Not all my Assisi guided tours begin in the same location and I certainly don’t generally launch a tour with tips on how to choose the best gelato.
I did that, though, when sharing Assisi wonders with the two young daughters and niece of Mallory recently:
And the enthusiasm of Paige, Presley and Reagan was not only for gelato tips but also full-blown for all the Assisi discoveries we shared that day.
The symbolism for all the sculptural details of Assisi’s 12th-century Cathedral of San Rufino also enticed:
…and of course, they had to “ride” the lions flanking the main door, an Assisi tradition:
And not always does an Assisi tour include a meeting with bersaglieri:
The plume-hatted Italian infantry corps members were delighted to share a bit of their bersaglieri history with the young American visitors. I wish the group could have seen the bersaglieri on the run as their band (also running!) plays the bersaglieri fanfare.
A treat for me as well as for them to meet bersaglieri in Piazza San Rufino:
Inside Assisi’s cathedral, we stopped to see the Roman cistern at the base of the belltower, reviewing a bit of the Roman history as I explained to them that this cathedral was built on the site of Roman temples….as religious edifices throughout Italy often are.
Mallory and the girls were introduced to St. Francis and also St. Clare in this cathedral housing the baptismal font in which they were both baptized:
As we headed to the 13th-century Basilica di Santa Chiara, we meandered down flowering backstreets…
We stopped briefly where names are embroidered on aprons, bibs, backpacks, and towels and each girl was delighted to receive a card with her name embroidered as omaggio (literally, “a tribute,” i.e., a free sample):
Mallory purchased a tiny bib for the family’s third daughter, due in October:
We passed the legendary birthplacet of San Fracesco (in 1181 or 1182) ….
….enroute to Piazza del Comune, Assisi’s main square, where medieval civic buildings and the 1st-century B.C. Roman temple reign:
We headed from the main square towards the Basilica di San Francesco, taking Via San Paolo, the chapel dedicated to San Paolo on the left as one leaves Piazza del Comune.
The Benedictine church – founded in the 11th-century and once seat of the cobblers’ guild – is usually closed – and yet another surprise that day: the door below the 16th-century fresco of St. Paul and St.Benedict was open.
I had not been in there for years: what a find.
Over the altar, a fresco painted by Matteo da Gualdo in 1475 depicted the Virgin with Christ Child flanked by Santa Lucia and Sant’Ansano:
Both saints were martyred in 304: Santa Lucia in Siracusa, Sicily and Sant’ Ansano in the Siena area. Sant’ Ansano is the patron saint of Siena..not St. Catherine of Siena (who is one of the patron saints of Italy along with St. Francis of Assisi).
I pointed out to the girls the iconographic sympols of St. Lucy: the palm, symbol of a martyr, along with her eyes on a plate (plucked out during her martyrdom):
St. Ansano, in elegant Renaissance dress (for the painting is of the 15th-century), is holding a pouch which mystified me. I talked to a local art historian today who believes that the pouch holds the maryr saint’s innards!
I pointed out to the girls and Mallory the coral the Christ Child was wearing:
Coral will keep away the malocchio, that evil eye brought on by invidia (envy) and thus the Christ Child is protected from anyone envious of His divinity!
Another surprise during our explorations of the church: the altar was sustained by a Roman column….and not unlikely as a section of the Roman wall of Assisium runs along Via San Paolo.
As the Church of San Paolo is seat of a confraternity (originating with a medieval lay brotherhood) dedicated to San Rufino, patron saint of Assisi, an 18th-century processional banner depicting his martyrdom is stored here.
…and wooden crosses, too, carried by members of the Confraternita’ di San Rufino in Assisi’s evocative Holy Week processions:
Looking again at the 15th-century fresco before we left, I reflected on the many Assisi treasures behind closed doors…
Our last stop that day? The glorious 13th-century Basilica di San Francesco, logicamente:
….and just now as i wrote this note, I remembered my husband Pino dressed as Giuseppe Garibaldi, Italy’s 19th-century revolutionary hero, right in front of the Minerva Temple for a celebration there years ago…and those plume-hatted bersaglieri playing with gusto and pride right behind Pino.
A photo to share with Paige, Presley, Reagan and Mallory in memory of our good day together which started with that meeting with bersaglieri.
Mallory and signorine, I’d like to share this with you with my mille grazie for a most enjoyable morning together.
Read about the role of the Confraternity of San Rufino in an Assisi Eastertime procession