Honors Italy: The Grand Tour - Days 6 & 7 - Assisi and Pompeii

View of Assisi from its outskirts
On the morning of Day 6, we ate breakfast at Hotel Olimpia in Florence and departed on a 2.5 hour bus ride to Assisi.  Assisi is the birthplace of St. Francis who founded the Franciscan religious order and St. Clare, a follower of St. Francis who founded the Order of Poor Ladies which was renamed the Order of Saint Clare.  Our bus driver Antonio navigated the streets leading up to the town of Assisi on the western side of Monte Subasio beautifully, but had to drop us off just outside of town as the bus could not travel on Assisi's narrow streets.  This gave us the opportunity to admire the town from its outskirts as well as the beautiful view of the surrounding Italian region.  As we reached the town center, our tour director Gesualdo provided us with a wonderful map of the city that included some historical information of a number of its landmarks and then informed us we had free time to eat lunch and explore the city until our local tour later in the afternoon.  As the rainclouds started to move in, a group of students, my wife and I selected a small restaurant off a side street from the town center.  This was the only time on the trip when we encountered a restaurant in which none of the employees spoke English.  As we struggled to order lunch and pay for our bill, we gained a greater appreciation for the difficulty non-English speaking visitors to the United States must experience.

Entrance to Basilica of St. Francis
After lunch, my wife and I followed roads to one of the higher points in town to enjoy further views of the surrounding mountainous region.  We met our local guide at the Temple of Minerva which was built in the 1st century BC.  He led us down the narrow streets of Assisi to the Chiesa Nuova, the presumed birthplace of St. Francis.  This church also contains the room in which St. Francis's father locked him up due to his acts of giving away his money and clothing to the  poor.  We then visited the Basilica of St. Clare, the final resting place of St. Clare in its crypt.  Our tour ended at the Basilica of St. Francis, the final resting place of St. Francis.  We were able to visit the Lower Church and the Upper Church and view the numerous frescoes decorating the walls.  Our local guide pointed out how we could tell the different ages of the frescoes based on the styles, for example, whether there was depth perception in the fresco.  As our tour of Assisi ended, we met our driver Antonio who drove us down the hill to our hotel, Casa Leonori.  After having dinner in the hotel, some of us ventured out with Gesualdo to observe a ceremony at the Basilica of Santa Maria degli Angeli.  Inside this church is a smaller church called the Porziuncola, the place where the Franciscan movement began.

Great Theater of Pompeii
On Day 7 after eating breakfast at our hotel, we were on the road again, traveling to the Sorrento region of Italy, but stopping in Pompeii on our way.  Pompeii was a market city of 45-65 acres that was founded in th 8th century BC and destroyed by Mt. Vesuvius in 79 AD.  Our local guide informed us that eruption of Mt. Vesuvius was the equivalent to two atomic bombs.  The excavation of the city began in the 17th century.  We walked through the Quadriportico dei Teatri to the Teatro Grande, or Great Theater.  Walking along the ancient roads, we observed the chariot wheel ruts in the paved stones. We visited the public bath and then the lupanar, or brothel, of Pompeii.  The brothel contained some eye-opening graffiti advertising what was being sold as well as symbols carved in the stone to denote the type of business that it was.  As we continued walking through Pompeii, we had the opportunity to observe numerous mosaic floors.  We then moved to the Forum, the location of the Temple of Jupiter and in which is a bust of Jupiter.  In the Forum Granary, we observed many ancient artifacts of Pompeii as well as plaster casts of a dog, sitting man and a baby.  Our tour concluded and we had some time to shop for souvenirs outside the ancient city before departing for the Sorrento Region.    
Plaster cast of Pompeii dog

Forum in Pompeii


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