Really that’s a road? – Assisi Day 2

First, I forgot an important detail from yesterday.  As we walked to the first church, luggage and all, we were passing a number of small shops.  And what did my eyes spy?  You got it – a yarn store!!!  It took all of my will power to keep walking but it was very exciting!

Now on to Day 2.  The forecast called for rain in the afternoon so we switched plans around.  The caves in the mountains where Francis prayed are about 4.5 kilometers out of town, uphill.  A couple of us decided to taxi it.  We left 1/2 hour after the hikers and passed them on the road, they hot and tired.  Then we saw how much further they had to go and we knew we would be waiting for them for awhile.

Some days you just know you made the right decision and today was one of those days.  Gianpaolo was a great driver and and blasted the AC.  For those familiar with old medieval towns you will know the roads are extremely narrow and winding and, in Assisi, full of tourists and motorbikes.  It is crazy!

Once up at the caves it is serenity and peace everywhere you look and the views of the Umbrian countryside go on forever.  There is a tiny church built around the cave believed to be the one Francis used and then there are paths all around the mountainside.  I hung around the entrance to wait for our walkers and it was interesting to see all the people arriving – it was clear who had walked and who had been in a car.

We picked up one more passenger for the ride down and by that time we were all starving.  We grabbed some lunch and then had a siesta.

Post siesta we headed for San Domiano.  This is the church St. Francis rebuilt and it is the place where St. Clare started her order of nuns and where she died.  It was another subtle, simple church as would be expected.  From there we went to the church of San Rufino.  He was a saint at the time of Francis.  The ruins of the original church can be seen under plexiglass panels in the floor.  They were also having a display of paintings of JPII.  They were very interesting and we learned later the artist used ground up stone, eggs, animal bile and other natural colors.  Who knew?

We did some shopping and then went to our last dinner in Assisi.  We finished late and I was going to go back the room without gelato but was dragged out by the priest and the nun traveling with us.  While we were out there was a group playing games in the square and it seemed like everyone was joining in, it was fun to watch!

Finally it was time for bed.  Off to France tomorrow!

Really that’s a road? – Assisi Day 2

First, I forgot an important detail from yesterday.  As we walked to the first church, luggage and all, we were passing a number of small shops.  And what did my eyes spy?  You got it – a yarn store!!!  It took all of my will power to keep walking but it was very exciting!

Now on to Day 2.  The forecast called for rain in the afternoon so we switched plans around.  The caves in the mountains where Francis prayed are about 4.5 kilometers out of town, uphill.  A couple of us decided to taxi it.  We left 1/2 hour after the hikers and passed them on the road, they hot and tired.  Then we saw how much further they had to go and we knew we would be waiting for them for awhile.

Some days you just know you made the right decision and today was one of those days.  Gianpaolo was a great driver and and blasted the AC.  For those familiar with old medieval towns you will know the roads are extremely narrow and winding and, in Assisi, full of tourists and motorbikes.  It is crazy!

Once up at the caves it is serenity and peace everywhere you look and the views of the Umbrian countryside go on forever.  There is a tiny church built around the cave believed to be the one Francis used and then there are paths all around the mountainside.  I hung around the entrance to wait for our walkers and it was interesting to see all the people arriving – it was clear who had walked and who had been in a car.

We picked up one more passenger for the ride down and by that time we were all starving.  We grabbed some lunch and then had a siesta.

Post siesta we headed for San Domiano.  This is the church St. Francis rebuilt and it is the place where St. Clare started her order of nuns and where she died.  It was another subtle, simple church as would be expected.  From there we went to the church of San Rufino.  He was a saint at the time of Francis.  The ruins of the original church can be seen under plexiglass panels in the floor.  They were also having a display of paintings of JPII.  They were very interesting and we learned later the artist used ground up stone, eggs, animal bile and other natural colors.  Who knew?

