10 things to do and see in Assisi

A complete and detailed guide about 10 things to do and see in Assisi during your holiday or a weekend

10 things to do and see in Assisi
10 things to do and see in Assisi

Assisi is a beautiful thing, country, city and sanctuary”, wrote Giosuè Carducci (Italian poet). Country, because it has all the characteristics of an Umbrian village: on the top of a hill overlooking the valley. City because Assisi played a key role in world history: from here St. Francesco moved to change (or at least try) the church. Sanctuary, because there are many small and big churches, sacred places and crypt consecrated to  St. Francesco and St. Clara.  

Besides religious places, where you can admire some masterpieces by Giotto and Simone Martini, Assisi has a beautiful Rocca, a rich Art gallery, an extraordinary Temple of Minerva and the spectacular Piazza del Comune. You’ll find also  a great tradition of hospitality and gastronomy with excellent products. We think that these are good reason to visit this town and we suggest you 10 things to do and see in Assisi.

If you are looking for a hotel in Assisi, we suggest you to choose among those offered by Booking.com. There are about 180 hotels with prices, pictures  and comments of guests already stayed there. Go to Booking.com

The Cathedral of San Francesco in Assisi

1

On July 16, 1228 Gregory IX declared the friar Francesco a Saint  and the next day began the construction of the Cathedral of St Francesco. In 1230 the basilica was ready.

The Cathedral of San Francesco in Assisi
The Cathedral of San Francesco in Assisi

It looks like a unique stronghold but is actually composed of two churches: the lower Basilica, the upper one and a crypt with the tomb of the Saint. In the two churches it was written the history of Italian art: Cimabue, Giotto, the Lorenzetti brothers and Simone Martini worked there.  Among the many works : the complete cycle of the Stories of St. Martin painted by Simone Martini; the Chapel of Mary Magdalene by Giotto; in the transept there is a fresco by Cimabue and eight Childhood Stories of Christ painted by Giotto. In the upper church, there are the famous frescoes by Giotto illustrating, in 28 paintings, St. Francesco’s life. In the lower church there is the crypt with the remains of St. Francesco. Simple, dug into the wall and circular as the Holy Sepulchre, there’s the stone urn. Above the tomb burns a lamp with the oil offered every year by a different Italian region.

Where: old town centre
How to get there:
By feet from the old town centre
By car: find a parking close to Piazza Giovanni Paolo II
When – Hours:
Winter:
UPPER  CHURCH from 8.30 am  to 6.00 pm  (5.45 pm last entrance)
LOWER CHURCH AND TOMB from 6.00 am to 6.00 pm
(The lower church is open until 7.30 pm , except on Wednesdays, only for prayer)
Summer:
UPPER CHURCH from 8:30 am to 7:00 pm (6.45 pm last entrance)
LOWER  CHURCH AND TOMB from 6.00 am to 7.00 pm
(The lower church is open until 8:00 pm , except on Wednesdays, only for prayer)
The Tomb is open on Friday and Saturday from 9 to 10 pm  only for personal prayer
Tickets: Free entrance

The Basilica of Santa Maria degli Angeli in Porziuncola in Assisi

2

4 km from the center of Assisi you can find  the second church in Assisi related to St. Francesco: the Basilica of Santa Maria degli Angeli in Porziuncola was built to protect some emblematic places in the life of the saint.

The Basilica of Santa Maria degli Angeli in Porziuncola in Assisi
The Basilica of Santa Maria degli Angeli in Porziuncola in Assisi

First of all the Porziuncula was the church where St Francesco composed the Canticle of the Creatures, and where he died on October 3, 1226. The church takes its name from “Portiuncula”, which literally means the small portion of land on which it was placed. This church was restored by the Saint who made it the center of the Franciscanism: here he had a vision in which Jesus gives the Indulgence known as “Indulgence of the Portiuncula” or “Forgiveness of Assisi”, then approved by the Pope Honorius III.

In the Basilica there is also the Transit, a stone chamber where it was the infirmary of the monastery, where St. Francesco spent the last days of his life and died on October 3, 1226. There is also a symbolic place full of charm : the rose garden with roses in which St. Francesco is rolling to fight against doubt and temptation. According to the story, the plants in contact with the body of the saint lost some  spines creating the “Rosa Canina Assisiensis”, which even today continues to flourish only to the Portiuncula.

