When it comes to traveling to Italy, Assisi is a must-visit destination. Assisi ia a charming hill town, located in the region of Umbria. It’s known for its rich history, stunning architecture, and beautiful landscapes. In this article we’ll highlight what we’ve found to be the best things to do in Assisi.
Assisi is one of the best day trips from Rome or best day trips from Florence, and has something for everyone. Whether you’re a history buff, a religious pilgrim, or simply a lover of Italian culture, there’s something for any traveler in Assisi.
We’ll review the Basilica di San Francesco and tell you how to book your private tour led by a local guide! You can also visit the nearby Convento di San Damiano, where St. Clare founded the Order of Poor Ladies, or Santa Maria degli Angeli, a basilica that houses the Porziuncola, a small chapel that was dear to St. Francis.
Another must-see attraction in Assisi is the Rocca Maggiore, a medieval fortress that offers breathtaking views of the town and the surrounding countryside.
You can also explore the Roman Forum and Museum, which showcases the ancient history of the region, or take a stroll through the charming streets of Assisi, where you’ll find artisan shops, cafes, and restaurants serving up delicious Umbrian cuisine. Whatever your interests, Assisi is a destination that you won’t want to miss!
Exploring the Historical Sites
Assisi is a city steeped in history, and there are several historical sites worth exploring during your visit. Here are some of the top places to visit if you’re interested in history:
1) Visit the Roman Forum and Archaeological Museum
One of the most fascinating historical sites in Assisi is the Roman Forum and Archaeological Museum. The Roman Forum was once the center of political and social life in ancient Assisi.
Today, visitors can explore the ruins of the Forum and learn about the city’s ancient history at the Archaeological Museum. The museum houses a collection of artifacts from the Roman period, including coins, pottery, and sculptures.
2) Discover the Rocca Maggiore Fortress
The Rocca Maggiore Fortress is a must-see for anyone interested in medieval history. This imposing castle dates back to the 14th century and was built to defend Assisi against attacks from neighboring cities. Visitors can explore the castle’s ramparts and towers, which offer stunning views of the city and surrounding countryside. There is a terrific private guided tour you should consider to make this extra memorable!
3) Marvel at the Basilica of St. Francis
The Basilica of St. Francis is one of the most important religious sites in Italy and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The basilica is divided into two parts, the Upper Basilica and the Lower Basilica. The Upper Basilica features stunning frescoes by famous artists such as Cimabue and Giotto, while the Lower Basilica houses the tomb of St. Francis. The basilica is a must-visit for anyone interested in art, history, or religion.
Traveler’s Tip: There are numberous tours offered for the Basilica of St. Francis. They range in cost and time duration so you will be able to fins one that suits your needs and itineary. You can check all the options and availability here.
The Basilica is closed to tours on Major Catholic holidays, National Holidays and other days of observance. Your tour guide will talk outside the Basilica and then you can enter and tour on your own, in silence.
Spiritual Journeys in Assisi
There is nothing like embarking on a spiritual journey in Assisi, the birthplace of St. Francis, and exploring the serene sites that hold deep religious significance. Here are some not to miss!
4) Pilgrimage to the Basilica of Santa Maria degli Angeli
Begin your spiritual exploration with a pilgrimage to the Basilica of Santa Maria degli Angeli. This grand basilica houses the Porziuncola, the small church where St. Francis founded the Franciscan Order. It is a significant pilgrimage site for those seeking spiritual solace and historical insight.
5) Contemplate at the Hermitage of the Carceri
Find tranquility and solitude at the Hermitage of the Carceri, a peaceful retreat nestled in the wooded slopes of Mount Subasio. This hermitage, where St. Francis and his followers sought spiritual contemplation, offers a serene atmosphere for personal reflection and meditation.
6) Experience the Sanctuary di Rivotorto
Delve into the history of the Franciscan Order by visiting the Sanctuary di Rivotorto. This humble complex served as a refuge for St. Francis and his early followers. Immerse yourself in the tranquil surroundings and gain a deeper understanding of the spiritual significance of this revered site.
Assisi offers a profound spiritual experience, inviting you to connect with the legacy of St. Francis and St. Clare while embracing the peaceful ambiance of these sacred locations.
Cultural Immersion and Artistic Heritage
Assisi is a town steeped in history and culture, making it an ideal destination for art lovers and history buffs. There are plenty of opportunities to immerse yourself in the artistic heritage of the town, from admiring the works of Giotto and Cimabue to exploring the Basilica di Santa Chiara.
7) Admire the Art of Giotto and Cimabue
Giotto and Cimabue are two of the most famous artists associated with Assisi. Giotto is known for his frescoes in the Basilica di San Francesco, which depict scenes from the life of St. Francis. Cimabue, on the other hand, is known for his work in the Upper Basilica of San Francesco, where he painted frescoes of the life of Jesus.
