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Holidays to Assisi show visitors the true Italian countryside in all its glory. The town sits in the region of Umbria, just east of Perugia and lies nestled in the foothills of Mount Subasio. Assisi is known as the birthplace of St. Francis and has been attracting pilgrims since the 13th Century.
The most famous site in Assisi is of course the Basilica of San Francesco d’Assisi, which is dedicated to the saint. There is also the 12th Century Rocca Maggiore Fortress and a huge medieval complex, all of which gave the town its UNESCO World Heritage status. The town is dotted with beautiful churches, small narrow lanes and charming piazzas, where you can sit and people watch from the quaint cafés. By day Assisi filled with day trippers from nearby Perugia, but by nightfall, you’ll have the town all to yourself and can enjoy milling with the locals in the soft evening light.
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Just a few streets behind the Cathedral of San Rufino, you’ll find a cute little local restaurant – the Osteria La Piazzetta dell’Erba. Offering seating outside or inside its cosy brick interior, it serves up a delicious array of antipasti, gnocchi, filled pastas and meat dishes such as roast lamb with artichokes or braised beef with cauliflower and licorice.
For the best views in Assisi, head to the Terrazze di Properzio, where small tables look out across a patchwork green landscape. Sunset is the best time to go, with stunning vistas and a glow of amber light across the town.
If you’re looking for some authentic Umbrian produce such as ham and truffles, make a stop at Cacio e Pepe, a small delicatessen on Via Portica. This friendly shop stocks all your Umbrian favourites.
Holidays to Assisi offer a variety of options, but the top sight is of course the Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi. Construction on the basilica began in 1228, but it wasn’t consecrated until 1253. With its Gothic entrance, it features a mix of architectural styles, intricate frescoes and ornate carvings. Head inside to find the crypt, where the remains of St Francis are held.
To continue your pilgrimage, make a visit to Eremo delle Carceri, a chapel on the hillside set 791 metres high. This is where St. Francis and his disciples would pray and meditate. Next to the chapel sit several caves, one of which was where St. Francis lived for a while.
Besides the basilica, one of the most impressive sights in Assisi is the Rocca Maggiore, a castle like fortress, parts of which date back to 1173. Over the years it has been inhabited by several emperors, as well as the then King of Sicily during his childhood.
Cured meats and pork products are particularly good in Umbria, including ham and prosciutto. The area is well known for its aged prosciutto, which you can find in several local dishes. Prosciutto di Norcia is one of the most famous, which comes from the nearby town of the same name, approximately an hour’s drive south east of Assisi. Traditional sausages and porchetta can also be found in lentil soups and stews. From hams piled on focaccia to prosciutto in pastas and salami on pizzas, there are many opportunities to try Italian pork in Umbria.
Umbria is also one of the main truffle producing areas in Italy. Truffles grow throughout the Umbrian countryside and are one of the most sought after delicacies in the region. You’ll find truffles in many traditional dishes here – shaved on top of grilled meats, risottos and pastas, mixed into scrambled eggs, and used to flavor everything from cheeses and olive oils to salami and sausages. There are several types of truffles to try, including the prized black truffle.
Although olive trees grow throughout Italy, the olive oils from the hills around the towns of Assisi, Trevi, Campello and Spolet are particularly famous. They are known for their quality and have been certified for their domination of origin. Olive oil has been produced in the region as far back as the Etruscans, and then the Romans. Light and delicate with a slightly fruity flavour, the olive oil from Umbria is of top quality and makes an excellent souvenir to take back home.