Perched on the seemingly terraced slope of Mount Subasio and overlooking the vast Umbrian valley below, Assisi is protected from above by a well preserved, medieval fortress known as the Rocca. The town of Santa Maria degli Angeli sits at the feet of the rotund mountain and it is here that one can admire the grand basilica built in 1569 by Galeazzo Alessi over the tiny Porziuncola, the church where Saint Francis, the Patron Saint of Italy, lived, founded his order and not far from which he died on the night of October 3rd, 1226. Travelling upwards from Santa Maria degli Angeli, a tour of Assisi can begin at Porta San Pietro. Once you have entered through the ancient gate you will find one of Christianity’s most important basilicas, the imposing and monumental Basilica of Saint Francis, which was built in the first half of the XIII century. Sticking out from its hillside foundations, it looks out over Umbria and receives a constant flow of visitors from all over the world who come not only for religious reasons, but also to admire some of the greatest pictorial cycles of the XIII and XIV centuries, the work of such artists as Giotto and his collaborators, Cimabue, Simone Martini and Pietro Lorenzetti. The ancient walls of Assisi contain many other landmarks and buildings as well: the Temple of Minerva, the main town square, San Rufino Cathedral, a masterpiece of Umbrian Romanesque architecture, and the Basilica of Saint Clare. Outside the walls there is another must-see landmark, the Eremo delle Carceri hermitage, a wooded place of Franciscan prayer and meditation, and the Church of San Damiano, where St. Francis wrote his Canticle of the Sun.

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