Day 3 (Wed, Sep 19): Orientation/Assisi Walk/St. Francis/Survival Italian
A late night: Despite the best efforts of some noisy merrymakers out in the street just below our window, who finally shut up and went home at 3 am, both of us managed to get some sleep. Noise really reverberates because of all the pretty pink stone which gives Assisi its charm. You know the Zeffirelli movie of Romeo and Juliet? the scene (Act II, Scene 1) where Romeo's friends are trying to find him after the Capulets' party, shouting "Roooh-meo"? That's how they sounded: catcalls coalescing into a boisterous chant. Must've been someone's birthday party. We hoped it wouldn't be repeated.
Walking Tour of Assisi
We had an orientation session this morning and then went on a walk through Assisi, starting at the Piazza Santa Chiara, where our principal guide Marco Ceccarani pointed out the Bancomat (ATM) and the mail box. We then followed the Corso (Mazzini) back past our hotel and toward the Palazzo Comunale or City Hall. We passed a little shop which, according to the plaque over the door (my translation), had been a small handicraft printshop during World War II. There Luigi and Trento Brizi (father and son), printed documents which hid the true identity of Jews living in Assisi.
The façade of San Rufino is wonderful, covered with all sorts of interesting details and including three rose windows. The interior of San Rufino is something of mish-mash, but does contain the baptismal font where St. Francis (1182) and St. Clare (1193) were baptized. The font was created from an ancient granite column and is surrounded by an iron grating. The Blessed Sacrament Chapel in baroque style (1541, enlarged 1663), partly frescoed by Giorgetti (1663). The nine wall paintings are attributed to the 17th-century painter Andrea Carloni. The building below the bell tower is believed to have been where St. Clare's family home once stood.
We returned to Zubolli's shop and purchased Elvio Lunghi's The Basilica of St. Francis in Assisi, which Marco had highly recommended. While we were in Piazza de Comune we dropped into Santa Maria sopra Minerva, the church built on the site, and behind the Corinthian pillars of, the original 1st century Roman Temple of Minerva. With the consent of the Bishop and municipality, the Franciscans took possession of the temple April 15, 1613. The façade is actually pictured in the first of the Giotto frescoes on the life of St. Francis (see next page, "Homage of a Simple Man"). The platform in front of the façade was for a concert to take place tomorrow night.
Went to a nearby bar, the Gran Caffé, for a cup of espresso after the talk. We sat in the empty back room where we noticed a little pug lying under one of the tables, peevishly waiting for its mistress to get off work. We returned to the classroom, which is across the Corso in the hotel annex down a short flight of stairs, where Genna Neilson, our other guide, gave us a Survival Italian lesson, essentially the same type of coverage we've had every trip to Italy. She did it well.
Unscheduled Extra -- an Evening Concert
After dinner the group gathered in front of our hotel and followed Marco and Genna to another by-way off the Piazza de Comune to a "secret destination", on the northwest corner of the intersection of Via San Gregorio and Via San Bernardo da Quintavalle (seemed like a long way down there, but it's just SW of the Comune ... see the teal-colored map on the previous page) which turned out to be a beautiful little church called San Gregorio, which dates from the 10th century. It has long been deconsecrated and is being restored. St. Francis learned his Catechism in this church.
We were treated to a piano concert by Fabrizio Ottaviucci, with works by Bach, Hayden, Chopin, Grieg and Lizst. The performance was outstanding. The pianist no longer performs in public, and he almost couldn't do this concert because of a bad cold. He's a tall, striking man, black pants and shirt with the sleeves rolled up, trimmed beard and long pony tail, probably mid-40s. We were privileged to hear him (thanks to Marco) and that we were able to hear him in this church (again, thanks to Marco; in this case he knew a representative of the Bishop).
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