Assisi and Italian Country Charm

Assisi and Italian Country Charm


-Hi. I’m Rick Steves, back with more
of the best of Europe. This time, we’re celebrating
the traditions in Umbria and Tuscany. It’s the heart of Italy!
Thanks for joining us. For me, the heart of Italy
is Tuscany and Umbria. With farmhouse B&Bs
as our springboard, we’ll enjoy Italian culture, from village intimacy
to the grand and saintly. We’ll check in
on some aging prosciutto, stone-grind some polenta… Cornmeal. …and dine with a noble family. We’ll learn about — and taste —
one of Tuscany’s finest wines and savor Florentine steak before retracing the steps
of St. Francis in Assisi. Italy has many famous regions, including Tuscany and Umbria. Starting in Tuscany, we visit the wine regions
around Montepulciano before crossing into Umbria and finishing in Assisi. In Tuscany, it’s still possible to find your own sleepy,
fortified village. While tourists pack
the more famous places, little off-beat gems like this
remain overlooked, and are great places for enjoying
the traditional culture. ## Hamlets like these originated
as communities of farmers who banded together
on easily defensible hilltops overlooking their farmland. With today’s tourism
and relative affluence, it’s easy to forget the fact that, until the last generation, this region was quite poor. Today, while the poverty’s gone, the traditions survive. Many rural families
still preserve their own meats and enjoy firing up
their wood-burning ovens on special occasions. And here in rural Tuscany, you feel an enthusiasm
for tradition. Gazing at these content sheep, you can almost taste
the Pecorino cheese, which seems to be
a part of every meal. At this farm,
walls are stacked with rounds of Pecorino, made from the unpasteurized
and, therefore, tastier milk of
the farm’s sheep. Making cheese this way
is labor-intensive and takes lots of patience, but for these folks,
it’s well worth the trouble. To be sure we get the most
out of our visit, we’re joined by my friend and fellow tour guide
Roberto Bechi. We’re visiting the noble farm
of the Zanda Family, where Nicola raises
a couple hundred pigs. These pigs are a rare breed brought back
from the edge of extinction by people who care about
traditional agriculture, people who really
love their ham. It’s Italian justice —
We feed them, they feed us. -Yeah. Yeah. -Now, like the pigs
all eventually do, we move on to the prosciutto
part of the farm. Nicola artfully cures
every part of the pig. The hind legs are destined
to become fine prosciutto. He brushes on a coat
of garlic and vinegar with a sprig of rosemary, sprinkles it with pepper, and finally cakes it in salt. Top-grade prosciutto is cured
by hanging in a cool room for about a year. During the slow curing process,
Nicola checks the progress, employing a wooden needle
and an expert nose. And like any proud farmer,
he invites us into his home — not your everyday farmhouse —
for a memorable taste. Rick: From the farm to the table, with only a little bit
of travel — 200 meters! Nicola: 200 meters, but a lot of work.
Rick: A lot of work! How many months? Nicola: About, uh…15 months. Rick: And then the ham
is waiting…? Nicola: The ham is waiting
about 12 months. Rick: Oh, so more than two years. Nicola: Yeah.
Rick: Nicola, three different meats. Can you give me a little tour? Nicola: This is ham prosciutto;
we have “soppressata” — it’s done with the heads
of the pigs, and we have the salami here. Rick: You like this?
Nicola: Oh, I love it. Rick: This is from the head
of the beautiful pigs I was just feeding. Is it good?
You eat it, Nicola? Nicola: It’s fantastic.
Rick: Yeah? Roberto: Try it! Try it!
Nicola: It’s the best part. Roberto: I think he likes it.
Rick: Mmm. Yeah! It’s like “prosciutto
for beginners,” and this is for the expert.
Roberto: For the expert. Rick: The connoisseur.
Roberto: Perfect. Rick: With some good wine. Roberto: Always with good wine. Nearby is the “vecchio mulino” —
or old mill. While this swan thinks
this pool’s made for him, it’s actually a reservoir
used to power the mill. This mill,
with its ancient grindstones, has been producing flour
for generations. Until the 1960s, neighboring farmers
brought their grain here, while locals know stone-ground
corn makes the tastiest polenta… Rick: Cornmeal.
Benito: Polenta! …mills like these are a tough
fit in our fast-paced world. Aristocratic
countryside elegance survives in Tuscany. But for these venerable
manor houses to stay viable, many augment
their farming income by renting rooms to travelers. We’re staying in a B&B
run by Signora Silvia Gori, And like so much
of what she serves, the limoncello comes
from her farm. Signora Gori rents a few rooms
in her centuries-old farmhouse. As is typical
