Have we mentioned that the weather improved? It has been glorious for the last week! Sunny and temps in the 60s and snow has melted except for on the mountains and some large drifts. Sergio promises us this is the way it normally is this time of year, but February is commonly a rainy month.
Today we rented a Renault Clio from Sergio for three days to drive to towns we would have difficulty reaching by train or bus. Sergio's suggestion is Assisi. His recommendations have been right on so far and off we go.
Sandy names our car Grey Goose (guess what color she is), and I named our GPS Sergio (for obvious reasons). Sandy is in the driver's seat as we pass through beautiful hills on winding roads. We pass through Montepulciano on the way.
Assisi sits atop a high hill as do most of the Hill Towns (Is that why ther're called hill towns?). Rather than start at the Basilica which is at the bottom and outside the city walls, we make our first stop at San Rufino church near the top of the hill. Both St. Francis (and St. Clare, who was a contemporary of St Francis and adhered to his belief in simplicity and care for all things) were baptized here.
After the 1997 earthquake, San Rufino church needed to be inspected and graves and Roman ruins were found along with a cistern that was used for the towns emergency water supply. They have made seeing these sites accessible, which is interesting. Shows some very exact engineering. This church also had an exhibit of frescoes showing Pope John Paul II that were very well done.
The Basilica is a true work of art. It has three main parts, the upper Basilica, the lower Basilica and St. Francis's tomb. Frescos and beautiful paintings everywhere. The 1997 didn't damage the tomb area or the lower Basilica because they have nine feet wide walls but the upper part, because of windows and frescoes has finally been completely restored. Over 300,000 pieces of stained glass and frescoes of St. Francis's life had to be pieced together. His entire life is depicted in huge frescoes around the upper Basilica and good old Rick Steves did an excellent job at describing them . Two monks and two art scholars were killed while in the Basilica during an after shock examining the damage.
Tuesday, February 28, 2012