Monday, October 29, 2012

Umbria & Tuscany

We left Rome this morning. There was so much there to see and do and we had a great time but today we head for Tuscany by driving through Umbria. I am looking forward to our time in this area – it will be our first visit here. The last time we visited Italy we only drove through Tuscany, we didn’t make any stops. This time we get to spend four days in the area and it all started this morning.
Umbria View
We were up at 6:00am and we had our bags out in the hall at 7:00am. We then went down to breakfast for eggs, bacon, croissants, orange juice and coffee. We boarded the bus around 8:00am and headed out. The route we were taking to Tuscany brought us through Umbria and after about a two and a half hour drive we arrived in SantaMaria degli Angeli (which is right outside of Assisi) to visit the Basilica. It was here that the young Francis of Assisi understood his vocation and renounced the world in order to live in poverty among the poor and thus started the Franciscan movement.
The Porziuncola
The Basilica was built over the Porziuncola (The chiesetta (little church) of Porziuncola (Italian for "Little portion") is the most sacred place for Franciscans. Francis was given this little church, dating from the 9th century, by the  Benedictine monks.) and when you enter the Basilica you can see the little church in the middle of the aisle leading to the altar. It was so incredible. We walked around the Basilica and took in all the wonderful art work and history. There is a rose garden out back that is the last remaining part of the woods where Francis and his followers lived. You take a hallway out to see the garden. In this hallway is a statue of St. Francis. He is holding a real wicker basket. There was a dove nesting in the basket as we went by. Legend has it that doves have been nesting in that basket for a very long time. After our visit to the Basilica we returned to the bus for our short ride to Assisi. As we climbed the hill to Assisi we were able to view the Basilica of St. Francis ahead of us. We got to the bus park at the higher end of town (Assisi is built on a hill) and parked. From here we took escalators up to the town entrance and walked a short way to the Basilica of St. Clare. Here we were given free time to enjoy the town – and we had a good part of the day – we were meeting the bus around 3:15pm. So Thomas and I started walking down hill through town. We stopped at different places along the way – shops, pastry stores, churches. We had kind of planned to stop in at the visitors center and get some information to walk up to the castle in town.
A staired alleyway in Assisi
But somehow we missed it. Partly because it was raining lightly and partly because we weren’t really paying attention. The town is beautiful, built on the side of a hill with winding streets with buildings right at the road forming a canyon like atmosphere. Anyway before we knew it we were at the Basilica of St.Francis – the end of town. It was still early so we decided to grab and bite to eat and get out of the rain. We ate a ham and cheese croissant and a cheese pizza at the Ristorante San Francesco. When we finished eating we decided to walk back to the city center and look around again. As we walked the rain got less and less. We arrived at the center of town and looked for a shop called Gran Café to get some baci and other goodies. We met up with Judy and Cherie who were just wandering around. The four of us then headed back down to the Basilica. The upper Basilica (oh, I forgot to tell you that there are two Basilicas for St. Francis) has some beautiful frescoes and was very peaceful and simple. Then we went into the lower Basilica and in here there was more elaborate artwork and was more heavily decorated. I enjoyed the upper Basilica much more than the lower one. Now it was time to meet the group and head to the bus for our ride to our new hotel near Radda in Chianti.

The drive took a little over two hours and we learned some history of the area. Christopher told us the story of the Battle of LakeTrasimeno as we drove around the Lago Trasimeno. Once we crossed into Tuscany we drove near to Cortona (which we could see in the near distance) – this is the place where the story Under the Tuscan Sun takes place. Christopher decided to give us some time to relax and not have to listen to him talk. So we ended up watching a part of Under the Tuscan Sun for the rest of the drive to the hotel. We arrived at the hotel in the dark so we couldn’t see the wonderful Tuscan landscape that surrounded us.

We checked into the My One Hotel and had a little time to get settled into our rooms and freshen up for dinner. Tonight dinner was at the hotel and we didn’t have a choice of food – it was already decided. The menu was as follows . . . vegetable lasagna, pork loin and a dark chocolate brownie for dessert.  It had been a long day and after the very delicious meal the hotel provided it was time to get some rest. Back in the room we settled in for the night. I can’t wait to see more of Tuscany.


Anonymous said...

Really nice to meet you Mark. I hope the rest of your adventures in Italy are enjoyable. I look forward to finding your boxes ..and I am waiting for your trip to Neapolis ;)

Anonymous said...

Really nice to meet you folks in Rome! I hope you enjoy the rest of your travels in Italy and I look forward to caretaking your boxes :)