**Part III: Assisi**
*Basilica of San Francesco d'Assisi*
I'm assuming that around here, it's the journey rather than the destination that's of interest, but nonetheless, here's a few details about why I needed to be in Assisi rahter than somewhere easier to reach.

A perhaps unexpected perk of academic life is that there's a lot of travel involved- for pure mathematics, all you really need is smart people and a supply of paper, and so it helps to drop a hundred or so people in a room for a week to ponder a particular topic. Of course, it helps both the creative process and to convince people to make the trip in the first place if you pick somewhere scenic- the best I've attended so far was at a research station deep in the Canadian rockies. But even if the venue is a standard conference centre or hotel complex, just being in a different city or country can be enough of a lure for me!

In this case I was attending a conference on computational geometry, which lies somewhere on the border between mathematics and computer science. Talks covered everything from practical topics like robot navigation or watermarking circuit designs to the highly abstract, with titles such as "Book embedding of N-free posets". Of course, the wonder of mathematics (and the point that often seems to elude funding bodies) is that thinking about the abstract questions can produce just the right sort of ideas for practical applications, perhaps decades later. Not that usefulness should be the ultimate measure of an intellectual pursuit- unlike the high school grind of arithmetic exercises, there's a genuinely creative aspect to advanced mathematics.

Anyway, maths-evangelism over, I was also able to grab a few hours for sightseeing around this remarkably attractive town. This being my first time in Italy, I don't really have any useful reference points for comparison, but I certainly wish I'd had more time to explore. I did make it to the highest point,

*Rocca Maggiore*, from where I was able to see that I'd missed plenty of the winding medieval streets, with their steady supply of churches, during my brief wanderings in search of food each lunchtime/evening. A few photographic highlights can be found

in this gallery.

*Umbrian countryside*