The picturesque train station at Assisi

I travel a lot by train in Italy and I love visiting new (to me) and old towns. No station that I have seen comes close to the picturesque nature of the one in Assisi! I adore it!

Even the script used for signage is charming. It speaks to the Medieval background of this precious place.

The plaque above states (roughly): The itineraries of the great Jubilee of 2000 led to Assisi, the center of Christian faith and spirituality. For this occasion the state railways have restored the old dignity of the station which, in the presence of the Honorable Enrico Micheli, Undersecretary to the President of the Council, handed over to the citizens of Assisi and to the visitors of the Franciscan places.

Interior of station.
Detail of fresco painting in station.
Looking at the ceiling of the exterior roof of the station.
A detail.

I am always highly entertained when I see priests and nuns on the streets of Italy. They are not as common as you would think. Here a group of nuns is waiting for a bus. They travel just like the rest of us!

This last set of pictures is not of the station, but was spotted on an old street in Assisi.

The church of Santa Maria sopra Minerva, Assisi

One of the most amazing Roman Empire remains is in the heart of Assisi. The former temple to Minerva was subsumed by Christianity and made into a church dedicated to St. Mary.

Wikipedia tells us: The Temple of Minerva is an ancient Roman building in Assisi, currently housing a church, Santa Maria sopra Minerva, built in 1539 and renovated in Baroque style in the 17th century.

The temple was built in the 1st century BC by will of Gnaeus Caesius and Titus Caesius Priscus, who were two of the city’s quattuorviri and also financed the construction. The attribution to the goddess Minerva derives from the finding of a female statue, although a dedication stone to Hercules has been found, and the temple was likely dedicated to this male demi-god.

In the Middle Ages the temple housed a tribunal with an annexed jail, as testified by one of Giotto’s frescoes in the St. Francis Basilica, which portrays the church windows with bars.

Of the ancient temple, the façade has been preserved, with six Corinthian columns supporting the architrave and a small pediment. The columns were originally covered by a very strong plaster, which was perhaps colored. The cella was completely demolished during the church’s construction, in the 16th century, while a small section of the temple was found in the 20th century near the altar.

The temple was visited and described by the German poet Goethe during his travels in Italy, as the first ancient structure in good condition seen during his life (1786).

When I took these pictures in December of 2021, the temple front was included as part of a nativity scene on the facing Piazza del Commune, complete with 2 Roman soldiers arranged on the facade.

Once inside the building, however, you know you are in Baroque Italy again!

Assisi this winter

Just before New Year’s I had a chance to slip away to Assisi. I’m so glad I did! Here are various scenes of this charming hilltop town in Umbria:

Colorful meringues were for sale in this lovely old gelateria/pasticceria. It may be an Assisi speciality, for I don’t see these in other towns in Italy at Christmas.

As in so many Italian towns, the recently deceased are celebrated on a sign board. I find these so touching.

Below, Piazza del Commune in the center of the little town.

I have a long history at this lovely little hotel. Can’t wait to stay there again!

My favorite bar in Assisi. Near the home of my oldest and dearest Italian friend.
A friend and I are always entertained when we see the “perfume” of the various Italian cities. This one really bends the mind. “Piaggia S. Francesco” means “St. Francis beach.” Assisi is as landlocked as they come, so I can’t imagine what they are suggesting!

St. Francis of Assisi; the lower church frescoes

The Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi is the mother church of the Roman Catholic Order of Friars Minor Conventual in Assisi, a town in the Umbria region in central Italy, where Saint Francis was born and died. It is a Papal minor basilica and one of the most important places of Christian pilgrimage in Italy. With its accompanying friary, Sacro Convento, the basilica is a distinctive landmark to those approaching Assisi. It has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2000.

The basilica, which was begun in 1228, is built into the side of a hill and comprises two churches (known as the Upper Church and the Lower Church) and a crypt, where the remains of Saint Francis are interred. The Upper and Lower Churches are decorated with frescoes by numerous late medieval painters from the Roman and Tuscan schools, and include works by Cimabue, Giotto, Simone Martini, Pietro Lorenzetti and possibly Pietro Cavallini. The range and quality of the works give the basilica a unique importance in demonstrating the outstanding development of Italian art of this period, especially if compared with the rest of Christian Europe.

The Franciscan friary (Sacro Convento) and the Lower and Upper Basilicas (Italian: Basilica inferiore e superiore) of Francis of Assisi were begun in honor of this local saint, immediately after his canonization in 1228. Simone di Pucciarello donated the land for the church, a hill at the west side of Assisi, known as “Hill of Hell” (Italian: Colle d’Inferno) where previously criminals were put to death. Today, this hill is called “Hill of Paradise”.

On 16 July 1228, Francis was canonized by Pope Gregory IX in Assisi, and he laid the foundation stone of the new church the following day, although construction may already have been begun. The construction having been begun at his order, the Pope declared the church to be the property of the papacy.

The church was designed by Maestro Jacopo Tedesco, who was in those days the most famous architect. The Lower Basilica was finished in 1230. On Pentecost 25 May 1230, the remains of Saint Francis were brought in a solemn procession to the Lower Basilica from its temporary burial place in the church of San Giorgio (St. George), now the Basilica of Saint Clare of Assisi. The burial place was concealed for fear that St Francis’ remains might be stolen and dispersed. The construction of the Upper Basilica was begun after 1239 and was completed in 1253. Both churches were consecrated by Pope Innocent IV in 1253.

Pope Nicholas IV, a former Minister-General of the Order of Franciscans, raised the church to the status of Papal Church in 1288. The Piazza del Loge, the square leading to the church, is surrounded by colonnades constructed in 1474. They housed the numerous pilgrims flocking to this church.

In 1818, the remains of Saint Francis were rediscovered beneath the floor of the Lower Basilica. In the reign of Pope Pius VII the crypt was built so that the faithful might visit the burial place of the saint.
On 27 October 1986 and January 2002, Pope John Paul II gathered in Assisi with more than 120 representatives of different religions and Christian denominations for a World Day of Prayer for Peace.

For more information on the frescoes, please see

The Lower Church of St. Francis in Assisi: the chapel of St. Nicholas and the Franciscan relics

Just before New Year’s, I stole away to Assisi for a day from Florence. I have a long history in this lovely hilltop hamlet, and I never tire of revisiting it. I enjoyed strolling through the center, and the highlight of any visit is to see the amazing frescoes of the church of Saint Francis. I’ll be posting about the paintings in the next few days, but I want to start my posts on the church with these elements below. Enjoy! They are astounding relics from 800 years ago.

I have a particular fondness for the saint, Nicolas. The frescoes in this chapel are dedicated to the story of his life.