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HI, I'M RICK STEVES, BACK WITH MORE OF THE BEST OF EUROPE.
THIS TIME, WE EXPLORE SIENA AND ASSISI,
PLUS THE COUNTRYSIDE IN BETWEEN.
IF YOU FALL IN LOVE WITH ITALY,
GOOD CHANCE IT WILL BE RIGHT HERE.
IN MANY WAYS THE HEART OF THIS COUNTRY
IS THE REGION OF TUSCANY.
IT'S HERE WHERE THE RUSTIC SOUL
AND RURAL MYSTIQUE OF THIS COUNTRY COMBINE
TO SEDUCE TRAVELERS INTO TOSSING THEIR ITINERARIES
AND SETTLING IN.
IN SIENA, WE'LL CLIMB THE HIGHEST TOWER,
SAVOR LOCAL CUISINE,
AND GET TO KNOW A FAMILY.
AND THEN, FOR A TASTE OF TUSCANY,
WE'LL EXPLORE TINY HILL TOWNS,
SLEEP RUSTIC, BUT CLASSY, IN A COUNTRY FARM,
AND SAMPLE SOME GREAT WINE.
IN ASSISI, WE'LL JOIN PILGRIMS AT THE BASILICA OF ST. FRANCIS.
ITALY PACKS 55 MILLION PEOPLE
INTO AN AREA ABOUT THE SIZE OF ARIZONA.
WE'LL START IN SIENA,
VISIT HIGHLIGHTS OF TUSCANY,
BEFORE FINISHING IN ASSISI.
SIENA SEEMS TO BE EVERY ITALY CONNOISSEUR'S FAVORITE TOWN.
IN THE 1300s, IT WAS A MAJOR MILITARY POWER,
IN A CLASS WITH FLORENCE, VENICE AND GENOA.
WITH A POPULATION OF 60,000 PEOPLE,
IT WAS ONE OF EUROPE'S LARGEST CITIES.
BUT WEAKENED BY A DEVASTATING PLAGUE
AND CONQUERED BY ITS BITTER RIVAL FLORENCE,
SIENA HAS BEEN A BACKWATER FOR FIVE CENTURIES.
SIENA'S LOSS BECAME OUR SIGHT-SEEING GAIN,
AS ITS POLITICAL AND ECONOMIC IRRELEVANCE
PRESERVED ITS PURELY GOTHIC IDENTITY.
SIENA'S GREAT CENTRAL PIAZZA, IL CAMPO,
IS LIKE A PEOPLE-FRIENDLY STAGE SET.
ITS GENTLY TILTED FLOOR FANS OUT FROM THE TOWER.
SPRAWLING BEFORE THE CITY HALL BACKDROP,
IT OFFERS THE PERFECT INVITATION TO LOITER.
THE SIENESE LOUNGE COMFORTABLY ON THIS SQUARE
AS IF IT'S THEIR COMMUNITY LIVING ROOM.
TWO TIMES EACH SUMMER, SIENA HOLDS THE PALIO,
A WILD BAREBACK HORSE RACE AROUND THIS SQUARE.
NEIGHBORHOODS COMPETE, HURLING THEMSELVES WITH MEDIEVAL ABANDON
INTO A FESTIVAL WHICH CLIMAXES IN THIS 90-SECOND ROMP.
IT'S STANDING ROOM ONLY AS 40,000 PEOPLE,
MOSTLY LOCALS, PACK THIS SQUARE.
BUT TODAY, IT'S QUIET.
AND AT THE FOUNTAIN OF JOY,
PIGEONS POLITELY WAIT THEIR TURN TO SLURP A DRINK.
WHILE MOST ITALIAN CITIES HAVE A CHURCH ON THEIR MAIN SQUARE,
SIENA GATHERS AROUND ITS CITY HALL.
IT WAS AN AUTONOMOUS REPUBLIC,
AND THIS WAS ITS DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE,
THE TALLEST SECULAR MEDIEVAL TOWER IN ITALY.
300 STEPS TAKE YOU 100 YARDS HIGH.
THE REWARD:
ONE OF ITALY'S FINEST VIEWS.
THE DOMINANT COLOR:
SIENNA.
