Walking Tour of Assisi: Map and Route!

Walking Tour Of Assisi Map And Route

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Welcome to Assisi, a picturesque hilltop town nestled on the western slope of Mount Subasio, standing proudly at 1,300 feet above sea level. With its commanding views overlooking the rivers Topino and Chiasicio, Assisi boasts a rich history that spans millennia.

Originally known as Assisium, this walled city with its narrow, twisting streets and alleys has seen the passage of Umbrians, Etruscans, and Romans, each leaving their mark on its storied landscape. In the 11th century, Assisi became a Ghibelline commune, leading to clashes with the neighboring Guelph Perugia.

One pivotal event in Assisi’s history occurred during the battle of Collestrada, where a young man named Francesco de Bernardone was captured and held prisoner for a year. Upon his release, Francesco underwent a profound transformation, renouncing his worldly possessions to become a mendicant devoted to prayer and meditation. He is now revered as Saint Francis of Assisi.

Today, tourists and pilgrims flock to Assisi to explore its wealth of churches, shrines, and palaces. The Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi, divided into upper and lower churches, holds the sacred remains of Saint Francis himself. Santa Maria sopra Minerva stands as a testament to the city’s layered history, built atop the old Temple of Minerva, with remnants of a Roman forum lying beneath.

Other notable sites include the Basilica of Saint Clare, the Papal Basilica of Saint Mary of the Angels, the New Church, the Hermitage of the Prisons, and the San Damiano Church, each representing significant stations in the lives of the saints.

But Assisi’s charm extends beyond its religious heritage. Explore the medieval majesty of the imposing Major Fortress, or immerse yourself in the city’s ancient past at the Roman amphitheater. Wander through picturesque piazzas, admire elegant fountains, and delve into the city’s cultural heritage at its many museums.

Experience the best of both medieval and modern Assisi, and don’t miss the lively Calendimaggio Festival in May, featuring processions, theater, choirs, crossbow competitions, dancing, and flag contests. There’s always something new to discover in Assisi – come and find out for yourself.

Piazza del Comune

Assisi, Province Of Perugia, Italy
CC BY-SA 32.0 / trolvag

The Tempio di Minerva, Palazzo del Capitano del Popolo with its Torre and Roman Forum and Archaeological Museum are all located around the Piazza.

Piazza del Comune remains the central square of the town, echoing its significance since ancient Roman times when it served as the forum. The Renaissance fountain of the three lions is located here. It is made up of 3 overlapping basins, where in the larger one there are three lions representing the three urban districts of Assisi from whose mouth the water comes out. Today, the square remains a vibrant hub of local activity, surrounded by shops and eateries, continuing to play a central role in the community’s life.

Location: Piazza del Comune, Assisi, Province of Perugia, Italy | Hours: 24 Hours | Price: Free
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Tempio di Minerva

Temple.of.Minerva Assissi
CC BY-SA 3.0 / Georges Jansoone

The portico of the Temple of Minerva, dating back to the first century BC, was transformed into the church of Santa Maria della Minerva in 1539. Despite a 17th-century renovation in the Baroque style, the façade retains its original Roman columns and architrave, preserving the ancient architectural essence. A fresco by Giotto in the Basilica of St. Francis depicts the building with bars on its windows, suggesting that it served as a jail during medieval times, adding a layer of historical intrigue to this already fascinating structure.

Location: Temple of Minerva, Piazza del Comune, Assisi, Province of Perugia, Italy
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Palazzo del Capitano del Popolo

Assisi - Palazzo Del Capitano Del Popolo
CC BY-SA 3.0 / giomodica

The Palazzo del Capitano del Popolo is situated in Piazza del Comune, to the left of the church of Santa Maria Sopra Minerva. Constructed between the mid-13th century and 1282, it underwent significant restoration in 1927, during which its original roof was replaced with a Guelph battlement that also crowns the nearby bell tower. The building features three levels of windows, corresponding to the internal floors, and its ground floor is characterized by three large round arches that still house commercial activities today. At the base of the adjacent Torre del Popolo, built between 1275 and 1305, you can see the measurements of the tiles and bricks used in the buildings of that era.

