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Assisi & Umbria

... A beautiful region of rolling hills, woods, streams and valleys and despite the growing number of the visitors has largely retained an unspoilt air. Within his borders it also contains a dozen or so classic hill-towns, each resolutely individual and crammed with artistic and architectural treasures to rival bigger and more famous cities. Historically known as the birthplace of Saint Francis of Assisi and for a religious tradition that earned the region such names as Umbria santa, Umbria mistica and la terra dei santi (land of saints).

 

The landscape itself has contributed much to this mystical reputation and even on a fleeting trip it's impossible to miss the strange quality of the Umbrian light, the silver haze that hangs over the gentle curves of the land. The views are breathtaking, and even though this region is not very large, it offers different panoramas. 

To see Perugia, Assisi, with its extraordinary frescoes by Giotto in the Basilica of San Francesco. Orvieto, where the duomo is one of the greatest Gothic buildings in the country. For a taste of the region's more understated qualities, it's best to concentrate on lesser-known places such as Todi, Gubbio, ranked as the most perfect medieval centre in Italy; and Spoleto, for many people the outstanding Umbrian town. 

Some districts have a landscape enticing: the mountainous Valnerina and Lago Trasimeno, which is the largest lake in Italian peninsula, with plenty of opportunities for swimming and water sports.

Assisi is well known, thanks to Saint Francis, Italy's premier saint and founder of the Franciscan order. Had the man not been born here in 1183 the town wouldn't be thronged with tourists and pilgrims for ten months of the year,  but then neither would it have the Basilica of Saint Francis, one of the greatest monuments to XIII and XIV century Italian art. Started in 1228, two years after the saint's death. Two churches making up the Basilica: one built on to of the other. Most people start with Giotto in the Upper Church; but the sombre Lower Church, down the steps to the left, comes earlier, both structurally and artistically. The rest of the town retains some medieval hill-town charm.