INSIDE THE CITY HALL, IN THE ROOM OF PEACE,
THE TOWN COUNCIL MET UNDER INSTRUCTIVE FRESCOES
SHOWING THE EFFECTS OF GOOD AND BAD GOVERNMENT.
BAD GOVERNMENT, A DICTATORSHIP COUNSELED BY GREED AND TYRANNY,
BRINGS A DREARY CITY WITHOUT SPIRIT
AND VIOLENCE IN THE STREETS.
BUT A GOOD GOVERNMENT, WITH WISE AND VIRTUOUS COUNCIL,
RESULTS IN A UTOPIAN REPUBLIC WHERE THE SHOPPING'S BRISK,
PROFESSORS TEACH ATTENTIVE STUDENTS,
CONSTRUCTION IS BOOMING
AND WOMEN DANCE FREELY IN THE STREETS.
THE MESSAGE?
A COMMUNITY RULED BY A JUST GOVERNMENT ENJOYS PEACE,
PROSPERITY, AND A GREAT PLACE IN WHICH TO RAISE YOUR KIDS.
IN THE NEARBY HOSPITAL OF SANTA MARIA della SCALA,
A SERIES OF IDEALIZED FRESCOES ILLUSTRATES HOW FAR
SECULAR SOCIETY HAD COME IN SIENA BY THE 1440s.
THE CITY RAN THIS HOSPITAL
IN A WAY THAT SEEMED TO TAKE OVER
THE CHURCH'S TRADITIONAL SOCIAL ROLE.
IT TOOK IN ORPHANS AND RAISED THEM,
FROM WET NURSE
THROUGH HOMEWORK
TO A CIVIL WEDDING.
AND THIS WEDDING IS NOT ARRANGED,
AS THIS MAN WOULD HAVE LIKED.
IT'S BASED ON LOVE.
SIENESE SOCIETY PROVIDED WELFARE --
BREAD TO NEEDY PEOPLE --
THROUGH THIS HOSPITAL RATHER THAN THE CHURCH.
NOTE THE LOAVES ARE CLEVERLY STAMPED TO PREVENT RESALE.
THE HOSPITAL WAS RUN BY DOCTORS AND SECULAR NURSES.
IN A SLAP TO CHURCH AUTHORITIES,
THE WELL-FED MONK LOOKS BORED
AS HE HARDLY HEARS A DYING PATIENT'S CONFESSION.
WE'RE STAYING AT ALBERGO BERNINI IN THE OLD TOWN CENTER,
WITH THE MAGIC OF SIENA RIGHT OUT OUR WINDOW.
THE ROOMS ARE HOMEY AND COMFORTABLE,
BREAKFAST ON THE TERRACE COMES WITH A SPECTACULAR VIEW,
AND A FRIENDLY FAMILY MEMBER AT THE DESK
IS ALWAYS READY TO HELP YOU WITH TRAVEL QUESTIONS.
AND IN A LITTLE FAMILY-RUN PLACE LIKE THIS,
SERENDIPITY IS ALMOST A CERTAINTY,
AND YOU FEEL LIKE PART OF A SIENESE FAMILY.
Rick: BRAVO!
SIENA'S DUOMO, OR CATHEDRAL,
IS AS OVER THE TOP AS GOTHIC GETS.
THE STRIPED PAJAMA FACADE
IS PILED WITH STATUES AND ORNAMENTATION.
ITS INTERIOR IS DECORATED FROM TOP TO BOTTOM.
THE HEADS OF 172 POPES PEER DOWN ON ALL THOSE WHO ENTER.
THE CHURCH IS FILLED WITH GREAT ART.
NICOLA PISANO'S WONDERFUL PULPIT
WAS CARVED OUT OF MARBLE IN 1268.
IT'S CROWDED WITH DELICATE GOTHIC STORYTELLING,
SCENES FROM THE LIFE OF CHRIST AND THE LAST JUDGMENT.
THIS TOMB, DEDICATED TO A SIENESE POPE,
INCLUDES A MINOR MICHELANGELO.
BUT THE MOST EXCITING STATUARY HIDES HERE, IN A SIDE CHAPEL,
WHERE YOU'LL UNDERSTAND WHY
LORENZO BERNINI IS CONSIDERED THE GREATEST BAROQUE SCULPTOR.
MARY MAGDALENE IS IN SPIRITUAL ECSTASY.
