Amid the green-velvet hills of Umbria, spilling down the gentle slope of Mt. Subasio, lies one of Italy‘s most beguiling destinations: the ancient town of Assisi. Religious pilgrims have made the trek here for many centuries in honor of St. Francis, whose namesake basilica is Assisi’s crown jewel, but it’s a wonderful place to spend a day with kids regardless of your reason for coming. The town feels strikingly well-preserved, laced with steep, narrow lanes that open to beautiful piazzas dotted with fountains, and there’s virtually no modern construction to mar the warrens of medieval homes and churches.
You can easily tour the major sights of Assisi in one very full day. The Basilica di San Francesco complex, home to an extraordinary collection of medieval frescoes as well as St. Francis’ tomb, is an essential stop, but don’t overlook its smaller neighbors, such as the Basilica di Santa Chiara and the Duomo di San Rufino. St. Francis’ handprint is felt nearly everywhere, from the Chiesa Nuova, built on the site of his birthplace, to the Eremo delle Carceri, a hermitage just outside Assisi proper that he used as a retreat, and a guided tour helps tremendously in understanding the layers of history and significance.
Other highlights include Rocca Maggiore, a 12th-century fortress perched high in the hills, and the Roman Temple of Minerva and Roman Forum. No matter what, stay in town for an early dinner and catch the sunset from one of the many vantage points overlooking the valley below — the light radiating from the rose-gold stone of Assisi’s buildings is simply glorious.
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Editor’s Note: Photo by Lisa Frederick.