Things to do in Assisi
The ancient town of Assisi lies only a twenty-minute train ride from Umbria’s capital, Perugia. Known as the birthplace of Saint Francis of Assisi (one of Italy’s patron saints), it is an important pilgrimage site and home to some incredible religious buildings and festivals.
From the grand St. Francis Basilica, the eye-catcher of the town, to beautiful alleyways lined with traditional Italian shops, the lovely town draws in visitors from all over the world.
1. St. Francis Basilica
A trip to Assisi wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the St. Francis Basilica, a grand building that is unusually constructed out of two churches on top of one another. It’s the main thing to do in town and has one of the most mind-blowing interiors we’ve ever seen!
As you stroll through the town’s main street Via San Francesco, take a moment to admire the views of this impressive building. You can walk the wide walkway around the church and head inside to admire the brightly colored frescoes and stained glass windows.
The basilica dates back to 1228 when the building’s foundation stone was laid only two days after St. Francis was canonized as a saint. His remains lie buried in a tomb under the church (the lower basilica), which you can also visit.
Important Information for Your Visit
Please note that this is an active place of worship, so make sure to dress accordingly. Unfortunately, you can’t take any photos on the inside. Though this means it’ll be a nice surprise for your trip!
Entrance fee & Opening times: The lower basilica is open from 6 AM – 7 PM in the summer and closes at 6 PM in the winter. The upper basilica is open from 8:30 AM – 7 PM and closes at 6 PM in the winter. Entrance to the Basilica is free.
2. Explore the Streets of Assisi
When you’re finished at the Basilica, take a small tuk-tuk through the narrow little streets of Assisi, getting lost in its labyrinth of beautiful alleyways. Spend some time on the vibrant squares, enjoying a delicious gelato or refreshing drink as you soak up the atmosphere.
Via San Francesco is the road that connects the main square, Piazza Del Comune, with the impressive Basilica. Here, you’ll find many stone buildings with traditional Italian shops selling various foods and beautifully crafted souvenirs. Take your time as you wander through the picturesque streets, peeking into little side alleys and courtyards as you go.
If you’d like to learn more about the UNESCO medieval center of Assisi, consider joining a walking tour. Together with an experienced guide, you’ll peel back the layers of Assisi’s rich history. You can choose to join either a small group tour or a private walking tour for a more intimate experience.
3. Piazza del Comune
The large Piazza del Comune is the main square of Assisi and one of the most lively areas in town. It’s surrounded by a few important historical buildings, including the Temple of Minerva and the soaring Torre del Popolo.
The Temple of Minerva is the oldest building in town, dating back to the first century BC. You’ll easily recognize the building by its stout columns on the outside. Take a peek inside the complex, which now hosts a small church with a beautiful ornate altar.
Right next to the temple stands the Torre del Popolo tower, looming over the square. From up top, you’ll be rewarded with views over the town and its lush surroundings. Make sure to book a slot in advance (5 EUR/5.5 USD) if you want to get to the top, as only 20 people can climb the tower every hour.
Besides many monuments, there are also plenty of cute cafes that line the square. Enjoy a delicious coffee or gelato on a terrace in the sun, or sit on one of the public benches to soak up the atmosphere of the area.
Piazza del Comune also sees a number of events and festivals throughout the year, including the popular Calendimaggio festival in May. During these days, locals dress up in medieval costumes and reenact life in Assisi from this time. This is a great way to catch a glimpse of the rich cultural heritage of Assisi, Italy!
Located just a few steps from the buzzing Piazza del Comune lie the excavations of an ancient Roman Forum. Visitors often overlook this hidden gem, making it a great place to escape the crowds.
Explore ancient Roman history as you walk past the remains of a temple, cistern, and podium. Expect to spend about 30 minutes at the small archaeological site. Entrance costs 5 EUR (5.5 USD), and the forum is open daily from 10 AM – 5.30 PM.
4. Assisi Hot Air Balloon Ride
A hot air balloon ride is one of the most extraordinary things to do in Assisi! Wake up for sunrise, and float over green fields, vineyards, and charming cities like Assisi and Perugia. It’s a magical way to gain a birdseye view of the extraordinary landscapes of the region of Umbria.
5. Cathedral of San Rufino
While the Basilica is the biggest eye-catcher of Assisi, the town’s cathedral is also worth a visit. This 12th-century building is home to some stunning artwork and frescoes beautifully preserved inside the building. Though the intricate Romanesque facade of the San Rufino cathedral is also incredible to look at.
