Monday, October 26, 2015

Italy Day 3 - Assisi - The Miracle of the Inside-Out Umbrellas And the Corkscrew of Eternal Delights

 I need to start this entry with a quick picture that should have been included in Day 2. In Rome, we saw this guy:

The Double-Fisted Selfie-Master. He is a professional. Do not try this level of Selfitude without training and proper safety equipment.

Rome was a big, fast whirlwind, but little did we know, the small, quiet town of Assisi would prove an even bigger whirlwind. (That's foreshadowing for those of you who are reading this for an English class assignment.)

We rose bright and early, aching slightly from the 854,234 miles (that's 673, 645, 223, 897,378, 224.7 km for those of you who are reading this for a math class assignment) we had walked yesterday.
We ate hotel breakfast, which we will never speak of again, and boarded the bus for a ride to Assisi, home of the famous St. Francis.
Looks like everyone had a rough day in Rome yesterday.
Alex did not have a rough day in Rome. This is just his default mode - Sleeping.
The soundtrack for our drive through the Tuscan countryside was provided by the sizzle of rain on the bus windows, punctuated occasionally by gentle snores and sharp staccato snorks from the sleeping masses surrounding us. It was relaxing and soothing.

Assisi is an ancient town situated on a hill in the middle of some stunning countryside. The first thing we noticed about Assisi was how beautiful it was.
We approve of the town.
The second thing we noticed about Assisi was how windy it was. (See? I told you that was foreshadowing earlier!)
Many, many tourists had the same religious experience while visiting Assisi today: Their umbrellas, in a fit of religious fervor, turned themselves inside out in an effort to reach heaven-ward.  Our walk to the hotel was like a shrine of umbrella carcasses, all sacrificed to Zephyr, the god of the really, really gusty winds.

This poor lady had the one tourist umbrella in all of Assisi that simply refused to be turned inside out in a religious upheaval. She wandered away, muttering darkly to herself about her no-good, heathen umbrella.

It was a gorgeous town to walk around in. It appeared that for every foot you walked, you also gained or lost a foot of elevation. It was very, very hilly.

Assisi is probably Italian for "steep".
But the people who live here adjust as necessary.
Some store owners use the hilliness to a brilliant advantage. "Buy now because you are lazy."
On a non-hill related note, this particular store proudly sold items that were made in Italy. None of those knock-off Chinese obscene corkscrews here!
There was even an Emergency Pope and Assorted Saints Kit™ mounted along one street. "In case of sin, break glass." It was probably there specifically because of the corkscrew next door.
 Our hotel had gorgeous views of the Tuscan countryside on one side:

Alex was very impressed.

And, on the other side, the view from out our hotel window was charming:

The charming window itself.

The charming view straight across the street.

The charming view down the street.

The charming view up the street.

The charming view of the municipal trash bins, directly below our window. These really weren't a problem until 10:30 or 11:00 at night when the restaurants all dumped their empty wine bottles for the night. And then at about 2:00 a.m. when the truck came to pick them up and empty them.

After a few moments to collect ourselves at the hotel, we were off again, this time for a quick walk to the Basilica of St. Francis with our local guide, Giuseppe.

Giuseppe. He was good people. Notice that his umbrella, being a non-tourist umbrella, was immune to the Miracle of Assisi.

The courtyard of the beautiful Basilica of St. Francis.
Alex is, once again, awe-struck.

We had a wonderful tour of the Basilica with Giuseppe. Pictures were not allowed, but trust me; it was real nice.We were even treated to another loudspeaker system with a booming voice reminding us, "Silenzio. SHHHHHHHHHHH!!! Silence!"

I wondered if they had bought a CD of the voice from The Vatican, but it seems that it was a local shusher in this church.

I was slightly disappointed to find that the reliquary was closed today because that means that I will have to fly all the way back to Italy if I want to see St. Francis's bloody socks. And I do.

