Excitement in Assisi

March 15, 2013 / Local Interest
Assisi, Umbria
Assisi view over the olive trees by Jack O'ConnellIn Assisi, euphoria reigns in the Sacro Convento – the Franciscan monastery attached to the 13th century Basilica di San Francesco – with the friars already hoping for an Easter Papal visit. Or might it be for la Festa di San Francesco, October 4th?

Certainly at this tumultuous time for the Church, the choice of the name “Francis” evoking simplicity, peace-making and unity launches a clear message. Saint Francis’ birthplace, too, evokes peace: in 1982 Pope John Paul II gathered all the world’s religious leaders together for an inter-faith gathering in Assisi. Rabbis, ministers, imams, American Indian shamans, Greek Orthodox priests – to name just a few – led prayer services all over the town in our basilicas, monasteries, the cathedral, and small frescoed chapels tucked away in backstreets. Since 1982, Assisi has been called la citta’ della pace. (city of peace)

San Francesco with statue of San FrancescoThe message is on the lawn of the Upper Basilica where the hedge is pruned to form the word PAX, flanked by a contemporary bronze statue of young Francesco on horseback after his return from the war with Perugia (1202), head bent, broken. Defeated. He’ll soon embrace a life of peace-making.

You’ll feel the peace as you stroll the medieval backstreets. Keep an eye out for the Pax et Bonum plaques over the Gothic entryway arches, next to home entrances. Francesco wished “Peace and goodwill” to all as he preached throughout the town in the early thirteenth-century. If you meet a brown-robed Franciscan while walking the streets or note a Poor Clare while in the Basilica di Santa Chiara, greet them with the Italian version of Francesco’s message, pace e bene.

Their answer?
Sempre. (Always)

Viva Francesco.

(First photo courtesy of Jack O’Connell, third to last by Jerome Spector, many thanks!)

A typical Assisi medieval house in the hidden backstreets

backtreets of assisi, with geraniums
Spello Corpus Cristi Imfiorite 010 (1)
Assisi backstreet wanders enchant
1926 Pax et Bonum in the Assisi pharmacy
PAX ET BONUM over an arch
Pax et bonum at home entrance as welcome
Pax et bonum is topped with flowers
Pax et bonum near street number
Pax et bonum plaques commemorate the 700th anniversary of the birthdate of San Francesco
Plaques flank street numbers at times
St. Francis Basilica with olive trees in front



Anne Robichaud

by Anne Robichaud

An authorized Umbrian tour guide, Anne and her husband Pino worked the land for many years in the 1970’s so rural life, rural people, rural cuisine are una passione for her. See Umbria from “the inside”: join her May 2017 ten-day tour centered on discovering Umbria, Anne’s Umbria.

See www.annesitaly.com for more on her Umbria tours. Do see www.stayassisi.com for news on the Assisi apartment – and Assisi countryside guest house – she and Pino now rent out.

Anne writes frequently on Umbria and other areas of Italy. Read about her annual U.S. Feb/Mar cooking classes and lectures, as well as her numerous Italy insights on her blog.

52 Responses to “Excitement in Assisi”

  1. Sarah (Sally) Currie Walters

    Nicely done Anna. As you know, I am a devotee of St. Francis since the first time I visited you in 1982. You took me to his place in the hills. My heartstrings are vibrating with the news from Rome that, at last, we have Francis.

  2. Kathy Weeks

    Buongiorno my dear friend! I loved this writing from you today, exemplifying and celebrating the hope of peace and simplicity to come in this world of ours…and yes, to let it begin symbolically in serene Assisi! Each of my visits with you has shown my travelers and I the many influences of Francesco throughout the city, some, like the statue on horseback, are obvious and others, like small icons pressed into the side of a wall, more subtle. Grazie for always sharing your wealth of knowledge, history, and tradition with travelers and people who love Italy (and especially Assisi) like me!! abbracci~Kathy, Tesoro Travel

  3. Thanks for the article and the beautiful photos. I have seen photos of the Basilica but this is the first I have seen of the statue of Francis returning from the war with Perugia. It was not there when I visited Assisi 46 years ago. The Franciscan witness for Peace and All Good is a message for all times and one which needs to be continually proclaimed as we search for a better and more human tomorrow for this planet.

  4. Anne Ladky

    Another wonderful post, Anne–a lovely evocation of the beauty and spirit of Assisi. Especially enjoyed the great photos of the Pacem et Bonum tiles around town. Grazie mille!

  5. And “Peace and all Things Good” to all… With Pope/Papa’ Francis/Francesco/Francisco I think there are the qualities that interested me so very much about Pope John the 23rd. Hopefully there will now be a lot of positive change in the church; it already seems that the new pope is up to the challenge.

