Friday, June 29, 2012

Assisi and Spello

I wrote this on our way to Rome, over a week ago, and for several days I didn't have enough air conditioned WIFI to sit and upload the pictures and post the blog, so it just sat on my iPad. The connection at Assisi only worked in the stiflingly hot lobby and they seemed to turn it on only sporadically. It was the same in Rome and Pompei and then in Sorrento we had WIFI in the rooms but the rooms have neither A/C nor fans and it is 34 degrees! I also have been delayed as I filled up my blogging storage space when I tried to upload this blog while I was in Sorrento and had to buy more from Google. It has been days since I paid for the the additional storage and thus far ( 4 days later and the day before I am to fly home) i still don't have the additional storage needed to upload more blog photos. I have decided to upload this blog with the pictures I have already uploaded and beg your indulgence to imagine the rest. I will upload a revised blog with pictures once Google decides to give me my storage.

Now, on to tell you about Assisi and Spello:

Our next destination, Assisi, is a short bus ride from Gubbio. We headed there on Thursday morning. After checking in at our hotel, which was the Hotel Trattoria da Elide, in the Village of Maria degli Angeli, just outside of Assisi, we took the bus up the hill to see the magnificent Basilica DI San Francesco. We had an tour given by one of the volunteers from the Francescan Order. The guide, a University Professor, was engaging and informative. We learned about the life of Saint Francesco and how he came to be a Saint to establish this order with so many followers all vowing to live their life as in the example given by Saint Francis and according to the rules established for the order. See this WIKI for more info.

It was excellent that we had someone to explain the fantastic frescoes which decorate the upper church. We were not permitted photos inside the Basilica but the history and architecure of the whole building was very interesting and beautiful. So beautiful that upon exiting the Basilica, someone asked the guide (a lay member of the Order), if he thought that Saint Francis would be embarrassed at the splendour and grandeur of the place.

The Basilica of Sant Franscesco actually is comprised of 3 churches built one on top of one another. Saint Francesco was born, died and was buried in Assisi and construction started on the first of the 3 churches, called the lower church, in the year he died. They buried the remains of the Saint at the front, in the limestone rock, 15 feet under the Alter. The lower church has a dark, cave like atmosphere without windows.

This church is built in the Romanesque style with round arches and the ceilings which are about as tall as the church is wide, also making it feel like a small space. Some time later they excavated under the lower church and built another church (neo Romanesque style) with the exposed the crypt of the Saint as the focal point. We were able to tour the crypt and see the final resting place of Saint Francis.

The Upper Church (shown above) is high and airy, built in the Gothic style, with many stained glass windows and frescoe covered walls. It is extremely beautiful and is meant to symbolize rising to heaven when ascended to from the lower, tomblike lower church. The story of creation is told on a series of frescoes on walls high above and around the perimeter of the church. Underneath these frescoes are another series of frescoes which depict the life of Sante Francesco. Having since seen the Sistine Chapple, it seems almost as grand.

Outside the Basilica, there is a garden with statue of the Saint when he turned back after setting off to war, supposedly having heard the word of God telling him to go back home and rebuild the Church. Our guide had a pragmatic interpretation of this. Apparently Frances was sick with tuberculosis and not able to carry on so was most likely told to go home by his commander. The statue does make it seem that he was unhappy and dejected, not like he had heard the word of God.

I have many beautiful pictures of Assisi which I will add when I can.

After we finished touring the town of Assisi we took the path down the hill to the Village. There is a brick path which leads from the Village up to the Basilica to facilitate the many Pilgrim's which come to see the remains of Saint Francesca. Funds were raised by "selling bricks" and inscribing the names of donorson the bricks.We took a picture of the brick that Serena's Grandparents donated.

I have photos of the path to add here.

The next day we took the train to Spello, another Umbrian hillside town. There was arranged a wine and olive oil tasting along with a 4 course lunch. The town was very pretty. I have never seen so many stone walls decorated with flowers in all of Europe!

This was one of the highlights of this section of the tour. I will add photos of Spello and the lovely lunch/wine tasting as soon as Google gives me my storage space.

I had my first visit to MacDonalds at Assisi. Interesting to see how they have upscaled in this town.

I have an interesting MacDonald's photo to add.

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