Monday, August 1, 2011

Our one night stand in Assisi...

Saturday morning arrived and we said arrivederci Roma! The drive out of Rome was way less stressful than I anticipated. Although can see how it would not be for everyone (including my dear hubby!) The tricky bit was getting out of Villa Borghese (we rented from Hertz on via Galappatoio. The woman at the counter gave us good directions, but it was a fast series of split second decisions getting on the right track, and then basically smooth sailing all the way to Assisi. I took a few wrong turns - the GPS gives WAY too much notice of upcoming turns and so I turned too soon. No problem, another route is quickly calculated. Twice we were told: "Calculating. Impossible. Make an authorized u-turn and prepare to turn left". (This was true approaching Assisi as I'd turned off into a dead end...but when I took a "wrong" turn going through Chiusi, I ignored the GPS and simply followed the road signs to clearly the impossible route WAS possible after all!)

Anyway, the result of my wrong turn on the approach to Assisi meant that we ended up arriving from a different direction, along a very quiet country road, and had this beautiful view of the basilica...

I found the driving in Assisi rather more challenging than driving in Rome, although not in a bad way. It was actually kind of fun, and I was so pleased with myself for manoevering around those tiny steep streets! Especially the part where I had to back up this ever so narrow street and back into a postage stamp parking spot. And all of this in an unfamiliar standard transmission rental car. I hadn't driven a standard since our Vibe was written off lastNov, but no matter...just like riding a bike, it all came back!

We had some difficulty finding Hotel Fortezza. Turns out Vicolo della Fortezza 19B is out of sight down around the corner of a set of stairs. I left a comment that a sign up top would be most helpful. Otherwise it was a lovely hotel, only negative was the really hard bed (and I am used to a firm mattress, so this is not an idle statement!) The staff was very friendly and helpful, one man took us up to the private parking area and carried our luggage back down.  Here is Mom in the upstairs bar, where guests can have breakfast in the morning, plus coffee and pastries in the afternoon (included in room cost).

We had lunch in one of those places on the piazza that cater to tourists, just because it was so hot and we wanted just to sit and have a cold drink (no, not was beer this time! lol) When I got in the car to drive up to the hotel's parking area, the car read 37 degrees Celsius! But I think a few degrees were from the radiation of heat off the stones.
After lunch, we decided to go see Rocca Maggiore and found an "off the beaten path" path up the hill...a nearly deserted walking trail up along the old wall. Very peaceful, shaded, gorgeous views. Highly recommend this route on a hot summer day! Mom and I both remembered seeing Rocca Maggiore from the other side of town when we were in Assisi in 2006, but we hadn't gotten to it.

It is really very interesting and great to explore, and not really expensive, only 5 euro for me and 3.50 for mom (after a seniors' discount). My favourite part of the castle was the long corridor ending in a narrow winding set of stairs up to the top of the end tower. So cool!

Mom stayed behind in the other tower, fearing the stairs might be too much for her knees, and I would say that was a good move on her part. The stairs were not only steep, but very worn and uneven and taxing on the legs. And evidently scary to those with claustrophobia - there is a warning sign before you pay the entrance fee that those with claustrophobia or vertigo should not enter the castle. When I was about to climb back down, I could hear a family coming up, with a child making fearful noises. A man emerged saying "Ahh, that was so scary!" I thought it was too narrow to try to descend with someone else ascending, if I had a choice. So I said something about waiting for the others. "No, there is no one else, just me." Oops, no family, no crying was the man who had been whimpering. Poor guy, hope he made out ok on the way back out.
We walked back through the town centre, stopping in San Rufino briefly. I was not as drawn by Assisi this time as I was in March 2006, no doubt because of the heat and the crowds. But still found it enchanting and loved the steep staircases (aka streets) all over the place! For our supper, we dined at Ristorante Fortezza, adjoining our hotel. I had a delicious meal of red wine, fresh vegetable soup, cinghiale (wild boar) in red wine and onion sauce, tiramisu, and espresso. The cinghiale was so tender and tasty. I'd never had it before, and am glad I tried it.

When we came out, we discovered there was a free concert underway in Piazza del Comune.  A band called Oskuri Figuri covering songs by David Bowie, Elton John, Van Morrison, the Clash, etc plus a few contemporary bands whose names escape me. We watched for an hour or so, it was great fun! At one point they played Dancing in the Moonlight, and the place was packed with people doing what else? Dancing in the moonlight. Cool. 

In the morning, we had a light breakfast on little terrace then went to mass at the Basilica. Not being Roman Catholic or Italian, I had no idea what was being said, and only knew when to sit, stand, kneel by watching the people around me. But I was moved by the resonance of so many voices chanting in unison at various times during the service. There was a wonderful choir, and a huge group of young people who were filled with joy and spirit and I gave thanks for their presence and energy!

After mass, we had a quick look at the Giotto frescos, but it was just too crowded. So we spent the rest of the morning just strolling around, admiring the view. We stopped in Il Duomo and had a great pizza for lunch. Mom had frutti di mare, I had a vegetable pizza with a mystery vegetable. Wish I had written down the name, the girl didn't know what it was in English. Am thinking maybe some kind of mushroom, but not sure.

After lunch, we headed along to Cetona. Driving out of Assisi was just as challenging as the drive in! I stopped at one point and took this photo, just to show how narrow the streets are - Mom and I could literally each stick our hand out the window and touch the walls on either side. But I had no trouble getting around in our little rental, a Fiat 500 (love that car!)


Trekcapri said...

Hi Anne, and now I really want to visit here. Your photos are so beautiful. Huge kudos to you for being able to drive on those really narrow streets and successfully backing into a postage stamp lot (love that term). The visit to the castle was really interesting and cool. Great photos of you and your mom.

Thanks so much for sharing. Made my morning. Keep on having fun..

Anne said...

I highly recommend it! It is such a lovely town, with beautiful views and friendly people. I am hoping I didn't miss any ZTL signs, don't want to be fined for driving in a restricted zone. But I don't think so, we were above the official centro storico, so should be ok.

Glad you are enjoying my posts, lots more to come! Have a great week!!

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