The frescoes of Giotto and Cimabue are considered some of the finest examples of Italian art from the Gothic period. They are renowned for their beauty, their attention to detail, and their ability to convey emotion. Admiring these works of art is a must for anyone visiting Assisi!
8) Explore the Basilica di Santa Chiara
The Basilica di Santa Chiara is a Romanesque and Gothic church located in the heart of Assisi. It is dedicated to St. Clare, a follower of St. Francis and the founder of the Order of Poor Ladies.
The church is known for its beautiful stained-glass windows, which depict scenes from the life of St. Clare. It also houses the tomb of St. Clare, which is located in the crypt. The church is a masterpiece of medieval architecture and a testament to the enduring faith of the people of Assisi.
Visiting the Basilica di Santa Chiara is a great way to immerse yourself in the religious and artistic heritage of Assisi. The church is a testament to the enduring faith of the people of Assisi and a reminder of the town’s rich history and culture.
Scenic Beauty and Nature
Assisi is a town of natural beauty, with stunning views and picturesque streets. If you’re a nature lover, you’ll have difficulty choosing with all the things to see and do in the area. Here is our list of are some of the best things to do to appreciate Assisi’s beauty:
9) Hike Mount Subasio for Breathtaking Views
Mount Subasio, or Monte Subasio, is the tallest mountain in the region and offers breathtaking views of Assisi and the surrounding countryside. It’s a popular destination for hikers, with trails ranging from easy to difficult.
You can choose to hike to the summit, which takes about two hours, or take a shorter route to one of the many viewpoints. Along the way, you’ll see olive groves, wildflowers, and maybe even some wildlife. Don’t forget to bring a camera to capture the stunning views!
Traveler’s Tip: There are some great experiences if you’re on the adventurous side. A favorite is the ATV Quad tour. This is part of a whole day adventure experience and guided tour of Assisi. You’ll ride your own ATV, lead by a professional guide, on the slopes of Mt. Subasio for some epic views! Check availability and details and here.
10) Relax in the Lavender Fields at Il Lavandeto di Assisi
If you’re looking for a more relaxing way to enjoy nature, visit Il Lavandeto di Assisi, a lavender farm located just outside of town. Here you can stroll through the beautiful lavender fields, learn about the history and cultivation of lavender, and even purchase some lavender products to take home. The farm also has a shop and a café where you can enjoy a lavender-infused meal or drink.
Local Gastronomy and Wine Tasting
Assisi is not only famous for its religious heritage, but also for its gastronomic traditions. You can’t leave without trying some of the local delicacies and wines. Here are some suggestions to help you get started!
11) Sample Traditional Umbrian Cuisine
Umbrian cuisine is characterized by its simplicity and use of local ingredients. Meat is a staple in Umbria, and you will find many dishes featuring pork, beef, and game. One of the most famous dishes is the “strangozzi al tartufo,” a pasta dish with truffles. Another must-try is the “porchetta,” a roasted pork dish seasoned with garlic, rosemary, and fennel.
If you are looking for a place to try some traditional Umbrian cuisine, why not try making it yourself? There are numerous cooking classes, but one that stands out among the rest is a traditional Umbrian cooking class, where you can prepare special and unique recipes that evoke the ancient flavors of traditional Italian cuisine. You will prepare, with the assistance of a professional local chef, famous and delicious recipes such as tagliatelle, a handmade pasta, and other famous Umbrian dishes. Book ahead for availability!
12) Discover Assisi’s Wine and Cheese
Assisi is located in the Terra Umbra Antica wine region, which produces some of the best wines in Italy. The region is known for its full-bodied red wines, such as the Sagrantino di Montefalco and Rosso di Montefalco. You can also find some excellent white wines, such as the Grechetto and Trebbiano Spoletino.
To sample some of the local wines, check out a vineyard with natural and authentic wines on an organic winery tour with a food tasting of local cuisine, located in the heart of Assisi. They offer a wide selection of local wines, as well as cheese and charcuterie boards to pair with your wine.
Speaking of cheese, Umbria is also known for its delicious cheeses! One of the most famous is the Pecorino di Norcia, a sheep’s milk cheese with a sharp flavor. You can find this cheese and many other delicious Italian foods at the local markets.
If you are looking for a place to enjoy some wine and cheese, head to Bibenda Assisi. This cozy restaurant offers a wine and cheese tastings, chocolate tastings and other delicious Umbrian treats!
Assisi is a small town that is easy to navigate on foot. However, there are a few things you need to know before you start exploring.
Getting to and Around Assisi
The easiest way to get to Assisi is by car. If you are coming from Perugia or Rome, take the A1 highway and exit at Valdichiana. From there, follow the signs to Perugia and then to Assisi. You can check car rates and availabilty for your dates of travel here.
