Problem with Assisi

I'm going solo to Italy on a first visit 3 wks in October. With much help from this forum, I settled on and booked hotels for an itinerary that PARTLY consists of Florence to Assisi (2 night) then Orvieto (2 nights) then on to Rome.
Problem is that from lots of reading I'm getting the impression that Assisi (where I really would like to go) is one of the hilliest (steep) hill towns around. I'm 65, pretty fit, but have scary knees -- meaning I'm really only confident if I'm on stairs with a handrail. (UP no problem, DOWN not so good.) Lots of Google street viewing shows me lots of stairs with (no surprise here) no handrails. So I'm afraid of getting somewhere and being stuck -- don't know what bus/taxi options there are in Assisi. I'm strongly considering rerouting my itinerary to Montepulciano for 2 nights instead, then on to Orvieto/Rome, since I've never been to a hill town and would like to go to one. So my questions are: is it likely I would be severely limited getting around in Assisi? Are there bus/taxi options? Is Montepulciano flatter? If not, any ideas? Siena? Is Montepulciano good for 2 nights? And while we're at it, what about Orvieto -- steep? Thanks for your help.

Posted by Sherry
San Jose, CA
1734 posts

Assisi is one of my favorite towns in Italy, and I'd hate for you to miss the opportunity of going. The stepped streets are limited to small side streets, which are easy to avoid. It's true that the town is built on hills. However, there is a bus that runs from the top to the bottom of the town. You could take that bus to the Basilica of St. Francis, which is at the bottom of town, and walk up from there. You would be walking uphill, but it's not stepped. Also, there are lots of places to stop for an espresso or a gelatto and rest for a while. There are also taxis, if that would be of help to you. I'd suggest getting a hotel on the main street near the Basilica of St. Claire; it's relatively flat there. Also ensure that they have an elevator if that's important to you.

Sienna seemed to me to be as hilly as Assisi, and easier to get lost in, since it's a much bigger town. I'm generally fine walking hills but got incredibly lost one day in Siena and walked for a very long time to find the right path... never saw a bus or taxi in the area in which I was lost.

Orvieto Is relatively flat, provided you take the bus from the top of the funicular to the area around the basilica.

Posted by Theresa
Seattle
44 posts

Sherry -- that was very helpful. As long as I can walk down a road or take a bus, I'll get along. I'm relieved to read your reply, because I really want to go to Assisi. Thank you!

Posted by stan
Kansas City
730 posts

Theresa, you probably know this, but just in case...
if you don't have one, get a walking stick. They are immensely helpful for bad knees, especially up and down stairs. Get one of those metal ones like a ski pole that fold up, and don't look like a cane. I saw them in shops all over Italy for 5-10 Euro, if you want to get one there. Good for warding off thieves too.

Posted by Chani
Tel Aviv
4918 posts

I've been having problems with one knee for the past couple of weeks and have found stairs and inclines here in Assisi a challenge. Yes, the stairs in Assisi do not have handrails, and there are often wide "shoulders" on either side, not suitable for walking and just wide enough so you can't use the sides of the buildings for support either. I have wished for a good walking stick on many days in the last 2 weeks. Sherry's suggestion for a hotel on the main street is excellent. I was in Siena a few years ago, when both my legs were in perfect condition and I had some trouble with the very steep grades of the streets.

In Florence, don't visit the Boboli Gardens at the Pitti Palace, lots of steps and steep pebbled pathways. For good views, take a bus to Fiesole or Piazza Michelangelo instead.

Posted by Ellen
Centennial, CO, USA
1500 posts

Just spent 2 nights in Assisi. It's hilly If you have bad knees skip it. We are on a hiking trip and one of our friends said it was miserable walking up and down the hills. While I don't mind the walking the hills are steep from both ends of town but steeper by the Basillica

Posted by Zoe
Toledo, Ohio, US
5656 posts

Theresa, don't skip Assisi, it sounds like you really want to go. I suggest you buy a pair of walking sticks that fold up, get a decent pair ($70-100 in the US, probably more expensive in Europe, sold in pairs). If something happens to one stick, you'll have a spare. There are tours to outlying sights that can be done, too.

Posted by Ken
Vernon, Canada
21439 posts

Theresa,

I was in Assisi last year and don't recall it being any more "hilly or steep" than any other small towns that I've visited. I don't recall too many stairs but rather just streets that go uphill or downhill. The walk from the hotel to the Basilica of St. Francis was rather easy although there were some slight hills along the route.

I'm 60+ and also have a slight knee problem (repaired surgically) but I didn't have any problems at all in Assisi. I agree with the others that a walking stick would probably be a good idea, but just pace yourself and you should be fine.

