Part 2, A Tale of Two Umbrian Towns

September 12, 2017

The Green Heart of Italy, the province of Umbria, deserves so much attention. The beautiful people and hilltop towns inspire most visitors to relax and breathe in the tranquility. Orvieto stole a piece of my heart. Assisi awakened my soul.

In 2006, I met my Australian Friend, Susan Hand, in Rome. After enjoying a few days in and around the Eternal City, we caught a train to Assisi. Neither of us had visited there before.

Upon arrival at the station, we transferred to a bus to take us to the hilltop home of St. Francis of Assisi. The ride captured the splendor of our Medieval destination.

We entered through an archway, leaving behind the giant bus, and walking into a piece of the past.

The cobblestone and architecture was a definite attraction. Yet, I felt something more, something spiritual about Assisi. I was raised Roman Catholic but am not terribly religious. Even with the tourist shops and travelers along the pathways, I felt it as though we were on holy ground.

There is more to Assisi than meets the eye.

After settling into our hotel, Susan and I walked along many streets before darkness set in. We met adorable children playing football (soccer for Americans).

These two played with a Minnie Mouse ball and English words on their clothing but did not speak a word of English.

We found a wonderful shop where we met a woman named Lucia who conversed with us in our poor Italian.

Above are Susan and the lovely Lucia. We each purchased local creations. We also discovered a flyer at the door.

Could this be a Ricci cousin of mine running for Sindaco (Mayor) of Assisi? Lucia informed us that we had arrived just in time for the vote. Perhaps my long, lost cousin would win. That added a bit of whimsy to my visit.

The next morning, after cappuccino e un cornetto we visited to The Basilica of San Francesco. As we and other visitors walked, it felt almost like a procession to me. Again, this spiritual feeling was present for both Susan and me. I have felt that reverence while in many churches. In this town, I felt it almost everywhere. Maybe it was St. Francis and his prayer for peace that inspired me.

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace,Where there is hatred, let me sow love;where there is injury, pardon;where there is doubt, faith;where there is despair, hope;where there is darkness, light;where there is sadness, joy;

O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;to be understood as to understand;to be loved as to love.

For it is in giving that we receive;it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

When we arrived at the Basilica I snapped this photo. PAX is Peace in Latin. I felt that peace all around us.

As we approached this magnificent medieval façade, that sense of peace expanded. The breathtaking view beyond this holy place added to the mystery. I loved the arched double doors into the main floor of the church.

Inside the frescoes attributed to the artists Giotto and Cimabue had been fully restored after the earthquake a few years earlier.


The glorious color of the artwork on these walls and ceilings, the archways and arched windows added to that spiritual feeling.

Yet I was drawn to the lower level. After a short (for me) amount of time studying the art and the stories it shared, I sought out the floor below.


Upon entering the lower level, I immediately sat in a pew and knelt. Again, not a practicing Catholic but here I felt compelled to pray, to contemplate and to meditate. My mother had passed a few years before this visit. I decided to buy masses to be said HERE for her and for my father who missed his wife so much. I prayed for all those I love who had passed on. I prayed for peace in our world and in my soul. Here, in this very sacred environment, I let go of some of the burdens I have carried for years.

Outside on the grounds of the Basilica, we could see the panorama of green hills and valleys below. Again, this augmented the mystical atmosphere.

We also enjoyed the modern, religious artwork displayed along the covered porticos.

Susan and I spent the early evening in the piazza near our hotel, enjoying an apperitivo in front of what had once been a Roman Temple of Minerva and was now another church and museum.

The juxtaposition of this ancient Roman façade with columns and the attached medieval construction added even more atmosphere.

That night, after a peaceful, lovely dinner, we both decided to go to our separate rooms for an early night. We were awakened by honking horns, cheers and frivolity. People were outside celebrating something but what was it? I got dressed and went outside to see. The celebration was for the new mayor, my long lost relative Sindaco Ricci. The next morning’s paper showed the results.

We are probably not related. Yet it endeared me to this city.

Assisi has so much more to offer, so much more I did not see. I will return and explore it all soon. There is just something about this place and the sacred feeling, the mystical feeling that draws me back. My friend Nancy Bradley visited there a short time ago. She met a lovely lady named Lucia and shared their photo on Facebook. Again, a mysterious event of Serendipity perhaps? Here I am with Lucia in 2006.

And here is Nancy Bradley with her in 2017.

Perhaps Assisi and all that blessed atmosphere is the actual fountain of youth. Thank you, Nancy, for sharing this photo and your experience meeting our friend Lucia. It reminded me of how much I had enjoyed this sacred place and its lovely people. I hope to see Assisi and Lucia again.

Who wants to join me?

Ciao for now!

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