Had to keep the side trips in Italy separate. Too much info, too many experiences.
Citta della Pieve
Completely different Italian town. Not a college town like Siena, pure old world Italy with a completely different dimension & vibe.
You’ll have to look at a map for a very small town. Like all old towns, on the top of a defensible hill surrounded by a large wall. You could walk the perimeter of the old town in 20 minutes. It is the kind of town where EVERYONE knows everyone. They are known for local chocolates, unbelievable food, olive oil and the wines, oh, the wines. It is also know for the narrowest street in Italy. We picked this town to see the street. Completely different feeling.
On the way to Citta della Pieve, we stopped at Assisi. We’ll cover this next. We arrived later in the day on Saturday so our “walk” through the town was late morning Sunday. It was quickly clear that we, as tourists, for the first time on this trip, were in the minority. It seemed like all the locals were walking in the streets or at café’s sipping tea or capucchinos.
While we were walking and enjoying the small town, around 11:30AM, the bells started for about 15 minutes from the main Piazza where the Cathedral was. Then we saw a flatbed truck go by with a plexi-glass box parading a life sized statue of the Virgin Mary through the streets. The parade of the statue was heading for the piazza, where it was removed from the box and carried into the church at the start of the noon mass. When the statue of the Virgin Mary was placed up by the altar, the bells stopped and Mass began. We later found the same process occurs for each of the cathedrals in the town (yes, small town, many cathedrals).
Later, we stopped in the Piazza for tea. The entire time we were sitting there, four kids were playing tag in the middle of the square. Unbelievable. No cell phones in their pockets.
There were so many poignant observations that you just had to see firsthand. I was very cautious not to take a picture of the residents, but as you walked through the backroads around 1PM (after mass), everyone has their windows open and you could hear the families having the “big meal” for the day, dishes clanging & everyone chattering away. Couldn’t understand a word, but you could tell it was a family.
From our observations of this area, the Italians have killed off all the Protestants and pagans. We saw NO churches other than Catholics churches during the entire trip.
As outstanding as this trip has been, this place made our trip – away from the American tourists and really enjoying the true Italian vibe.
Assisi was a surprise. You’ve seen the pictures of the basilica, but I never knew it was encased in a fully functioning city; at the highest point you can see, with fortress walls like all the others.
If you think there are pictures of inside the basilica or even from the tomb of St Francis, you are going to be disappointed. Every 10 minutes or so (or when someone was on the radar of a friar), one of the friars came on the PA system and said “Shhhhhhhhhhhhh. No Photos. No Pictures. Shhhhhhhhhhhhh”.
I’m going to hell. You are on your own to sneak in a picture or two.
For some, it was obvious, being there was a very intense experience. Especially in front of St Francis’s tomb. Intense, but quite wonderful.
Tomb was way underground. We had to descend via a spiral staircase. Above it was the lower basilica as large as any we have seen this trip. But above that was the main basilica. Incredible. The views from the basilica were breath taking. As far as you can see is olive trees and vineyards (you only get one picture).
The place needs an interior paint job. The frescos painted in the 1100’s, have seriously deteriorated.
The last field trip was to Spello in the Umbria Region of Italy.
“The City of Flowers”. It was also the city of the 2015 earthquake which you will see evidence of in some of the pictures. A fortress city/town, built in the 1100 – 1200’s, on a very steep hill. The pictures say it all and was a perfect ending to the trip.
You can tell we have been gone for 2.5 weeks. The explanations are getting shorter and I am saying…”Look at the pictures”.
The trip over all:
I would think hard if you are deciding to go to Tuscany. There is no wine or prosciutto after we left.