Two years ago next month, my younger sons and I spent a few days in Assisi. There’s no way I could have written Adventures in Assisi without that trip. Here’s a bit more about the journey.
It was part of our massive, sort of crazy three months in Europe the fall of 2012. Why did we go? Because we could and also because it was a way to force us all into homeschooling. Pretty dramatic, eh? I had been knowing that we should be homeschooling for a while, but they were a bit resistant, as was I (mostly for selfish reasons).
As the late winter of 2012 wore on, and I grew more and more dissatisfied with institutional school in general, the notion of a big journey took hold. My father had passed away the preceding fall, I had the means, I was hitting 52 years old soon…why not?
So we did, and while during the trip, I always told the boys that they could certainly return to school in January…when it came time…they decided…nah.
(For the record, two years later, my older son, who is 8th grade, is back in school, and it’s going great. The younger son is still home, in 4th grade, and might return to school in 6th…might.)
Not to recap the entire journey, but we had landed in Paris on September 11, spent almost 2 months in France – the first chunk in western France and Provence, and then October in Paris. In early November, we left Paris on the train, spent a couple of days in Lausanne, Switzerland, then about a week in Padua and then finally…Assisi.
(After Assisi, we were in Rome for 10 days, then…home.)
I really liked Assisi a lot, although it’s a bit of an odd place.
It’s your typical Italian hill town, in a way, but not, because it’s spotless to the point of antiseptic. Ironically, no begging is allowed in Assisi. For hundreds of years, pilgrimage has been the primary point of Assisi, and it shows – it works like clockwork, everything geared to the pilgrims.
The train station for Assisi is not actually in Assisi – it’s in Maria san Angeli at the bottom of the hill.
We arrived in the evening, caught a taxi and were taken up the hill. And then another. And then another, to our hotel.
I think I read later that the hotel had been a monastery in a previous life, and that explained a lot. Well, at least it explained the bathroom.
Obviously not original to the structure, obviously squeezed in.
Yes I was mean, and there was schoolwork done, in the top floor lounge, before we set out on our journeys.
Assisi is…hilly. You get quite a workout there.
Here’s where Francis was baptized – the Cathedral.
This is the castle looming above the town. The best views.
The church of S. Chiara – this is the church of the Poor Clares, and is where the San Damiano cross is kept now. (no photos inside)
And this is San Damiano – the way down the hill from the town is lovely, lined with olive groves. The church which Francis rebuilt, where he experienced the call of Christ in a profound way, and where the Poor Clares first lived and prayed, and where St. Clare died.
The main piazza in the center of the town – Francis’s birthplace is on this square, hidden behind the tourism office.
The basilica, where the tomb of Francis is located, and of course, the site of the amazing frescoes by Giotto and others. A place of profound prayer.
Then back to Santa Maria degli Angeli, the location of the Porziuncola, the site of one of the early settlements of the friars and the place where St. Francis died. (again, no inside photos allowed – but look up the images – the tiny church in the midst of the big basilica…)
I think of all the sites, being in that spot where Francis died in the midst of such physical suffering, his brotherhood already in some disarray,and pondering the tension between humility, poverty of spirit and the majesty of the basilica..was the most thought-provoking.