Brigolante holiday rentals in Assisi, Umbria

Self-catering apartments in Assisi's town center and nearby countryside.

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Of Flowers and Bees, Butterflies and Dreams: Il Lavandeto di Assisi

We’re back with our monthly Italy Blogging Roundtable! The theme this month is “Bug”, and you can blame any of my fellow writers for this, including Laura Thayer, Kate Bailward, Jessica Spiegel, Melanie RenzulliAlexandra Korey, Gloria, or Michele Fabio. Any of them. (If you missed the previous months, take a look here.) Welcome to our table…come pull up a chair and join in on the conversation!

Italy Blogging Roundtable

 

Follow your dream, they say. They say it in commencement speeches. They say it on Oprah. They say it on Instagram, superimposed on romantic photos of footprints on the beach stretching to the distant sunset.

Il Lavandeto di Assisi garden

Yeah, well. As anyone who has actually followed a dream knows, it is a hell of a lot of work…much more than one would presume from the idyllic kitten posters and wrist tats. And sometimes it doesn’t pan out, or it pans out only halfway, or it pans out much, much later than what your business plan suggested.

 

Il Lavandeto di Assisi garden

Il Lavandeto di Assisi garden

But sometimes it does work out. Sometimes you’re just an office employee in Umbria who has a passion for plants – lavender and other herbs, to be specific – and you up and decide more than a decade ago that you are going to quit that job, rent a plot of land near your house, and plant your first rows of fragrant lavadula. You start with that first crop, and then you plant the next. You sweat under the hot sun, you start adding other herbs and medicinals, you pack up your van each weekend with pots and dried flower sachets to hit the area markets and fairs, and you begin to make a name for yourself.

Il Lavandeto di Assisi garden

Il Lavandeto di Assisi garden

Il Lavandeto di Assisi garden

Sometimes you even open up a little shop in town, stuffed to the gills with lavender-themed gift and crafts. You start getting your husband excited about your side hustle, and he eventually quits his job to help you in the fields and greenhouses. You start to stock rare types of basil and strangely colored breeds of sage, and next to the fields you begin to stake out a lovely garden with rose-covered trellises, lush beds of herbs, and even a tiny pond with waterlilies looking as exotic as pineapples in the surrounding Umbrian countryside.

Il Lavandeto di Assisi garden

Il Lavandeto di Assisi garden

 

Sometimes you have the grit and vision and patience of Lorena Fastellini, who founded Il Lavandeto di Assisi more than ten years ago. From a small plot of lavender, Il Lavandeto now grows dozens of types of herbs and medicinal plants – including a vast variety of lavender – and has a shop both in Assisi and at the farm. But most people know Il Lavandeto for their lovely garden in the valley below Assisi, where visitors can wander through the herb and flower beds, stroll under the trellis, relax next to the pretty pond, and snap some of the best pictures of Assisi from below against the foreground of deep blue lavender flowers.

Il Lavandeto di Assisi garden

 

I stopped by last week, just after their annual “Festa della Lavanda” was finishing up. For three weekends in June and July, the lavender is at its most colorful and Loreno (with husband Gino), hold a market in their garden and a series of lavender-themed dinners and other events. The Lavandeto buzzes with visitors from across Italy, and is filled with stands selling lavender-related crafts. But the morning I pulled in, all was quiet. I spent a few minutes in the garden by myself, savoring the clean scent of lavender and rose, watching the butterflies and honeybees alight on their delicate blossoms, and listening to the plops of fish (or maybe frogs) in the pond. If this is what a dream looks like, then follow away, I say.


A special thanks to Lorena Fastellini, who very generously provided me with bug pictures to fit the theme of this month when it became clear that I had neither the skill nor the equipment to take them myself. You can visit their garden and greenhouse on Via dei Laghetti in Castelnuovo di Assisi, or their shop in the center of Assisi at Viale Guglielmo Marconi, 1c right next to the Giovanni Paolo II parking lot near the Basilica.

Read the posts, leave comments, share them with your friends – and tune in next month for another Italy Blogging Roundtable topic!

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Public Transportation: Getting to Assisi from Rome and Florence

We’re back with our monthly Italy Blogging Roundtable! The theme this month is “Public Transportation”, and we have a new member to welcome…Laura Thayer from Ciao Amalfi on Italy’s beautiful Amalfi Coast! Take a look at posts by Kate Bailward, Jessica Spiegel, Melanie RenzulliAlexandra Korey, Gloria, and Michele Fabio. (If you missed the previous months, take a look here.) Welcome to our ever-expanding table…come pull up a chair and join in on the conversation!

Italy Blogging Roundtable

 

Ok, yes, I realize that instructions on how to take public transportation from Rome or Florence to Assisi is not that exciting of a topic. But guess what: you’re a grown up now (at least I presume you are, as you are traveling to Europe). And though there are many perks to being a grown up, many of which involve gin, there are also downsides. Like, for example, having to deal with the decidedly unsexy logistics of travel in Italy.

 

calvin and hobbes

 

To be honest, I never really paid that much attention to how to take the train or bus from Rome and Florence to Assisi until just recently. I get around almost exclusively by car, and when we only hosted guests in the countryside, they either rented a car or traveled with their own wheels during their stay. Now that we host guests in the center of Assisi as well, we have more and more guests who are using Italy’s public transport and I find myself fielding questions often about the logistics of getting between the two biggest cities in central Italy and our hilltown in Umbria.

