Less than half an hour east of Perugia, and visible for miles around, Assisi is Umbria’s most famous town and one of its loveliest.

This beautiful medieval town, with its geranium-hung streets, lovely views, and fountain-splashed piazzas, is heir to the legacy of St. Francis, patron saint of Italy and the town’s favorite son. The 12th-century monk founded the Franciscan order and sparked a religious revolution. The town is an important pilgrimage site (the third most visited pilgrimage site in Italy) and hosts many religious conferences and festivals.

The Basilica di San Francesco is perhaps the most visited sight in Umbria, housing the saint’s relics and Giotto‘s renowned fresco series of St. Francis’s life. Local ruins provide a view into Assisi’s Etruscan and Roman roots, while grand palaces and majestic rocche (castles) from a later era tower above tile roofs.

Sadly, the town suffered serious damage during the earthquake of September 1997, but restoration was relatively swift and many splendid sites can be seen today.