AND ST. JEROME CARESSES THE CRUCIFIX
LIKE A VIOLINIST LOST IN BEAUTIFUL MUSIC.
NEXT DOOR, THE CATHEDRAL MUSEUM
HOLDS MANY OF THE CHURCH'S MOST PRECIOUS ORIGINALS.
DUCCIO'S ENTHRONED VIRGIN,
PAINTED FOR THE CATHEDRAL'S HIGH ALTAR,
IS THE MOST CAPTIVATING PIECE OF ART IN ALL SIENA.
IT'S FROM AROUND 1300, LONG BEFORE THE RENAISSANCE,
WHEN THE ARTIST'S MISSION WAS TO TELL A BIBLE STORY,
EMPHASIZING EASY-TO-READ SYMBOLISM
AND SERENE BEAUTY OVER REALISM.
THE FLIP SIDE OF THIS TWO-SIDED ALTARPIECE HAS 26 PANELS,
THE ARTISTIC EQUIVALENT OF PAGES.
IT SHOWS SCENES FROM THE PASSION OF CHRIST,
THE LAST DAYS THAT LED UP TO HIS CRUCIFIXION.
IN THIS PANEL, JESUS WASHES THE FEET OF THE APOSTLES.
AND HERE, JUDAS KISSES JESUS,
IDENTIFYING HIM TO HIS ROMAN CAPTORS.
AND THE CATHEDRAL MUSEUM COMES WITH A SURPRISE:
A COMMANDING VIEW.
FROM THIS HILLTOP, SIENA UNFOLDS IN ALL DIRECTIONS.
CONSIDER THIS:
WHEN FLORENCE BEGAN BUILDING ITS GRAND CATHEDRAL,
THE RIVAL REPUBLIC OF SIENA RESPONDED WITH A PLAN
TO BUILD THE BIGGEST CHURCH IN ALL CHRISTENDOM.
ITS EXISTING CATHEDRAL WOULD BE USED ONLY AS A TRANSEPT,
OR WING, OFF THE NEW NAVE, OR MAIN BUILDING.
I'M SITTING ATOP WHAT WOULD HAVE BEEN
THE FRONT OF THAT CHURCH.
THESE TOWERING MARBLE ARCHES
HINT AT THE IMMENSITY OF THE PROJECT.
BUT THESE ARCHES WERE AS FAR AS SIENA GOT
BEFORE CONSTRUCTION PROBLEMS AND A PLAGUE SCUTTLED THE PROJECT.
WERE IT COMPLETED, THIS SQUARE WOULD HAVE BEEN THE NAVE.
HIDING BEHIND ALL THESE GREAT SIGHTS
ARE INTRIGUING BACK STREETS.
HERE YOU'LL GET AWAY FROM THE CROWDS
AND FIND YOURSELF ALL ALONE
WITH THE MEDIEVAL MAGIC OF SIENA:
STEEP LANES AND MYSTERIOUS BYWAYS
THAT HAVE CHANGED LITTLE OVER THE CENTURIES.
AND ALL OVER TOWN,
SHOPS TEMPT YOU WITH SIENESE SPECIALTIES:
GOURMET PASTA,
VINTAGE CHIANTI,
WILD BOAR PROSCIUTTO,
EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL,
AND PANFORTE.
SIENA'S CLAIM TO CALORIC FAME,
PANFORTE IS A CHEWY LOCAL DELICACY
THAT IMPRESSES EVEN FRUITCAKE HATERS.
HERE WE ARE. HUNGRY?
ALRIGHT.
THIS IS PANFORTE.
WHEN I'M IN TOWN WITH TOUR GROUPS, I TEAM UP
WITH MY SIENESE FRIEND AND TOUR GUIDE ROBERTO BECHI.
TO ROBERTO,
SIENA IS THE FOUNTAINHEAD OF ALL CIVILIZATION.
WHAT DO YOU LIKE?
I LIKE IT WITHOUT.
OKAY.
TRY THE SPICY ONE.
BON APPETITO.
ROBERTO'S TAKING US TO HIS COUSIN'S BAKERY
FOR A PEEK AT HOW THE PANFORTE'S ACTUALLY MADE,
A RECIPE THAT CAN BE TRACED BACK TO THE 13th CENTURY.
