Assisi (Perugia), is worldwide known for being the birthplace of St. Francis (San Francesco d'Assisi), the Patron Saint of Italy, and St. Clare (Santa Clara), the founder of the Poor Sisters (after her death the Order of Poor Clares), the ancient origins of the city bring back to the 9th century B.C.
Built by the Romans and known as Asisium, it became a flourishing municipium but after their fall it was destroyed by the barbarian invasions, conquered by the Byzantine Empire and then the Lombards; in the next years Assisi underwent a series of vicissitudes concerning the papal dominion and the dispute of Guelphs and Ghibellines, moreover it was constantly involved in a series of battles and conflicts, only from the 16th century it knew a period of peace under Pope Paul III. As "hospital city" during World War II the city was spared from bombing, so a quantity of disguised Jewish refugees moved to Assisi where, thanks to the support of priests and nuns, were hidden in monasteries and churches and so saved from the Holocaust.
From the 17th century Assisi became an extremely lively cultural center due to a variery of academies and artistic activities taking place even today; it has been a popular Catholic pilgrimage destination for centuries and still today one of the most beautiful places of peace, millions of people, inspired by the life of the Poverello, make pilgrimage every year to the tomb of St. Francis and the 13th-century St. Francis Basilica, a UNESCO World Heritage Site; the strength of the spirituality struck even Pope John Paul II who strongly delegated to it the role of Capital of Peace and Dialogue.
The historical center of Assisi is relatively small but very lively, the most beautiful meeting places are found around the central Town Square (Piazza del Comune), really a source of pride for its citizens; located on the ancient area of the Roman forum, today it is the heart of the social, cultural and political life still well preserved and entirely surrounded by medieval masterpieces of extraordinary beauty, splendid monuments and stone houses that have witnessed the historic evolution of the city from its most remote origins, in detail: the Roman Forum (Foro Romano), dating back to the Ist century B.C., lays beneath the Town Square, through the Vaulted Hall (Sala delle Volte) the visitor will have the opportunity to admire the whole structure enriched by unique archaeological remains from the Roman period included the original paving; the Prior's Palace (Palazzo dei Priori), overlooking the square, was built in 1337, originally it hosted the old Magistracy, provided residential space for the Priors and its ground floor was used for shops while today houses the Town Hall and the Municipal Art Gallery; destroyed and rebuild more than one time today it appears as the union of pre-existing buildings dating back to different ages, the beautiful facade is decorated by emblems while the interior is embellished with impressive Giotto's frescoes, the palace also includes the Painted Vault (Volta Pinta), a splendid passageway enriched by Raffaelino del Colle's decorations (16th century); the Captain Palace or Palace of the Captain of the People (Palazzo del Capitano), dating back to the 18th century, represented the heart of the medieval life in Assisi, originally built to be the office of the Commander of the City Army and later become the residence of the Pope's Vicar, hosts today the International Society of Franciscan Studies; the clock on the facade and the Bell of Lauds engraved with the Canticle of the Creatures are magnificent elements decorating the stunning People's Tower (Campanile Civico la Torre del Popolo, 1305); the beautiful Lion Fountain by Giovanni Martinucci (1762); the Palace of the Post (Palazzo delle Poste) built in 1926 in a medieval style and the famous Temple of Minerva (Tempio di Minerva) dating back to the 1st century B.C., the most perfectly preserved facade in Italy still surviving after over 2000 years; this temple was also used as residence for monks and municipal jail to be later transformed into the Church of Santa Maria sopra Minerva during the 16th century, with its six splendid Corinthian columns it proudly dominates the whole square.