of “agriturismos” — as working farms renting rooms
are called here — the furnishings are rustic,
but comfortable. To merit the title
“agriturismo,” the farm must still
be in business — and the Gori family makes wine. The son Nicolo runs
the show now, mixing traditional techniques
with the latest technology in a very competitive field. Signora Gori is proud
to show us her home. As her family has for centuries, she lives in the manor house — and the family tree
makes it clear: the Gori family has deep roots and goes back over 600 years. Rick: So it says “famiglia Gori” —
Signora Gori: Gori family. Rick: All the way back to… Signora Gori: “Millequattrocento.” OK. Rick: “Millequattro-” 1400. Signora Gori: 1400.
Rick: Incredibile. The family room,
the oldest in the house, is welcoming
in an aristocratic sort of way. Under its historic vault, Grandpa nurtures
the latest generation of Goris as the rural nobility of Italy
carries on. Upstairs is the vast
billiards room. For generations,
evenings ended here, beneath musty portraits — another reminder
of the family’s long and noble lineage. And Grandma passes
down the requisite skills to the latest generation. Rick: If that was bowling,
it’d be very good. [ Laughter ] The kitchen,
with its wood-burning stove and fine copperware,
has cooked up countless meals. Signora Gori, happy to share
the local bounty, invites us for lunch. Three generations gather
on this Sunday afternoon with no hurry at all. The prosciutto
and Pecorino cheese provide a fine starting course beautifully matched
with the family’s wine. Pasta comes next. And the children
prefer theirs “bianco,” with only olive oil. And the little one?
She’s still mastering the fine art
of eating spaghetti. Food is particularly tasty when eaten in the community
that produced it with a family
that’s lived right here for six centuries. It’s memories like these
that you take home that really are
the very best souvenir. They call this
a zero-kilometer meal. Everything was produced locally. It’s a classic Tuscan
table — simplicity, a sense of harmony, and no rush, enjoyed with an elegant
and welcoming noble family. [ Indistinct conversations ] Tuscany is one of those regions where it just makes sense
to sleep outside the city. And our farmhouse B&B provides a great springboard
for a world of side trips. A short and scenic drive south takes us through some of Italy’s
finest wine country. This is the land
of two beloved local wines, Brunello di Montalcino and Vino Nobile
di Montepulciano. The vineyards here produce
some of the very best wines in the world. And travelers
who call in advance are welcome to visit
and tour the wineries. Beautifully tended vines soak up the spring sun
as hard-working vintners hope that this year’s vintage
will be one to remember. And over-looking it all is
the hill town of Montepulciano. The town’s sleepy main piazza is surrounded by a grab bag
of architectural sites. The medieval town hall resembles nearby Florence’s
Palazzo Vecchio — a reminder
that about 500 years ago, Montepulciano allied itself
with Florence. The crenellations along the roof were never intended
to hide soldiers — they just symbolize power. But the big central tower
makes it clear that the city’s keeping an eye
out in all directions. [ Drums playing ] For centuries,
this town has celebrated its independent spirit. And today, these young people
carry on that tradition — and entertain their visitors —
with a colorful ritual. [ Drums continue playing ] Being a wine-producing capital, Montepulciano was built upon
a honeycomb of wine cellars. Palazzo Ricci sits atop a particularly impressive
series of cellars. -Oh, Roberto! “Ciao!” -Joining a vintner,
we descend a long staircase. Heading deep down into the hill that Montepulciano
is built upon, the temperature
noticeably drops, and eventually, we end up at street level
of the lower town. Climbing even further down, we reach gigantic barrels under even more gigantic vaults and a chance to learn
about the wine that’s aging here. Rick: These are very big barrels.
Enrico: Yeah, of course. It’s very big barrel.
10,000 liter. It’s made of wood —
the Slavonian wood. Rick: 10,000 liters.
How many bottles? Enrico: 13,000. For this wine, it’s the artful
combination of aging in large, medium,
and small oak barrels that gets the tannin levels
just right. Rick: Enrico, when was
the first barrel of wine here in this cellar? Enrico: From 1337. Rick: 700 years. Enrico: Of course. Sure. Rick: My goodness.
And for our last stop, a chance to taste
some of the wine as it’s aging. And I’m forever
the attentive student. Rick: So how old would
this wine be here? Roberto: Ah, one year.
Rick: One year. Rick: So this is “baby”
Nobile di Montepulciano. Enrico: Baby Vino Nobile,
born an hour [ago]. Rick: Born an hour —