Located in the heart of Assisi’s historic center, it stands where previously the Roman Forum stood. Escape the hustle and bustle of the town’s busy streets, and delve into the cathedral’s historical stories and peaceful atmosphere. This is also supposedly where Italy’s patron saints Francis and Clare, as well as the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II, were baptized.
6. Basilica di Santa Chiara
The Basilica di Santa Chiara, also known as the Basilica of St. Clare, is another incredible church and one of the best things to do in Assisi. This Gothic architectural marvel stands at the edge of the historic town, with views over the lush Umbrian countryside.
The church dates back hundreds of years and was built just a few years after the death of St. Clare, one of the first followers of St. Francis. She is most notably known as the founder of a religious order for women (the Order of Poor Ladies) in the Franciscan tradition. Take a look at the religious remains and the gorgeous details of the building. Or, bask in the warm sun as you look out over Assisi and its surroundings.
7. Oratory of San Francesco Piccolino.
Because of his fame, St. Francis often stands at the center of things to do in Assisi, Italy. About halfway up the street from Basilica di Santa Chiara, hidden between busy little cafes and souvenir shops, a small passageway leads to his oratory. The saint was born in this small chapel, which was just a stable in the Middle Ages. Take a peek inside when you stroll through this beautiful neighborhood, passing the decorated archway as you go. Here’s the location.
8. Rocca Maggiore
High on top of a hill overlooking the historic center of Assisi stands the grand Rocca Maggiore fortress. This incredible building is one of Italy’s best-preserved medieval fortresses, making it a must-do on your trip to Assisi. For over eight hundred years, it’s defended the town and the surrounding Tescio Valley from invading forces.
Enjoy breathtaking panoramic views over the town and countryside as you explore the fortress’ ramparts and tower. When you visit around sunset, you can see the impressive St. Francis Basilica from above, covered in beautiful orange light. On a clear day, you can even spot neighboring locations, Perugia and Spello, in the distance.
9. Assisi Viewpoint + Horses
Once you’ve explored everything in town, drive to a beautiful viewpoint that overlooks Assisi and the rest of Umbria. At the height of 1200 meters, this has to be one of the most fantastic views in the region. It’s the perfect place to watch the sun go down over the hills, mountains, vineyards, and medieval towns.
Watch as the limestone buildings of Assisi turn from their beautiful white into a soft orange. The moment the sun has set, the town sparkles with little street lights reflecting off the light-colored houses.
The Location of the Viewpoint
Best of all, if you travel to the top, you can find lots of wild horses roaming free across the lands (although be aware they’re not always there. Still, you might get lucky!). Here is the location of the viewpoint.
10. Join a Winery Tour
Just like Tuscany, Umbria has fantastic wine! As you drive through the landscapes, you’ll pass many beautiful vineyards covering the region’s hills. The countryside around Assisi and Perugia has some incredible wines that you can try at one of the wineries offering excellent tours. Journey out of town to bask in the sun while you walk among stunning cypress trees and lush wine country.
We visited Lungarotti in Torgiano (they also have another winery in Montefalco), which is one of the most impressive wineries we’ve ever seen! Here, you’ll learn how grape turns into delicious wine, with amazing explanations from knowledgeable guides and winemakers. Lungarotti is the producer of the best red wine in Italy (2016), making this experience and tasting one of the best things to do in Assisi.
11. Visit the Carceri Hermitage
The Carceri Hermitage, or Eremo delle Carceri, is a peaceful retreat high up in the mountains above Assisi, known as St. Francis’ meditation place. Tucked between the green trees, this stone complex is made up of a few small chapels, a cloister, and St. Francis’ cave. It lies away from the hustle and bustle of the town, making it a beautiful place to visit for some tranquility.
Wander through the area, crossing the complex’ stone bridge and past the yellow-colored houses. The views from the site are incredible, offering a lookout over the rich Umbrian lands that stretch around Assisi. Getting to the hermitage takes about a 10-minute drive up a narrow winding road. However, you can also hike up, which takes about an hour of strenuous walking.
12. Basilica of Santa Maria Degli Angeli
Just outside of Assisi lies Santa Maria Degli Angeli, a little town with a grand basilica full of ornate decorations. It’s one of the largest churches in Italy, renowned for its beautifully rich frescoes that are made by some of the most famous artists in the country.
Inside, you’ll find beautiful artwork on display, carved and painted into the large walls and pillars. Take some time to admire all the details of this 16th-century building, including the little chapel (Porziuncola Museum) and the austere rooms of the friars (monks). This is also where saints Francis and Clare founded their Orders. The church is free to visit, but there’s a small fee to enter the museum.
