Of all the cities and towns in Umbria that I have visited, Assisi is the one that must surprise me the most when I first meet it. My status at that time had to say, like people often joke, “eyes A, mouth O”. Because I don’t think there is such a beautiful city near where I live. Up to now, I have been to Assisi 5 times already. But I think I will visit it a few more times before I return my hometown. So, is Assisi worth visiting, what to do in Assisi and how to plan a perfect budget trip to Assisi, Italy for the first-time? Let’s check out our Assisi travel blog (Assisi blog) with the fullest Assisi travel guide (Assisi guide, Assisi tourist guide) from how to get to Assisi, where to stay, best places to visit, what to eat and top things to do in Assisi to find out the answer! And why? Why is Assisi not just a city of pilgrimages? Let’s find out in the article below!
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Assisi is a well-known tourist city in the Umbria region. Although the city is very small, it is always crowded with tourists. It can be said that this is the city of the church and of Saint Francesco (Francis of Assisi). He was born here, so it’s not surprising that his mark was left all over the city. For this reason, Assisi is also a very popular pilgrimage site in Italy.
Assisi travel blog: Overview of Assisi
Assisi is one of the most famous cities in Italy. Located on the northwest slope of Mount Subasio, about 26 km southeast of Perugia. As a typical medieval city, Assisi is not only beautiful in its own original beauty from fields of sunflowers or coquelicot flowers in summer, from the fields of wheat from the time it was green to the time it was harvested, only straw remained, but also beautiful from the landscape and architecture, of houses built of stone, terraced cobblestoned roads, from stories about history, culture, and religion.
The town is a very interesting attraction because it has stone houses at the foot of the mountain. Although hundreds of years have passed, its architecture has not changed and still retains its original appearance. Another unifying feature of the town is that the building materials use no materials other than stone, thus giving the town a pure beauty.
Assisi is famous for being the hometown of two saints Francis and Clare who were born, grew up, devoted their lives to the poor and to the religious cause in this land. Other world celebrities such as painter Tiberio d’Assisi, Dono Doni, poet Sextus Propertius, historian Antonio Cristofani, Francesco Pennacchi and Arnaldo Fortini are also outstanding children of Assisi. They have contributed to the proud Assisi today. Assisi attracts visitors even more when deep in this ancient is a quiet and peaceful atmosphere.
Assisi and Saint Francis
Assisi is the birthplace of Saint Francis, also known as “Saint Francis of Assisi”, or “The Poor Man of Assisi”. He is one of the most influential saints in the Catholic Church. The message that he brought that is a joyful and simple way of living in poverty, humility, peace, and brotherhood. In addition, this is also the birthplace of Saint Clare, one of the first followers of Saint Francis. Every year, tourists from all over the world choose Assisi as a destination for religious pilgrimages and prayers.
Assisi is a hill town in the Umbria region of central Italy. It is the birthplace of Saint Francis (1181–1226), one of Catholic’s most revered saints and one of Italy’s patron saints. This town has been recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Sites!
Besides the purpose of pilgrimage and visiting the homeland of the saints, Assisi is also suitable for those who want to find a place where they can both immerse themselves in nature and see the typical beauty of a city in the heart of Europe. For me, Assisi is not only a pilgrimage trip with its true meaning, but also a “pilgrimage” trip to relax and discover… Assisi is the place to help me fulfill my dream of seeing scenes I often see in Italian movies with my own eyes that I watched when I was a student, like the movie The Beautiful Life “La vita è bella”.
Assisi travel guide: How to get to Assisi?
From Perugia, you can choose to take the train or take the bus. Because I’m car sick and the roads in Umbria are steep, I like to take the train. Just go to Perugia station and buy a train ticket to Assisi. Traveling by train only takes about 22-30 minutes, still seeing the scenery along the way but the ticket price is cheap. The price of a fixed regional train is 2.7 euros.
From Fiumicino, the most convenient way is to take the Sulga bus (see details at: www.sulga.it) to Perugia, the capital of Umbria, then either take the train from Fontivegge central station, or wait more Just a few more minutes to catch another Sulga bus from Partigiani bus station to Assisi as mentioned above.
