Thwomp. Thwomp. Thwomp. The roar of the wind echoed in my ears as the sound of carbon fiber slicing through the air at high speed nearly drowned out the low scream of the helicopter’s engine. The pilot touched down briefly in a grassy field at the Valle di Assisi resort. Just long enough for myself and two other travel bloggers to trade places with the three passengers who had just finished their aerial tour of Assisi. They were all smiles – grins from ear to ear – as they gave us the thumbs up and promised we were in for a real treat.
In moments I was strapped into the back seat of a pitch black Robinson R44 helicopter. Then with a smooth ease and grace which surprised me we drifted free of the grass and quickly began to climb skyward. The day was partly cloudy which added a picture-perfect mottled lighting to the vivid green patchwork of fields, vineyards and small greenbelts which surround the historic hilltop city of Assisi.
I invite you to re-live part of the flight with me in the video above. It helps convey the experience in a way which photos alone can’t quite express. The main city you’re seeing in the distance on the hilltop is Assisi. The town with Cathedral on the open plain at the foot of the hill is also considered Assisi.
The first building we flew over was the Basilica of Santa Maria degli Angeli or Saint Mary of the Angels. The basilica was constructed between 1569 and 1679 (whew!) and was created to enclose the Porziuncola, a 9th century holy place of significant importance to the Franciscan monks.
Before long we passed over Santa Maria degli Angeli and were presented with a close up view of Assisi’s most famous cathedral and defining landmark: the Basilica of San Francesco d’Assisi. The basilica is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the mother church for the Franciscan Order. The basilica was begun in the year 1228 – making it an incredibly old structure. The opportunity to see it from above was a rare one and something I really enjoyed. It’s one thing to look up at the Basilica from the plain that surrounds Assisi, or to walk its courtyards and gardens. It’s a completely different experience to hover in the air and look down at the sprawling building from a vantage point that truly helps convey the complex’s size and unique architecture.
The flight was brief – about 10 minutes – but offered a rare and wonderful opportunity to see the Umbrian countryside from above. The region is gorgeous. Especially in late April when everything is blooming, the fields are all shades of rich green, and the air is crystal clear. When you’re on the ground and are immersed in it, you get to appreciate the finer details – a corner of a field, a small stone house, a carefully manicured vineyard, etc. – but you rarely get the chance to look out over it all and see the sum of the different parts.
A special thank you to the Valle de Assisi resort for the opportunity to take to the skies! It was a rare and fantastic experience, one which I’ll remember for a long time.