Italia in 40: Day 32…A Castle, Some Ruins, and Prayer!

Today was a perfect day in Assisi!

Assisi is my favorite place in Italy. Since the first day I came here I have always felt like this is where I’m supposed to be. My soul just feels at home here. Also, if you believe in God at all, I highly recommend coming here for a little spiritual retreat at least once in your life. It’ll shift your consciousness in crazy ways, at least it did for me…even as a teenager.

I always go back to certain experiences in my memory whenever I am discouraged with life and need motivation to keep going or I create daydreams of experiences I hope I will have one day. I wrote a blog a while back about my daydreams, but there are a few experiences in my past that keep me pushing forward on bad days; my first visit to Assisi and the clarity it brought, is one of them. Other’s include swimming with the Honu on the North Shore when I was a kid, exploring the woods in Georgia when I was little, and other fun things I did as a child, before life got so complex. But Assisi will always be special to me because it really helped me mature spiritually. Before coming here the first time, I never really had a place in my heart for spirituality and especially religion. My relatives are all Christian, but after about the age of 7, due to some things I witnessed in churches and saw Christians doing, I was really skeptical about religion and very pessimistic about the existence of God, until coming to Assisi that first time. I went down into the tomb of St. Francis and just knew immediately that God existed. It’s weird, I know, but that’s the main reason I love it here.

Since then, I’ve dreamed of winning the lottery and building a villa in the valley below or retiring here and living in a little studio apartment near the San Rufino or the basilica.  Anyway, enough of that mess, let’s talk about today!

I got up pretty early, but didn’t leave my room until 10:30, when I decided to walk up to Rocco Maggiore. It was a spur of the moment decision, but I just started walking and going up any incline I saw that was leading to the top of the hill. Some weird looking young boy tried to talk to me in Italian and followed me for like half a mile up the hill leading to the city center, but thank God I ran into my conversation partner from yesterday and he stopped to say hi and remind me again about the concert tomorrow, so the weird boy kept walking.

In the center I got a water, coffee, and a cookie. Then I just started walking. I walked up a bunch of steps and ended up on some dirt and rock nature trail. I didn’t know if it was leading in the right direction or where I was going to end up, but thankfully it took me right up to Rocco Maggiore. It’s a medieval castle that is AWESOME! I bought an all-inclusive ticket to the Roman Forum museum down in the city-center and into Rocco Maggiore. I walked around the inside of the castle and went up a few of the towers. I took lots of pictures and GoPro footage (again, will upload when I have good internet). It was SO HOT OUTSIDE! I was up at the castle for over two hours. I had never been up to the castle before, but I highly recommend going if you are up for a little hike and some beautiful panoramas!

I had to pee really bad and couldn’t find a bathroom, so I went down nature trail and almost got caught popping a squat, so I ran down the hill…:P

I made it back to the city center and decided to go into the Roman Forum museum. I’ve been there on my first visit to Assisi, but the last two times I’ve been here it’s been closed. I found out today why it’s been closed: major renovations. It’s really well laid out and really nice. The ticket for Rocco Maggiore, the Roman museum, and another attraction I didn’t visit was only 8 Euros!

After the Roman museum, I decided to walk toward the basilica, but it was after 1 and everywhere was closing for lunch, so I stopped and got a bite to eat. I stopped at a cafe on the main road to the basilica and it wasn’t very good. The food was meh, the service was bad, and the prices were high. I got a small bowl of plain salad, 3 pieces of bruschette (one just had olive oil on it, the other had canned tomatoes, and the other had truffles), and half a liter of wine (screw-off cap) and it was 17 Euros. I sat at the restaurant for an hour and a half or so and it was kind of fun. At first, two Irish ladies sat next to me and they were hilarious. I don’t like complaining at restaurants when the service or food is bad, I just go on and pay for what I bought and just don’t eat. But these ladies were going off the chain. They got up and went to the waitress to order because she wouldn’t come over to our section and they didn’t leave a tip because the cover charge was 4 Euros. Their accents were so funny and they were so spunky.

After they left, a Chilean couple sat down and I spoke Spanish with them and took a picture of them because they were taking pictures of each-other and I felt bad they had no one to take a picture of them together. They were really funny and sweet. Around 2:30 I walked down the basilica and went in to the upper church. I really wish you could take pictures inside, but there was a sign forbidding it (I usually ignore them, but I didn’t want to disobey the rules here). On my way into the lower part of the church, where the tomb is, I saw a bookshop and went in. It is the best place in Assisi to get souvenirs. The regular stores around town charge crazy prices, but I got like 20 things (postcards, crosses, medals, and prayer cards) for 11 Euros!

After buying my souvenirs I went down into the temple and left a donation and dedicated 10 candles to my friends, family, and departed loved ones and then I recited the rosary and prayed a bit. I walked around the tomb and then went back upstairs.

After the basilica I went back to my room and napped and tried to cool off. After my nap I walked around for a bit and searched for a restaurant. I stopped at a restaurant with a GORGEOUS view and got grilled sausages, with Brussels sprouts and rosemary potatoes. This restaurant was great. I got mineral water, Prosecco, a side of potatoes, and my sausage and Brussels sprouts main course, with the awesome view for 22 Euros! Obviously proving that the cafe I went to for lunch was a rip off! The menu wasn’t very large, but I definitely recommend this place in every way!

After dinner, I walked back toward the basilica because I storm was rolling in and the sun was setting, so I knew it would be beautiful. Unfortunately, I left my main camera in my room to charge, but I had my Sony video camera and my iPhone. I got some great panoramas and it was SO beautiful. You could see the rain and lightening on one side of the church and the beautiful sunset on the other side. I would have paid a million dollars to have a DSLR tonight!

Once I was done taking pictures I walked back toward my hotel and got a beer and a gelato and went back to my room. I repacked, showered, and uploaded my pictures, so I am ready for Rome.

I can’t believe I am on the last leg of my journey! The first 7 days flew, the middle 5 days dragged by, but it has FLOWN since then! I’m scared of all of the things coming my way when I get home, so I want to enjoy this last week I have! I am going to hangout with my French friend again and I get to watch Italy play their first match of the World Cup on Saturday night, so I am very excited for the coming days.

Let’s finish this off with a bang!