From other cities
For those of you in other cities, you can take the train or Flixbus to Assisi, depending on the estimated budget. But if you have been to Assisi, and if you have time, do not miss other neighboring cities of Umbria such as Perugia or Spello – the flower city… okay!
If you want to save money, the option to visit Perugia is also quite reasonable. In Perugia you can find affordable accommodation. Currently, in the center of Perugia, there are two hostels for you to choose from: Little Italy Hostel (Agoda, Booking) and Gioventù Centro Internazionale D’Accoglienza Hostel, with room rates around 17 euros/night/bed.
Getting to Assisi center
From Assisi station, you still have to go about 4 km to reach the city center halfway up the hill. The first time I came to Assisi, I chose to take the bus. The bus stop is right at the station, so it’s very easy for those who like this option. Next time I prefer choose to walk. I really like this way. The road to the top of the city center is not too steep. While walking, I just admire the scenery, take photos, and exercise at the same time. All the activities on the way to the top of the city center that I just mentioned take only about 30 minutes. Not tired, but there are so many beautiful photos, my friends.
How to buy bus tickets?
After arriving the Assisi train station, buy yourself a bus ticket at a tabacchi shop (in Italy you can buy a bus ticket at Tacbacchi or right on the bus), it takes another 10 minutes riding from the station to the city center (because the city is on the mountain, so you can even see the city right from the train). It is recommended to buy a round trip tickets to avoid time consuming for your sightseeing.
Getting around Assisi
The means of transportation in the city are only on foot, because it is in the mountainous region, so you should carry light luggage, do not wear high heels, which are easy to hurt your feet.
Assisi travel blog: Where to go, what to do in Assisi & things to do in Assisi
In Assisi there are quite a few churches such as the Basilica of Saint Mary of the Angels “Basilica di Santa Maria degli Angeli”, the Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi “Basilica of San Francesco d’Assisi” or the Basilica of Saint Clare (Basilica di Santa Chiara). All of them left a deep impression on me, from the scale, architecture, paintings on the ceiling, walls, and memorabilia still kept and preserved from the past.
For those who love art, painting, or architecture, surely Assisi will have one more plus point. Because, in one of the churches in the complex of Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi, you will admire the frescoes painted by Giotto di Bondone – the greatest Italian painter and architect of the Renaissance.
Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi
Address: Piazza Inferiore di S. Francesco, 2, 06081 Assisi PG, Italy
Hours: 6AM–8PM/Wednesday: 6AM–6:45PM
From the Abbey of San Pietro I went straight to the Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi, the most famous and important church of Assisi.
The construction of the basilica began in 1228 on a hill and consists of two churches, known as the Upper and Lower Basilicas, and a crypt in which St. Francis is buried. The interior of the Upper Basilica is a prime example of the Gothic style in Italy. Both cathedrals are decorated with famous frescoes by many late medieval painters such as Cimabue, Giotto, Simone Martini, Pietro Lorenzetti and possibly Pietro Cavallini. The scale and quality of this work is of particular importance in demonstrating the development of contemporary Italian art. This basilica is one of the most important places in Italy where Christians go on pilgrimage. It was recognized as a World Heritage Stie from UNESCO in 2000.
Previously, when giving a lecture on Giotto, a very famous 13th century painter and one who switched from Byzantine to Renaissance painting, I was able to see this church through photos because Giotto was the main decorator for the upper part of the church. At that time, I just wished I could see those masterpieces in real life. I finally got here.
This cathedral was built 2 years after Saint Francesco died and is divided into 2 parts: the upper part and the lower part. The upper part is the most important part, Giotto painted frescos (affresco) on the ceiling about the life of Saint Francesco. The lower part is done by his teacher Cimabue and some other artists. To go from the bottom to the top must climb an outdoor staircase.
As usual, the path from outside to inside the church is always crowded with people. The entrance is wide and wide with arches lining both sides of the path. Looking up at a massive scale and sophisticated architectural complex looming in front of your eyes.
Standing in awe for a moment, I followed in the footsteps of the crowd that was swarming inside the church. After watching the part below, I nervously went to the top.
