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In the steps of St Francis

Città di Castello, Assisi, Gubbio and the art of faith.

In the steps of St Francis

Our journey commences at Città di Castello, one of Umbria's most visited tourist destinations, a place where ancient and contemporary art forms live side by side in perfect harmony. The tour of the town starts in Piazza Garibaldi with a visit to Palazzo Vitelli a Sant'Egidio, built in the mid 16th century and on to Palazzo Albizzini; historic edifice which is now home to some 130 works by the Citta di Castello-born artist, Alberto Burri (1915-1995). The impressive collection includes sculptures, paintings, and sketches for the designs of stage and film sets. A number of Burri's works are also housed in the buildings of Città di Castello's old tobacco drying plant.
Those interested in sacred art will, no doubt, enjoy a visit to the Duomo Museum, located next to the cathedral. Last, but not least, there is the Pinacoteca Comunale, which occupies a part of the prestigious Palazzo Vitelli alla Cannoniera, and contains important renaissance masterpieces by Raphaele and Ghirlandaio.

At Morra, a small town just a few kilometers from Città di Castello, there is the Church of San Crescentino, famous for the cycle of frescoes by Luca Signorelli, important Renaissance artist and pupil of the great Piero della Francesca.

Just a little further on and we come to Pietralunga, gateway to the Park of Monte Cucco, and its 10.000 hectares of land which extend all the way to the border with Italy's region of the Marche. A succession of vertiginous precipices and deep ravines characterise the area, producing a stunning landscape, right in the heart of the Italian peninsula. The Grotta of Monte Cucco is, without question, the most impressive of the gorges, extending for some 30 kilometers and which, in places, plummets some 923 meters below the surface.

Gubbio is a delightful medieval town, its center brimming with edifices of great historical and architectural importance such as Palazzo dei Consoli, Palazzo Pretorio and Palazzo del Capitolo dei Canonici. Another building worthy of visit is the Palazzo Ducale, now home to an excellent history museum and around which a number of attractive restaurants and bars are located.

After Gubbio, we make our next stop at Gualdo Tadino. The Rocca Flea is situated in the highest part of the town, position from where this ancient stronghold has dominated the surrounding area for centuries. Considered to be one of Italy's most significant works of late medieval fortified architecture, after years of restoration work the castle now serves as striking exhibition center. This is where to discover the history of Gauldo Tadino's ceramic-producing tradition, illustrated by both age-old pieces of earthenware and fabulous contemporary artworks.

Overlooking the Topino river, lies Nocera Umbra, ancient archbishopric, the historic center of which was considerably damaged by the earthquake of 1997. Situated to the south east of Nocera Umbra, since the 16th century Bagni has been known for the healing powers of its spring waters, the "Acqua Bianca" (white water) or "Acqua Santa" (holy water). It was here that the Pontifical state commissioned the building of a prestigious thermal establishment, the popularity of which lasted well into the late 19th century.

Travelling onwards towards Assisi we make a detour so as to visit a number of Umbria's most interesting tourist sites. Twenty kilometers from Nocera lies the town of Foligno, with its impressive Cathedral, Palazzo Comunale, Palazzo del Podestà and Palazzo Trinci where the Pinacoteca Civica art museum is housed. The Church of Santa Maria Infraportas constitutes one of the finest examples of Umbrian Romanesque architecture. For centuries, the faithful of Foligno have worshipped a wooden statue of the Virgin (the Madonna del Pianto), which is believed to date back to the 17th century.

Just five kilometers separate Foligno from Spello, an enchanting little town which nestles against the Mount Subasio. Porta Consulare is the principal gateway to the town, although it is the Porta Romana, dating back to the Augustan period, which has the greatest impact on the visitor. Next to Palazzo dei Canonici and the civic art museum, there is the Church of Santa Maria Maggiore, where to find the Baglioni Chapel and the frescoes of Pinturicchio.

The final part of our journey leads us to Assisi, the heart of Franciscan spirituality where St Francis and St Clare, founders of the Franciscan and Poor Clare orders, died. Symbol of the search for world peace and the ecumenism, in part thanks to the various mass meetings officiated by the late Pope John Paul II, Assisi is the ultimate destination of the twenty-four kilometer long, Perugia-Assisi March for Peace. In the magnificently austere Basilica of San Francesco, a great number of medieval masterpieces can be admired, such as Giotto's cycle of frescoes depicting the life of St Francis, and equally impressive works by Cimabue and Simone Martini. On the opposite side of the town lies the Church of St Chiara which guards the relics of the female saint.

Itineraries

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