I did risk eternal damnation to sneak this one picture of The Pope Chair. It is a throne in the church exclusively for use by The Pope, should he ever show up. Nobody except the Pope - not even the Official Shusher™ is allowed to sit in it. They get very upset if you try. Don't ask me how I know that.
After the tour of the Basilica, we were set free to roam about the gorgeous town of Assisi in search of pizza.

It was harder that you might think. Or easier. Honestly, I have no way of gauging how difficult you might think it is to find pizza in Assisi. I assume you really haven't given the matter much thought at all until just now. So let me say, it wasn't easy.

Many restaurants in Italy close after lunch and only reopen in the evening to serve dinner. We had to search high and low - because everything in Assisi is either high or low -  before finally finding a place that was actually open.

Once we finally located an open restaurant, we ate pizza there and were sad that we had found the place. It was home to the only crappy pizza in the entire country.

We spent the rest of the afternoon wishing we hadn't eaten the Pizza of Eternal Sadness and Regret while wandering around this incredibly beautiful town.

We heard that there used to be a doorway here somewhere, but we were completely unable to locate it no matter how carefully we looked. Where could it be?
The building on the right is leaning over to tell secrets to the building on the left.

We went on a search for an ancient Roman amphitheater. Nope. Not here.

Here it is! See it?

This is actually an ancient Roman amphitheater that now serves as a sort of community back yard for this neighborhood. I tried to organize a gladiator battle, but my family, once again, was unwilling to participate with me. The locals didn't seem too keen on the idea either.

Alex was totally into it, though.

This fun secret door leads to a private yard. A yard where people don't want to be disturbed. Don't ask me how I know that.

The metal braces are used to keep walls from bowing out. They're essentially giant turnbuckles that go all the way through the buildings. Climbing up them is frowned upon. Don't ask me how I know that, either.

This was a giant and terrifying looking press of some sort in someone's driveway. Nothing says, "Welcome!" like a medieval torture device next to the door. Or, possibly, it is a medieval grape press. I'm not sure.

Cars and pedestrians do not coexist peacefully. We frequently had to squeeze into doorways of shops so a single car could pass.

Parking is plentiful when you can park wherever there is pavement.

Some cool metalwork.
Assisi seamlessly blends the ancient and the modern. Temple of Minerva meet Temple of America.
In my continuing effort to immerse myself in local customs, I was consumed with a burning passion to find out what this sign could possibly mean. I banged on the door over and over, louder and louder, but I never did find out. The people inside didn't seem especially friendly for some reason.

The old fort, if the rest of the town isn't old enough for you.

Olive trees abound in the area. Alex, with NO PROMPTING FROM ME, tried one, only to discover that raw olives are not a  delicacy. Nope. Not at all.

These people installed an outdoor shower for some reason. I waited around for several hours, but never was given the chance to immerse myself in local culture by watching an authentic showering ritual.

This is the church of The Poor Claires, an order of Franciscan nuns and, I might add, a great name for an all-girl punk band.

A brilliant piece of public art, installed on a wall for all to enjoy. I assume that St. Francis himself painted this. It was either him or Michelangelo.

I loved these doors.

And this odd overhang.

I was intrigued by this beguiling tunnel. What could be down there?

I had to find out.

Ahhhh. I see. It's the section of Assisi known as "Little Texas". No wonder they make this dude park at the end of a dark tunnel.

We walked around all afternoon and had a great time. Even the hotel dinner we were served that evening couldn't completely extinguish our good moods.

After dinner, Alex and I went out for a stroll around the town. We wandered around tiny, deserted streets, up and down elaborate stairways and eventually actually managed to find our way back to the hotel where we went to our rooms and slept very soundly.

Until the trash truck arrived.

1 comment:

Michael Shoulders said...

Marty, Debbie and I own a house (sleeps up to six) 30 minutes from Assisi. Next time you go over, contact me. You get the family rate :)
Michael Shoulders