Once you arrive in Assisi, park your car in one of the public parking lots outside the town walls. You can then walk into the town center or take a shuttle bus.
If you prefer to take public transportation, there are buses and trains that connect Assisi to Perugia and other nearby towns. The train station is located in Santa Maria degli Angeli, a few kilometers outside of Assisi. From there, you can take a bus or taxi into the town center.
Tips for Parking and Transportation
Parking in Assisi can be challenging, especially during peak tourist season. If you are driving just to Assisi or taking a road trip throughout Italy it is best to arrive early in the morning or late in the afternoon to find a spot.
There are several public parking lots outside the town walls, including Parcheggio Matteotti, Parcheggio Moiano, and Parcheggio San Pietro. The parking fees vary depending on the location and time of day.
If you prefer not to drive, there are several tour operators that offer guided tours of Assisi. These tours usually include transportation from nearby towns and cities, such as Perugia and Rome.
If you explore Assisi on foot, wear comfortable shoes and be prepared for some uphill walking. The town is built on a hill, so there are many stairs and steep streets. However, the views from the top are worth the effort.
Shopping and Leisure
Assisi is not only a city with a rich history and culture, but it also offers a unique shopping experience. From boutique shops to local markets, you will find a variety of souvenirs to take home with you. Here are some of the best places to shop and relax in Assisi.
13) Browse Boutique Shops in the Historic City Center
The historic city center of Assisi is home to many boutique shops where you can find unique and handmade items. Via San Francesco is one of the most popular streets for shopping, lined with shops selling local products such as olive oil, wine, ceramics, and leather goods. You can also find a variety of clothing, jewelry, and accessories in the shops around Piazza del Comune.
One of the most famous shops in Assisi is Torre del Popolo, which sells handmade ceramics and pottery. The shop is located in the heart of the city, near the Town Hall. You can browse the beautiful ceramics and even watch the artisans at work.
14) Experience the Charm of Assisi’s Piazzas
Assisi’s piazzas are not only great for people-watching but also offer a relaxing atmosphere to enjoy a coffee or gelato. Piazza del Comune is the main square in Assisi, surrounded by historic buildings and cafes. It’s the perfect place to sit and enjoy the view of the Basilica di San Francesco.
Another charming piazza in Assisi is Piazza Santa Chiara, located just a short walk from the Basilica di San Francesco. This square is named after St. Clare, the founder of the Order of Poor Ladies. You can find cafes and shops around the square, as well as a beautiful church dedicated to St. Clare.
Unique Experiences in Assisi
15) Take a Hot Air Balloon Ride Over Umbria
When visiting Assisi, one unique experience you should consider is taking a hot air balloon ride over the picturesque landscapes of Umbria. This exhilarating adventure offers breathtaking views of the rolling hills, vineyards, and historic landmarks. It provides a serene and unforgettable perspective of the region, allowing you to witness the beauty of Assisi from a different vantage point.
16) Attend the Calendimaggio Festival
Immerse yourself in the vibrant traditions of Assisi by attending the Calendimaggio Festival. This is an annual celebration, steeped in history and folklore, that pays homage to the medieval era and the legacy of St. Francis.
The festival features lively parades, theatrical performances, and musical events that take place in the enchanting setting of Piazza del Commune. It offers a fascinating glimpse into the local culture and provides an opportunity to witness the spirit of St. Francis and the enduring traditions of Assisi.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the top attractions to visit in Assisi?
Assisi is home to many historical and religious sites, but the top attractions that you must visit include the Basilica di San Francesco, Santa Maria degli Angeli, Cathedral of San Rufino, and Rocca Maggiore. Other must-visit places include the Convento di San Damiano, Le Carceri, and Monte Subasio. You can see all of these sites and more on a private walking tour of Assisi.
Which local shops offer the best shopping experience in Assisi?
Assisi is known for its handmade ceramics, olive wood products, and local wines. For the best shopping experience, you can visit the shops in the historic center of Assisi, especially on Via San Francesco and Corso Mazzini. Some of the best shops to visit include Bottega del Vino, La Bottega dei Sapori, and La Bottega del Pellegrino.
What unique experiences can visitors find in Assisi’s lesser-known spots?
Assisi has many hidden treasures that visitors can explore. Some of the lesser-known spots include the Eremo delle Carceri, a peaceful hermitage in the woods, and the Basilica di Santa Maria sopra Minerva, a beautiful church with stunning frescoes. You can also visit the Roman Amphitheater, the Temple of Minerva, and the Oratorio dei Pellegrini.
What is the recommended time spent in Assisi?
Assisi is a small town, but there is a lot to see and do. A two-day visit is recommended to explore the town’s main attractions and hidden gems. However, if you want to take your time and explore the town at a leisurely pace, a three-day visit is recommended.
Wising you safe and happy travels!