In all my many years of travelling around Italy, the tiny pink-and-white-stone hilltop town of Assisi has always had a special place in my heart. I first visited in the heart of winter and found myself wandering down the hill through brown and golden leaves, turning to look back at the imposing cathedral and town wreathed in fog before coming back up to wander its winding, narrow, perfectly Italian hill town streets.
I fell in love with Assisi that winter and it’s the kind of love that lasts—drawing me back again to hike that same trail, to sit on low stone walls and look out over the patchy green landscape and to tuck myself away in colourful, hidden-away restaurants for tender meals of rooster and homemade breadsticks.
If you, like me, love the special magic of Italian hill towns, the quiet of the countryside and the charm and delight of tiny food shops selling rich truffle salami and organic pesto, perhaps Assisi is the place for you as well.
Where to Stay
While cheaper accommodations can be found down the hill near the train station, if you have the budget, stay in the centre of town. You’ll be steps from tiny artistic eateries, beautiful walking trails and bustling squares.
Our own apartment—via Brigolante Guest Apartments—was a quiet, sunny top-floor studio in an old charming building overlooking one of the city’s main squares and it was perfectly poised for exploring the town.
What and Where to Eat and Drink
As is the case with much of Italy, this town is full of truly exceptional food. My favourite restaurant was Osteria Piazzetta dell’Erba, with its vibrant interior, friendly staff and food that borders on perfection.
For snacks or food items to prepare at home, we found ourselves returning again and again to Cacio Pepe, a small specialty shop whose flat breads, truffle salami and rich 100% fruit jams were some of the best things we had during our three-month stay.
What to Do
Assisi attracts everyone from spiritual pilgrims to natural beauty seekers. If you’re one of the former, the town’s many churches are a must-see and the former nunnery at the bottom of the hill—now a visitor centre—is a special destination.
If you’re the latter, the countryside is full of natural beauty. My favourite little hike is the one that begins at a doorway in the wall near the main cathedral entrance, winds down the hill through forest and olive groves and ends up at the nunnery mentioned above, which now sells local honey and jams, alongside a variety of other local goods.
When to Go
Assisi is booming in the summer and much quieter in the late autumn, winter or early spring. For heat and bustle and charm, summertime might be a good bet. For those seeking quieter reflection, the autumn is very pretty, more affordable and still gets enough tourists that most things are open.
How to Get There
Train tickets from Rome to Assisi start around €10 ($14) one way and take a little over two hours. From Florence, the cost is about 15 euros and the train time is about the same. Once you arrive at the train station, expect to take a bus up to the town itself, which takes about 10 minutes and costs a few euros.
What it Costs
In the centre, expect monthly rentals to start around $1,000—but do ask to negotiate if you’re coming in the off-season. Lower pricing is common and deals abound. If you’re willing to live down by the train station and journey up the hill by bus daily, you’ll find Airbnb options starting as low as $600 per month.
My own month in the Umbrian countryside, based in nearby Perugia—the capitol of the region—cost $2,200 all-up, including a top-floor apartment with sweeping views.