Wednesday, April 7:  Sorrento to Assisi

Breakfast was at Bar Danielle, since the boys found the rolls more generous there. We packed up, let our hostess drop our bags down the center of the five story staircase with the winch and headed for the car. We payed the ransom for five days parking and were on the road about 8:45 or so. The driving out of Sorrento was much easier --having witnessed the Amalfi Coast drive, anything looked easier.

After about an hour on the skinny, twisty roads of the Sorrento Peninsula, we were back on the autostrada outside Napoli, where I got a few more driving lessons. Trucks go about 90 km/hr (55 mph) in the slow lane, sane folks with decent vehicles go 120 km/hr (75 mph) in the middle lane, Mercedes, Alfa Romeo, Mazzeratti, Porsche, Volvo and Audi go about 150 km/hr (90 mph), or faster, in the fast lane. If you ride in the fast lane with your left-turn signal on constantly it then entitles you to flash your high-beams all the more vigorously at laggards like myself when you seemingly appear from nowhere. To drive in the middle lane is to be ever vigilant for the slow truck pulling out to pass the even slower truck, or the speedster that suddenly appears as you try to pass someone in your lane, temporarily using the fast lane. Not as bad as it sounds though, heck, I even flashed my high-beams at a slow truck in the center lane that didn’t need to be there and he promptly slid over. Leaving the autostrada, the departmental roads were a bit more relaxed, even though we got some rain showers along the way.

It seemed we would get to Assisi almost in time for lunch, so we abandoned Plan A, an Autogrill at a wayside service area. In the new town of Assisi, Pat spied Santa Maria degli Anglesi church, headquarters of the Franciscans, and where St. Francis spent his life as a priest. So we stopped there and grabbed lunch at a nearby bar. This abrupt change of plans, and abandonment of a repeat dining performance, caused a minor meltdown for the junior member of our party. Lunch was OK, though Pat was not happy about the sardines on her pizza and they were closing in 15 minutes so we rushed through our meal.

The church was an interesting shrine to St. Francis, built around and over the small stone chapel that St. Francis called home base (its still there, inside the new church). Robert bought a small Assisi rosary in the gift shop. Back in the car, and into town, for a repeat of the “just where the heck is that central square and our hotel?” performance. This time we stumbled on our hotel after just a solitary U-turn in front of a no-entry sign.

Hotel Ideale is a small place right next to the plaza near the high end of town. We have two rooms, a double with an extra bed smooshed in, and an adjoining single (which Robert has). We are just here one night, so despite being cramped, it’ll work. The view to the southeast doesn’t seem real to me, and my photographs don’t do it justice. The green fields are bright green and the plowed fields are a dark, dark brown. Interspersed are the red tile roofs of the countryside and in the foreground is the light tan brick of the city’s homes and walls. It looks like a painting.

Shortly we set off to get the lay of the land. Pat had other plans and before I knew it, we were doing the city walk from our guide book. Two minor churches (one a former Roman temple) and two Basilicas. Two entombments of the patron saints of Italy. And a gelato stop. St. Clare is the origin of the name of the Franciscan mission in Santa Clara, California and she has a fairly ornate tomb in the Basilica of Saint Clare. And the buttresses on the north side were the first the boys have seen. At the low end of town is the Basilica of Saint Francis himself. His remains were buried (hidden) for centuries below the altar of the basilica until the 1800’s when they were unearthed and a passageway constructed around them. The church was unique in that there is an upper basilica and a lower one beneath it. In between all these sites, we walked the twisting and turning, narrow streets of Assisi. Around every corner was a new arch, stairway or passageway, sometimes all three at once. I’m sure we’ll see many more medieval towns on hillsides, but it was fun to see our first and have it be so much like all the pictures you see.

We went with Rick’s recommendation for a dinner location that he called “fun,” hoping to duplicate Hostaria Romana. We were the only ones there most of the time. Guess you have to make your own fun. We had to do some menu decoding, but eventually everybody ended up with a satisfying meal.

Journal-writing, homework, baths, and email closed out a log day. Tomorrow we finish off Assisi and head to our base of operations for nine nights in Tuscany.

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Photo 15  Assisi Buttresses
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Photo 16  Florence Duomo

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Photo 17  David with David
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Photo 18  David at the David Shop