Monday, 15 February 2010

Assisi (and other towns in Umbria)

We took our three day weekend and drove a little north of Rome to the Umbria region. We started by going to Marmore Falls near Terni. In about 250 BC the Romans made the falls by diverting water from a flood plain. They, according to Wikipedia, diverted it because the stagnant water was likely leading to the spread of malaria (mosquitoes). The result is the largest falls in Europe and the largest man-made falls in the world. They are about 550 ft high. Three different tiers. The first falls about 270 ft. The falls get turned on and off because now it gets diverted again for hydroelectric power. The picture I'll attach of the big falls is during the off time. There is so much flow and wind when they are on it was to misty for a clear shot. From there we drove on to Spello. At this point we are off the highway and driving through some really pretty valleys. Spello is a beautiful, small, not totally touristized town. Small alleyways. Pedestrian only areas. Churches that still feel like a church. Finally, on to Assisi and the "castle" we stayed at. Maybe it was a, barely royal, just passing through, castle. It was nice though. All together there were 10 families (coordinated a month or two ago). Of the 53 beds in the place, we occupied about 40. We ate dinner there, which was very good. There was a big open room where we sat around later and enjoyed the fireplace, games, wine and cheese. Sunday we went into Assisi. The town is famous for its two Saints, Frances and Claire. Frances was from a fairly well off family. Went off to fight in the crusades and then quickly realized he had a different calling. He ended up giving up everything and took up a very simple life. Monk robes, lots of time praying, fasting, teaching... Claire was from another well to do family in Assisi who heard Frances' teaching and also gave up everything. Some years later they were acknowledged by the church and were legitimate. We visited the church where both were baptized. Also to St. Claire’s. I liked this one. It was fairly simple. I say simple but it is hard to explain. Almost every other church we have been in in the last seven months has huge elaborate frescos, beautiful marble columns inside and out, and statues. This had some of this too but also a lot of simple white walls. The church built for St Frances was huge. There was an upstairs church where you could follow the story of his life around the frescoes. There was an equally large down stairs church (a church built below a church). And then finally, the tomb area below that where St Frances' body is. The last thing we saw in Assisi was the castle at the top of the hill just above the city. Amazing views of the area. The whole town was beautiful. I'm glad we went in February. I can only imagine how many people are there during the summer. One, because it really is beautiful. Two, the home of two Saints is a bit of a pilgrimage... Monday we drove down to Spelleto. A little bigger town then we anticipated but still some charm. The high point, both figuratively and literally, was the 700 year old aqueduct/ bridge. Ten towers, as tall as 250 feet, joined on top by arches to bridge the valley.
The entire area is beautiful. Rolling hills. Snow capped mountains. Clean. I've started to do the Rosetta Stone again on a fairly regular basis. The goal being to be able to go back to Cusana Mutri and actually communicate. Seeing some of these small towns and their simple beauty really re-enforces that.

Just a trickle. Check facebook in a couple days and you can see the dramatic full affect.

This is just a radom town we passed on the way from the falls to Spello. Pretty typical of a hillside town. As you drive through the country, Italy, you see random towns on top of hills.

Our castle.

St Frances. The building to the left and below is the "downstairs" church I was talking about. It extends completely beneath the upper church. You can see other small towns in the distance.

The bridge in Spelleto. Look at the center arch. Now look about an arch and a half to the right. You'll see tiny people. You'll have to click on the picture to make it bigger so you can see...