Looking down from above, Assisi looms large in the fog at the far end of the horizon. The hills and mountains are only dim images behind the houses and trees. Below the line of people still flocking to the church. Laughter and talking filled a corner of the sky.
In front of the church is a green lawn with the word PAX in the middle. The trees, plants and the houses behind create a beautiful picture. This is probably the only church in Assisi that doesn’t allow photography inside and is strictly guarded. I took advantage of the time when the security guard didn’t notice and immediately raised the camera to take a picture, but was immediately stopped by him: “Signorina, no photo please!”
I have also seen the frescos via images before, but I still like in real life. The masterpieces of nearly 800 years ago still retain its value and sophistication. Giotto is famous for depicting different states of people’s faces through expressions and gestures, so his paintings are very real and vivid.
The upper church, or Basilica Superiore is covered with 28 frescoes by Giotto and these are probably the main artistic stars of the church. Each fresco is a scene from the life of Saint Francis. Although completed many centuries ago, the frescoes are still amazingly alive.
The lower church, or Basilica Inferiore with frescoes by Cimabue, Pietro Lorenzetti and Simone Martini, who were heavily influenced by Giotto’s works. Also in the lower reserve is the Cripta di San Francesco – the monumental mausoleum of Saint Francis of Assisi. While the upper church seems to be a celebration of beauty and life, the dark and sparsely decorated rooms of the lower church reflect the spirit of Saint Francis and the Franciscan Friars.
Basilica di Santa Chiara
Address: Piazza Santa Chiara, 1, 06081 Assisi PG, Italy
Hours: 6:30AM–12PM, 2–6PM
Regretfully leaving the church of Saint Francesco, I went to the church of Saint Chiara (one of the first follower of Saint Francesco). Along the street of the city center are lovely old houses with colorful flower pots on the balcony.
Like Basilica of Francis, this is the second largest cathedral of Assisi. Here is also placed the tomb of saint Chiara. Saint Chiara (1193-1253) of Assisi lived at the same time as Saint Francis (1182-1226), also of Assisi (Central Italy). Chiara followed in the footsteps of Saint Francis on the path of loving simplicity and poverty.
The Gothic Basilica dedicated to Saint Clare was built in 1265 to honor the fervent disciple of Saint Francis, who founded the Order of the Clarissines or Poor Clares. Under the high altar is the open tomb of Saint Clare, who died in 1253. The interior is painted with a cycle of frescoes from the life of Saint Clare by various artists. From the appealing Piazza Santa Chiara in front of the church is a beautiful view of the valley.
Quite tired from walking, I rewarded myself with a cool ice cream and sat down at the fountain to rest my feet. Italian ice cream (gelato) is truly irresistible, each piece of ice cream is both soft and sweet and melts on the tip of my tongue, endlessly and ecstatic.
Around the pigeons are competing for each bite. Tourists also sit to rest and chat happily on chairs or on the stairs outside the church.
I looked up at the sky. It is true Mediterranean sky, clear, clean, and free from worldly troubles. I really like this blue, just like the azure sky on the jerseys of the Italian team players.
At that time, I just wished there was a machine that could capture all its beauty to cherish and keep for myself. I was so mad that I took a photo of the sky with my camera because I didn’t know what else to do. Why did God send this beauty enthusiast to Italy?
I decided to get up to continue walking, or else I would go crazy here. Santa Chiara Church is built of pink bricks, looks very feminine. Maybe because this is a female saint? Its architecture is a bit special, because to the left of the church are 3 large domes standing parallel to each other. I am not very impressed with the architecture inside the church because it looks just as ordinary as other churches.
Fort Rocca Maggiore
Address: Via della Rocca, 06081 Assisi PG, Italy
Right near the church of Santa Chiara is the cathedral of San Rufino. This church didn’t leave much of an impression on me either. What reminds me of this place is that after coming here I climbed Rocca Maggiore Castle.
You can see the walls were built in 1316, the names of the two fortresses are Maggiore and Minore. Coming to Rocca Maggiore, you can see the entire Basilica of Saint Francis from above.
