My time in Rome has been very different than my previous European experiences. When I studied in London, I traveled nearly every weekend to another country or at least to another place in England; I was constantly on the move and seeing as much as I could. In Bosnia as well I travelled often and split my time between Vares and Sarajevo. Since I've been in Rome (except for the quick weekend trip to Florence at the very beginning) I have been in Rome. I haven't been gallivanting about the country as I had become used to doing in the past. On the contrary, I've spent my weekends cleaning the house and wondering around Rome. There is nothing bad about this, as there is certainly plenty to see in Rome. Already I have my Sunday plans set for the next 4 weeks. But it is different to be in a foreign place and to just stay there.
That said, this past Tuesday our group went on a pilgrimage to Assisi, that lovely hill town in Umbria home to such famous saints as Francis and Clare. Sr. Sandra, the Superior of the community that VOICA resides in, brought out the old van and drove Sr. Angela, Diggy, Lydia, and me up to Assisi. The picture is Lydia, Sr. Angela, and me in Assisi.
Our first stop was Santa Maria Degli Angeli (St. Mary of the Angels, or Santa Maria de los Angeles- do you see a connection with a certain large city on the West cost?). This gigantic Basilica is home to the tiny Porziuncola where the first followers of St. Francis gathered. It is also home to a rose garden that has miraculously grown roses without thorns since the day Francis plunged himself into the roses to avoid temptation. It is also the site of his death. After this we made our way into Assisi proper and wandered about. In the summer, the town in packed with tourists, but now in late October it was quite pleasant, although still busy. We visited Francis's original house, now a church; the Basilica of San Francesco, which includes his tomb; and the Basilica of St. Clare, which is home to her tomb, a number of relics from both saints, as well as the crucifix from which Jesus spoke to Francis and inspired his mission. We then stopped for pizza at Francis's favorite pizza joint in the center of town. Let me just say this, I like Italian pizza. Next, we made our way to just outside town to visited San Damiano where the crucifix spoke to Francis, where Clare and her sisters lived, and where Clare died. Finally, we visited the hermitage, up above Assisi on a neighboring hill. This was where Francis and his brothers would retreat for prayer. There was a lovely path through the woods that led to a number of caves where the Franciscans would retreat to pray in solitude and in nature.
This trip to Assisi was a great way to once more experience the history with which every corner of Italy is seeped in. So many famous people, from Emperors to Saints, have been a part of Italian history. It seems that almost every small, unassuming town in home to this or that saint. Indeed, Assisi is a small unassuming town and is home to TWO great saints.
It was also nice to leave Rome for a bit, although this trip reminded me that there is so much of Italy that I want to see, but I do not have the time to right now. It simply means that I will have to return to Italy at some point and be a proper tourist!