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Assisi, the Birthplace of St. Francis

It was a five-hour drive from Positano to Assisi, except for our stop at the Royal Palace of Caserta. The town of Assisi is on a hill. We stopped a couple of times before driving up to take photos from the Umbrian valley. The city is the birthplace of St. Francis (1181–1226), one of Italy’s patron saints.

We stayed at the Giotto Hotel & Spa, located in the center of town. It’s a short walk to most of the monuments of the city. The hotel has a parking, so you can just drop your car and relax for a couple of days. Our room had a grand terrace with views on the Umbrian valley.

We had breakfast at the hotel on the terrace. It’s a very nice buffet and the view is beautiful. There are a lot of restaurants around the town’s main square (Piazza del Comune). We had a very good dining experience at La Lanterna, where we tasted Umbrian food and wine.

It took us a few hours, but we visited most of the monuments by foot. The town itself is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We started our climb at the hotel and went up to Rocca Maggiore, a castle which has dominated the citadel of Assisi for more than eight hundred years. It’s the highest point in the city. The view is worth the walk, but we found out that you can also access it by car.

After visiting the castle, we walked down to the Basilica of St Francis. It is divided into two large churches on two different levels, the Lower Basilica and the Upper Basilica. The Lower Church is home to one of Italy's most famous works of art, a cycle of 28 frescoes depicting the life of St Francis. The paintings are generally attributed to Giotto, an Italian painter and architect born in Florence. He gave his name to our hotel.

The rest of the day was spent visiting the Temple of Minerva, the Basilic di Santa Chiara, and the Cathedral of San Rufino.

The next day, on our way to Florence, we first stopped a few miles downhill in the plain and visited the Basilica of Saint Mary of the Angels. It was where the young Francis of Assisi understood his vocation and renounced the world in order to live in poverty among the poor.

Our last stop in Umbria was Perugia, the capital city of the region. Perugia was one of the main Etruscan cities. It is also known for its university and for its chocolate, mostly because of a single brand, Perugina, whose Baci ("kisses" in English) are exported worldwide. The center of the city is reserved for pedestrians, so you have to find a parking and then take escalators to get to the main square. The main sites of interest are the Piazza IV November, the National Gallery and the Palazzo dei Priori.

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