From Piazza di San Rufino you can hike up to Rocca Maggiore, a picturesque castle high above the town. Originally one of several fortresses built along the town walls, it was rebuilt by Cardinal Albornoz in 1365. Emperor Frederick II was sometimes here when he was young. This tourist attraction is a good place to explore, as you can get a panoramic view of the town from this place. A long wall extending from the main part of the castle ends with a watchtower, which is used as a watchtower, which you can climb to enjoy the view.
The way up to Rocca Maggiore is long stairs with a row of red flowers along the wall, not sure what kind of flower but it looks very beautiful. Climbing all these steps still have to climb a further section to get there.
A huge and majestic fortress was gradually appearing before my eyes. This place used to be the old military fortress of Assisi. Standing from here looking down can see the entire city.
Choosing a seat on the grass next to me, I quietly listened to music and watched the city prepare to cover itself with the red-orange color of the sunset. I raised my face to catch the last rays of sunlight from the sun that was slowly falling on the horizon.
The warm and gentle rays of the sun are caressing my skin. Even the wind playfully raced to my hair. The sun, the wind, the music, and the breathtaking scenery below made me sit there motionless for an hour.
I have never felt more refreshed. It feels like there is no boundary between man and nature anymore. My body also seems to be melting with the sun rays and the wind towards the horizon…
It was getting dusk. I couldn’t sit there forever, so I regretfully went down. Assisi when lit up is equally beautiful. The Church of San Francesco is now a prominent light complex in the night. I don’t have much time to visit anymore because at 6:30 pm there was a bus back to Perugia.
As soon as I got home, I lay down on the bed and lay down. So tired but full of satisfaction. An interesting and strange day.
There is only one word I can say about this small city: So beautiful! A beauty that can captivate any visitor as soon as he sets foot down.
Temple of Minerva
Address: Piazza del Comune, 14, 06081 Assisi PG, Italy
The Temple of Minerva is an Assisi attraction that dates back to BC. The roof of the Temple of Minerva dates to the first century BC and was converted into the church of Santa Maria della Minerva in 1539. It was renovated in the 17th century in the Baroque style, but the facade remains the Roman original columns. A fresco by Giotto in the Basilica of Saint Francis shows the building with bars on its windows, leading historians to believe that it served as a prison in the Middle Ages.
Piazza del Comune and Minerva colonnades
The Piazza del Comune is the town’s main square. Just as it was in Roman times when it was a forum. Along one side of the square is the temple of Tempio di Minerva and the 47-meter-tall tower, Torre del Popolo , built in 1303. At one end of Piazza del Comune is a fountain with stone lions. The square remains the center of local life, and you’ll find shops and places to eat in the streets surrounding it.
This is a square built in Roman times, below you can also visit the museum of archeology Foro Romano by walking along Portica.
In addition, there are many viccolos (small alleys) for those who want to find a quiet place no less lyrical and watch an Assisi dyed with warm sunshine.
After visiting the churches, temples, piazzas, I spent time walking along the streets to see the city center. I like the feeling of walking among the ancient streets here. As I walked, I stopped by the shops selling typical souvenirs. Sometimes I visit museums. When I was tired, I like to visit an ice cream shop to enjoy ice cream.
The houses on the street here are built of a very special stone with a pale pink, hard and iridescent. Because it was autumn at that time, if there was sunshine, the whole row of houses will be bright white and sparkling like pearls. In addition to planting flowers and vines outside the door or on the balcony, people also grow grapes. These fairy-tale houses change the wall color according to the color of the sun!
If you go on the occasion of Calendimaggio (A spring festival of Assisi which take places in the first weekend in May), you also have the opportunity to see the streets and see the people in medieval costumes. The festival recreates the challenging life between the two sides of the city, with processions, theater performances, singing, dancing and wrenching processions.
Museums in Assisi
There are quite a few museums in Assisi. Personally, I have only visited two museums: the treasure museum of the church of Saint Francis “Museo del Tesoro della basilica di San Franceso” and the museum of Priest Cappuccini of Umbria region “Museo Missionario Indios – Frati Cappuccini dell’Umbria in Amazonia”.
