Assisi Diary – Day 3

The word “ancient” is fast becoming redundant here in Umbria, but that is part and parcel of the history of this area. The city of Foligno is one of the main hubs, next to Perugia, and has had its fair share of peculiar history. Like most other towns around Assisi, the Umbria settled in Foligno before the Romans took over. However, unlike the neighbouring towns and cities, Foligno has been ravaged by war over the years, making its history read something similar to a season Game of Thrones, if you replace the Starks and the Lanisters with the Giuscardos and Trincis, with a few emperors and popes involved in the whole bloody mess for good measure.


The fact that Foligno has been ruined by war several times over shows in the peculiar city architecture. There are almost no Roman remains left standing, and whatever medieval landmarks were not destroyed during the Allied bombing of World War II, earthquakes took care of the rest.

Most other Umbrian towns with restored or preserved medieval to ancient town centres will boast of an open piazza wherein you can admire the facades and be seduced by the charm of the side alleys. Not in Foligno. It reminded me of a child’s version of a lego construction, with buildings erected in whatever free space there was available, regardless of style, symmetry, and significance. The result is an eclectic mix that is not easy to digest visually.

Also, never visit Foligno on a Monday afternoon between 1:00 – 5:00pm unless you like jogging or walking around a dull ghost town. Everything is shut, locked, padlocked, and plain old sad, so no museums, landmarks and shops to visit, not even the local park! Believe it or not, you will be hard put to even find an open cafe for a cappuccino to warm your hands. I was so disappointed to find out that even the cathedral has been locked since the 1997 earthquake.

In lieu of lighting a candle at the Basilica of San Feliciano, I said a silent prayer outside while sitting at the Salumeria Norcineria Massantani to be served a late lunch. Champagne was highly entertained by the fat pigeons hovering around the empty tables, and just about all the patrons of the place were entertained by her (especially her backpack). A salumeria is an Italian delicatessen that specialises in pork sausages and cold cuts. It is heaven for anyone who is not vegetarian and seeks to indulge in the exquisite local Umbrian products, indulge being the key word because what you pay for a generous cold cuts platter here would cost you an arm and two legs in Germany. If you don’t have to drive, then a gorgeous glass of Umbrian wine is the perfect partner for such a meal. This particular one in front of the cathedral is family-run and has been in the business since 1913. You can forego all the palazzos and museums of Foligno if you ask me, but not this little slice of heaven.

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