Where: 4 km from the center of Assisi
How to get there: Bus every 30 minutes from the center of Assisi.
€ 1.30 or € 1.50 ticket on board.
When – Hours: From 6.15 am at 12.40 pm  and from 2.30 to 7.30 pm
July 1 to October 4
Night time for personal and silent prayer: 9:00 to 10:30 p.m.
Tickets: free entrance

The Basilica of St Chiara in Assisi

3

St Chiara had a special relation with St Francesco : when she was 18 years old she run away from her rich family to join Francesco at the church of Santa Maria degli Angeli, already  called Porziuncula.

The Basilica of St Chiara in Assisi
The Basilica of St Chiara in Assisi

She was reached by her sisters Agnes and Beatrice and her mother in the church of St Domenico, and founded the Order of Poor Clares. She lived and died there after 42 years. The church of Santa Chiara was built immediately after the death, right next to the ancient church of San Giorgio. The church is Gothic-Umbrian style, with three naves: behind the altar there is the Oratory with the crucifix . Behind a grating there are some important relics of the saint and of San Francesco. From the stairs, you can access to the crypt with the body of the saint. Her mortal remains are kept in a stone sarcophagus

Where: old town centre
How to get there: by feet
When – Hours:
from 6.30 am  to 12.00 pm
from 2.00 to 7.00 pm  (summer time)
from 2.00 to 6.00  pm (winter time)
Monday and Friday the Crypt opens at 9.00 am
Sundays and solemnities
In the morning the Chapel of the Crucifix of San Damiano closes at 11.00 am
Tickets: free entrance

Minerva Temple in Assisi

4

When in 1786 Johann Wolfgang von Goethe came to Assisi for his trip to Italy, he was fascinated by the columns of Minerva Temple, the first intact monument of antiquity he had ever seen The façade is perfectly preserved, with six columns placed directly on the stairs, with Corinthian capital.

Minerva Temple in Assisi
Minerva Temple in Assisi

It is believed that the temple, built in the first century B.C., was dedicated to Hercules although if it was named after the discovery of a statue of a woman. After being used as a prison, house, shops, headquarters of the city council, in the Middle Ages the temple was converted into a church with the name of Santa Maria sopra Minerva. In 1634 it was remodeled with  Baroque style and dedicated to St. Filippo Neri.

Where: At the highest point of Arezzo close to the Cathedral
How to get there: by feet
When – Hours: everyday 8.30 am –1 pm /  3.30  – 7 pm
Tickets: free entrance

Palazzo del Capitano del Popolo, Palazzo dei Priori and Torre del Popolo in Assisi

5

Piazza del Comune is the main square of Assisi and one of the most beautiful in Italy. In this place you can admire Torre del Popolo and Palazzo dei Priori.

Palazzo del Capitano del Popolo, Palazzo dei Priori and Torre del Popolo in Assisi
Palazzo del Capitano del Popolo, Palazzo dei Priori and Torre del Popolo in Assisi

The Tower was built from 1276 to house the family  Capitano del Popolo. In front of the tower you can still see a red stone tomb of the Subasio, with the typical products of medieval Assisi: bricks, tiles. The Municipal Statute of 1469 prescribed the use of these models for anyone engaged in craft and commercial activities. In front of the Fountain of the three lions there is the Palazzo dei Priori, now the Town Hall and the Art Gallery.

Cathedral of St. Rufino

6

The main ecclesiastic place of Assisi is not the Basilica of San Francesco but the Cathedral of San Rufino. Can you believe it?

Cathedral of St. Rufino
Cathedral of St. Rufino

It’s the oldest church of Assisi. It was built in the XII century and it was  dedicated to San Rufino, bishop and martyr of the III century. The Cathedral is an important place of Franciscan worship because it’s believed that there were baptized St. Francesco and St. Clara. In this church, moreover, St. Francesco made his first sermon. The façade is considered the finest example of Gothic-Umbrian style: with three rose windows and three portals. The lunette houses the Christ enthroned between the sun and the moon, on the left  the Madonna and on the right San Rufin.

Vallemani Palace and Municipal Art Gallery of Assisi

7

Vallemani Palace is the most beautiful palace in Assisi : it’s located in the central Piazza del Comune.