[ Roberto speaking Italian ]
ANTONIO EXPLAINS THAT TRADITIONAL PANFORTE
CONSISTS OF NUTS, HONEY, FLOWER, VANILLA,
AND AN INTERESTING VARIETY OF DRIED FRUIT.
AND HIS EMPLOYEES MIGHT HAVE TO SIGN A NONDISCLOSURE AGREEMENT
WHEN IT COMES TO ANTONIO'S MIX OF SPICES.
SPICES.
SPICES. WHAT ARE IN THE SPICES?
WHAT KIND OF SPICES?
[ speaking Italian ]
IT'S A SECRET.
YOU CAN TELL ME.
[ laughing ]
THIS MEDIEVAL CONCOCTION IS ALL MIXED TOGETHER
AND TURNED INTO DENSE WHEELS OF SIENESE DELIGHT.
[ Antonio speaking Italian ]
FOR YOUR FAMILY.
THAT'S VERY NICE.
GRATIA.
CIAO!
GRATIA, GRATIA, GRATIA.
CIAO!
NO LOOK AT TUSCANY IS COMPLETE
WITHOUT GETTING OUT OF ITS CITIES.
MANY TRAVELERS COME HERE TO THE CHIANTI REGION,
WITH ITS ROLLING HILLS AND VINEYARDS,
TO ENJOY A SLOWER, RICHER LIFESTYLE.
ITS FORTIFIED FARMHOUSES ARE REMINISCENT OF MEDIEVAL DAYS
WHEN THIS WAS PART OF THE FLORENCE-SIENA BATTLEFIELD.
TODAY, THEY'RE PEACEFUL,
GROWING EVER MORE GRACEFUL WITH AGE.
VERTINE IS TYPICAL OF CHIANTI'S FORTIFIED VILLAGES.
WHILE TOURISTS PACK THE FAMOUS PLACES,
LITTLE OFFBEAT GEMS LIKE THIS, EVEN IN PEAK SEASON,
REMAIN SLEEPY.
TOWNS LIKE THIS ORIGINATED
AS COMMUNITIES OF FARMERS BANDED TOGETHER
ON EASILY DEFENSIBLE HILLTOPS OVERLOOKING THEIR FARMLAND.
IN RURAL TUSCANY, TRADITIONAL FARMING IS KEPT ALIVE
BY FARMERS LIKE FRANCO CUCINI.
WHILE HIS SWANS THINK THIS POOL'S MADE FOR THEM,
IT'S ACTUALLY A RESERVOIR USED TO POWER FRANCO'S FLOURMILL.
THE MILL,
WITH WORKING PARTS THAT HAVE CHANGED LITTLE OVER THE AGES,
HAS BEEN GRINDING CORN AND WHEAT SINCE THE 17th CENTURY.
UNTIL THE 1960s,
NEIGHBORING FARMERS BROUGHT THEIR GRAIN HERE TO BE GROUND.
WHILE LOCALS KNOW STONE-GROUND FLOUR IS TASTIEST,
MILLS LIKE THESE ARE A TOUGH FIT IN OUR FAST-PACED WORLD.
LOOK AT THAT.
THIS IS THE PRODUCT.
OKAY. NOW YOU HAVE TO SIFT THAT.
YEAH. YEAH.
WE'RE GOING TO DO THAT.
IT'S BEAUTIFUL.
THAT'S NICE.
NOW YOU COOK WITH THIS.
YES. YOU MAKE POLENTA.
POLENTA. OKAY.
SOUTH OF CHIANTI COUNTRY IS A REGION CALLED THE CRETE.
IT FEATURES CLAY HILLS,
THE TOPSOIL WASHED AWAY BY AGES OF RAIN,
AND DELICATE LANES OF CYPRESS.
THE DRAMATIC BEAUTY OF THE COUNTRYSIDE
CHANGES WITH THE SEASONS.
AND THE TERRAIN IS DOTTED BY RUSTIC YET NOBLE FARMHOUSES,
MANY OF WHICH RENT ROOMS TO TOURISTS.
SMALL FARMS ARE STRUGGLING TO SURVIVE HERE AS IN AMERICA.
ALL OVER EUROPE, FARMS ARE RENTING ROOMS TO TRAVELERS,
NOW HARVESTING THEIR RURAL CHARM AS WELL AS PRODUCE
TO HELP MAKE ENDS MEET.
