Assisi is the Giotto frecoes in the Basilica of St. Francis, the medeival Rocca castle above town, countryside walks and trattorias, and lovely little churches

Why Assisi?
  • See the Giotto frescoes in the Basilica di San Francesco
  • Explore the crumbling medieval rocca castle
  • Hike to a countryside monastery
  • Lunch in a classic country trattoria

Assisi would a great little place to visit even if it were just another, run-of-the-mill, lovely Umbrian hilltown—but it's much more than that.

Assisi is also a Mecca for religious pilgrims, art fans, and tour buses all because of one man, a medieval mystic, monk, and all-around nice guy named Francesco (AD 1181–1226), who gave up the good life as son of a wealthy merchant to find his spiritual side and eventually became known to the world as St. Francis of Assisi.

The 13th century ★★★ Basilica di San Francesco—the massive, two-level church built to honor this hometown saint—was decorated by some of the greatest artists of Italy's proto-Renaissance Gothic period, including world-famous frescoes by Giotto, Cimabue, Simone Martini, and Pietro Lorenzetti. It ranks as one of the top sights in all of Italy, and people go out of their way just to visit it (rightfully so).

St. Francis in a nutshell
Though his personal narrative was perhaps more aligned with those of Moses or the Buddha (a child of relative privilege who renounced the cushy life to pursue a purer, spiritual one), St. Francis has often been called the most Christ-like of the medieval saints.

Francesco of Assisi was patient, peace-loving, and kind to all (including, famously, animals), a teacher and modest man who heard God exhort him to "rebuild my church"—which at first he took literally, rebuilding an actual crumbling church near Assisi, and later more metaphorically and spirutually, founding an order of monks devoted to simplicty and the core Christian message.

With his simple ways and strong message, Francis gathered a flock of ardent followers, which led to the founding of the world's first monastic order, the Franciscans—easily spottable, both around town and throughout Italy, in their brown robes and rope belt dangling three knots.

Modest St. Francis would probably be the last person to suggest erecting a gargantuan church around his tomb. However, one of his disciples—St. Elias—was a marketing man at heart and was largely responsible for taking the the holy man's followers and turning them into a full-fledged movement (if you want to keep up the Jesus analogy, Elias was Francesco's St. Paul).

The flocks of faithful that this church has attracted over the centuries has also led to the embellishment of many other fine churches in town, including the rich Duomo (San Ruffino), the lovely Santa Chiara, and the tiny frescoed Orotorio dei Pellegrini.

One of them— Santa Maria della Minerva on the central square—is basically just an ancient Roman Temple of Minerva from the 1st century BC that happens to have a baroque church interior. (You can also tour some of the remains of the Roman Forum underneath the piazza.)

Add to this a trek just outside town to the idyllic Eremo delle Carceri monastery farther up the hill in the woodsy countryside, and an exploration of the long, dark, fantastically spooky tunnels of the crumbling 13th–16th century ★★ Rocca Maggiore (aka Fortezza Albernoz) castle glowering above town, and you have all the best of Italy—ancient ruins, medieval fortress, peaceful monastery, frescoed churches—in one tidy little hilltown.


Tips & links

Assisi visitor information

The tourist office (tel. 075-813-8680 or 075-813-8681; is on Piazza del Comune.

Also handy are the Umbria regional tourism board's website ( and city's civic website ( The private Web sites and also have good info

How long does Assisi take?

Planning your day in Assisi: You can see the Basilica of San Francesco in about 2 hours, though the town deserves at least 4 hours.

Since Assisi is not really near another major destination, and it has so many hotel rooms to sop up all the tourists and pilgrims (and therefore competitive prices), it makes a lot of sense to spend the night here.

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Assisi tours
How to get to Assisi

By train

From Perugia, there are about 20 trains daily (25–30 min.). From Florence, there are 11 daily Rome-bound trains, from which you transfer at Terontola/Cortona for Assisi (2–3 hr., often with long layovers). Coming from Rome, nine daily trains make the connection through Foligno (2–3 hr. total).

