Situated on a promontory of Monte Subasio, overlooking the Umbria Valley, Assisi was a flourishing centre of ancient Umbria. Home of the poet Properzio, it grew from the first century B.C. on former Etruscan settlements. Assisi rises between two important Roman roads, the Amerina and the Flaminia. Bearing witness to this past are the remains of numerous monuments. The most relevant piece of Roman architecture is located in Piazza del Comune (Town Hall Square): the Temple of Minerva from the first century B.C., reconsecrated in the Christian period to the Virgin, where on the original façade the fluted corinthian columns have been preserved. In the area below, beneath the current streets, was the forum, the community’s civil and commercial centre, whose original flooring has been preserved along with numerous finds and which are now kept inside the Civic Museum of the Roman Forum. Other remains are located near the 14th century gate, Porta Perlici. Here a line of houses conceals the remains of a first century A.D Roman Amphitheatre. Assisi reveals a typical appearance of a medieval town in the Piazza del Comune, the town’s “laic” square and the seat of civic power. The Palazzo del Capitano del Popolo (Palace of the Captain of the People) has stood here since the 3rd century together with the Civic Tower.
The Cathedral of San Rufino, the city’s duomo, was built between 1140 and 1253, when social transformations made the people of Assisi want a new church with a real square. From the square, via dei Perlici leads to the Porta Perlici and by following the 14th century walls you will reach the Rocca Maggiore fortress where you can enjoy a splendid panorama of the valley and the town.
On the other side of the town you will find the Basilica of Saint Francis. Requested by Pope Gregory IX in 1228, only two years after the Saint’s death, it was built in a place which had been called “the Hill of Hell”, because that is where capital punishment was carried out. However, since then the name has changed to “Hill of Heaven”. Inside there are some of the greatest medieval paintings: from Giotto’s most renowned frescoes from the cycle “The life of Saint Francis”, to masterpieces by Cimabue. In conclusion, we advise visitors to linger near the Basilica of Saint Clare, where they will be struck by the beauty of the Rose window and the flying buttresses of pink stone from Monte Subasio.