We left the Eternal City early yesterday morning to catch the train to Assisi. Whenever we talked to anyone who had been to Rome one of the very first things they would always say is, "You have to go to Assisi." So we did. We booked a place a few months ago for one night there. The getting there and back was more than a little stressful what with packing and maneuvering four children through one of the most congested train stations ever, any one of whom could be capable of wandering away or getting separated at any moment. But we survived and everyone was right. We had to go to Assisi.
The kids loved being on the train.
Our first stop was just outside the village right near the station to the Basilica Santa Maria degli Angeli where an entire enormous church was built around the actual Portiuncula chapel built by St. Francis. They also have the room where he died. It was pretty incredible. And much to my sadness, you cannot take pictures in most of the churches of Assisi. I love that and hate that at the same time. I already can't remember most of what we experienced here because I don't have the photo memories. But it's awesome that they try to respect the sacredness of the space. I did get to go to Confession here, though! How awesome is that? I love that at most of these pilgrim destinations they have Confessions available several hours a day. (And yes, I know I just went a few days ago. Let's just say traveling with four children doesn't always bring out the best in me...)
But here's the outside?
Not as impressive but the best I can do.
You can see a little bit more at their website if you're interested.
And the boys enjoyed running around outside of it.
In a separate part of the church leading outside I could take a few...
Those are real doves that nest in the basket! How cool is that?
We were pretty disappointed that we missed the Mass that they had that day. We had a picnic lunch outside and then took the bus up to the village to check into our apartment. We finally figured out where we were. We knew that we were sort of close to our street so we asked a gentleman who was standing near the bus stop where to find the address. And it was the owner of the apartment! It was so weird. He didn't speak English so we couldn't tell if he had been waiting for us or something and if that's even normal (we never even gave them a time that we were going to arrive!) but he led us to the apartment and his daughter greeted us. It was all so strange but the apartment was immaculate and a thousand times nicer than the place we have in Rome. We dropped off all our stuff and headed out to explore a bit.
Outside the apartment
Unfortunately, the weather was lousy. It was drizzly so the pictures are pretty dark. Sorry about that!
But Assisi is exactly what I picture when I think of Italy in my romanticized way. Brian and I mentioned either moving here or at least coming back more than a dozen or so times.
We ended up taking part of the afternoon to go to San Rufino which is the original church of Assisi where both St. Francis and St. Clare were baptized.
You can take pictures in this one :) It looks simpler here but in the alcoves and sides there are beautiful paintings and frescoes everywhere.
The font where they were Baptized. I thought the picture above of the baby being baptized was really neat. Not sure if that's supposed to be Francis or Clare or just anyone but I really liked it.
There is such a huge devotion to JPII everywhere we've been in Italy. It's so awesome. This was just in a random part of the main church.
There was an art display in the annex of the church with the most beautiful paintings of JPII done by one artist. They made me cry. Sometimes I forget how much I miss him.
There's also an underground crypt you can visit but you had to pay and we opted not to go. The natives were getting restless.
We discovered the main square and by this time we were getting pretty spent and everyone was overtired.
So after a grueling time figuring out what to do for dinner (I really find that process extremely difficult when you have kids and especially cost to figure into it.) we settled on the most lackluster of dinners at a local joint. Not the way we pictured dining in Assisi but the best we could do at the moment.
We just needed to get them in bed. So we went back to the apartment and did just that.
And then Brian and I rallied enough for a quick walk around the block by ourselves (after we knew the kids were asleep and weren't going to wake up. Don't tell. I don't think there's a safer place you could do that than Assisi and the blocks are very very small.) We needed that ten minutes to decompress and breathe and attempt to soak in the Assisi peace and plan for the next day...