Posted by James
HENDERSON, Nevada, United States
59 posts

Theresa,
A word of encouragement-GO. My wife and I, both close to 60, have bad knees. She has had both knees replaced and mine are all torn up. We went to Assisi last year and loved it. Yes the town is hilly. Heed the advice already given, take your time, and a bus or taxi when needed. It is no more hilly than any other hill town and has a lot to offer. We also love Orvieto. Once you arrive, you take a funiculare or elevator up to the main part of town.. Up there, the town is virtually flat, on top of a plateau. Also a great visit. Buon Viaggio!

Posted by 1smithee
16 posts

The bigger problem is this: neither Assisi nor Orvieto is worth 2 nights. There a very small places.

Posted by Jeff
Vancouver, WA, USA
321 posts

"The bigger problem is this: neither Assisi nor Orvieto is worth 2 nights. There a very small places."

If your travel mission is to put check marks on a list of "sights", then yeah, two nights and a full day of running around Assisi might do it. If on the other hand, you want to become immersed in a place, its culture, its people, its food, its history, its spirit -- then two nights is only scratching the surface. We spent five nights in Assisi last September, and would have loved to have stayed many more if we could.

Posted by Terri
Surprise, AZ, USA
63 posts

We took my 77 year old mother there last year who has issues with hills, stairs, etc. She did fine with our help and also took the bus back to our hotel. She is glad she didn't miss this wonderful town!

Posted by Zoe
Toledo, Ohio, US
5656 posts

They weren't worth two nights to 1smithee (sp?), but my experience is quite different. I've been back to both many times.

Posted by Larry
Elk Grove, CA, USA
6888 posts

Theresa, there are 3 bus lines in Assisi. The easiest way to see Assisi is to take the Line C bus to the top of Assisi and casually walk down. The Basilica is at the bottom of Assisi. Too often, travelers want to start at the famous Basilica and then they start walking up the hills. You can do that but simply buy a ticket on the Line C bus and go to the top. Validate your ticket when you get on the bus. Great churches, shops and places to eat on the way down. Great gelato and pastry shops as well. We are seniors and Assisi is our favorite hill town. Walking casually down the hills works out just fine.

Posted by Robert
Bordentown, NJ, USA
165 posts

For the past 11 years I have been in Assisi for 2-3 weeks. We joke that every "walk is uphill both ways" but there are ways to make it easier. I agree, stay near Santa Chiara. The terrain is flat from the entrance to the city all the way through the Piazza Commune. The piazza in front of the church has beautiful views. The little buses and taxis can be a real help when going down towards Basilica di San Francesco. The roads are not necessarily so steep - but the long walk on the incline can be very tiring and maybe strenuous. There are lots of places to stop and take a break. There is a taxi stand right next to Basilica di Santa Chiara. Stairs can be a real issue in Assisi - they are steep, no handrails and can be very uneven. I have noticed that people with problems walking seem to avoid the stairs and simply take their time on the roads or alleys. I have also seen motorized chairs being used very successfully. Wonder where they can be rented? Same place as bikes or scooters? Assisi is a beautiful place just to meander and to breathe some very clean air. It's a wonderful place "to be." I hope you can arrange it!

Posted by Susan
Marin County/San Francisco
3691 posts

Assissi is my favorite town in Tuscany/Umbria and well worth 2 nights... I agree with Jeff... we spent 3 nights there and hated leaving.

Posted by Chani
Tel Aviv
4918 posts

I am in Orvieto, after 2 nights in Assisi. I am having a great time and enjoying them both. In Assisi I did the RS audio walking tour of the town - very slowly, both because of knee problems and to stop and enjoy every view, every building, every alleyway. . . all picturesque and unlike any other town I've been in. The views are . . . well, words can't do them justice. It took me well over an hour for the 15-minute walk from the town center to the Basilica of St. Frances - there's a great museum of the Roman Forum and way too many shops to browse, then a stop at the cafe opposite the church for a spritz and a pit stop. I would have liked to wander some of the medieval streets after dark, but it gets dark very late at this time of year. The same problem in Orvieto. There are interesting museums and charming alleyways, lovely views of the Umbrian countryside, and quirky shops to visit. I find walking in Orvieto much easier than Assisi, hardly any steps, very few sharply graded inclines. Good restaurants too, though not from Rick's recommendations. Tried 2 of his top picks, both were closed Monday night, and again tonight (Tuesday). We ended up at Maurizio's, Via Duomo 78 (just meters from the Piazza) and loving it for the second night in a row.