Yes, we definitely felt the pull of the past today. We spent our morning at the Basilica of Saint Francis, which is equally stunning and moving.
The basilica, which was begun in 1228, two years after St. Francis died, is built into the side of a hill and is really two churches, known as the Upper Church and the Lower Church, and a crypt where the remains of the saint are interred. Having been built and decorated so closely following the death of St. Francis, the basilica has a feeling of reality in its narrative, as opposed to a glossy rewritten legend.
Various photo restrictions limited my access to some of the areas, so I’ve pulled some pictures from the Internet to supplement mine. The level and quantity of the frescoes on both levels make these churches extremely colorful and joyous.
The sight of St. Francis’s tomb was very affecting. A painting on the lower level is believed to be the most realistic portrayal of him. There is also a room of relics that are almost disturbing in their immediacy to the saint, including one of his tunics.
It is so easy to think of him walking the same streets we are covering today. Only, he didn’t have to jump when motorbikes zip by.
Don’s Food Corner
For those who complained about no food coverage for yesterday: It was an unusually bleak day. A pathetic sandwich eaten on a bench while waiting for a bus. An indifferent pizza later in the evening.
Today, in contrast, was a very good food day. We started with an excellent pasta dish featuring a local pasta shape called strangozzi. The translation of this thick spaghetti-type pasta is “strangled priests” — apparently a reaction to priests who expect to be fed for free. Sort of like cops and donuts.
Nonetheless it was an excellent dish. It featured rocket, mushrooms and a walnut sauce. One of the best pasta dishes we’ve had – nutty and somehow creamy at the same time.
For our next course, Jo went with pork scallopine with a Marsala sauce. (Veal was not available.) I chose pork sausage. When we came into the restaurant I saw the cook busy grilling meat (and bread) on an open wood-burning oven. So, the sausage called me. It was dense and favorful. I don’t know where we get the idea of “Italian sausage,” but this sausage bore no relationship to the stuff we get in the supermarket. It was much more delicately seasoned.
Interestingly, since Umbria is the only area in Italy that is completely landlocked, we have not seen fish on any menu. We return to the coast tomorrow and expect to see the fish and other seafood return.
Today’s meal was rounded off with an excellent local red wine. Isn’t funny how a whole bottle of wine can make a meal taste even better?