Today is a trip to Assisi then to an agriturismo, a bed and breakfast/winery near Orvieto. We got up early and left our hotel under the bright sunshine (Under the Tuscan Sun—get it?). We are on our way to Assisi to visit the haunts of St. Francis and his female counterpart St. Claire. But on the way we passed some stunning Tuscan countryside, a small sample of which I photographed.
In Assisi we had two different places to go. We started in lower Assisi at the Basilica St. Mary of the Angels in Porziuncola. Los Angeles is named for this church. This giant basilica is built over the small chapel that was where St. Francis lived when he first founded the Franciscan Order. And this is where he consecrated St. Claire as a Bride of Christ. The basilica also houses the place where St. Francis died in 1226, less than 25 yards from his small chapel. No pictures inside so we can’t share it.
From there we took the bus to the upper portion of Assisi to first visit the Basilica of St. Claire. This church is dedicated t the Order of Poor Clares. It contains within it the crucifix that changed St. Francis life when he knelt before the crucifix and asked for guidance—the crucifix spoke and told him “Go and rebuild my church, which you can see has fallen into ruin.” As can be a problem with short oracular statements, at first St. Francis thought the message was literally to fix the poor, battered church of San Damiano where the crucifix hung, but he later came to understand that it was the church as a whole that the crucifix was talking about. The crypt below the church contains some relics of her life. Again, no pictures. But outside was a modern representation of a manger, which was an invention of St. Francis’s to help tell the story of Jesus birth.
From there we walked down to the Piazza del Comune where we had some lunch, then met up with Marko, our guide for the afternoon. Marko explained that all of the flags and bunting we were seeing was in preparation for a big festival tomorrow that commemorates the tow rival factions of Assisi finally making peace. The red faction and the blue faction came together and the flag of Assisi is now a combination of red and blue.
Marko took us to the Temple of Minerva, which was built in Assisi around the time of Christ and is still well-preserved to day. Then we took off down the winding streets of Assisi to the massive Basilica of St. Francis. The basilica is made up of a lower and an upper church. Again no pictures are allowed on the inside, but it was a beautiful facility that contained many frescoes and paintings that emphasized St. Francis’s message of Obedience, Chastity, and Poverty. The three knots in a Franciscan’s robe reflect those three principles. St. Francis’s tomb is housed in this church, which made it a hot destination for pilgrims. We spent time with Marko showing us several paintings by Giotto done in 1297-1300, these were forerunners of the modern Renaissance art movement.
Susan’s souvenir bracelet has proven useful in these visits because now she can get little cameos of the saints and add them to the bracelet as a reminder that we visited their churches.
We walked through the streets (downhill, thankfully) down to our bus and took off for La Rocca, which is just outside Orvieto. This was pretty much nap time for most folks, but I tried to take some pictures of the Umbrian countryside as we wound around with the Tiber River. We are making our way to Rome, following the Tiber.
We arrived at Agriturismo La Rocca Orvieto, a winery and hospitality place with panoramic views, a pool, and lots of other very modern amenities. The view just knocks me out. Once we had closed our open mouths after looking at the view, we settled down to the wine cellar for a wine tasting. Of the 4 we tasted, I thought the first of the two whites and the last of the two reds were the best.
From there we went upstairs to a 4 course dinner in their restaurant. I ordered the wines I had liked and confirmed my thoughts about them. We can order them from a distributor in the US who can deliver to us. Will do.