The Assisi train station (tel. 075-804-0272; note: ticket office only open in the afternoons, from 1pm to 7:45pm) is in the modern valley town of Santa Maria degli Angeli, about 5km (3 mi.) from the hillside location of "downtown" Assisi.

The local bus C make the run up the hill to Assisi every 20 minutes or so (€1.30 if tickets bought at a tobacconist/newsstand; €2 on the bus), or you can take a taxi for about €10 to €15 (

By car

Assisi is only 27 kilometers (16.7 miles) from Perugia, but you have to take several roads (most are well signposted). Head south of town to the SS3, which you take in the direction of Umbertide.

Get off the SS3 after 3.5 kilometers (2.2 miles) onto the SS75 toward Foligno. After 9 kilometers (5.6 miles), you’ll come to the exit for Assisi at Santa Maria degli Angeli, its modern suburb.

It’s another 5 kilometers (3 miles) up to town.

Assisi is almost entirely closed to traffic except hotel luggage drop-offs and pickups.

Where to park in Assisi

You can park (tel. 075-813-707; in one of three lots:

  1. Parcheggio C: A huge lot under Piazza Matteotti on the town’s eastern edge (tel. 075-815-164) Rates: €1.30/hr.; €19/day.
  2. Parcheggio A: On Piazza Giovanni Paolo II (the old Piazza Unità d'Italia) outside Porta San Pietro; smallest lot, but nearest to the Basilica di San Francesco (tel. 075-815-311). Rates: €1.25/hr for first two hours, then €1.75/hr; €12 per day.
  3. Parcheggio B: Outside the walls’ southeastern corner at Porta Moianbo and Porta Nuova, with an elevator up into town (tel. 075-813-707). Rates: €1.25/hr for first two hours, then €1.75/hr; €12 per day.

These are all pay-by-the-hour lots that fill up quickly in summer (especially Parcheggio A).

For the best free parking in Assisi, drive to the north side of town, up along the ridge above the city, where there’s plenty of space in the lot near the cemetery off Viale Albornoz behind the walls. Even better are the spaces lining Via della Rocca just inside the walls near the Rocca (enter through Porta Perlici off Viale Albornoz and take the first right within the walls). To test your luck, drive all the way to the end of Viale Albornoz where it enters town through Porta San Giacomo; outside this gate are a few free spaces just a two-minute stroll from San Francesco.

By bus

Eight APM buses (tel. 800-512-141 or 075-506-781; run 11-14 times daily between Perugia and Assisi’s Piazza Matteotti (35–45min.; €4.20–€5.50). Most also pass by the lower half of Piazza San Pietro (at the bottom of the big traffic curve) at the other end of town. They also run one daily to and from Todi (~85 min.) via Deruta.

Sulga (tel. 800-099-661; runs two buses daily from Rome’s Tiburtina station (one of which connects to Fiumicino airport); its costs €18.50 (€23.50 for the airport) and takes around three hours (give or take 15 min.). It arrives in Assisi at Piazza San Pietro. Sulga also runs one bus daily between Assisi and Naples (~5 hr.; €25) and Pompei (~6 hr; €28).

In Assisi, buy bus tickets in any tabacchi or at the tourist office.

By private transfer from Rome

You can also get a private transfer from Rome (a downtown hotel or the airport) via our partners at for around $105:

Useful links & resources
Near Assisi

Perugia (40–50 min. by car or train); Orvieto (1.5–2 hr. by car; 2–3 hr. by train); Siena (2–3 hr. by car; 3.5–4.5 hr. by train); Pienza (1.5–2 hr. by car; train impractical), San Gimignano (2.5–3 hr. by car; train impractical); Florence (2–2.5 hr. by car or train); Rome (2.5–3 hr. by car; 2–3 hr. by train).

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