Assisi easily vaulted towards the top of my personal list of the most impressive day-trip destinations after having hosted us for half of a day. The town’s World Heritage inscription is centered on its sacred architecture, but it is also incredibly picturesque and, pilgrimages aside, does not convey a feeling of being overrun with tourists. Although there are plenty of crafts, local specialties, and souvenir shops, Assisi does not feel overly commercialized either. There is a number of fairly interesting museums sprinkled around the town, all seemingly not requiring any fee to enter.
But the pilgrims and most of the tourists come to Assisi for its religious monuments.
Here is the view of the complex of Basilica of St. Francis from the valley below.
The monumental church honoring the famous local son is a magnificent architectural masterpiece.
Wait until you step inside. There are two basilicas in one. The lower basilica, with un-church-like low ceilings, is covered all over in brilliant frescoes and paintings. The upper basilica, more traditional in form, is also vibrantly decorated. Here is a perspective along the upper basilica’s nave.
I have seen my share of spectacular cathedrals but San Francesco is a species apart, in my experience.
We also visited the other major churches named in the UNESCO inscription, Santa Chiara, San Ruffino, Santa Maria sopra Minerva. Each one has something to impress with and warrants a look, but they pale in comparison to San Francesco.
Beyond that, we simply leisurely strolled through the town. Its terrace-based hillside plan makes it less compact than other destinations of comparable stature and requires a bit of walking to get from one end of town to another. There are not many true squares, but Piazza del Comune is spacious and lively. Here is a fragment of it.
And the following are a few delightful corners of Assisi.
We only made cursory acquaintance with museums and arts and crafts establishments. Assisi can easily support a full day or even a day and a half with all that it has to offer. Its location in Umbria rather than, say, Tuscany keeps it away from most-traveled tourist routes, but if you have even a few hours to spare for a detour, I highly recommend visiting Assisi.
These and other pictures of Assisi can be found in my Flickr photostream.