Tuesday, February 5, 2013

In the Steps of St. Francis

 With a little girl all bandaged up and stroller purchased to cart the lame child around, we set off on our driving tour of Italy. First stop, the hill town of Assisi. Assisi was my first foray into the Tuscany/Umbria region right after we moved to Italy. I wrote about that trip here, with the inspired blog post title of Assisi. That post covers all the fun facts and such - stuff I'd completely forgotten about St. Francis. I won't repeat it all again.

View from hotel room window - well worth the half hour
it took for us to find the hotel.
We'd changed our itinerary a little bit to take into account the second stroller. Assisi is a very easy town to visit, with a mostly pedestrian city center, several eating options, lots of safe parking options, and smooth streets. The plan was to make the four hour drive in the morning, see Assisi in the afternoon, spend the following day visiting one or two other villages in Umbria, then on to Venice the following day - possibly another city stop on the way to Venice. Ha! I quickly found out what traveling with children is actually like. First of all, we didn't get out of the house until almost 10am. Nora was eating every three hours, so we had to stop for a feed the baby break. Arriving in Assisi, we wound our way through the town on the very few (one way) streets upon which driving is allowed and finally the GPS told us we'd reached our destination. We had not. We finally did reach our hotel and spent another two hours getting the car unloaded, me driving out of town to the parking lot and walking back in, unpacking, me feeding the baby, and so on. Traveling with children is a whole new ballgame for me.

Tea Room break
By the time we got out to walk around, most of Assisi's little shops were closed up. We made one loop near our hotel, then finished up back near the Basilica of St. Francis to see a gorgeous sunset over the Umbrian countryside, then into the nearby tearoom for some tea, pastries, and hot chocolate - a favorite stop of the day for every member of our group!

Basilica of Saint Francis
The following day, we covered the entire town. Every alley, every church, every shop. We even went up the steepest street I've seen outside of San Francisco. We pushed and pushed and pushed those strollers up, found an interesting church at the top, then back down. We stopped for tea, stopped for lunch, stopped to feed the baby, stopped to play with Princess dolls in a piazza, stopped for hot chocolate. The day was freezing cold, but our little live Princesses were bundled up, and the sky stayed a gorgeous blue all day, highlighting Assisi's beautiful, stone buildings and the flowers spilling out of pots all over the city. Day 2 of our trip was fairly successful, but next up was Venice - land of 1000 or so pedestrian bridges, so not really the place to have strollers (okay, actually only about 400 bridges), but we read that in winter, most of the bridges in the touristy areas have ramps. We'll see.

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