Monday, October 31st
I got up crazy early (long before dawn) to get some shots of an empty Assisi. Also, I was hoping for some sunrise shots or at least shots with sunrise light. I walked up the hill to Porto Nuova, and then turned to walk up another hill toward San Rufino.
I thought I might make it all the way to Rocca Maggiore, but that was not to be. In the dark, even with a map, I couldn’t tell which of the endless side streets would take me all the way to the top. That’s probably a good thing because I didn’t realize at the time how far up the “top” really was.
I skirted the top of the town-proper, below the Rocca Maggiore hill, and came back down at the St. Francis basilica. While I was lining up a shot on the tripod, I heard my named called and turned around to see Val at her window at the convent. She had some convent-related things to do that morning, so we parted ways. The sun was up by this point, so I walked back down to the house to collect the family.
We went to the San Damiano church, which is (surprise) down a big hill from Assisi-proper. It’s a nice little church and monastery where St. Francis (when he was simply known as Francesco) received his vision and word from God to rebuild the Church. The actual cross of San Damiano is not located here, though. There is a replica, and the real one is in the basilica di Santa Chiara back up the hill. Why is the cross of San Damiano kept near the church of San Damiano, but not in the church of San Damiano? I didn’t know how to ask that in Italian.
We went on a nice tour of San Damiano and learned more about St Francis’ experience and life in general at the monastery. However, this is another one of those places we visited that don’t allow photography of any kind inside. Tommy was making a bit of a nuisance of himself, so I sped through the stops and waited outside for Heidi and Gabbie to catch up. We hadn’t yet reconnected with Valerie (back at the convent on the other side of Assisi), so she missed this one.
Leaving San Damiano, we had to walk up a longer and even more strenuous hill to get all the way back to . . . the Porta Nuova. Gabbie and I actually had to take turns pushing Tommy in his stroller because it was such a steep and long incline. As was always the case, Heidi was carrying Claire.
This was most appropriate because we stopped at the basilica di Santa Chiara (St. Clare). Our baby Claire was born on the feast day of St. Clare, and we had a heck of a time explaining this to a group of nuns to whom we showed the picture of Claire being blessed by the Pope. We made such a fuss over Claire to these nuns that one of them took the time to give Tommy his own blessing right there in the street. Tommy has joined Gabbie in the “Precious-too” club, but that’s another story.
We reconnected with Val in front of Santa Chiara where there was some youth activity going on. Several dozen exuberant young people were dancing in a circle to, what I assume was, modern Christian pop music; it was all in Italian, so I don’t really know for sure. It was a sight to see all these teens and 20-somethings with ripped jeans (as is currently the style in Italy) basically line dancing alongside friars in brown robes with no shoes on. Yeah, it was a scene.
After Santa Chiara, we headed up to San Rufino for my second visit there that morning. The family allowed me to walk all the way up to Rocca Maggiore, so I ended up making it there after all. This is the main fortification that defended Assisi back in the day against the rival town of Perugia. St. Francis was even a soldier for Assisi at one point.
At one point we visited the small Chiesa Santo Stefano. What struck me here was the donation box for restorations. The place looked fine to me. Sure it’s old and crumbling a bit, but it’s a historically significant building with fine character. I’m not sure I support the idea of restoring it beyond making sure it’s safe to inhabit.
Tommy never really got it together this day. I guess he needed a little bit of a break. Can you blame him? We’d been dragging him around Italy for a week and a half; there’s only so much a 20-month old can take. So we called it an early day.