HERE IN ITALY, FARMHOUSE B&Bs ARE CALLED AGRITURISMOS.
WE'RE STAYING IN THE 13th CENTURY HOME AND FARM
OF SYLVIA GORI, AND SHE'S HAPPY TO SHOW US AROUND.
AS HER FAMILY HAS FOR CENTURIES,
SYLVIA LIVES IN THE MANOR HOUSE.
AND AFTER A LOOK AT THE LIVING ROOM, IT'S CLEAR:
THE RURAL NOBILITY OF ITALY SURVIVES.
[ Sylvia speaking Italian ]
THIS IS THE FIREPLACE WHERE YOU CAN STILL COOK.
DO THEY STILL USE THIS?
YES.
CAN I PULL IT OUT?
YES, YOU CAN. THIS IS FOR THE POLENTA.
IT'S FOR TO HAVE HOT WATER ALL THE TIME.
UPSTAIRS IS THE VAST BILLIARDS ROOM.
FOR GENERATIONS, EVENINGS ENDED HERE.
MUSTY PORTRAITS ARE REMINDERS
OF THE FAMILY'S LONG AND NOBLE LINEAGE.
THE FARM IS STRICTLY ORGANIC.
THESE PIGS ARE A RARE BREED,
BROUGHT BACK FROM THE EDGE OF EXTINCTION
BY PEOPLE WHO CARE ABOUT TRADITIONAL AGRICULTURE.
AND GAZING AT THESE HUGGABLE SHEEP,
YOU CAN ALMOST TASTE THE PECORINO CHEESE.
AND CHEESE IS AN IMPORTANT PART OF THIS FARM'S ECONOMY.
WALLS ARE STACKED WITH ROUNDS OF PECORINO,
MADE FROM THE UNPASTEURIZED AND THEREFORE TASTIER MILK
OF THE FARM'S SHEEP.
TRADITIONAL, ORGANIC METHODS ARE LABOR-INTENSIVE,
BUT CONNOISSEURS OF GOOD LIVING HERE
KNOW IT'S WELL WORTH THE TROUBLE AND EXPENSE.
THE FARM ALSO PRODUCES TOP-GRADE PROSCIUTTO.
THE HAMS ARE NOT COOKED, BUT CURED IN SALT.
AFTER HANGING IN A ROOM FOR SEVERAL WEEKS,
EACH ONE IS GIVEN A SPICY COAT OF PEPPER.
THE SLOW CURING PROCESS -- HERE THEY'RE CHECKING THE PROGRESS
WITH A HORSE-BONE NEEDLE -- TAKES OVER A YEAR.
THE TRADITION OF MAKING THESE FOODS
IS AS TIMELESS AS THE TUSCAN COUNTRYSIDE.
SYLVIA, HAPPY TO SHARE THE FRUITS OF HER LABOR,
INVITES US FOR DINNER.
WHILE THIS PROSCIUTTO AND PECORINO CHEESE
IS SOLD ALL OVER ITALY WITH THE FAMILY'S LABEL,
IT'S PARTICULARLY TASTY WHEN EATEN RIGHT HERE.
IT'S A CLASSIC TUSCAN TABLE:
SIMPLICITY, A SENSE OF HARMONY, AND NO HURRY,
ENJOYED WITH A GREAT GLASS OF CHIANTI.
SYLVIA RENTS OUT A FEW ROOMS TO TRAVELERS.
AS IS TYPICAL OF AGRITURISMOS,
THE FURNISHINGS ARE RUSTIC BUT COMFY,
AND THE WELL-EQUIPPED KITCHEN
IS IDEAL FOR ANYONE SETTLING IN TO TUSCANY.
AND IF YOU'RE REALLY ON VACATION,
THIS IS A GOOD PLACE TO BE.
DISTANCES ARE SHORT IN TUSCANY.
AND WHILE PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION'S MEAGER,
IF YOU HAVE A CAR, YOU CAN ENJOY FASCINATING DAYS
EXPLORING FROM A RURAL HOME BASE LIKE THIS.
WE'RE HEADING SOUTH TO MONTALCINO,
HOME OF THE MUCH-LOVED WINE, BRUNELLO DI MONTALCINO.