Location: Torre del Popolo, Piazza del Comune, Assisi, Province of Perugia, Italy | Hours: From November to February: 10.00am – 5.00pm (last entry 4.30pm) From March to October: 10.00am – 6.00pm (last entry 5.30pm) December 25: closed Opening hours of the Civic Tower: every day from 10.00 to 17.00 (last entry 16.30)| Price: €5
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Roman Forum and Archaeological Museum

Ancient Cellar - Ruins Of The Ancient Roman Forum - Assisi
CC BY-SA 4.0 / José Luiz

Beneath today’s Town Hall Square, dominated by the Roman Temple of Minerva (1st century BC), lies the ancient Roman Forum, discovered during excavations in 1836. Access the underground area from via Portica through the Romanesque crypt of the former church of San Nicolò “de platea,” which showcases sarcophagi, capitals, and inscriptions from Assisi and its immediate surroundings. The remains of the Forum include the base of the temple with access doors to the vestibule, a monumental cistern, a podium with seats for the judiciary, and a small tetrastyle temple dedicated to Castor and Pollux. In a second room, three marble statues found in the Forum are preserved.

Location: Foro Romano e Museo Archeologico, Via Portica, Assisi, Province of Perugia, Italy | Hours: Every day from 10 am to 5.0 pm; last entrance allowed 4:30 pm; | Price: €5.00
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St. Francis Basilica

Basilica Di San Francesco DAssisi

Walk past the entrance to the Roman Forum and Archaeological Museum and walk slighly down hill along Via Portica, bearing right along Via Arnaldo Fortini. As you pass under Porta Romana, the old city gate that lead to Rome, the road becomes the Via San Francesco.

On your left you will pass the Fonte Oliviera, which was built by Olivero Lodovici in 1570. A warning engraved on the plaque set in the back wall of the fountain reads: “Whoever washes in this fountain will pay a shield and lose their clothes.” This inscription suggests that pilgrims’ habit of washing their clothes here was deemed inappropriate, given the location on the street once known as Superba and the fountain’s intended purpose of providing drinking water for people and animals.

Adjacent to it is the thirteenth-century Portico of Monte Frumentario. The elegant portico is supported by six columns resting on a high base. The richness of the sculpted capitals, on which two-tone stone arches rest, is particularly striking. In the center of the portico, there is an opening that leads to a covered space, intended for hospitality.

At the end of the street you reach the Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi. After admiring it from the Via San Francesco, walk the wide walkway to the upper church.

The basilica erected above the tomb of St. Francis of Assisi during the early 13th century stands as one of Italy’s and the world’s foremost pilgrimage sites. Its construction began promptly after St. Francis was canonized by Pope Gregory IX on July 17, 1228, symbolized by the laying of the first stone. Completed in 1253, it claims the title of Italy’s oldest Gothic church.  The basilica comprises two distinct churches: the upper church and the lower one.

The walls of the upper church are covered with brightly colored frescoes and stained-glass windows. Along the nave, the frescoes tell the Stories from the Life of Saint Francis (painted by Giotto) on the lower walls and Stories from the Old and New Testament along the upper walls. The ceiling is painted a vibrant blue color and is a gorgeous sight to see.

Exit the upper church and take the stairs down to the lower church. This church is much smaller and more solemn than the upper church. It is here that you can enter the crypt of St. Francis. The frescoes on the walls of the lower church were painted by artists Cimabue, Giotto, Lorenzetti, and Martini. The first chapel of the lower church features remarkable depictions from the life of St. Francis by acclaimed artists Giotto and Simone Martini. In the lower transept, the chapel of St. Catherine of Alexandria showcases 14th-century frescoes by Andrea da Bologna, while the nave’s cycle, painted around 1260, is attributed to an artist known only as the Maestro di San Francesco. Despite centuries of wear, these frescoes represent some of Tuscany’s most significant artwork predating Cimabue. The upper church’s choir and transepts also feature frescoes by Cimabue, while the nave displays 28 scenes from St. Francis’s life attributed to Giotto and his pupils.