it’s little, tiny baby! And when it’s finished,
how old will the wine be? Roberto: Three years old.
Rick: Three years. And is this good?
Can you tell when you taste? Enrico: For me, the wine is how my son is.
It’s very, very nice. Rick: You love the wine
like your son? Enrico: Yeah… Rick: You love your son
like the wine! Enrico: Same. Same! Rick: The same! That’s good! The people of Montepulciano
seem to enjoy their red meat as much as their red wine, and this osteria is
a carnivore’s dream come true. Its long, narrow room,
jammed with shared tables, leads to a busy kitchen
with an open fire. Giulio, his wife Chiara, and their staff
serve their hungry crowd like a well-choreographed
meat-eater’s ballet. Weight and price is agreed upon
at the table. Rick: You know what? That’s good. Then it’s leave it to cleaver. The meat is seared over embers
for just a few minutes… before being cut from the bone. Rick: I can smell it already. Oh, look at that! Nice! And in Tuscany, the correct way
to enjoy a steak is…rare. -[ Speaking Italian ] An hour’s drive to the east takes us to the neighboring
state of Umbria, famous for the town of Assisi
and its beloved St. Francis, who had a huge impact
on the medieval church. The story of medieval Europe
is the story of hard lives and a very religious world where people struggled
and stressed about their relationship
with God. Many thoughtful people
entered monasteries, lived lives of quiet prayer
and solitude in retreats like this. Around the year 1200, Francis,
a simple friar from Assisi, was one such person. He retreated to this hermitage
for the solitude, and it survives to this day with a handful of Franciscan
friars living out his mission. Behind a little chapel, you’ll find the tiny, dank cell, where Francis himself
would retire for private prayer. In this beautiful setting,
you can almost imagine the much-loved saint
preaching to the birds. [ Birds singing ] Francis lived
in the hill town of Assisi, while the Basilica
of St. Francis where he’s buried,
dominates the town. We’ll visit that later. His story starts here
in the valley below in the Church
of St. Mary of the Angels. It’s a grandiose,
baroque church, but stepping inside,
you’ll realize it’s built around
a humble little chapel. As a young man,
Francis was living in a way that attracted followers. He went to the Vatican in Rome,
asked for the Pope’s blessing to continue his work,
and got it. Back in Assisi, he was given
this fixer-upper chapel. ## This is the actual chapel that Francis
and his first followers rebuilt. And it was here in 1209 that he established
the Franciscan Order. Inside the chapel, pilgrims remember the very spot
where Francis lived, worked, and died, and how, as it turned out, fixing up that little chapel
was a metaphor for a church in need of reform. This chapel, so dwarfed
by this enormous church, reflects the monumental impact
this simple friar, a reformer well
ahead of his time, had on Christendom. With his teaching,
Francis challenged the decadence
of church government. He took Jesus’ message
of non-materialism and simplicity seriously, challenging the wealthy
and powerful around him. His “slow down and smell
God’s roses” teaching drew a huge following. Francis strove
to be Christ-like. He taught by example,
he lived without worldly goods, and loved all of creation. A huge religious order
grew out of his teachings, which were gradually
embraced by the church. In 1939, Italy made Francis
one of its patron saints, and in 2013, the newly-elected Pope
took his name… the first-ever Pope Francis. A visit to Assisi shows
that Francis’ message of universal love has a broad and timeless appeal. In fact, Assisi routinely
hosts interfaith gatherings. And even non-religious travelers become pilgrims of a sort
as they explore the town and remember Francis. Any pilgrimage site will be
commercialized. And Assisi, which
enthusiastically cashes in on the legacy of St. Francis,
is no exception. The town overflows
with Francis fans and a flood of
Franciscan knickknacks. But most visitors
are day-trippers, so to enjoy Assisi
at its peaceful best, see it early or see it late. While the town center
may be congested, just a few steps away, you’ll find pockets of serenity. As you explore, gaze up. Balconies are tiny gardens. Medieval Assisi
was densely populated with several times
the population of the town today packed within
its protective walls. The town’s main square
is an inviting place to relax. As in many European
old town centers, it’s pedestrian-friendly
and almost traffic-free. Assisi has been
a spiritual center since pre-Christian times. The Ancient Romans
went to great lengths to make this first-century B.C.
Temple of Minerva — with its stately
Corinthian columns — a centerpiece of their city. A Christian church was built
