Tuesday, June 19, 2007
Tuesday June 19 2007
Buon giorno! Hello, good day! Really can't complain when a handsome Italian man in a suit and tie is holding a sign, “M,” at the Rome airport and picking me and the Raven up in a Mercedes SUV!
Andrico drove us the two hours from Rome to Assissi, up and into the old town built on a hill, racing through and around the narrow streets in our Mercedes, dodging tourists, up and up, and Andrico dropped us off at the hotel, where we waited on a medieval staircase for the hotel owner to return from lunch.
The Raven wandered around this lovely old medieval city of stone houses, full of “hill-town charm,” peppered with ancient churches. It has the well-preserved and still-standing remains of eight fortified entrance portals – which you drive through to enter the town - and town walls.
The origin of the name Assisi is unknown, though legend has it that the queen of Troy's brother, Asio built it. It dates back to pre-Roman times, first inhabited by the Umbri (6th century BC), then by the Romans. The Christian faith was brought to Assisi in the 3rd century AD.
Assisi is best known as the birthplace of St Francis of Assisi, the founder of the Franciscan Order. He followed his calling in life, much to his father's chagrin, begging for the poor, asking God for enlightenment, nursing lepers, restoring ruined churches, embracing poverty, preaching, (though he chose never to be an ordained priest), and eventually founding the Franciscan Order. Two years after his death in 1226 AD, he was pronounced a saint by the Pope, and the building of the Basilica of St Francis began. I think we can assume Francis was not only a saint but a horse (or at least donkey) lover, because legend has it that on his deathbed, his donkey wept as he thanked it for carrying him and helping him throughout his life.
The Raven admired the statue of St Francis on his horse.
After the fall of the Roman empire, Assisi was besieged and razed several times throughout history. The Rocca Maggiore Fortress, sitting on the top of the hill guarding the town, was built for defending the city around 1174 AD, but the citizens of Assisi did the same thing to the fortress – besieged it and razed it - due to its symbolism of despotic power. In 1367 rebuilding of the fortress began, and it was enhanced throughout the centuries, and it still stands over the city, with its walls and towers extending into the distance.
We stopped at a corner restaurant and sat outside at a table and had, after a panini sandwich, ice cream, which was festively decorated with caramel-dripped cookies and a colorful foil sparkler. Bellisimo!