. Here’s the thing about my last post: It wasn’t my best. The photos tell the story, and while they do a pretty good job of it, I wanted to tell you a little more about my love for this beautiful town.
I mentioned that I went to Assisi on choir tour in college, and that it was one of my favorite places we saw in Italy. What I remember most from that visit is that we had a little bit of free time and I spent some of it on my own, wandering up and down tiny, steep streets, taking photos. I’ve mixed some of my favorites from that visit into this post, because on that trip I was able to get away from the main, commercial streets and see a bit more of the town.
After that trip I printed some photos from Assisi, including the one with a cat, for my mom for her birthday. I think that’s part of why she was as excited as I was to go to Assisi – the photos had given her a taste of what it was like. That summer I was home with my family and went to an arts show where we saw a photographer displaying photos from Italy. I recognized the ones from Assisi just from looking at them – the town is that distinctive.
It’s a town for tourists, for certain; most of the shops we saw on our walk to visit the Basilica of San Francesco were stores for tourists, not grocery stores or laundromats or anything useful. But because of the Basilica and the draw of St. Francis, those tourists might be better called pilgrims, which feels a little nicer somehow. And if the tourism is what keeps the town bright and clean and sunny, with its window boxes and curved, steep streets, then I’m okay with that. One of the guidebooks said something about how the town’s prosperity makes it clear that St. Francis is still protecting Assisi, some eight hundred years later.
St. Francis is known for being a friend to animals, for preaching and practicing simplicity. One of my favorite church songs is based on his prayer: “Make Me a Channel of Your Peace”. When I went to visit the first time, I brought my dad back a little icon of St. Francis with that prayer printed next to it in Italian. Regardless of your belief system, there’s something nice about a prayer that reminds us that it’s more important to do for others than for ourselves and asks for help in bringing peace and love to the world.
If you have a chance to visit Assisi, wander the streets away from the main squares. Look for flowers in window boxes, cats on staircases, laundry hanging on lines – all the signs that this is a place where people live. Walk the twisty streets and look for those unexpected spots where you can suddenly see the countryside spread out in front of you. Visit at twilight and watch the sky turn a deep blue. Stay until it’s dark and see the Basilica lit up.
It’s not a big town – you can walk from one end to the other in half an hour, at least if you’re walking downhill. But there’s more to see than I can tell you about – beautiful moments just around a corner or up a staircase. Go visit, and then tell me all about it!