In the crypt, visitors can behold a stone sarcophagus housing the saint’s remains, brought here during the basilica’s construction and rediscovered in the 19th century after being lost for centuries.

Location: Basilica di San Francesco d'Assisi, Piazza Inferiore di San Francesco, Assisi, Province of Perugia, Italy | Hours: Lower Church: from 6:00 to 18:30 Upper Church: from 8.30am to5.45pm Tomb of St. Francis: from 6:00 to 18:00 | Website
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Rocca Maggiore

Rocca Maggiore Assissi
CC BY-SA 4.0 / Hagai Agmon-Snir

Head west towards Porta San Giacomo, one of the nine gates of Assisi. Turn right before the gate and walk up the street. The road swings to the left, as you pass the Piccolo Teatro degli Instabili go up the steps to your left along Via Santa Croce. You are looking to turn off along Via del Colle to your left. When you join Via della Rocca turn left. Head all the way to the Via della Rocca Tower for great views over the city.

Constructed in 1265, the Gothic basilica dedicated to St. Clare stands as a testament to the devout disciple of St. Francis, revered for founding the order of Clarissines or Poor Clares. Beneath the grandeur of its high altar lies the open tomb of St. Clare herself, who passed away in 1253.

Within the confines of the Cappella del Crocefisso, nestled along the left side of the nave, hangs the revered Speaking Cross originating from the convent of San Damiano. Legend has it that it was before this very cross that St. Francis received the divine message from God to “go forth and rebuild my house.”

The basilica’s interior is adorned with a captivating cycle of frescoes portraying the life of St. Clare, contributed by various talented artists. A visit to the charming Piazza Santa Chiara, situated in front of the church.

Location: Rocca Maggiore, Via della Rocca, Assisi, Province of Perugia, Italy | Hours: From November to February: 10.00am – 5.00pm (last entry 4.15pm) March: 10.00 – 18.00 (last entry 17.15) April and May: 10.00am – 7.00pm (last entry 6.15pm) June and August: 10.00am – 8.00pm (last entry 7.15pm) September and October: 10.00am – 7.00pm (last entry 6.15pm) December 25: closed | Price: €8.00
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Cathedral of San Rufino

Cattedrale Di San Rufino Di Assisi
CC BY-SA 4.0 / Fczarnowski

Walk down Via della Rocca, past where you joined it. At the first bend, walk down the sloped path on your right. Continue down the steps until you reach Via Porta Perlici then turn right. You soon come to Piazza San Rufino and the Fountain of the Six Lions. The fountain was originally in the Piazza San Francesco but was moved here in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.

Adjacent to the cathedral is the Cappella delle Rose, adorned with exquisite frescoes by Tiberio d’Assisi dating back to 1518, portraying various episodes from the life of the saint. For those fond of leisurely strolls, the sanctuary offers an ideal half-day excursion, or it can be seamlessly integrated into a circular driving route that includes a visit to Rivolato, another significant pilgrimage site associated with St. Francis.

Constructed during the 12th and 13th centuries, the cathedral of San Rufino showcases remarkable examples of early medieval stone carving. Intricately carved animals serve as corbels, mythical creatures ascend pilasters, and delicate foliage intertwines with capitals, while saints and their symbols stand sentinel at doorways. St. Francis himself sought solace in its crypt, dating back to the 11th century, during his visits to preach at the church.

Today, the crypt exudes a captivating atmosphere, featuring three aisles and an apse adorned with an exceptional third-century Roman sarcophagus sculpted from marble. Within the cloisters, visitors encounter a Roman well, adding to the site’s historical allure. The cathedral’s extensive treasures, encompassing both historical artifacts and artistic masterpieces, including Roman relics unearthed from the cathedral precinct, are showcased in the museum.

