By Len Friesen, tour leader
I vividly recall the first time Mary and I were in Assisi. We arrived in the late-afternoon as the sun had begun to settle over the Umbrian plain. It was a cool evening in Assisi, a setting that very much still looks like it did in the 12th century when its most famous son, Francis, wandered about its back alleys and squares in search of the diseased and discarded.
On this occasion Mary and I dropped our bags off at our inn and headed for the Basilica that is built on the very spot where Francis was buried. It is, for that reason alone, a deeply meaningful place to visit. So we had our expectations, but they were transformed as we entered the “lower” Basilica (there are actually two built there, one on top of each other, each stupendous).
We were looking around, taking it all in, when we suddenly became aware that the person beside us had fallen to his knees in homage. We looked around and others were also on their knees, in devotion to a man who had forsaken all of his family’s earthly possessions in return for an even greater reward.
We spent several days in and about Assisi, returning to the Basilica several times each day, each time captivated by it. But there was something no less special about evening walks in this fantastic medieval city. You are never far from a piazza, never far from a breathtaking viewpoint.
On our last day in Assisi we went in a different direction from our hotel and visited the Basilica dedicated to the Poor Sisters of St. Clare, named after a companion to Francis. As the name suggests, Clare also started a new movement in the Franciscan image, though for women, and it continues to thrive to this day.
I thought of all of this recently when I realized that the annual Catholic feast days of each of these saints were again upon us (October the 4th for Francis, and the 15th for Clare). Instantly I was back in the beautiful, peaceful hillside town of Assisi, a town that is still working miracles.
Mary and I will be visiting Assisi this coming spring with a group from TourMagination. Please contact us if you’d like more information. There’s no place like Assisi, nor is there like the whole Italian peninsula for that matter. Come and see why.