13. Day Trips to Neighboring Towns
Umbria is dotted with many beautiful towns and historical cities located in the lush valleys of the region. Traveling through Italy by car is, therefore, one of the most rewarding experiences in the country. This way, you can travel at your own speed and visit hidden gems that lie further out in the countryside.
It’s full of stories, incredible architecture, and excellent historical sites. Additionally, due to its location atop a hill, you’ll always have the best views over the beautiful green surroundings. From visiting grand gothic buildings and defensive walls to walking past colorful houses and trying regional delicacies, there’s so much to do in this Italian city.
Another beautiful hilltop town nestled in the region of Umbria is Spello. This gorgeous stone town is known as the ‘town of flowers’ and is famous throughout the country!
As you walk through the narrow, cobblestone streets, you’ll see every house has climbing flowers in beautiful colorful pots. These fragrant decorations give the town a fun, bright atmosphere, perfect for exploring one morning. Once you reach this cute destination, you’ll quickly see why it’s named one of ‘the most beautiful villages of Italy’!
Rasiglia is a storybook stone village at the foot of the beautiful Apennine mountains surrounded by green woodlands. Dating back to the Middle Ages, it’s most famous for its small rivers, canals, and waterfalls that gently flow through the town. Visitors can cross the water via sweet wooden and stone bridges, which have given the village the nickname ‘Venice of Umbria’.
This is a tiny village; there are only about 50 houses here, making it a lovely place to visit for an hour. Because of its beauty, it’s very popular with local Italians who visit on the weekends, so we recommend visiting during a weekday to see it at its most tranquil.
Best Cafes and Restaurants in Assisi
Umbria is known for its delicious cuisine, and Assisi is an amazing place to try some of the best local specialties. From porchetta and truffles to thick pasta and versatile stews, the food here is full of flavor. Pair it together with a glass of local wine and an incredible view!
Some of our favorite restaurants and cafes in Assisi are:
- Taverna dei Consoli
- Ristorante Pizzeria Monaci
- Chiosco Vamos
- La Piazette delle Erbe
- Il Baccanale
- La Terrazze di Properzio
- Trattoria Spadini
- Ristorante La Selva
How to Visit Assisi, Italy
The closest airport to Assisi (only 20 kilometers away) is Perugia airport, with connections to different European destinations. Alternatively, you can fly to a larger airport like Rome or Florence and take the train (about 2 hours) or a rental car to Assisi, Italy.
Lots of the things to do in Assisi are relatively close to one another, meaning you’ll be able to discover most of the beautiful town on foot. If you’re traveling by car, note that it’s best to park outside the historic center as there is limited space.
If you’re thinking of visiting one of the neighboring towns or a vineyard, you can easily travel by car, public transport, or by joining a tour. Renting a car and driving in Italy is one of the most rewarding experiences in the country, as it allows you to travel at your own pace. You’ll also be able to discover more hidden gems in the lush Umbrian countryside.
Where to Stay
Though you can easily explore all that Assisi has to offer in one day, it’s worth staying for the night to see how the medieval town lights up when it gets dark. Alternatively, use it as a base to explore the other beautiful areas in Umbria.
Immerse yourself in the town’s charm by staying in a guesthouse in the center, or soak up the peace and quiet of the surrounding countryside by staying in a beautiful agriturismo (farm stay). There are lots of accommodation options to choose from in Assisi, Italy.
How Many Days in Assisi?
The number of days you spend in Assisi depends on how much you want to see and do in and around town. For the best experience, plan on spending one full day in Assisi. This gives you plenty of time to explore all the sights in the medieval center, stroll the beautiful streets, and try different delicious restaurants. Stay one more day if you’d like to discover the surrounding highlights, such as the churches, lush vineyards, and neighboring towns.
How Much Does Assisi Cost?
Much like the rest of Italy, the costs of visiting Assisi depend on where you stay, eat, and go. However, traveling the country can be done quite affordably! There are many amazing budget-friendly hotels and guesthouses in and around Assisi, and meals are affordable, ranging from 10 – 15 EUR (11 – 16 USD) per person at a trattoria or pizzeria up to around 50 EUR (53 USD) at a fancier restaurant.
Best Time to Visit Assisi
Umbria is relatively quiet throughout the year, although it does get a bit busier in the summer when Italians have their holidays. Assisi is one of the most peaceful towns out of season, so we recommend visiting in April/May (choose May if you want to see the Calendimaggio festival) or September/October. During these times, fewer people visit, but you’ll still have plenty of sunshine to enjoy the fantastic landscapes of Umbria!