Tuesday, 30 March 2010
Breaking news: we have climbed to the top of the biggest christmas tree in the world... but more on that story later.
So far, the freezing north has been quite pleasant, and sunny! bodes well for fantastic coastlines and lakes breaks but shhh, let's not jinx it.
Assisi is obviously renowned for St Francis, its most (and only!) famous son. Born the son of a wealthy Perugian cloth merchant and his french wife, he was originally named Giovanni but at some point his name was changed to Francesco to honour his french antecendents. He was apparently a bit of a lad, and misspent a lot of his youth in drinking and other foolish things before a spell in jail led to some time contemplating in a cave and, after a couple of visions from God, the decision to cast off material things and devote his life in service of God and tending the sick, to the point where he took a lot of his father's cloth and sold it to give the money to the poor - which his father was not very happy about, I mean it is one thing to cast of your own belongings, quite another to cast off someone else's! - and when he was challenged, even went so far as to cast the clothes he was wearing off, in the middle of the Assisi town square to prove he was serious. And so he carried on, and other blokes joined him, and then a girl from the village called Clare, who subsequently founded a female wing called the Poor Clares (and who is, incidentally and rather bizarrely, the patron saint of television).
The lower church is low and vaulted and even more fresco'd, including a Last Judgement, looking remarkably like one we have seen elsewhere...
The audio-guide, which we got for the frescos of his life mainly, was a bit perfunctory ("Fresco 15 Francis preaches to the birds and they listen to him. Fresco 16...") but did spend a long time telling us how we might like to visit the gift shop where we were sure to find something to please everyone or could just send a message of peace and goodwill to someone and feel, just a little, like St Francis while we did it. There were also lots of monks wandering around, thin, beardy, brown-robed ones in serious contemplation and significantly fatter and jollier, black robed ones doing tours - it seems that some are more dedicated to the abstemonious life than others...
Onwards once more then and to Gubbio, another mediaeval Umbrian town, amd one for which we have a restaurant recomendation from an ex-colleague of Will's, another one for the very first suggestions which came in when our trip was announced. What with the Vatican and a long drive it has been an expensive week but when an Italian recommends a restaurant in Italy and says it is where he and his family go for a once in a lifetime meal, you just have to check it out.
It seems, from the stained glass windows and what we could make out of the inscriptions, that he was a local man, he did some good stuff then he died, then he did some more good stuff - it seems to be the way here. Still, keeping him hanging about is a bit much.
So, Typical streets in sunshine: tick. Full blown italian meal: tick. Hill hike: tick. Saints: tick, tick!
Onwards and upwards once more.
With love for now from Becky, Will and Jules on Tuesday, March 30, 2010