In one of my earlier blogs in this series I mentioned how well the company organizing this tour took care of us during the trip. One of the aspects of this care was the process for checking into and out of our hotel rooms whenever we visited a new place. Our bags, which were carried in the belly of the bus that we were on, were uniquely marked with an identification tag. When we arrived at a hotel, we were given the keys to our hotel rooms, and our bags magically arrived at the doorstep after we got to our rooms. When we were about to leave a hotel, we were given a particular time in the morning (even before we checked out) at which to leave the bags just outside our room, and the bags just disappeared until their reappearance at our rooms at the next stop. The process worked flawlessly through the whole trip. The coordination between the tour group and the hotels was completely invisible to us, but there must have been quite a bit of work to get us checked in without our having to pull out our passports at every stop, and to have the bags delivered to the correct room and then picked up by the hotel staff every single time! We did not have to do a thing in this regard.
Anyway, back to the subject of this blog. We had a good night’s sleep after that wonderful dinner experience in Florence. We were picked up from the hotel by Aldo the next morning for the next leg of our trip to Assisi. Assisi is the birthplace of St Francis, and it also the place where he is buried. Indeed, this is the town around which the story of his life revolves. He did a lot to change the church for the better during the middle ages.
People were headed out to work as we headed out of the city.The skies looked threatening.After negotiating some stop-and-go rush hour traffic along the bank of the Arno river, we made a turn on to a bridge over the river and headed out of town.It rained along the way.I took these two pictures at a rest stop by playing with the point of focus of the lens on the camera.The Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi (Basilica di San Francesco d’Assisi), the mother church of the Order of Friars Minor of the Franciscans, appeared as a blur on a hill through the rain as we approached. The bus headed a short distance up the hill and dropped us off at a parking lot, where we waited for our local guide to arrive. We could see the town of Assisi above us,and the plains below. There appeared to be an entrance-way into town next to the parking lot,but instead of taking that route, we walked up a road to a different entrance higher up the hill. Fortunately the rain was somewhat light at this point. On the way we caught sight of the Basilica higher up on the hill.Once we got through the entrance way we found ourselves at the corner of three streets and we turned up the street for the Basilica. We had to go though a security check to enter the Piazza Inferiore di San Francesco. The particular name for the square is probably because it is at the level of the lower church, the entrance to which can be seen at the side of the building in the picture below. The entrance to the upper church is from the front of the basilica.After the group gathered near the entrance, it was time to enter the lower church of the basilica.
The usage of cameras was prohibited within the church. We sat in a pew where our guide spoke to us about the place and about St. Francis of Assisi. We visited the crypt below the church where St. Francis of Assisi is buried. Then, exiting the back of the lower church, we walked around a courtyard from which we could get a view of the back of the church.We entered the upper church from the back. Once again, photography was not allowed. After the tour we took some pictures from the front of the church and began our walk back to the parking lot for the buses.The clouds had lifted a little bit over the plains. We could see the Basilica of Saint Mary of the Angels in Assisi (Basilica of Santa Maria degli Angeli) in the distance.We exited the square, and stopped at a local gourmet deli for some sandwiches. The skies were getting darker as we walked back to the parking lot after lunch,and then the rain really began to come down heavily. The wind had also picked up as the storm passed through. We had to take shelterwhile we waited for Aldo and our bus to reappear. We had to make a run for it through the rain to board the bus once it arrived.
We had a couple of hours of driving left to get to Rome. It rained on and off along the way.Soon we had made our way into this sprawling metropolis and, after navigating some of the local streets, made it to our hotel close to the Colosseum. Dinner that evening was in the hotel itself. It was another multi-course affair with enough wine on the side to keep up the the good mood even though we were tired.After dinner some folks decided to go out for a walk and see a little bit of the city while the others retired to their room to take care of other stuff. We got to bed at a reasonable time. We had two days of exploring to do in Rome, and it was clear that there was a lot to do.
Read the next entry in this series of blogs on our trip to Italy here.