TYPICAL OF THE REGION'S HILL TOWNS,
MONTALCINO SPRAWLS UNDER ITS CASTLE
WITH CHARACTERISTIC STEPPED LANES,
PEACEFUL PIAZZAS,
AND SHOPS SELLING LOCAL SPECIALTIES,
IN THIS CASE, THE AREA'S FAMOUS WINE.
WE'RE HERE IN SEPTEMBER.
THE GRAPES ARE AT THEIR PEAK AND IT'S HARVEST TIME.
ALL AROUND, SMALL FAMILY VINEYARDS ARE BUSY
MAKING THE RENOWNED BRUNELLO DI MONTALCINO.
THE CENCIONI FAMILY IS GIVING US A LOOK AT THEIR OPERATION.
THIS CLEVER MACHINE SENDS GRAPES ONE WAY
AND THE STEMS THIS WAY.
WHILE THE EMPHASIS ON QUALITY FEELS OLD-FASHIONED,
ALL THE LATEST MACHINERY IS EMPLOYED
AS THEY PRODUCE 70,000 BOTTLES A YEAR.
IT'S A LABOR-INTENSIVE INDUSTRY,
BUT RIGHT NOW, THE GRAPES ARE DOING ALL THE WORK
AS THEY FERMENT IN THESE HUGE OAK BARRELS.
AS THEY SHARE THEIR BRUNELLO, FATHER AND SON CENCIONI
SEEM TO UNDERSTAND THE HAPPINESS THEIR WORK BRINGS
TO WINE LOVERS ALL OVER THE WORLD.
[ speaking Italian ]
FULL-BODIED, YEAH.
IF ANYTHING CHARACTERIZES THE TUSCAN LIFESTYLE, IT'S A KNACK
FOR TAKING TIME TO SAVOR SIMPLE, UNCLUTTERED QUALITY,
WHETHER IT'S WINE, FOOD, ART
OR FRIENDSHIPS LIKE ROBERTO'S.
ASSISI, HOME OF ST. FRANCIS
AND A PLACE WHERE SIMPLE LIVING IS NOTHING NEW,
SITS ON A HILL JUST OUTSIDE OF TUSCANY IN NEIGHBORING UMBRIA.
AROUND THE YEAR 1200, FRANCIS, A SIMPLE FRIAR FROM ASSISI,
CHALLENGED THE DECADENCE OF CHURCH GOVERNMENT
AND SOCIETY IN GENERAL
WITH A POWERFUL MESSAGE OF NONMATERIALISM AND SIMPLICITY.
HIS "SLOW DOWN AND SMELL GOD'S ROSES" LIFESTYLE
DREW A HUGE FOLLOWING,
AND HIS TEACHINGS WERE GRADUALLY EMBRACED BY THE CHURCH.
THE STORY OF ST. FRANCIS STARTS HERE, BELOW ASSISI,
IN THE CHURCH OF SANTA MARIA DEGLI ANGELI.
ST. MARY OF THE ANGELS
IS ACTUALLY A CHURCH WITHIN A CHURCH.
WHEN THE POPE GAVE FRANCIS HIS BLESSING,
HE ALSO GAVE HIM THIS FIXER-UPPER CHAPEL.
THIS IS THE ACTUAL CHAPEL
THAT FRANCIS AND HIS FIRST FOLLOWERS REBUILT.
STEPPING INSIDE, PILGRIMS REMEMBER IT WAS HERE IN 1208
THAT FRANCIS ESTABLISHED THE FRANCISCAN ORDER.
A VISIT TO ASSISI SHOWS FRANCIS' MESSAGE OF LOVE
AND CARE FOR CREATION HAS A BROAD AND TIMELESS APPEAL.
AND EVEN NONRELIGIOUS TRAVELERS BECOME PILGRIMS OF A SORT
AS THEY EXPLORE THE TOWN AND REMEMBER ITALY'S PATRON SAINT.
ANY PILGRIMAGE SITE WILL BE COMMERCIALIZED,
AND ASSISI, WHICH CASHES IN ON THE LEGACY OF ST. FRANCIS,
IS NO EXCEPTION.
IN SUMMER, THE TOWN OVERFLOWS WITH FRANCIS FANS
AND A FLOOD OF FRANCISCAN KNICKKNACKS.