The night in Assisi is truly as glamorous as ever. All places were lit up in golden light. Lights from cafes, restaurants, squares, and windows give off a sparkling light. The steep roads leading to the city center are engulfed in light and dark patches. At night Assisi is cool, the wind from the sea blows in through the canals covering the city.
The central square is one of the ideal places not to be missed when visiting this city. This is the oldest and most beautiful square in Italy. Standing on the octagonal bell tower in the square, you can see the whole view of the city. Walking around the square in the evenings, you can shop for anything you want in the stalls on the sidewalk, where locals and tourists are still passing by in bustling scene.
Assisi travel guide: What to eat in Assisi?
Specialties in Assisi in particular and in Umbria in general, in addition to wine and cold cuts, ham, cheese, it is impossible not to mention wild game meat and truffle. You will easily find truffles at local specialty stores.
In addition to pizza and spaghetti, try linguine pasta with golden noodles lightly eggs-scented, served with freshly peeled shrimp mixed with sauce and sprinkled with green zucchini strands on top. The seafood dishes are beautifully presented such as braised squid with fresh red tomato sauce, fresh scallops mixed with minced pork and herbs, served with a glass of Limoncello liquor. Especially the famous Italian ice cream (gelato) with rich flavors: vanilla, chocolate, almond, fresh strawberry, pecans… put in a crispy cone.
You can also enjoy right at the restaurants in the city center with delectable dishes such as:
- Stringozzi al tartufo nero di Norcia: A pasta with truffle, tomato sauce, garlic, basilico leaves, olive oil, pepper and a little chili.
- Porchetta sandwiches with truffle sauce and many other sauces, depending on your taste.
- Pizza with truffles.
- Grilled lamb, or smoked lamb.
- Pagnotta Francescana bread: Like a sandwich, with a filling of grapes and almonds, served with Saint Francis wine.
- Other traditional pastries of the Umbria region such as: Ciaramicola (similar to sponge cake, pink and almost red, the traditional color of the region), or Brustengolo cake.
Assisi blog: What to buy?
Souvenirs in Assisi in particular and small cities in Italy in general are very diverse, and most of them are indigenous handicrafts, you can buy a paper picture embroidered with your name, or colorful aprons, baby bibs with the words “la mamma mi ha fatto bellissimo” which roughly translate “mom made me beautiful”, very unique and meaningful.
Assisi travel blog: Where to stay?
Below we recommend more best budget, mid-range and upscale hotels with good ratings and reviews you can refer to.
- Hotel La Terrazza & SPA (Agoda, Booking)
- NUN Assisi Relais & SPA Museum (Agoda, Booking)
- Il Fienile di Assisi (Agoda, Booking)
- Hotel Ideale (Agoda, Booking)
- Hotel Giotto Assisi (Agoda, Booking)
- Assisium Agriturismo (Agoda, Booking)
- Hotel Domus Pacis Assisi (Agoda, Booking)
Check out more top & best hotels in Assisi on Agoda.com or Booking.com
Excursion Tour to Assisi and Cortona from Florence
During my student days, Assisi was always my favorite city in Italy, more than the big tourist cities. After this trip I went back to Assisi a few more times, including the traditional Calendimaggio occasion in May.
No matter what season or festival, Assisi is always gracefully beautiful but no less sacred. Therefore, in addition to the purpose of pilgrimage, Assisi deserves to be on the bucket list of anyone who wants to learn more about Italy.
Florence travel blog: Some best day tours, trips, activities and transfer services, tickets in, from and to Assisi you can refer to
- From Florence: Assisi and Cortona Full-Day Guided Tour
- Assisi & Orvieto Day Trip from Rome
- Assisi: 3-Hour Private Walking Tour and St. Francis Basilica
- Assisi Wine Tasting Picnic
- Assisi: Organic Winery Tour with Tastings & Typical Food
- Assisi & Orvieto Day Trip from Rome
Are you looking for more top things to do in Florence: Tours, activities, attractions and other things? Let’s check it out here. And Italy guide here.