into the ruined pagan temple in the 9th century, and its fine
13th-century bell tower soars above the crowds
of the main square. But it seems
most visitors are here for the story of St. Francis. Francis was a big deal
even in his own age. In fact, he was made a saint
within a few years of his death. Immediately, pilgrims
came from far and wide, making Assisi
a thriving pilgrimage center, which it is to this day. Assisi’s main drag
leads from the town center towards the Basilica, while holds the saint’s
much venerated remains. This 13th-century hospice
gave pilgrims a place to rest. And along the way, pilgrims
would stop here for a drink. The street ends
at the Basilica of St. Francis. This is one of the artistic and religious highlights
of Europe. It rises where in 1230,
St. Francis was buried. For eight centuries, it’s been one of the most
visited pilgrimage sites in all of Christendom. From a distance,
you see the huge arches that support the Basilica. Above these were the quarters
for the hundreds of friars who once lived here. The arcades that line the square
approaching the church are where medieval pilgrims
were housed and fed. The destination
of so many pilgrims is the tomb of Francis, which lies deep
beneath the basilica. Its humble elegance
befits the saint who preached simplicity. The saint’s remains —
in a stone box with iron ties — are one of the most important
Christian relics anywhere. Holy relics were the ruby
slippers of Medieval Europe. To the faithful,
relics had power. They helped answer prayers,
win wars, and ultimately, they helped you
get to heaven. The Basilica rises
in two levels above the tomb. It’s cohesive, an artistic and theological
work of genius. With its fine art, it still functions
as a splendid classroom. It was frescoed
from top to bottom by leading artists
of the 13th century. In the lower basilica,
Cimabue painted what’s considered the earliest and most accurate portrayal
of St. Francis. Below, you’ll see five
of Francis’ closest followers — clearly, just simple folk. The series of frescoes
above the altar is by Giotto, the most powerful storyteller
of his day. Three scenes represent the vows
of the Franciscans: obedience, chastity,
and poverty. Francis kneels
in front of Lady Obedience. Chastity is in
her Tower of Purity flanked by two angels. And Lady Poverty
is in her patched wedding dress. Francis, about to marry her, slips a ring on her finger as Jesus blesses the union. And high above is Francis
on a heavenly throne. After a life
of earthly simplicity, he enjoys glory in heaven. In the 13th century,
Giotto’s art was radical, unprecedented in its realism. He portrayed holy people
expressing emotion as never before. Here in this crucifixion scene, one angel turns her head sadly
at the sight of Jesus. And another is
in such anguish, she scratches her hands
down her cheeks. Mary, until this fresco generally portrayed in control, has fainted in despair. The Franciscan friars, with their passion
for bringing God to the people, found a natural partner in Europe’s first
modern painter, Giotto. The upper basilica, built a bit later
than the lower, is considered the first
gothic church in Italy. It’s brighter, illuminated by
13th-century stained glass, the oldest in Italy, and covered with frescoes
by Giotto and his assistants. The nave shows 28 scenes
from the life of St. Francis, a mix of documented history
and folk legend. Here, Giotto shows
a nearly naked Francis, the rich kid tossing his fancy
clothes to his father, befuddling high society by trading a life of luxury
for one of simplicity. But ultimately,
even the Pope recognized that Francis could restore
a church and society in great need of reform. ## In a land torn by war,
Francis promoted peace. He preached by example
and made the Gospel’s teaching more accessible
to common people. Francis’ message
of non-materialism challenges the wealthy
and powerful to this day. And perhaps the most endearing
scene in the Basilica shows Francis preaching
to the birds. Francis loved nature
as well as humanity. The variety of birds
represents the diverse flock of nature and humanity, all worthy
of one another’s love. Today, 800 years later, I find the message
of St. Francis still relevant. Thoughtful travel causes us
to consider things differently, from the art of fine living to the teaching
of a medieval saint. It opens us up,
not only to our world, but to new ways
of appreciating it. Thanks for joining us.
I’m Rick Steves. Until next time,
keep on travelin’. It’s the best of Italy!
No, it’s the heart of Italy. -Rick? -[ Grunting ] [ Laughter ] Yep, thank you. This is “jamón”
from Andalusia. -No. No. No.
-No, no. Back in A-sissy — [ Scoffs ]
Assisi. [ Laughs ] [ Low humming ] [ Laughter ]