We did some shopping and then went to our last dinner in Assisi.  We finished late and I was going to go back the room without gelato but was dragged out by the priest and the nun traveling with us.  While we were out there was a group playing games in the square and it seemed like everyone was joining in, it was fun to watch!

Finally it was time for bed.  Off to France tomorrow!

Long, uphill climb – Assisi Day 1

It is Sunday and we are headed out to Assisi on an 8am train.  Query why they need to wait until 10 minutes before the train is supposed to leave to tell you it is on the farthest track?  Outside of the tunnels which were murder on my ears it was a very scenic ride.  We saw fields and fields of sunflowers (and I cursed the creatures that keep eating the seeds I plant!)

We got off the train and headed straight for the Basilica (I just realized I have been spelling this word wrong all week – oops!)di S. Maria degli Angeli e Porziuncola.  The porziuncola is where St. Francis spent his time praying.  The church was built around it when it began drawing large numbers of pilgrims.  It also has the room where Francis died and what remains of the rose garden he prayed in.  Quick trivia fact – the city of Los Angeles was named after this church.  My favorite part was the Girl Scout bake sale where they were very proud to show off their English skills and their baked goods!

We then took a bus to the town of Assisi.  The buses are not allowed in the city walls and we were not sure of our exact stop.  We asked the driver and he told us to get off at a specific stop.  He probably was not the right person to ask…  I am not sure exactly how long we walked (with all our luggage) but it was all uphill and it was awhile.  Note to self: when visiting a walled town only get off at a bus stop near one of the gated.  Second note: when traveling with a nun listen to her, she is usually right!

We finally made it to the hotel(s).  The owner had two properties kind of across the street from each other and we had all the rooms in one of them and most in the other.  The Hotel Trattoria Palotta seemed like a 10 star hotel compared to the place we stayed in Rome.  The owner was very kind and gave us the key to the building so we could come and go as we pleased.  The breakfast room was spacious with many offerings (don’t get me started on breakfast in Rome) and the woman was not annoyed we were taking up seats.  The view from my room is spectacular!  We have a tiny balcony overlooking the piazza.  It is an unwalled shower (European thing) but it is nice and roomy, unlike the small locker like shower in Rome. 

The best part of the hotel is free wifi, all day and all night!!!  I now need to admit I am far more addicted to my phone then I care to admit.  I would roll over in the morning and have no messages to check, no Facebook, no Twitter, no WWF.  I was completely disconnected and sad.  Everyone nearly jumped for joy when we found out, even the kids.  During our siesta time people were running around posting on Facebook and Facetiming.  Even I entered the Facetime fray.  I am not an Apple fan but I borrowed Amanda’s iPad and “called” my parents.  They now think they are very cool because they used Facetime.

But more about our day.  We were scheduled to have mass at the Basilica of St. Francis at 2:00 (it is Sunday and when on a religious pilgrimage there is no “vacation rule”)  We marched down there and had a special mass in the lower church.  This one was not private and other visitors came and went.  Our priest used his iPad for the entire mass, always ironic.  The church was built right after Francis became a saint in the 1200s so it was very old.  His tomb is located here.

From there we got some food and caught a siesta, it had been a very busy morning/afternoon.  We next went the the Church of St. Clare, a personal favorite and my confirmation name.  It turns out she spent many of her days knitting!  The church contains her tomb and many relics from her and Francis.  Both churches were so much subtle and plain than anything we saw in Rome, it was a very stark contrast.

We had a couple of hours before dinner so we hit some of the shops.   St. Francis was the first person to conceive of the manger scene that is such a central part of Christmas decorations today.  You can buy any number of them here and as a collector I was excited.  I bought a beautiful scene carved out of local olive wood from a store that Rick Steves recommended.  I can’t wait to display it this year!  After I bought it the nun traveling with us came back to find because she had picked one out of me at another store.  It cost a lot more money but was beautiful, and thoughtful of her to find for me!

I knew Assisi was a “hill” town but mountain town is more like it.  Every street is a steep hill and you have to go up and you have to down but the scenery is really something to behold.