This medieval hill town in central Italy claims two of the world’s most-beloved saints: St. Francis and St. Clare. Both were born here in the twelfth century, children of wealth and privilege who gave up lives of luxury to devote themselves to austerity and prayer. St. Francis founded the Franciscans in 1208; St. Clare established an order that became known as the Poor Clares in 1212.
The main site associated with Francis is the Basilica di San Francesco, which includes many masterpieces of medieval art as well as his relics. St. Clare, who was a friend of Francis and profoundly influenced by him, is buried in Assisi in a basilica named in her honor. In the surrounding hills, pilgrims can enjoy spectacular views of the Umbrian countryside. A favorite destination is the Church of San Damiano, where Francis received his miraculous calling to a life of service.
Did You Know? Assisi was believed to be a sacred spot even before its association with St. Francis and was the location of a temple to the Roman goddess Minerva.
Next site: Ephesus, Turkey
Lori Erickson is one of America’s top travel writers specializing in spiritual journeys. She’s the author of the Near the Exit: Travels With the Not-So-Grim Reaper and Holy Rover: Journeys in Search of Mystery, Miracles, and God. Her website Spiritual Travels features holy sites around the world.