So here are some tips and information, based on the situation on the ground in 2016:

Getting from Rome to Assisi

By Train

If you are arriving at the Fiumicino airport, you will have to take the Leonardo Express shuttle train from the terminals to the Termini train station in the city center, where you can connect to trains to Assisi. The shuttle trains run every 15-30 minutes, take just over half an hour to reach Rome, and cost €14 per one way ticket.

There are a number of direct trains (both high speed and slower regional) which run from Rome’s main Termini station to the Assisi station, located in the valley below the center of Assisi in Santa Maria degli Angeli. High speed or Alta Velocità (AV) trains including the Frecciarossa, Frecciabianca, and Intercity require reservations in advance and passengers have an assigned seat; Regionale and Regionale Veloce train tickets can be purchased directly before boarding and you have no assigned seat.

There are also many trains which require a change in Foligno, a small city about half an hour from Assisi. There are only four tracks in Foligno, and the change is usually easy…but if you would rather not have to make a connection, double check before buying your ticket that you have selected a direct route.

Many trains to Assisi depart from the remote Binari 1 or 2 EST tracks at Roma Termini, which are an extension of the main platform. If your train is departing from one of these, it will take about 7 minutes more to walk to the remote platform from the station atrium.

Direct trains take around 2 hours between Rome and Assisi, and trains which require a change can take 15 to 20 minutes more. Tickets cost from about €10 to €50 (don’t take those trains…that’s crazy money).

Assisi’s tiny station is called both Assisi and Santa Maria degli Angeli, so make sure you get off when you see either of those destinations. You will also see Assisi up on the hillside to the right as the train pulls into the station.

Once you arrive at the station, you can take a local bus (the C line) 10 minutes up the hill to the center of town. Tickets can be purchased from the newspaper stand in the station for €1.30 or directly from the bus driver for €1.50 (you must have exact change). Get off at Piazza San Pietro for the Basilica or Piazza Matteotti for the central Piazza del Comune.

Otherwise, there is also a taxi stand in front of the station, and the fare is about €15 for two passengers plus luggage to the center of Assisi.

 

***A note from friend and Italy expert Bill Thayer that I will add here:

A detail, but an important one, I think. The logistics of getting from Rome to Assisi: no, absolutely not, we do not need to go through Termini! The place is hell on wheels, especially for Italy newbies. To get to Umbria, they might prefer to take the *other* train – the one that goes to Orte, on the other track at the airport. They’re going to have to change trains anyway, and the change at the little station at Orte is much easier than scrambling through Termini. The train to Orte is almost never full, plenty of room to sit down and put your baggage in the aisle comfortably, and on a hot day the air conditioning is not swallowed up in the heat of all those bodies. It is also much cheaper; the Termini train is specially priced: it gouges the tourist. It’s also useful to tell them that they can buy their tickets to Assisi right at the airport, not just a ticket to (Rome/Orte), with the need then to buy a second ticket at a second station.***

 

By Bus

There are also coaches which travel between Rome and Assisi, though they only depart in the early morning and take much longer than the train.

The Sulga bus departs from the Fiumicino airport Terminal 3 – International arrivals (it stops in the tour bus parking area) and from the Tiburtina train station (not Termini!). Only two routes come all the way to Piazza San Pietro in Assisi; the other routes stop at the Perugia train station, from which you will have to catch a train to Assisi. The trip takes between 3 and 4 hours and tickets cost €23.50 (from the airport) and €18.50 (from the station).

 

Getting from Florence to Assisi

By Train

If you are flying into Florence, you will have to take a taxi or the shuttle bus from the airport to the central Santa Maria Novella train station. Routes depart every half hour, and tickets cost €6 and can be purchased directly from the driver on board.  

There are direct trains (both high speed and slower regional) from Florence’s central Santa Maria Novella station to Assisi, and routes which include a change in Terontola, a small town about an hour from Assisi. The Terontola station is small and it’s simple to change trains there, but if you would rather avoid having to make a connection, opt for a direct route. There are also routes which require two connections (Terontola and Perugia), to be avoided if possible.

High speed or Alta Velocità (AV) trains including the Frecciarossa, Frecciabianca, and Intercity require reservations in advance and passengers have an assigned seat; Regionale and Regionale Veloce train tickets can be purchased directly before boarding and you have no assigned seat.

Direct trains take around 2.5 hours between Florence and Assisi, and trains which require a change can take 30 minutes more. Tickets cost from about €15 to €30.

Assisi’s tiny station is located below the center of town in the valley and is called both Assisi and Santa Maria degli Angeli, so make sure you get off when you see either of those destinations. You will also see Assisi up on the hillside to the right as the train pulls into the station.

Once you arrive at the station, you can take a local bus (the C line) 10 minutes up the hill to the center of town. Tickets can be purchased from the newspaper stand in the station for €1.30 or directly from the bus driver for €1.50 (you must have exact change). Get off at Piazza San Pietro for the Basilica or Piazza Matteotti for the central Piazza del Comune.

Otherwise, there is also a taxi stand in front of the station, and the fare is about €15 for two passengers plus luggage to the center of Assisi.

 

By Bus

There is one coach which travels between Florence and Assisi each Monday and Friday, departing at 6 pm and and arriving at 8:30 pm; seats must be booked by 7 pm on the evening before departure by phone (800099661).

The Sulga bus departs from the Santa Maria Novella train station and arrives at Piazza San Pietro in Assisi. The trip takes between 2.5 hours and tickets cost around €25.

Italy Blogging Roundtable

Read the posts, leave comments, share them with your friends – and tune in next month for another Italy Blogging Roundtable topic!

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