Basilica di San Francesco d’Assisi

Cynthia Zarin at The Paris Review:

For a number of weeks one spring, I spent every afternoon at the Basilica di San Francesco d’Assisi. It was what we then thought was the tail end of a plague, and I had come to Italy to visit a friend who had lived for many years a few kilometers above Assisi, in an old schoolhouse. This turned out not to be the visit I had imagined, nor, I am sure, the one she had, and after a few weeks, I went to Rome. But before that, every afternoon, I drove down into town—I had rented a car—past the long flank of Monte Subasio, with its temperate oxen, parked on the escarpment before the gates because the switchback of tiny streets flummoxed me, and walked down to the basilica. Everything was off-kilter, as if a great wave had passed over us, and now, if we were lucky to be alive, we found ourselves stranded on the banks of our own lives or paddling furiously toward where we imagined the shore might be. I had been to the basilica and to Assisi many times over the years to visit my friend, and so I knew my way on the small strade that opened and closed into a series of piazze, as if the town had exhaled and then drawn breath again.

more here.