    • Janice Pontarelli

      John, I agree with your post! My favorite pope was Pope John the 23rd. And yes, he did make many positive changes. I agree with you that we are hopeful for Pope Francis I and that the Holy Father is up to the challenge.

  6. Lena Lonigro

    Hello Anne,

    So nice to see this article today after this week’s election of Papa Francesco I.

    I continue to have fond memories of Assisi and the tour I took with you in October 2010.

    Pace e Bene!


  7. Love this post…I will be visiting Assisi in six weeks and am so excited. It will be my first trip to Italy and I appreciate all the wonderful information here. Grazie!

  8. I was in Assisi last October and I think I took some of the very same pictures. It is a remarkable place to visit.

  9. Oh how I would love to be there to feel the excitement when the pope was announced with his ties to st Francis!!!!! Must have been bliss! I will send u my pic of the pac e bene sign above your apt door! Great post…I feel the love in ur words!
    Cheers from the BVI’s ….land of sun and rum!!!

  10. Nancy Mazza

    Thank you, Annie, for this timely and beautiful article about all that the name “Pope Francis I” implies. I am happy for the euphora in Assisi and I am hopeful for this new pope’s reign. So far, I am pleased. We in San Francisco also claim St. Francis as our patron saint. Pace e bonum.


  11. Colleen Simpson

    Most of us were indeed in bliss with the choice of this new Pope who seems to embody social justice and care for the poor. He has proved by his life that he is a man of simplicity and peace. And I’m sure the symbolism of his choice to become Francesco I was embraced as a positive step! And his first simple and friendly greeting to all was “Buona Sera” and his parting “Bouna Notte e Buon Riposo”!!! I’m a fan already.

  12. Ginny Siggia

    I thought of you immediately when hearing of Pope Francis! Your comment to our tour group made a permanent impression on me: “Don’t mess with St Francis!” i.e., how he is revered and cherished by Italians.

  13. Joanne Jacovec OFS

    Hi, Anne. I’m a Third Order Secular Franciscan and was delighted to read your latest article about the excitement in Assisi and our Papa Francesco. I forwarded your article to the SFOs on my email address list. I can’t wait to visit Assisi again and stay in your beautiful apartment-“Il nido tranquillo”. It was wonderful to see all the Assisi photographs in your article. Your tour last April for my Franciscan church community was very informative, especially for me who’s been a Franciscan for almost two decades. I look forward to more of your tours in Assisi and Umbria. Grazie mille!

  14. Jane Ellis

    Assisi is such a perfectly beautiful and peaceful place already that it doesn’t even need this special honor. But how wonderful that their beloved Francis is being honored in yet another way.
    May the new Francis live up to his namesake.

  15. bob paglee

    Thanks for the interesting commentary and those beautiful photos. When living in Rome during the early 1950’s, my bride and I, after being married in St. Peter’s basilica, made a number of pilgrimages to Assisi and visited that famous basilica. In those days that bronze statue of Saint Francis mounted on his tired steed did not exist, and the now beautiful green lawn surrounding it was then just an open field with a few scraggly tufts of grass and weeds here and there.

    If my memory serves correctly, I recall a life-size weathered marble statue of Saint Francis standing in a beautiful small courtyard adjoining the church. And a most memorable aspect of this peaceful scene was the presence of several white doves that continually hovered about and perched on the statue’s head, shoulders and arms. It was as if they shared the peaceful, friendly presence of their patron saint. Isn’t that remarkable statue with several friendly birds flitting around it still there?

  16. Colleen Simpson

    Anne: Bob’s memory of the white doves reminds me of our first visit on honeymoon to Assisi where we also discovered San Damiano and Eremo delle Carceri with the beautiful white doves. In the past several years I have not seen those doves that stand out in my memory of long ago. It is our good fortune to take our guests to San Damiano, Eremo and Assisi several times a year and we wish to see those doves come back!

  17. bob paglee

    Thanks for responding Colleen! In a couple of weeks I’ll be 89 and at my age, I don’t travel much anymore, so it is great to recall some of those much earlier wonderful adventures in Italy enjoyed by Lynn and I! Kudos to Italian Notebook for helping out with that!

  18. How wonderful it is that you have such loyal fans – including me – and I also love this article! All the photos are beautiful and bring back memories of Assisi. I was happy to have attended your cooking class this past week. Safe trip home and “Buona Pasqua”.
    Tanti baci, Marianna

  19. Viva Papa Francesco – as a huge devotee of St. Francis, I find it so touching that the new Papa is the first to adopt his name. How wonderful for Assisi, too.
    As always, grazie Anne for sharing. Now I have another reason to return to Assisi!