Notable highlights within the collection include the multi-paneled canvas Madonna of the Rosary, crafted in 1581 by Lorenzo Doni, 13th-century frescoes narrating the life of Christ, a stunning polyptych of San Rufino from 1462, and a second-century Roman sarcophagus. Additionally, visitors can admire paintings by renowned artists such as Jacopo della Quercia and Filippo Lippi, further enhancing the museum’s appeal as a repository of cultural and artistic heritage.

Location: Cattedrale di Assisi, Piazza San Rufino, Assisi, Province of Perugia, Italy | Hours: Diocesan Museum and Crypt of San Rufino open from 10.00 to 18.00 Closed: Wednesday, December 25th, January 1st Bell tower of San Rufino open from 10.00 to 11.30 and from 15.00 to 17.00 closed on Wednesdays and cannot be visited in case of rain or strong winds – ticket €1.50 | Price: €3.50
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Museo Diocesano e Cripta di San Rufino

Diocesan Museum And San Rufino Crypt
CC BY-SA 4.0 / Rufinus15

Just steps away from the city’s Cathedral, the Diocesan Museum houses a small yet captivating collection of artworks, including a notable 1470 masterpiece by Niccolò Alunno. For those intrigued by mystery and history, the atmospheric crypt, accessed via steps to the right of the facade, offers an enthralling exploration. Discovered in 1895, the crypt contains fragments from earlier churches, such as remnants of ancient frescoes, sections of a Roman wall and conduit, and a 3rd-century Roman sarcophagus that once served as Rufinus’s original tomb.

Legend suggests that Bishop Ugone initially planned to inter Rufinus in the Church of Saint Mary Major (“Santa Maria Maggiore”), then the town’s cathedral. However, the townspeople advocated for the new church, leading to a symbolic tug-of-war over the saint’s coffin. Although the locals prevailed, this tale likely symbolizes the increasing influence of lay city councils during that era.

Location: Cathedral of San Rufino, Piazza San Rufino, Assisi, Province of Perugia, Italy | Hours: Diocesan Museum and Crypt of San Rufino open from 10.00 to 18.00 Closed: Wednesday, December 25th, January 1st Bell tower of San Rufino open from 10.00 to 11.30 and from 15.00 to 17.00 closed on Wednesdays and cannot be visited in case of rain or strong winds – ticket €1.50 | Price: €3.50
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Anfiteatro Romano

Roman Arena, Assisi
CC BY-SA 3.0 / Jan Hazevoet

The next two places are optional, as you will be returning this way. Walk up along Via del Torrione, under the arch, to the north east of the Chiesa Nuova. At the end of the street make a note of the Matteotti car park opposite, this will give you access to the Roman Forum and a shortcut to the Basilica di Santa Chiara. Trun right and walk alongside the car park and at the end take the road that slopes down to reach the amphitheatre.

The Roman Amphitheater of Assisi, situated near one of the city’s gateways, is a remnant of its ancient past, though only fragments of its original magnificence remain. The most prominent feature is an arch built from travertine wedges. Dating back to the early 1st century AD, the amphitheater originally boasted two tiers of seating, some portions of which are still discernible today. While much of its elliptical form has eroded over time, you can still trace its outline between the garden wall and the medieval buildings that now occupy the space where spectators once gathered.

Location: Via Teatro Romano, Assisi, PG 06081, 06081 Assisi PG, Italy
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Rocca Minore

Assisi - Rocca Minore
CC BY-SA 4.0 / Luca Aless

Walk back towards the car park and up Via Eremo delle Carceri. You will come to Capuchins Gate, one of the old city gates, the square tower features an internal staircase, although the top has suffered some collapse over time. Look for the niche housing a statue of the Madonna. As you leave the gate turn left and walk up the lane to reach Rocca Minore.

Perched on the hillside to the right of the Major Fortress, or “Rocca Maggiore,” Assisi’s Minor Fortress, known as the “Rocca Minore,” offers a captivating contrast to its larger counterpart. Although more recent, dating back to 1174, it still commands impressive views over Assisi.

Once connected to Rocca Maggiore by walkable walls, these two fortresses stand as imposing symbols of Assisi’s medieval defenses. A long wall reportedly connects them, concealing a secret path beneath it—a testament to the strategic importance of these fortifications during times of conflict.