100 Replies to “Assisi and Italian Country Charm”

  1. Best Europe vacations guide video! Love each of them! I watched all before my last visiting to Italy. Now thinking of where to go next.

  2. Thank you. Learning about Assisi and the life and teachings of Saint Francis were particularly inspiring. He knew and lived Christ's core message, which is to truly know and love God, one must embrace a life of simplicity (non-materialism), celibacy, solitude and prayer. I'd add, although controversially, one must also be compassionate and abstain from all violence, including butchering defenseless and harmless creatures who have feelings and suffer trauma. That simply means not eating any meat, fish and even eggs. Wise modern doctors and nutritionists, who acknowledge that a human body is not designed to consume meats, recommend organic vegetables, fruits, grains, nuts, seeds and limited amounts of dairy.

    In Vedic spiritual traditions (Yoga), to achieve purity of body, mind and soul, a seeker must first embrace vegetarian diet and abstain from desires and sensual pleasures, such as sexual promiscuity, alcohol and gambling.

  3. Se noi Italiani siamo affascinati dall'Umbria il mondo dovrebbe chiedersi perché!!?
    Beviamo caffè ,quotidianamente, davanti monumenti incredibili come se fossero marciapiedi ,ma la pace e la bellezza umbra non lascia indifferenti nemmeno noi!

  4. อิตาลีไม่ค่อยจะน่าเที่ยวเหมือนประเทศในยุโรบกลาง ตะวันตก ตะวันออก เหนือ

  5. Thank you for sharing these wonderful travel programs. I cannot afford the luxury of travel, so these beautiful sceneries are food for my soul. God bless.

  6. Lots of tiny streets there. My husband and I became lost in Assisi and spoke no Italian. We were just walking through the residential section, not really noticing, and before we knew it, were lost. No one spoke English, and when I put my hands out to make like a prayer, they finally understood where we needed to be.
    I just took the beautiful hand embroidered table linens out of the laundry today, and also bought beautiful blouses for our granddaughters and myself while there. I wish I'd have bought more, and so reasonably priced!
    Italy was a wonderful experience. I think my favorite stop was at Lake Bolsena.

