Italy Trip: Special Report – Visit to Assisi and Perugia

ECLA Italy Trip Special Report
ECLA Italy Trip

During the Italy trip we were offered the opportunity to visit Assisi and Perugia. The trip took us to the region of Umbria, famous for being the “green heart of Italy” because it has no access to the sea. In the past the two cities fought long wars over conflicing political affiliations: Assisi aligned itself with the Ghibellines and Perugia with the Guelphs. The main focus of the trip was to see the medieval structures of Assisi and visit the National Gallery of Umbria in Perugia.

Taking a train from Florence we arrived at the foot of the hill on which the white-stoned city of Assisi stands. The way up seemed almost like a pilgrimage to a sacred place, but many of us found the uphill walk challenging and pleasant. We all enjoyed the extraordinarily beautiful landscape of the valley. Getting closer to the gates of the city the excitement grew granting us the endurance to continue the strenuous walk. At the top, we realized that it was worth our effort. The view was breath-taking!

The main attraction in Assisi is the Church of St. Francis. St. Francis was the founder of the Franciscan religious order in 1208. He professed simplicity of life and closeness to nature, praised apostolic poverty and ascetic life. Our interest in the Church of St. Francis related to the series of frescoes traditionally credited to Giotto – one of the key artists in the advent of the Renaissance. Having visited both chiesa superiore (the upper floor of the church, originally accessible only to monks) and chiesa inferiore (the lower level intended for lay-people), we descended to the catacombs, where the tomb of St. Francis is located. The architecture and decoration of the church signify the transition from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance.

Perugia was very much like Assisi, but much larger and more dynamic as one would expect from the capital of a province. Tired after the Assisi ascent we took a bus to the top of the vibrant town. The town’s name became well-known for giving the nickname to the famous painter Pietro Vanucci, i.e. Perugino, who is said to be the maestro of Raphael. The National Gallery of Umbria contains many works by Perugino, which manifested a notably different style of painting from that originating in Tuscany.

The town is famous for its two major universities the Università degli Studi and the Università per Stranieri (Foreigners University). It is a melting pot for students from all over Italy and the world. Walking in the streets of the city we could not disregard the architecture that includes the Roman Aqueduct and Etruscan Arch, Fontana Maggiore, designed by Fra Bevignate and sculpted by Nicolò and Giovanni Pisano, Palazzo dei Priori and many other places. The trip to Umbria allowed us to see another region of beautiful, blossoming Italy, and conquered our hearts with its uniqueness and charm.

 By Nargiza Majidova (2007, Uzbekistan)

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