Tuesday, May 26, 2009


SATURDAY, MAY 16, 2009 – 128/17 – CANTALENA, ITALY

After another good night’s sleep, we get, for us, an early start. The day is sunny and cool here on the mountain. We have breakfast and Carolyn fixes a small lunch to take with us. Our plan is to visit Assisi.

Using the GPS, with Assisi as our goal, we drive south through many small villages until we pick up the N71 and then the N75 through Perugia and on to Assisi. All of us have heard of Italy’s hilltop towns. For the uninitiated, that means they are built on top of a hill and spill down the sides. The result is streets that are never level. One is either walking upor down hill at all times.Many of the hilltop towns still have their walls intact.

Assisi has so many visitors that the town has built an underground parking garage that is as nice as any we have seen. We enter and park for the better part of four hours for less than €5.

Our goal is to visit the Basilica of Saint Francesco, the burial place of St. Francis of Assisi. Getting there from the parking garage proves to be quite a hike. The parking garage is almost at the top of the hill just below the Basilica of Saint Chiara The Basilica of Saint Francesco is in the lower part of the town. At least we are thinking and buy a book in the little gift shop in the garage with a map of the town. We walk along some interesting narrow streets with stone houses and window boxes full of flowersand find the Piazza del Comune with the Palazzi Comunali or town hall. It is the heart of the town with shops, cafes and lots of people.

After quite a hike mostly down hill we get to the Basilica. It is very impressive. The complex consists of two churches, the upper and lower. The foundation for the older, lower church was laid on July 17, 1228; the day after Pope Gregory IX sanctified Francis. The lower church was completed in 1230 and the body of the Saint entombed there on May 25. Two stairways on either side of the nave descend into the crypt. The Saint’s body lies in a hollow cut out of rock under a stone slab marked off by a wrought iron grating; even for a non-Catholic, it is a vision than induces silence and prayer. The mortal remains of Francis’ most devout companions, Friars Rufino, Angelo, Masseo and Leone, are in niches flanking the tomb.

Leaving the church complex, we head back toward our car and, of course, it is now mostly uphill! It is now after 2:00PM and all the shops and restaurants have closed until 4:30PM or later. A ceramic shop we had intended to revisit is locked and dark. These early shop closing are saving us a tremendous amount of money.

Leaving Assisi, we drive to the small hill town of Beltona where we wander a bit on the lazy Saturday afternoon. We encounter a couple from Vancouver, BC and we compare notes and move on. We had planned to drive further south today but it is getting late so we had back to Camucia for a grocery stop for more bread and eggs, then on up the mountain to our temporary home.

Dinner tonight is spaghetti and it smells wonderful while the sauce is cooking. After dinner, we walk up onto the hill behind the house to watch a beautiful sunset. We can see for miles in all directions!

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