The first time I went to Assisi was on a high school trip as an international exchange student. My principal knew I was having tough time acclimating to my new home, so invited me on all the class trips that year. Since my high school was in Monza, which is just outside of Milan, these were some class trips! I was very grateful to be included in these trips and I saw a lot of Italy. In Assisi in particular I remember going from church to church with the Art History teacher, feeling both appreciative and overwhelmed at the sheer quantity of incredible art.
Using Assisi as a base means you can spread out its art & architecture, therefore absorb and remember more of it. But not coming in as a day tripper also means you’ll experience the medieval hill town atmosphere that sets in after the tour buses leave every evening.
Visit one Assisi church a day. If you had just one day in Assisi, you’d either have to hit five churches or miss some significant art & architecture (and some will argue that limiting yourself to five is already missing some significant ones). So spread them out, and spend an hour or so each at the Cathedral of San Rufino, Santa Maria Sopra Minerva, Santa Chiara, and San Damiano. Allow at least half a day for the upper and lower Basilicas of San Francesco (St. Frances). Check here for opening hours of churches, and research the art in San Francesco before you go.
Do a cooking class. Umbria is a major food and wine destination in Italy, and as everywhere else in the country, food is local and seasonal. But pork is always in season!
Explore medieval Umbrian hilltowns. After your morning church visit, hit the road to explore the Umbrian countryside. Visit Perugia, Gubbio, Spoleto, Todi, Orvieto. Check on when local markets and festivals are held because they’re worth prioritizing if they coincide with your visit.
Visit a winery or three. The area near Montefalco is known for its sagrantino grapes while the area around Orvieto is famous for its white wine. You can’t go wrong.
Do a craft beer tasting at the Monastery of San Biagio. Italy is known more for wine than beer but there are some excellent craft beer producers. This is an experience that we book for clients regularly because it’s that perfect off-the-beaten-track and get-to-know-the-locals experience.
Take advice on what to do in the area from the owner of Brigolante apartments, Rebecca! Her blog offers a wealth of information about the area and she rents rooms at her countryside farm and city apartments right in the center of Assisi.
And of course, work in these five best things to do in Italy, regardless of your itinerary.
Photo of San Francesco by Kevin Day at Tanager Photography.
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