  20. Anne,
    I looked forward to reading your posting – I knew you would highlight the wonder of it all……St. Francis….beautiful Assisi and the warmth and serenity of having Papa Francesco as the leader of our Catholic community. As an Italian, who belongs to a Jesuit parish in Georgetown and who has the honor of having mio cugino – Padre Marco, a Franciscan Friar in L’Aquila and the outreach to South America – I was glued to watching as much of the TV coverage – as possible. I wanted to absorb everything. See you soon here in DC and then again in June – in Italy. A presto!

  21. San Francesco, impossible not to adore him. I am excited for Assisi as well…Nice article and beautiful photos, you have a wonderful photographic eye! I would like to purchase some Pacem et Bonum tiles from Assisi, any recommendations?

  22. as soon as i heard about the new pope- i thought of assisi and how exciting it must be!!

  23. Joyce Statton

    So looking forward to seeing how Assisi is recognizing the new Papa and his inspired choice of name. Years ago I bought Pax et Bonum tiles in Assisi and framed them for my two kids who were just starting their own families. Now i have the pleasure of seeing that message displayed in their homes and played out with their children. The pictures reminded me of what treasure those simple words are for all of us. Thanks

  24. Anne Robichaud

    Mille grazie to each of you for your comments! I look forward to returning to Assisi on March 26th after 7 wks here in the US on my annual cooking lessons/lecture tour: eager to get a “feel” of the local sentiment.

    Lots has happenend since I arrived in the U.S. on Feb 5th: a Pope resigned, Italian national elections caused a shift in the political scene, a Pope was elected.
    Mamma mia!

  25. Colleen Simpson

    Anne: Si, so very much has happened. Will be happy to have you back in Umbria so we can get together soon! Love to share Piegaro with you.

  26. Janet MacLeod

    Assisi..la bella città…sempre nel cuore. What a lovely article on a very special place always and particularly now. Can hardly wait to return!

  27. Len Jax

    It is always so special to hear the news of Assisi and to relive the sights and memories each day brought to our lives.

  28. Angela Melczer

    Pace e been…what more do we need? I love the new Pope’s name and the beautiful photos you included make me want to be there again soon! Thanks, Annie…great article!

  29. Sam Moss

    We, too, were excited here in South Louisiana to learn the new Pope chose the name Francis in honor and deference to St. Francis of Assisi. Seeing the photos remind us of the springtime we spent in Assisi and all of the GREAT tours we took with you. Assisi lives in our hearts as do you. Pace e bene!

  30. Darlene Kelly

    Len (a.k.a. Leonardo) Jax forwarded this wonderful site to our small group who will join you in a few weeks. It’s fair to say that we are excited to tour beautiful Assisi and this was indeed a very successful “tickler”. Thanks Anne and thanks Leonardo!

    My immediate thought as I heard of the new Pope’s selection of the name Francis I was how wonderful. This world needs Pace e Bene!

  31. mary scott

    Assisi exudes Peace..in the streets, their people, in their traditions!!

    Mom & I loved Annes’ knowledge, enthusiam, joy in sharing it’s secrets..thanks, Anne & Viva el Papa Francis….”Repair my church” said God to Francis at San Damiano

  32. Marybeth Evans

    Anne is a wonderful tour guide. She is extremely knowledgeable about assisi and a pleasure to be with. I love her enthusiasm for Italian life and lore and she is an expert on historical features of the beautiful mid-evil hill towns. We were in Italy on a “singing tour” with the Berkshire Choral Festival, and Anne was our guide for Assisi, Spello ,and Nari. I learned so much about these ancient hill towns. I’m an Interior designer and appreciated Anne’s knowledge of the frescos and art in the churches and cathedrals.

    This past Wednesday, March 20th 2013 Anne was in Washington DC and gave an Umbrian Italian cooking class. What a fabulous evening. The food was delicious and not difficult to make so I am itching to do some of the recipes at home. I”m thinking of going back to Italy— the apartment in Assisi looks very cozy.

  33. stephanie cabell

    After one visit to Italy in September 2010 and two cooking classes since then with Anne, I am hooked on the essence of the beautiful Umbrian region and the cuisine. I’m ready to go back! Thank you to Anne for treating us to a taste of Umbria with her U.S. cooking classes, and for the interesting articles in Italian Notebook.

  34. Jack OConnell

    Amen, Amen, Amen….it is a new wind which will bring us all hope and no surprise it comes from sweet Assisi….

  35. Pat Parsons

    Assisi is our favorite place in all of Italy.Our group of 5 will be going with Anne on the Infiorate tour in Spello on June 2nd. I know the day will far exceed our expectations and I will comment again on our return to the states. Thank you Anne.

  36. Nancy Caporaso

    We spent a wonderful cooking class Saturday evening with Annie. Her enthusiastic cooking expertise peppered with stories and tales that enhanced the experience, brought Italy right into the room with us. Thanks, Anne for a delightful time!

