Assisi and Spoleto: discover the Unesco heritage sites in Umbria
An itinerary to discover the Unesco sites in the Assisi and Spoleto areas
In Umbria UNESCO recognized as World Heritage Sites “Assisi and the other Franciscan places” and two places as belonging to the serial site “Lombards in Italy. The places of power (568 - 774 AD)” that includes the most important Lombard evidences located in the national territory.
We offer you an itinerary to discover these unique treasures in the areas of Assisi and Spoleto: comfortable shoes, a packed lunch, a sunny day and a camera is everything you need to leave!
Our itinerary starts in Assisi: lying on the slopes of the Subasio Mountain, the seraphic town gave birth to St. Francis and St. Claire, making all its visitors experience an atmosphere of deep spirituality of the places made unique by the history and faith of its Saints.
Since 2000 the city has been an Unesco world heritage site because, among the other motivations, it “has been closely involved since the Middle Ages in the worship and in the spreading of the same Franciscan movement in the world, so to convey a universal message of peace and tolerance”.
Beyond the Historical Centre (including the Major Fortress and the Minor Fortress), the recognition has also been obtained by the Basilica of St. Francis, the Cathedral of St. Rufino, the Basilica of St. Claire, the Palace of the People, the Convent of the New Church, the Temple of Minerva, the Church of St. Mary Major, the Abbey of St. Peter, the Basilica of St. Mary of Angels with the Porziuncola, the Sanctuary of Rivotorto, the Prison Hermitage and the Monastery of St. Damiano, together with almost all the municipal territory.
The path we offer you below includes not only some of the above mentioned places and it is only one of the many possible itineraries, thought to be completed in only one day without straying too much from the city centre, but you can modify or integrate it on the basis of your available time.
The St. Francis Basilica has always been considered an exceptional example of an architectural complex that modified the concept of architecture itself.
Made up of the overlapping of two churches and by the crypt where the body of the saint is kept, the Basilica holds masterpieces of the top artists of all times, such as Cimabue, Giotto, Pietro Lorenzetti and Simone Martini.
The Palace of the People is located in the main square of Assisi, the Town Hall Square. It was built between the half of the 13th century and 1282. It was largely restored during the 1927 restoration, when the original roof was replaced by a Guelph crenellation that also crowns the near Bell Tower.
The Minerva Temple contributes to make even more inspiring the splendid scenery of the Town Hall Square. Destined to worship in 1539 by the wish of the Pope Paul III, it was built inside an ancient Roman temple. The current internal aspect dates back to the 17th and 18th centuries; in 1634 the church, already devoted to St. Maria Sopra Minerva since 1539, was elevated and extended according to the project of Giacomo Giorgetti.
Recently restoration works have been conducted and brought to light some testimonies of the Roman era, such as the temple’s ancient flooring and a thick supporting wall.
The Basilica of St. Claire is located in the homonymous square of Assisi, where you can enjoy a charming view over the Umbrian valley. It houses in the crypt the body of the Clarisse order’s holy foundress.
The building is made up of bands of white and rose stone coming from the Subasio mountain with the adjoining convent devoted to Claire.
The Cathedral of St. Rufinowas built starting from 1029 and was awarded the title of cathedral in 1036. in 1140 it was rebuilt according to the design of Giovanni da Gubbio and Pope Innocent IV consecrated it in 1253. The façade is a real masterpiece of Romanesque sculpture.
From Matteotti Square in Assisi you can reach St. Mary of Angels through the metro line C (here the timetable): keep the ticket that you could also use for the following journeys.
The Basilica of St. Mary of Angels was built between 1569 and 1679. Its structure includes the Franciscan convent built near the Porziuncola.
The Porziuncola chapel, dating back to the 10th and 11th centuries, was devoted to St. Mary of Angels or to St. Mary of the Porziuncola. Around 1025, St. Francis established himself there, restored it and founded the Franciscan order there (1208).
Porziuncola, cradle of the Franciscanism, is one of the most important places of pilgrimage, so much so that Pope Pius V, at the end of the Trent Council, decided to build the magnificent Basilica in order to breathe new life into the Order of Friars Minor as well as to ensure an adequate reception to the many believers that already used to go there.
At this stage, from the station of St. Mary of Angels you can reach Spoleto with the fast regional train (here for the timetables).
Located in the south-eastern Umbria, the Town of Two Worlds is among the most charming art cities of the region. Thanks to its rich history, the variety of its cultural assets and its important artistic events, it is among the most popular tourist destinations.
Indulge in a tour of the town and, on the basis of your available time, don’t miss the mighty Bridge of the Towers, the Albornoz Fortress, the Collicola Palace and the splendid Dome.
We thus reach the Basilica of St. Salvador, a very interesting building of the early-Christian era built between the end of the 4th and the beginning of the 5th century.
It’s a structure with original and rare shapes, similar to those of the Clitunno Small Temple, that bring together the classical art and the Eastern influences. The remains of the early Basilica and of its most remote changes are just the apse, the presbytery and the front, as well as the several elements of reuse drawn from a Roman sanctuary of Doric order that led to an early trabeated Basilica.
At the end of the day, if you are not in a hurry, you can enjoy a sin of gluttony by tasting some typical dishes of the local cuisine: unmissable are the Spoleto-style strangozzi to be matched to an excellent glass of Umbrian red wine.
A little curiosity is the Assisi-Spoleto olive groves area, an area around the foothills fully planted with olive trees extending over a surface of 6142 hectares that recently applied to be inserted in the national Register of the rural and historical landscapes, first stage of an itinerary that has as goal the candidature of the same area as Unesco World heritage site.
To conclude: remember to take several pictures of the Umbrian places that are UNESCO World Heritage Sites and share them with the hash-tag #53wonders.
Some of these pictures will be shared through the social channels of the Umbria region and Italia.it, the official website of tourism in Italy.