During the road trip in Umbria with our girls, a visit to Assisi, one of the most spiritual cities in Italy, and its surroundings could not be missed.
Assisi is a medieval village mostly known as a pilgrimage destination but it is also, in reality, a pretty town where you can pleasantly spend a few hours.
For a visit to the city, half a day could easily be enough. If, on the other hand, the intention was to also visit its surroundings – such as the Eremo delle Carceri or, in the right season, the lavender and sunflower fields – the ideal would be to be able to stop at least one night.
In this article you will find what to do in Assisi and its surroundings, obviously always with the children in tow.
Where to park in Assisi with children
☛ Paid parking: Mojano parking
Like many other cities in Umbria, Assisi is also perched on a hill and the historic center is a ZTL area, so the best way to avoid fines is to park at the foot of the city and use the lifts and escalators that are always free.
The large Mojano paid car park is under the Basilica of Santa Chiara, therefore in a central position. A few escalators to go up and with a walk of a few minutes you arrive in the churchyard.
☛ Free parking: Assisi Cemetery Parking
This is a free car park located about 500 meters from Porta San Giacomo. Right near Porta San Giacomo there is a municipal car park at the moment (June 2023) with a deactivated parking meter and therefore free. Otherwise the rate would be 1€/h.
What to do in Assisi with children
Famous for being the birthplace of San Francesco, the founder of the Franciscan order, and Santa Chiara, his follower, Assisi is a wonderful Umbrian village built with the typical rosy stone of Monte Subasio.
It is a rather elegant town which, from a height of 424 meters above sea level, dominates the valley below.
Walking through the historic center, one often comes across ancient paved streets, stairways that lead to picturesque corners, centuries-old buildings.
Assisi is a village to visit without haste, getting lost in the maze of its narrow streets.
The historic center of Assisi has been declared a world heritage site by Unesco and the places to visit certainly include the Basilica of San Francesco, the Basilica of Santa Chiara, the cathedral of San Rufino, the piazza del Comune, the Tempio di Minerva, the church of Santa Maria degli Angeli and the imposing fortress.
What to see in Assisi with children
❖ Basilica of San Francesco
The Basilica of San Francesco looks like a single large structure, in reality it consists of two superimposed churches, the Upper Basilica and the Lower Basilica, which incorporates the crypt with the tomb of San Francesco.
After his death, his brothers transferred his body to the church of San Giorgio where in 1228 Pope Gregory IX proclaimed San Francesco a saint.
The Pope himself – together with friar Elia da Cortona – had the current Basilica of San Francesco built in record time (4 years) which, thanks also to the astonishing works kept inside such as for example the frescoes by Giotto and Cimabue, became famous all over the world.
Entrance ticket to the Basilica of San Francesco
Entrance to the Basilica is free for individual visitors so no ticket is required, while it costs 2 euros per person for groups (agencies, schools..) and, in this case, booking is required.
▶ If you are interested in a guided tour of the Basilica, you can purchase it here.
Opening hours of the Basilica of San Francesco
▪ Upper Church: 8:30-18:45 on weekdays, 1:00-6:45 on holidays.
▪ Lower church and tomb of San Francesco: 6:00-18:30.
Curiosity about the tomb of San Francesco
An oil lamp burns perennially on the tomb of St. Francis. Each Italian region donates the oil to be used to illuminate the cave, thus cyclically participating in this ceremony.
❖ Basilica of Santa Chiara d’Assisi
Clare of Assisi was so fascinated by St. Francis that she left the family when she was still a teenager to join his congregation.
Clare of Assisi founded the order of Poor Clares in the church of San Domenico, where she moved with her mother and sisters, and in 1255 or two years after her death, she was canonized as Santa Chiara by Pope Alexander IV.
The Basilica of Santa Chiara was built in her honor and consecrated in 1265, the year in which her remains were transferred inside.
The latter can be found in the Crypt – which is accessed via some stairs – and are kept in a stone sarcophagus.
➠ Entrance to the Basilica of Santa Chiara is free.
➠ Opening hours are: every day 6:30-12:00/14:00-18:00.
❖ Cathedral of San Rufino
The cathedral of Assisi, also known as the cathedral of San Rufino, is the main and oldest Franciscan place of worship in the city, built on the remains of what was probably an ancient Roman forum. The first preaching of St. Francis took place within these sacred walls. The Cathedral of Assisi was built in honor of San Rufino, bishop and martyr of the 1200s.
➠ Admission is free and does not require a reservation.
➠ Opening hours are: 9:00-13:00/15:00-19:30 on weekdays, 8:00-13:00/15:00-20:00 on holidays.
❖ Temple of Minerva
The Temple of Minerva is one of the best preserved historic buildings. Built in the 1st century BC, it was initially dedicated to Hercules, but then took the name of Minerva following the discovery of a statue of a woman inside. There are six columns resting on the staircase and they are surmounted by Corinthian-style capitals.
After having changed various uses (private house, shop…), the Temple of Minerva became a Catholic church and was renamed Santa Maria sopra Minerva.
The major fortress of Assisi
The Rocca Maggiore of Assisi, located on the hill overlooking the valley, was destroyed in 1198 during a revolt against Duke Corrado of Urslingen and rebuilt in 1356 by Cardinal Egidio Albornoz. Only later were the polygonal tower and the cylindrical bastion flanking the entrance added. From the Rocca di Assisi you have a splendid view of the city and the surrounding hills.
What to do around Assisi with children
The city of Assisi is surrounded by cultivated fields and splendid hills where you can find various nature trails. On the slopes of Mount Subasio, for example, with a short walk through a wood of centuries-old holm oaks, you can reach the Eremo delle Carceri, the place where St. Francis and his followers retired to pray. Keep reading
For flower lovers, a visit to the Lavandeto of Assisi is a must, especially during the flowering of the lavender or the sage festival. Keep reading
Where to sleep in Assisi
❒ Hotel Il Palazzo – Very nice hotel located in the historic centre, a stone’s throw from the Basilica, with the possibility of entering the ZTL area for loading and unloading luggage and then parking a 5-minute walk away in a free car park (San Giacomo) – Book here.
❒ Hotel Porta Nuova – Hotel located in a strategic area a stone’s throw from the pedestrian area of Assisi but outside the ZTL, private internal parking and excellent breakfast with local cakes – Book here.