  37. LOVE the photos. Such a blessing for Assisi to have our new Pope named after St. Francis! Great writing Anne :)

  38. Gayle Collins

    Amazing words and beautiful pictures, Anne. Mom is so looking forward to coming back to Assisi next month! A beautiful place–with or without the Pope’s blessings!

  39. Melinda_49@hotmail.com

    Thank you for another great post. St. Francis was the first saint I recall growing up because my mother had little statues and pictures all over the farmhouse, especially near her plants. After two trips and your wonderful tour of Assisi, I only want to return again and again. There is always so much to appreciate.

  40. Vanessa

    St Francis of Assisi – Patron Saint of animals….I’ve known that since I was a young girl and now I am married to a farmer – Kevin Francis! His father is Ronald Francis and his grandfather was Mervyn Francis. Our son is Benjamin Francis! (Francis being their middle name, not our surname). My husband of 28 years and I are so looking forward to visiting Basilica di San Francesco this August for the first time.

  41. Angela Ferrario

    Anne generously offered our small group from California, Massachusetts and New York her vast knowledge and insight about the Umbria region, creating a memorable experience for all as we discovered Assisi and Spello with her. Angela F.

  42. Bill K

    Assisi: A feast for the eyes, as well as for the nose and palate – I have no doubt! I have never been, but have plans to take my family there this summer. I am entrusting Anne with opening our eyes (and nose and palate of course) to the area, and – based on the reviews and comments of her faithful – it sounds as though I am in very good hands. Ciao! (I just love saying that …)

  43. Anne Robichaud

    Yesterday, the bells of Assisi rang wildly, in joy for many minutes….those bells of “festa” we hear only a few times a year..the ringing went on and on..
    and not just hear: all over Umbria.
    IT’s NOW OFFICIAL: Pope Francis will be here for the Feast of St. Francis, October 4th

  44. Elaine Marone

    Anne – Originally we had scheduled a stay in your apartment to coincide with St. Francis’ feast day but had to change the time of our visit to September instead. Now of course we wish we could have kept our itinerary as it was – and had the opportunity to attend what is sure to be a glorious celebration in Assisi October 4. Surely the pope will outreach with pace et bene to everyone there. God bless all your plans for this very special occasion. Maybe we will see Pope Francis in Rome – at least for a distant balcony glimpse.

  45. Stephanie

    Thank you for another wonderful insight into the things that make Assisi so special. Each time I read something or see photos I am transported back to that most lovely part of Italia. I have to say that you have been one of the most important influences with regards to my love affair with Italy. I secretly hope that somewhere back in my ancestry there is a drop of Italian blood! I am hoping to make another trip to your beloved adopted country this fall. Keeping my fingers crossed! And hoping that you can show me more of Umbria.

    For those who have never had the privilege of joining a tour of Unbria with Ann, you are missing out! She is the BEST tour guide ever!! She knows just how to make your experience the best and the fact that she has lived in Italy, raised her family, worked the land, this all makes for a very unique, one of a kind guide. She rocks!!

  46. Betty Chipman, OFS

    Thank you Anne, for letting me know of your articles in this media. Although others may attempt to guide tourists in Umbria, you are the only one that gives 100%. Living there and being a part of the community, provides you with greater knowledge of the local Artisans, Feast Days, festivals, plus the love and respect of the native Assisians. Having visited Assisi 28 times, most of those times were spent on your tours, and I can truthfully say, each time I’ve learned something new about the area. Christmas, Holy Week, and Francis’s Feast day are my favorite times and since you added Bevagna to my schedules, that’s a must when I reurn again. Blessings on all your endeavors. pace, and love. So greatful too, we now have a Pope for the people.

  47. Anne Robichaud

    Thanks, Betty, for your note! Papa Francesco arrives today on the island of Lampedusa (most southern point of Italy – island in the Mediterranean..close to Africa) to pay tribute to the memory of an estimated 20,000 immigrants who have died trying to cross the Mediterranean from Africa to Italy..since 1990. He will say Mass on an altar made in the shape of a boat, will use a chalice made of the wood of an immigrant boat. As the mayor of Lampedusa put it: “Lampedusa may be Italy’s last frontier but we are now the first stop on Papa Franceco’s pastoral mission”

  48. Gwyneth Byrd

    Dear Anne, very nice article. I constantly miss Assisi, having lived there one year I have always said Assisi is a magical place, I have never felt my anima in pace like I did living there. I will return there one day to live! In the meantime, I hope to visit soon!!!

  49. Anne Robichaud

    Word just out today, July 16, 2013: Pope Francis will visit the Serafico when here Oct 4th for the Feast of St. Francis – an institute for over 100 severely handicapped – who are all in euphoria now!
    Read about the excitement here:


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