Located in central of Italy in the region of Umbria, Assisi is a stunning medieval town popular with visitors — it’s neatly located between Rome and Florence and perched halfway up Mount Subasio. It’s worth spending a day (or two) in this lovely town; the monuments close at sunset so prioritise these so you don’t miss out.
Assisi is a town with a rich history; the original Umbrian settlements were taken over by Etruscans from around 450 BC, before the Romans took over control after the Battle of Sentinum. Roman remains can still be found in the town, including the city walls, the forum and an amphitheatre.
The city began to expand outside of the Roman alls in the 13th Century, with jurisdiction changing numerous times until it fell under papal rule again under Pope Pius II.
Assisi was the birthplace of three famous Saints; St. Francis, who founded to Franciscan religious order in 1208, St. Clare who founded the Poor Sisters (later renamed to the Order of Poor Clares), and Saint Gabriel of Our Lady of Sorrows, who was canonised in 1920.
St. Francis is a patron saint of Italy, and UNESCO designated the Franciscan structures of Assisi as a World Heritage Site in 2000.
From late April to early May, the town hosts an International Antiques Fair — one of the largest markets in Italy, with around 100 antique dealers from across Europe. It’s a ‘must do’ on the antique collectors calendar.
In early May, the Festival Calendimaggio celebrates the history of the town with an immersive re-enactment of medieval and Renaissance life with processions, flag-wavers and both dance and theatrical performances.
Early August sees the Pardon Festival (Festa del Perdono). Although most Italian towns have one, Assisi is one of the most famous; held in the church of Santa Maria deli Angela on August 2nd every year.
The last week of August is the Palio of Saint Rufinius, where the town is divided into three district who’s compete for the pennant (Paliio) in a bow tournament.
Held at the end of September or beginning of October is the peace march from Perugia to Assisi; first held in 1961 the march appeals for peace and an end to violence.
Art and Attractions
- Rocca Maggiore: The town’s largest medieval castle, the structure has dominated Assisi for more than eight hundred years — the first record of the castle was in 1173
- Roman Amphitheatre: constructed in the early 1st century AD, which is now a public garden
- Basilica di Santa Chiara: built onto the original Chapel of St. George, this beautiful cathedral is where St. Clare of Assisi is buried
- Eremo dell Carceri: this is a small monastery around four kilometres from the town, but a beautiful sanctuary nestled amongst trees
There are also numerous museums in the town, including the Museo e For Romano — a fantastic underground museum located under a Roman temple — and Museo della Porziuncola which has a fascinating insight into the life of St Francis and the beginnings of the Franscican movement.
Assisi is home to a number of notable artistic works, including Madonna dei Tramonti by Pietro Lorenzetti, and the frescoes at the Convent of San Damiano and church of Saint Stefano. The Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi are also decorated with frescoes by Cimabue, Giotto, Simome Martini and Pietro Lorenzetti — famed for their quality and condition for works from this era.
Fancy a trip to this lovely part of the world? Check out our holiday villas in Umbria >