BUT THOSE ABLE TO SEE BEYOND THE TACKY FRIAR MEMENTOS
CAN ACTUALLY HAVE A MEANINGFUL EXPERIENCE.
MOST VISITORS HERE ARE DAY-TRIPPERS.
TO ENJOY A PEACEFUL ASSISI, SPEND THE NIGHT.
SEE IT EARLY OR LATE AND WANDER THE BACK LANES.
AS YOU EXPLORE, LOOK UP.
ASSISI HAS A BALCONY GARDEN COMPETITION EACH SUMMER.
MEDIEVAL ASSISI WAS DEFENDED BY A FORTRESS
THAT PROVIDED TOWNSFOLK A REFUGE IN TIMES OF ATTACK.
DOORWAYS WITH POINTED ARCHES INDICATE THAT THE BUILDINGS
DATE FROM THE 12th THROUGH THE 14th CENTURY.
THE VAULTS THAT TURN LANES INTO TUNNELS
ARE REMINDERS OF MEDIEVAL URBAN EXPANSION.
WHILE THE POPULATION GREW, PEOPLE WANTED TO LIVE SAFELY
WITHIN ASSISI'S FORTIFIED WALLS,
SO ASSISI BECAME MORE DENSE.
MEDIEVAL ASSISI HAD FIVE TIMES THE POPULATION DENSITY
OF THE TOWN TODAY.
THE TOWN'S WELCOMING MAIN SQUARE
IS AN INVITING PLACE TO RELAX.
AS IN MANY OLD EUROPEAN TOWNS,
TODAY TRAFFIC IS LIMITED TO TAXIS AND BUSES.
ASSISI HAS LONG BEEN A SPIRITUAL CENTER.
2,000 YEARS AGO, THIS TEMPLE OF MINERVA
WAS A CENTERPIECE OF ROMAN ASSISI.
THE MAIN DRAG LEADS FROM THE TOWN CENTER TO THE BASILICA,
WHICH HOLDS THE MUCH-VENERATED BODY OF ST. FRANCIS.
FRANCIS WAS A BIG DEAL EVEN IN HIS OWN AGE.
HE WAS MADE A SAINT WITHIN A FEW YEARS OF HIS DEATH.
ASSISI BECAME A BUSY PILGRIMAGE CENTER,
AND THIS STREET WAS A BOOMING THOROUGHFARE.
THIS HOSPICE, BUILT IN 1237, GAVE PILGRIMS A PLACE TO REST.
AND ON THEIR WAY TO THE CHURCH,
PILGRIMS WOULD STOP HERE AT THE FOUNTAIN,
FOR A DRINK.
THE BASILICA OF ST. FRANCIS WAS BUILT BETWEEN 1228 AND 1253
OVER THE REMAINS OF THE BELOVED SAINT.
FOR THE LAST 750 YEARS,
IT'S BEEN ONE OF THE MOST VISITED PILGRIMAGE SITES
IN ALL OF CHRISTENDOM.
THE TOMB LIES ON THE LOWEST LEVEL OF THE BASILICA.
ITS HUMBLE ELEGANCE AND BEAUTY
BEFITS THE SAINT WHO PREACHED SIMPLICITY AND POVERTY.
HIS BODY BECAME ONE OF THE MOST IMPORTANT RELICS ANYWHERE.
TO MEDIEVAL CHRISTIANS, HOLY RELICS GAVE YOU POWER.
THEY ANSWERED YOUR PRAYERS, HELPED YOU WIN WARS
AND ULTIMATELY HELPED GET YOU TO HEAVEN.
THE BASILICA RISES IN TWO LEVELS ABOVE THE TOMB.
IT'S ONE OF THE ARTISTIC HIGHLIGHTS OF MEDIEVAL EUROPE
AND A THEOLOGICAL WORK OF GENIUS.
WITH ITS FINE ART,
IT STILL FUNCTIONS AS A SPLENDID CLASSROOM.
IT WAS FRESCOED FROM TOP TO BOTTOM
BY LEADING ARTISTS OF THE 13th CENTURY.
HERE IN THE LOWER BASILICA,
CIMABUE PAINTED WHAT IS CONSIDERED
THE EARLIEST AND MOST ACCURATE PORTRAYAL OF ST. FRANCIS.