Visitors who make the climb are rewarded with breathtaking panoramas of Assisi and the surrounding Mount Subasio Park. It’s an ideal spot for a peaceful picnic amidst nature’s beauty. However, come prepared, as there are no nearby amenities like bars or bathrooms—just uninterrupted immersion in the serene landscape.

Location: Rocca Minore, Via Renzo Rosati, Assisi, Province of Perugia, Italy
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Basilica di Santa Chiara

Basilica Di Santa Chiara, Piazza Santa Chiara, Assisi
CC BY-SA 4.0 / Fczarnowski

Head down Via Dono Doni, as you cross the road there is an entrance to the Roman Tunnel, which leads to the Roman Forum. If you went to the amphiteatre you will be joining us from there. Cross the road and walk down. At the end you will see the Basilica di Santa Chiara.

Location: Basilica di Santa Chiara, Piazza Santa Chiara, Assisi, Province of Perugia, Italy
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Casa natale di San Francesco

Casa Natale Di San Francesco
CC BY-SA 3.0 / Superchilum

Head away from the Basilica di Santa Chiara across Piazza Santa Chiara, and at the fork in the road bear right to walk under the Portella di San Giorgio. Just as you pass Bar Senssi you will see a passageway that leads to the Oratory of San Francesco Piccolino. After descending the stairs the Santuario di San Francesco Piccolino is on your left.

The Casa natale di San Francesco, or the Birthplace of St. Francis, holds a significant place in the hearts of those who revere the life and teachings of the beloved saint. This humble abode serves as a poignant reminder of the saint’s origins and his remarkable journey towards spiritual enlightenment.

Located in Assisi, Italy, the oratory within the Casa natale di San Francesco is believed to be the precise spot where St. Francis was born. However, the site’s history is imbued with layers of significance. Originally, it was not a grandiose mansion or an opulent residence, but rather a simple stable, a place where animals were sheltered and cared for.

According to tradition, it was within these humble surroundings that St. Francis’s mother, Pica de Bourlemont, gave birth to him on July 5, 1182. The rustic setting of a stable, with its earthy simplicity and modest surroundings, underscores the humility and simplicity that would come to define St. Francis’s life and teachings.

Over time, as St. Francis’s legacy grew and his followers sought to commemorate his birthplace, the stable was transformed into an oratory. This conversion was not merely a physical alteration but a symbolic gesture, signifying the sanctification of a place where a saint was born. The oratory became a place of reverence, where pilgrims could come to pay homage to the memory of St. Francis and reflect on his profound spiritual journey.

Location: Casa Natale San Francesco d'Assisi, Piazza Chiesa Nuova, Assisi, Province of Perugia, Italy
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Chiesa Nuova

Chiesa Nuova, Assisi
CC BY-SA 4.0 / Feldstein

A little way south of the Palazzo Comunale, on a lower level, stands the Chiesa Nuova, built in 1615. This small church, designed on a centralized plan, was erected on what was believed to be the birthplace of St. Francis. The story of its construction is intertwined with the legacy of St. Francis and the Franciscans’ efforts to preserve his memory.

In 1613, the Spanish Vicar General of the Franciscans visited Assisi and discovered the dilapidated condition of the house of Pietro di Bernardone, where it was believed St. Francis was born. Moved by the state of the site, he sought to preserve this sacred place. With a generous gift from King Philip III of Spain, he was able to purchase the house and commission the building of a new church.

The Chiesa Nuova was constructed with its high altar situated over what was considered to be the room where St. Francis was born. This late Renaissance-style church features beautiful 17th-century frescoes by artists Cesare Sermei and Giacomo Giorgetti, adding to its artistic and historical significance.

Adjacent to the church is a small museum located in the friary. This museum offers visitors a glimpse into the life and times of St. Francis, with various artifacts and exhibits that commemorate his enduring legacy. The Chiesa Nuova and its museum provide a poignant connection to the humble beginnings of one of Christianity’s most beloved saints.

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