Vallemani Palace and Municipal Art Gallery of Assisi
Vallemani Palace and Municipal Art Gallery of Assisi

The main floor is completely painted by Umbrian and Tuscan painters of the XVII century . It houses the Municipal Art Gallery with frescoes of the medieval and Renaissance periods collected from  civic and religious buildings in Assisi and surroundings. The collection was formed immediately after the unification of Italy to avoid the dispersion of the works. The most important pieces of the collection are a Majesty attributed to Giotto and some paintings by Perugino. In the rooms on the first floor there is  “Memory Museum, Assisi 1943-1944”, an exhibition of 300 Jews saved from the Nazi extermination thanks to the hospitality of Assisi.

Where: old town centre
How to get there: by feet
When – Hours:
November to February
10:30 am  to 1:00 pm  / 2:30 to 5:00 pm  every day
March-May October
10:30 am  to 1:00 pm  / 2:30 to 6:00 pm  every day
June August
10:30 am  to 1:00 pm  / 2:30 to 7:00 pm  every day
September and October
10:30 am  to 1:00 pm  / 2:30 to 6:00 pm  every day
Closed December 25 and January 1
Tickets:
Full price: € 3.00
Reduced: Euro 2.00 University students with ID; school children; children from 8 to 17 years old; groups of at least 15 people; 65s.
Cumulative tickets for Art Gallery, Roman Forum, Rocca Maggiore (valid for 7 days.)
Full price Euro 8,00 – Euro 5,00 Reduced

The Rocca Maggiore in Assisi

8

If you have a little more time to spend in Assisi, it’s a good idea to climb up to Rocca Maggiore in Assisi.

The Rocca Maggiore in Assisi
The Rocca Maggiore in Assisi

Since  800 years the bastion overlooks the city of San Francesco and the surrounding countryside. The first construction dates back to 1183, built by Frederick Barbarossa. Destroyed by some insurrections, the fortress was rebuilt by Cardinal Albornoz in 1365 and was part of the network of castles built to defend the Papal States. It was then enlarged by Biordo Michelotti (1395-98), by the Piccinino (1458), by Pius II (1460), by Sixtus IV (1478), by Paul III (1535). Abandoned in 1600, it is nowadays almost intact. Today it offers a suggestive walk among ancient walls and a magnificent view of Assisi and the surrounding area.

Where: Via della Rocca
How to get there: by feet
When – Hours:
From November to February: 10:00 am to 3:45
Closed 25/12
March: 10:00 am  to 5:30 pm
April, May, September, October: 10:00 am to 7:00 pm
June, July, August: 10:00 am to 7:30 pm
Tickets:
Full price: € 5.50
Reduced: Euro 3.50 University students with ID; school children; children from 8 to 17 years old; groups of at least 15 people; 65s.
Cumulative tickets for Art Gallery, Roman Forum, Rocca Maggiore (valid for 7 days.)
Full price Euro 8,00 – Euro 5,00 Reduced
Free entrance Inhabitant of Assisi, children under 8 years; disable people

Things to eat in Assisi

9

We are in Umbria so we can expect a genuine cuisine, with local products served in the traditional way. Usually you start with  a cutting board with Umbricelli, honey, garlic bread with the exceptional local oil (DOP Assisi) and truffles.

Things to eat in Assisi
Things to eat in Assisi

Among the first courses there are  stringozzi and umbrichelli, some kind handmade pasta with pork sauces or game (hare, deer). We are in the area of Farro, therefore especially in winter, it’s the protagonist of the soups. Among the latters the excellent local meat, the pecorino of Assisi. Assisi has a typical dessert, the Rocciata, a kind of strudel made with apples. For wines, you just need to remember that the area of Assisi has 5 DOC: Grechetto, white, pink, new, red.

Where to sleep in Assisi

10

During some period of the year  Assisi is overcrowded by tourists who arrive by bus, take a quick look  at the town and then run away. They do a lot of confusion but they don’t sleep anywhere, so you can find a lot of available rooms in the hotel located in the old town centre and in the agritourism  in the surrounding area.

If you are looking for a hotel in Assisi, we suggest you to choose among those offered by Booking.com. There are about 180 hotels with prices, pictures  and comments of guests already stayed there. Go to Booking.com