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As the home to St Francis and St Clare, along with its ancient Roman roots, there are a number of sites to visit in Assisi that are of both religious and historical importance. Although many sites were heavily damaged as a result of an earthquake in 1997, astounding restoration projects have restored them to their former majesty. A few of the many sites worth visiting in Assisi include:
No Assisi visit is complete without a stop at the Eremo delle Carceri ("the Hermitage"), 15th c. monastery built under direction of St. Bernardino di Siena on the slopes of Mt. Subasio in the midst of a forest of centuries-old live oaks. The monastery complex was built over the grottoes where St. Francis and his followers withdrew for periods of prayer and meditation in the 13th century.
Closes before sunset - in summer, about 6 pm. Location - about 4 km uphill - exiting town from Porta Cappuccini (not far from parking lot, Piazza Matteoti. Possible to take taxi up to the Hermitage - and cabs can be hired in Piazza S. Chiara, Piazza Comune, Piazza San Pietro (parking area). Suggestion: cab up and walk down.
Additional sights for those on a pilgrimage of any sort: The chapel in the Basilica of St Clare (Basilica di Santa Chiara - near the east edge of the old city) contains the original San Damiano cross before which St Francis knelt and heard the Lord say to him "Francis, rebuild my church, which you can see is in ruins." Also, you may view body of St Clare in the crypt of the Basilica, ie, you will see a wax image made over her skeleton in 1982.
Just down the hill from Basilica di Santa Chiara is the convent at San Damiano where Clare gathered her first group of women followers, who lived in the spirt of poverty, following the example of St. Francis. During the life of St. Clare, the locals called the women "le Damianite", ie, "those ladies at San Damiano". We now know these followers of St. Clare as the "Poor Clares" or "Clarisse" as the Italians call them. This structure was originally a Benedictine priory, where St Francis knelt in the oratory before the cross previously described. The structure was substantially expanded by the Poor Clares. The room ("cell") where St Clare, bedridden, was privileged to hear and see the Mass on her wall - which is why she is the patroness of Television! It's an easy 10 minute walk and well worth it.
*Before doing any touring in Assisi, purchase guide book - good selection at Zubboli bookstore opposite the Minerva Temple (1st BC) in the main square, Piazza del Comune. The Tourist Office is also here.