  7. He Steve's thanks showing in side Italy I enjoyed see all your Europe the beautiful city's Montychulpiano and asisi I want visit there

  8. Beautiful video, but you gave wrong information about Assisi. The little chapel located inside the Church in 'Santa Maria Degli Angeli' (the one you showed) is called Porziuncula, at this little chapel (Porziuncula), St Francis met Clara (St Chiara) when she left her home, running away from her family; St Francis died nearby the Porziuncula. The church he (St Francis) rebuilt with his own hands, initially by himself, and later with his first disciples is called San Damiano which is located just outside Assisi's walls. At San Damiano he heard the calling from a cross asking him something like that: "My church is in ruins, Rebuild my church"; St Francis thought that the voice (coming from the cross as per history) referred to St Damiano which was in ruins and for this reason he rebuilt it. Later on it was understood that the voice was referring to the church (catholicism) as an institution. This original cross from San Damiano that allegedly talked to Saint Francis is currently located at Santa Chiara's church in Assisi but San Damiano is open for visitation and masses.

  9. super documental exelentes paisages bonita ciudad parece que el tiempo se quedo plasmado en sus comstrucciones paisages sus gentes sus costumbres exelente video gracias por sibirlo darnos a conocer sus culturas hermozos muchas gracias en hora buena0

  10. Wow! The best travel video, my favorite. Couldnt help but watch and marvel in adulation. Thank you for this content.

  11. Beautiful country….I visited this village years ago….now I am getting old…have no idea wether I could visit this country again…hope somebody would ask me to go there…

  12. Italy, Its beautiful with good people who keep their traditions alive.
    The Italian wine is one of a kind.
    Pray for us Saint Francis of Assisi.

  13. Rick Steve is a great and smart narrator, he enjoys staying with locals, understanding their traditions and cultures with humbleness and curiosity, and mainly without biases. I cannot even imagine comparing its videos with the ones from the so-considered youtubers. In Italy, he is one of the fews who understood the importance of the regions, the cities, our differentiation, and so much more. Greetings from Northern Italy!🇮🇹🇮🇹

  14. I`ve been to Tuscany 3 times and there isn`t any better human beings and beauty on earth. They respect everything. At the time my ex girlfriend owned a beautiful old rustic house in the mountains in Tuscany. We made lot`s of friends and they were AMAZING PEOPLE. We always went out with them. Some were Communist, Libertarian, Capitalist, Socialist and could sit together and talk politics with respect and love for each other . We drank and loved together and realized this is the human race at it ultimate best. IT WAS SO BEAUTIFUL, I wish was I born there instead of here, especially right now. The Italian people have given me hope that human`s, especially Americans SHOULD LEARN FROM.

  15. that's what i see as nice living, family, splendid housing, and a farm surrounding with it's own earning streams.

  16. I live for the day Americans interested in Italy will learn how to pronounce in a vaguely correct way italian names and such

  17. nicely explore the place in italy… small vilages always have its own beutyful secret things… that i love to….. well done.. THANK YOU!

  18. Italy is the most suitable place to live especially offbeat locations, nice people, salubrious climate . Dream place . Love from India . ♥️

  19. I came here to see how Italians look because when I was in Europe (I'm American) I've been asked if I'm Italian. I'm %100 Jewish but I can see why people asked if I'm Italian. I think Ashkenazi Jews generally look like Italians as opposed to Swiss people, even Jews with blond hair and blue eyes generally have a softer Iberian look as opposed to the sharper Nordic features.

  20. Oh know what a gorgeous everything is perfect one of the greatest place for Vacation I loved 🇮🇹 wine 🍷 ,Sir Rick Steves you’re great thanks for sharing your lovely video I learned a lots god bless and peace, i can’t wait to go fantastic

  21. This places where I was saw in story books it's such a wonderful dreamy place I love it. Lots of love from India.

  22. ฉันชอบทปิรนี้นะค่ะอิตาลีชอบคุณมากค่ะLove คุณมากๆๆๆๆค่ะ

  23. Ha ha ha! I don't have to go to all these fantastic countries. I travel to these lovely fantastic countries on YouTube with Mr Rick Steves

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