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Wednesday 2 November

"Ate some tozzetti con vin santo and read a bit (Lucian on the Dance) and went back to sleep at 1 A.M." would be the conclusion to yesterday's entry.

Cold very cloudy weather this morning (visibility 100 to 300 m, and much worse down in the plain) plus the fact that I woke up in time to do it ("opportunity" rather than "motive" as Agatha Christie would say), and presto I took the 8:42 bus and the corresponding 9:25 train to Perugia, changed at Ponte S. Giovanni, got off at Assisi Stazione (in fact: S. Maria degli Angeli) and got the bus up to Assisi — and I spent the day in Assisi, rather unexpectedly. No breakfast at the apartment (time! although I found the time to retrieve my photos, the iceskating requires 100, not 400 ASA, thus most of my pictures of the Mentana meet are fuzzy; and timing is very difficult, so a number of them don't make much sense — still, a learning experience and a few good shots after all), but I grabbed two mildly sweet rolls at Ponte S. Giovanni —

Arriving at Assisi's bus park square just inside the east wall of the town, I visited the "Roman amphitheater", which all one can say about is it's the right shape. . . it's also private property, belonging to a little hotel/restaurant; then I went to look at the nearby gate (the Porta dei Cappuccini)º and a road sign by it pointed to the Eremo delle Carceri and my Blue Guide said this was only 4 km away, so impulse took over and basically the first thing I did then on arriving in Assisi was to leave. . . The 4 km walk is a climb of some 340 m (roughly 450 to exactly 790 m), which is an 8.5% mean slope — the horrible hill of Ponterio is 250 m up in 3 km or the same slope; yet the Eremo climb was not at all bad. Almost no car traffic; pretty much as many walkers — the very first time I've seen that! — as cars: I must have crossed or passed 15 groups (of no more than 4) or single hikers — I suppose it's the short distance, the unavailability of bus transportation, and the ecology and pilgrimage appeal of the hermitage all combined. Shirtless and only 2° below ideal.

[image ALT: In a forest next to an old stone bridge, a small olive tree supported in part by scaffolding. It is St. Francis's tree at the Eremo delle Carceri near Assisi, Umbria (central Italy).]
The hermitage itself is pleasant, and the core of it — the cave where St. Francis went to pray — is tiny, the size of a walk-in closet. A very old olive tree nearby is said to be the tree in which St. Francis's birds were, and it is lovingly buttressed and held together (it has split at the base) with steel hoops, etc. and all this has been rewarded by new growth at the top. A moving sight, the care of that tree. This being said, I noticed later in the Basilica that contemporaneous representations of the preaching to the birds show an oak tree, not an olive; and a book on St. Francis puts this tree in a totally different place, miles away.

Also a plaque, 1986, commemorating the 25th anniversary of the World Wildlife Fund and the visit of HRH Philip Duke of Edinburgh of somewhat, apparently, less than blessed memory: at least it's discrete. I also walked the 150 meters or so away to the cave of Brother Leo, in fact a sort of cleft between two rocks, big enough to shelter maybe five people: hundreds of people had made crosses out of twigs and left them there. I made mine about 2 inches high, tied with a leaf stem — this, given my usual dexterity, took a while. . . Also of interest was a tiny chapel the burial place of the friar who invented the pawn shop ('monte di pietà' — and it may well be this very mountain, Mt. Subasio, that is commemorated in the expression) — also rather moving. As with the rest of Assisi, the hermitage enclosure seems to be visited exclusively by Germans. And indeed, signs are in Italian and German only; as, often, in Assisi town.

And then I walked back down; the valley totally cloud-covered, so view nil, except a rather splendid basically aerial view down onto Assisi from a bend in the road: each church with her large tower, and the power­ful Rocca Maggiore crowning the whole. (There is a Rocca Minore, also: basically a single tower, close by the Porta dei Cappuccini.)º

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The Rocca Minore of Assisi,
seen from the back of the Piazza Matteotti.

[The remainder — the bulk — of my visit of Assisi requires more concentration to record than I'm willing to give right now (it's 10:45) so I'll save it for tomorrow on the train.] [. . .]

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Page updated: 7 Dec 20