THIS FRESCO IS BY GIOTTO,
A FOLLOWER OF ST. FRANCIS HIMSELF
AND THE MOST POWERFUL STORYTELLER OF HIS DAY.
IN THE 13th CENTURY, GIOTTO'S ART WAS RADICAL,
UNPRECEDENTED IN ITS REALISM,
BELIEVABLE, HOME-SPUN SCENES,
LANDSCAPES, TREES, REAL PEOPLE.
FOR THE FIRST TIME,
HOLY PEOPLE ARE EXPRESSING EMOTION.
ONE ANGEL TURNS HER HEAD SADLY AT THE SIGHT OF JESUS.
AND ANOTHER IS IN SUCH ANGUISH,
SHE SCRATCHES HER HANDS DOWN HER CHEEKS, DRAWING BLOOD.
MARY, UNTIL THIS FRESCO ALWAYS PORTRAYED IN CONTROL,
HAS FAINTED IN DESPAIR.
THE FRANCISCAN MONKS,
WITH THEIR GOAL OF BRINGING GOD TO THE PEOPLE,
FOUND A NATURAL PARTNER IN EUROPE'S FIRST MODERN PAINTER:
GIOTTO.
THE UPPER BASILICA, BUILT SHORTLY AFTER THE LOWER,
WAS THE FIRST GOTHIC CHURCH IN ITALY.
IT'S BRIGHTER AND NEARLY WALLPAPERED
BY GIOTTO AND HIS ASSISTANTS.
THE NAVE SHOWS 28 SCENES FROM THE LIFE OF ST. FRANCIS.
WHILE THE 13th CENTURY WAS A TROUBLED TIME,
FRANCISCAN FRIARS,
WHO WERE ACTUALLY KNOWN AS JUGGLERS OF GOD,
WERE A JOYFUL PART OF THEIR COMMUNITY.
IN A LAND TORN BY FIGHTING, FRANCIS PROMOTED PEACE.
HE ALSO CHALLENGED THE EXCESSES OF THE CHURCH
AND MADE ITS MESSAGE MORE ACCESSIBLE TO COMMON PEOPLE.
FRANCIS' MESSAGE OF NONMATERIALISM
RATTLED THE WEALTHY AND POWERFUL.
HERE GIOTTO SHOWS A NEARLY NAKED FRANCIS,
THE RICH KID TOSSING HIS FANCY CLOTHES TO HIS FATHER,
BEFUDDLING HIGH SOCIETY
BY TRADING A LIFE OF POWER AND LUXURY
FOR ONE OF SIMPLICITY AND POVERTY.
BUT ULTIMATELY, EVEN THE POPE RECOGNIZED THAT FRANCIS
COULD RESTORE A CHURCH AND SOCIETY IN NEED OF REFORM.
PERHAPS THE MOST ENDEARING SCENE
SHOWS FRANCIS PREACHING TO THE BIRDS.
BUT FRANCIS WAS MORE THAN A NATURE LOVER.
THE VARIOUS BIRDS REPRESENT THE DIVERSE FLOCK
OF HUMANITY AND NATURE,
ALL CREATED AND LOVED BY GOD
AND WORTHY OF EACH OTHER'S LOVE.
TRAVEL FAR FROM HOME CAN HELP YOU BETTER UNDERSTAND
WHAT HOME IS ALL ABOUT.
WHETHER WANDERING THROUGH ANCIENT OLIVE GROVES,
CLIMBING MEDIEVAL TOWERS,
OR DINING SLOW IN A TUSCAN VILLA,
TRAVEL TEACHES AND REWARDS.
I LIKE TO REFLECT ON THESE IDEAS IN A PLACE LIKE THIS,
ENJOYING THE SAME BIRDSONG AND VAST TUSCAN AND UMBRIAN VIEWS
THAT ST. FRANCIS DID 800 YEARS AGO.
THANKS FOR JOINING US.
I'M RICK STEVES.
UNTIL NEXT TIME, KEEP ON TRAVELIN'.
CIAO.
MANGIA, MANGIA.
MANGIA, MANGIA, MANGIA, MANGIA.
OHH!
HE'S THE FATHER OF ALL.
[ WOMAN SPEAKING ITALIAN ]
HE'S A LITTLE BIT NUTTY.
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Siena and Assisi: Italy's Grand Hill Towns

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橙小蘋 published on February 1, 2016
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