Travel Weekly San Francisco bureau chief Laura Del Rosso
visited Assisi, Italy, in the wake of a severe earthquake. Her
ASSISI, Italy -- The townspeople here who make their living from
tourism -- and nearly all do -- want the world to know that the
Sept. 26 quake did not destroy this medieval city. "Assisi is still
here and still beautiful," said Ignazio Campoccia, manager of the
Hotel dei Priori. "The only disaster was the basilica."
None of the hotels suffered major damage although some closed
temporarily, deciding to repair surface cracks while occupancy is
at nearly zero. The basilica of St. Francis, the towering structure
that commemorates the saint who was born here, is two churches. The
upper church sustained damage and may be closed for at least two
years for cleanup and renovation. The lower church is intact and
might reopen in a few weeks. The lower church is a major attraction
because it contains St. Francis' tomb and Giotto's famous
Five days after the quake that rocked Italy's Umbria and Marche
provinces, the usually bustling Assisi was quiet except for relief
workers, television crews and police. There were only two
motorcoaches in the vast parking lot. "The town itself is a
masterpiece," said Frances Abdon, Walnut Creek, Calif. "You don't
get a feeling that there has been a disaster here at all."
Josit Kasabotis, a local guide for Trafalgar and Insight, said
he hopes the quake will prompt more visits to the beautifully
preserved city that surrounds the closed basilica. Insight returned
to Assisi within three days of the quake, replacing visits to the
basilica with a walking tour in town. Points of interest include a
large fortress, a Roman forum and temple, a cathedral and winding
narrow streets lined with shops and restaurants.
Tour guides say that the quake's impact on the basilica gives
new meaning to a local legend. One of St. Francis' closest friends,
Brother Leone, objected to the design of the basilica because it
was too ornate. Legend has it that he put a curse on it, saying
"sooner or later it will fall."
Operators Steer Clients Away from Quake Damage--for
BOSTON -- Some tour operators are steering travelers away from
Assisi in Italy until further notice, in the wake of the recent
earthquake there, according to a sampling of operators conducted by
"We have rerouted tours from Assisi for the next few weeks until
we hear from officials in the city itself," Steve Perillo, vice
president of New Jersey-based Perillo tours, said. "We know the
church can't be visited, and we hear there have been some problems
with the roads."
In fact, Perillo said, the company is holding off on the
production of its winter brochure for the moment until the
situation becomes more clear. "Assisi is basically closed for
awhile," said Mauro Galli, president of TourCrafters in Chicago.
"We are having people spend more time in Siena and Florence until
tourism is reestablished," he said.
Galli predicted, however, that the religious and historic
importance of Assisi will prompt quick action on the part of
government officials to restore and repair whatever is
Not all those who plan to visit Assisi for religious reasons
will be disappointed, according to Donna Adair, manager of Regina
Tours. The Ohio-based company recently was purchased by Central
Holidays Tours to handle the religious portion of its travel to
Italy. "We have three large groups going to Assisi next week, and
we are still going," Adair said. "They cannot visit the basilica of
St. Francis, but some other churches are open, and a number of
hotels are up and running," she added.