Italy 11: April 28, 2007 -- In Florence, but reflecting back on Assisi -- notes from Bob and Sally

Bob Corbett's note:


It's just 2 PM in Florence, we arrived here about 2 hours ago and are settled in a lovely location and nice room for two nights.

It turns out this is a four-day holiday weekend in Italy. That's why Assisi had absolutely no rooms at all, NONE. Here we got off the train and rushed to tourist info and I got one of the very last two rooms they had left in the tourist center of a double with toilet and bath in room. Paid more than we like, but this weekend we had almost no choice. We even had a back-up plan that if no room was available here we would take a night train to Salzburg with a couchette, visit there for couple days and come back. We didn't want that option, but rooms are tough. Not sure where we will go in two days.

However, now that I am cold stone sober today, and not a wee tipsy as last night, I have more to say about Assisi. We were settled in our room yesterday by 10 AM and walked down to St. Mary of the Angles church. It is not in Assisi itself, but in the village of St. Marie degli Angles near the train station on flat ground. Assisi is a hill side village about a mile up the mountain.

One of Francis of Assisi's first projects was to come down to this flat space, just woods in those days of the 12th century, and he built a tiny prayer place called Porziuncola. It is magnificent and still in existence. It is only about 12 foot wide and about 15 of so feet long.

Years later a gigantic cathedral was built over the top of this chapel and it is now INSIDE at the center of the cathedral.

What a contrast to St. Peter's in Rome. When Sally and I walked into the square in front of the cathedral there were no people at all. None. We went in and there was a mass going on in the Porziuncola in German and a small group of tourists. Otherwise we had it all to ourselves. We went into the mass area with the folks and their singing of hymns and mass was very soothing and moving.

Then we did take the bus up to Assisi. Ah me, I'm getting old. In the past several times I've been to Assisi I have always WALKED up. No matter, this time I did the bus, but we still walked some 7 miles yesterday.

First we went to the lower cathedral of San Francisco. There are two large churches built ONE ON TOP OF THE OTHER. The lower cathedral is spectacular with Romanesque arches and lovely coloring. The tomb of Francis is there too. Then we moved up to the much later church and the walls and ceilings are covered with the masterful frescos about which Sally talked. Just lovely.

Assisi is on the hillside and we walked and walked and walked, it seemed always up, but surely we had sometimes to be coming down. We visited more churches and one simply lovely small oratorio, a prayer place supposedly in the basement of Francis's family's home. More churches as well. Unfortunately one I really like, the basilica of St. Clair was closed for renovation.

We did sit for a while having some nice gelato at one place, and then, we got utterly lost in the maze of tiny streets and arrived back down at the bus stop totally exhausted and parched. We sat at a large outdoor place with a group of German tourists an had one of the largest draft beers I've ever had.

We were really whipped and had seen a huge portion of Assisi. I really wanted the second day there so we could go the couple miles across the mountain the the Hermitage, but there was no place in the inn as I explained, so we went out for that wonderful meal.

Now, back in Florence. It is after 2 PM and we are next door to my favorite restaurant in this town. I discovered it a very long time ago, probably in 1983 as well, but I can't recall. Florence and Assisi are my MOST visited cities in Italy. And my top favorites. This restaurant in Florence has outdoor seating and it was all taken. Now, for the first time, right next door is this internet place, so we decided to do that first and then wait for a table on the street. Good people watching as we have a leisurely couple-hour meal and all.

We have walked some and will walk more yet today and do some visiting, but we are taking a very slow day. Tomorrow we will do all we care to do here and be ready to seek some other place two days from now. It is the housing issue. It might just make sense to go on up to Austria on Monday and then come back down to Venice after this Italian holiday is over. We're thinking about options.

How can it really be that this is the 12th day of our trip. Only 18 more to go. Sally and I are so loving this trip that on the train rides we are already planning our next trip for same time next year, but hope to increase it to 1 1/2 months. We are thinking seriously about a trip to only "small" towns in Portugal, Spain, France and Germany. But, lots can change in a year. We are, however, discovering that the little towns are so peaceful they more fit our delights. We aren't much interested in "sightseeing," but more love the ambiance of these places and the food and the people watching and such.

Now, off to see if a table is ready. A nice bottle of red wine sounds so good.....


Sally's note

This will be a shorter version of my travel notes.

We took the early train... 9:30 to Florence, and the two hour trip went pretty uneventfully. Thatís my way of saying that it was a pleasant trip. :)

Then when the train stopped Bob and I were ready to disembark so we could hurry to the information desk for hotel rooms here. And we were lucky to find a room here in Florence.

I asked our host at the hotel this morning what kind of holiday they were having this weekend. And he said in his broken Italian, LABOR DAY WEEKEND!

Ugh... that meant that it was not just a Christian holiday in Assisi ... it was an Italian holiday.. similar to our Labor Day weekends... and covers all of Italy. And.. no matter where we go, lots of Italians will be 'on HOLIDAY'

So, our hotel costs a bit more than the rooms we have had so far, but was one of two available in all of Florence!! Yikes!!!

We have hardly had a chance to see much, but have a room for two nights so there is no hurry.

Bob and I dropped our bags at the hotel, and have been enjoying our first walk around this wondrous city.

And right now we are here at the internet site until we can get a table at the ristorante around the corner. But Iím starving so please forgive a short note today, more tomorrow.

Sally Ryan Sharamitaro




Bob Corbett