We pick Assisi as one of our first destinations. Why? Because even though it’s been at least ten years since I’ve been there, I’ve never forgotten the art of a particular artist which I fell in love with. (I fell in love with the art, not the artist :) I’m sure I can find my way to his studio again if there’s any chance it’s still there.
Not having a backpack or a suitcase small enough for an overnight trip, we pack our few things in a plastic shopping bag and set off to the train station. Two hours later, upon arrival in Assisi, we are grateful for the bus which takes us up the long hill to the town center. We splurge on a hotel in the heart of town right next to the San Francesco Basilica. When asked if we need help with our luggage, we show them our plastic shopping bag, and say “it won’t be necessary”.
How to describe Assisi? A religious experience, a tourist trap, a culinary wonder? It’s a little of everything, I think. After dropping off our “luggage”, we set off to see the Basilica. Having visited SO many of Rome’s churches, my very first step into the Church of Saint Francis shows me how different this one is. I’ve always found the violence depicted in the artwork in churches so disturbing……seemingly counter intuitive to the concepts of forgiveness and kindness that I think religion should be offering. The artwork here is almost chalk-like. It’s soft, done in brick reds, royal blues and gold. It’s stunning, yet it makes you feel calm and asks you to walk slowly, maybe sit awhile, which I was happy to do. It’s hard not to cry. I see why people make pilgrimages here.
We spend the rest of the day exploring the hill town on foot. There are lots of galleries to visit, ceramics to buy, churches to wander into, and gourmet food stores galore. We put in lots of miles going up and down hills, meandering down side streets unsure what will be around the next corner. We eventually climb to the highest point to find a ruined castle, and search for a dinner spot as we make our way back down. We find a restaurant advertising a panoramic view, which they offer to show us before we commit. The view is amazing, and we can only hope the food is as good. In our effort to cut back our potential for massive food consumption while living in Italy, we decide to share a steak. I wish we hadn’t. After one bite, I really want my own. It’s cooked to perfection; juicy, tender and smothered in a black truffle sauce that simply makes me swoon.
By the way, we did find the artist’s studio we were looking for. Obviously the years have been good to him. His name is Massimo Cruciani, and if you google www.cruciani.com, you will see his art. I find I still love it……the depth of the colors, and the uniqueness of the fact that in lieu of canvas, he paints on glass. One of these days…….