Between winery stops I am going to tell you about a visit to another medieval town. Umbria has these beautiful little towns on hilltops wherever you go. They are just far enough apart that one can imagine a person living in the 15th century in Assisi or Bevagna for their entire life and never traveling to the other. I would need to bone up on the local history to know who they had to fortify the villages against, but each one is surrounded by formidable walls with solid gates.
This post will center on Bevagna.
Every year in June the town has a celebration, reminiscent to me at least, of a renaissance faire. The entire town dresses in medieval costumes. This celebration is not intended to be a tourist attraction, they do it for themselves to celebrate their heritage. That being said, I think it would be a wonderful time to visit Bevagna for a day during a longer stay in Umbria. Included in Bevagna’s celebration is a contest for the best recreation of medieval crafts. We visited two past prize winners. A papermaker and a candlemaker.
We also went to a Olive oil producer. I will cover that in a future post, so stay tuned.
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If you are ever lucky enough to get to Assisi, do yourself a favor and stay at San Crispino. In fact if you are ever in Italy, go to Assisi so you can stay at San Crispino. Take this all the way and just plan a trip to Italy specifically to stay at San Crispino. Honestly, I liked it that much.
It is more than a hotel. It is more than a hotel and a spa. It is a hotel, a spa and a wellness center all wrapped up in two beautiful facilities.
Deep into the medieval city of Assisi on quiet cobblestone streets San Crispino has a small hotel which is actually a historical mansion. It has theme rooms designed to add to the feeling of living in the 15th century, only as a noble. Each of the rooms has a private garden. I’m not talking a few plants on a balcony here,oh no. This hotel provides you with a big lush garden you could play sports in! The rooms we saw were sumptuous.
Thank you to San Crispino for a wonderful afternoon in Assisi!
Assisi is the birthplace of St. Francis, born in 1182. Yup, that makes him older than me. I grew up knowing about St. Francis of Assisi and his love of animals and peace on earth, and I’m not even Catholic.
When I signed up to go to Umbria, I started looking at the web, and I was thrilled to know that Assisi was a spears throw away from where we would be headquartered. TBU and the Umbria tourism people did a wonderful job of making a pre-conference tour to this medieval city available.
Assisi is strategically located on top of a small mountain, or high hill, depending on your perspective. In fact, throughout Umbria there are medieval cities, surrounded by walls, occupying defensive positions in elevated areas.
The towns, although constructed before anyone dreamed of the new world, are still vibrant homes to hundreds of people. Residents go about their days, walking streets laid out in the 12th century. The reason we were guests here is so that we would blog to the world and promote tourism. I hope we help a little but it would be a shame if thousands of google-eyed, awe struck people like me wandered the cobblestone streets which are actually someone’s proud home. So, only half of you go, OK?
The centerpiece attraction in Assisi is the Basilica of St. Francis. There are two levels to this structure. They actually make up two churches. The upper was built in 1230 to 1253 on top of the lower that was finished in 1230. Both levels are wondrously decorated by the greatest artists of the 13th and 14th centuries and have fantastic stained glass windows.
So what is a Basilica I hope you are asking?
In the Roman Catholic Church, a basilica is a designation for an important church building. A basilica is designated by the Pope to buildings that carry special spiritual, historical, and architectural significance. Once a basilica — always a basilica. This is a Papal Basilica, and it has a Papal throne. Every Pope since 1230 has visited here, except John Paul I of course. The throne is there for viewing, but I was not allowed to go sit in it.
There is also a monestary attached to this Basilica where the Order of Franciscan Friars is based. They are a humble group and you see them walking the ancient streets to this day.
St. Francis’ tomb is in the lower level and many make a pilgrimage to pray for perhaps a miracle. I prayed that he give our cat a brain.
My next post will still be in Assisi at a wonderful hotel/spa/wellness facility called San Crispino that treated us to a spectacular afternoon. Stay Tuned!
I do not know where to start about my last ten days in Italy, so I guess I’ll start at the start.
Back in December ’11 I ran across a website called Travel Bloggers Unite. Dyslexic as I am I thought it said Travel Bloggers Untie, so I perused it. Oliver, the head honcho (maybe the sole honcho) at TBU was touting the third TBU conference. This one was to take place in Umbria, which is a region of Italy largely lost to the tourist trade. It should not be. Umbria is one of the prettiest and hospitable places on the entire coconut.
The conference attendees were people I was very glad to meet. With a couple exceptions, I was the senior member of the circuit. I never meet these people travelling because they are mostly young enough to be my children. With that said, we have a huge thing in common; we all love to blog about traveling the world. With THAT said, I had one big difference with the majority of them. They support their travels by blogging, I do it for fun, and hopefully to entertain you my faithful readers. Maybe I am just too lazy to find sponsors, or maybe I do not want my blog to look like a NASCAR, whatever. I just do not “Monetize” (a blogger buzz word) my blog. I have nothing against those who do. In fact I admire people who can travel incessantly, and get paid by everyone from Ray Ban to American Express to support the wanderlust. It is just not my style or my need.
Amazingly the conversations did not center on war stories from different destinations. Oh there was the occasional “once upon a time in…” stories but they were more in passing than anything else. There were a lot of conversations about maintaining a blog, length of posts, how often you post and building readership. On the last point, it seems that Facebook and Twitter are the main avenues for finding new readers. I am late to both games, but since the conference I have managed to double my presence on the two of them.
TBU arranged this conference, but it was the Umbria agencies for tourism and wine that hosted us in an incredible fashion.
After the conference Oliver arranged with The Umbrian Tourist people to take six groups off on amazing, beautiful, educational and fun trips. Ours was to wineries where we were treated like royalty. I’ll say more on that, much more, in upcoming posts. Let us just say, that when people treat me the way we got treated in Umbria, I am going to tell you about it. Hopefully it will plant the idea in your head that the region is an excellent destination for a vacation.
I want to Thank Oliver Gradwel, TBU and the region of Umbria for one of the best travel experiences of my life, AND the fact that I did not reach for my wallet once in 5 days. SWEET!