Located in Umbria in central Italy, Assisi sits 1,391 feet above sea level on the slopes of Monte Subasio. The town was the birthplace of St. Francis, patron saint of animals and the environment, and has since become an important location for Christian pilgrimages. Aside from its religious significance, Assisi is also one of the most well preserved medieval towns in Italy. This beautiful town has so much to offer any type of visitor, however here are the ten must-see locations in Assisi.
Basilica of St. Francis
You can’t go to Assisi and not visit the Basilica of St. Francis. Even if you’re not Catholic, this site is worth the trip. The 13th-century structure houses the remains of St. Francis in the church’s lower sanctuary, the Cripta di San Francesco. The upper sanctuary showcases original Medieval frescos by Giotto depicting scenes from St. Francis’ life.
Basilica di Santa Chiara
St. Francis is not the only saint who called Assisi home. St. Clare, the founder of the Order of Poor Ladies, also spent her life here. Inspired by the teachings of St. Francis, Clare denounced her family’s riches and entered a Benedictine convent and lived a life of poverty. The Basilica was completed a few years after Clare’s death and has become her permanent resting place.
Piazza Del Comune
The heart of Assisi, Piazza Del Comune is where you will find all the best restaurants and shops. Parts of the Piazza date back to 140 A.D. when it was part of the Roman Forum, of which some ruins are still visible. You will also find the ancient Temple of Minerva, now the church of Santa Maria Sopra Minerva, near the square.
Found underneath the Piazza del Comune, the Roman Forum is a recent discovery in Assisi. Visitors can see ancient fountains, statues, the magistrates seats, and a cistern. There are also sarcophagi and other artifacts.
The Rocca Maggiore
This 14th-century castle sits atop a hill above Assisi. The castle was built by Cardinal Albornoz to intimidate the townspeople at the time. The Rocca Maggiore is also where the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick I spent his childhood. Now, this once imposing fortress is where you should go to get some of the best views of the surrounding area.
San Damiano Church
Located about a mile outside the city walls, San Damiano Church was the first place St. Francis heard the voice of God. It was also where he composed his Canticle of the Creatures, parsing the earth and its animals.
Santa Maria degli Angeli
The church of Santa Maria degli Angeli was built around the Chapel of the Transit, where St. Francis died at the age of 44. Inside, visitors can see the Thornless Rose Garden. It was said that when St Francis felt the temptation to sin, he tried rolling amongst the rose bushes to remind him of Jesus’ sacrifice. However, when he started all the thorns disappeared.
The Cathedral of San Rufino
Home to the remains of St. Rufinus of Assisi, this 12th-century cathedral was the site of St. Francis’ and St. Clare’s baptisms. The original baptismal font is still there for viewing as well as St. Rufinus’ Bishop’s chair.
Le Carceri and Monte Subasio
Found outside Assisi in a small forest, Le Carceri was the hermitage where St. Francis spent time in prayer. Originally Le Carceri were just caves, but a monastery was built to honor the significant role the area played in St. Francis’ life. Afterward, you can climb Monte Subasio for panoramic views.
Santuario di Rivotorto
The site of the first Franciscan community, this sanctuary was built around the original stone structures that used to house the friars. They also have the table that St. Clare used and other religious items from the time. The church is still active, so you will need to be mindful of the limited viewing hours.