In search for the saint: On the spectacular trail of St Francis in his home city of Assisi (basilicas and pregnant statuettes included)
Saints are meant to be, well, saintly. So when I heard about Saint Francis throwing himself into the rose bushes to quell his lustful urges I was pleasantly surprised – human after all.
If you didn’t know, Francis is the Patron Saint of just about everything, from animals to Italy. He is a spiritual superstar.
In Assisi, where he was born and grew up, he is everywhere.
He stares at you from shops, shrines, statues, restaurants and churches. Thanks to him, Assisi is twinned with Bethlehem, Santiago de Compostela and San Francisco.
Assisi is in Umbria, a few miles from Perugia to which you can fly direct from the UK. Perched high above the valley floor, on the flank of Monte Subasio, it is a spectacular sight, with pink-stoned medieval buildings glowing in the sun around the huge Basilica of St Francis.
I am here on a trip called Secret Italy organised by Voyages Jules Verne.
An English art collector named Roy, who has lived in a converted stable on the outskirts of Assisi for 15 years, is our host for the week and he knows his stuff.
On our first day, we explored all the places in Assisi connected to Francis, and there are quite a few.
At the Basilica, we were shown around by a monk. It is remarkably peaceful given the hordes, but in 1997 that peace was shattered by an earthquake. The Basilica has since been strengthened to withstand all but a huge tremor.